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CDT NM 7th Section

Day 74: Source of Cañada Jose Maria (near Mogote Peak)

I woke at 6:15 but was so comfortable, I ignored my alarm and dozed off again until nearly 7. It was a comfortable temperature and most of the condensation stayed on the rainfly instead of the inner tent ceiling. There was a nice breeze that would continue throughout the morning. I ate some and made my breakfast shake with the last of my water before packing.

When I came out of the tent, I could see the sky wasn’t as clear as the previous day, but it wasn’t quite yet overcast either. It was a thin sheaf of hazy clouds that allowed the appearance of direct sunlight so while taking the hot edge off of it. Basically, it was perfect hiking weather. If only it could last.

I hiked out at 8:30 into a forest of mostly aspen, which created a nice rustle with the regular breezes. The trail wasn’t steep but edged slightly upward. I stopped after a mile at a seasonal stream (a fork of the aforementioned Cañada Jarosita) that was flowing pretty well because… well, you know. I grabbed a couple of liters and just sat and enjoyed the moment while it filtered. Elks and cows were bellowing down the valley, the stream quietly trickled, and a leaning dead tree creaked against its neighbor with each passing breeze.

The trail joined a road to climb up the hill beside the stream, and there was no shade. The thin base haze of clouds dissipated and the sun came out in full force. It was hot, sweaty work, but at least the breezes continued, getting stronger if anything. At the end of a mile, I had finished the final steep climb of the section. The next few miles would be flat or gently uphill. After that, it was literally all downhill to Ghost Ranch.

I had to stop again at the top. Before I left, I finished my breakfast shake, had a few snacks, looked at the trail ahead, and pondered the reasons why S2E1 of Steven Universe “Say Uncle” actually is canon in spite of Uncle Grampa’s paradoxical claim it isn’t. But that would be a different blog, wouldn’t it?

The trail ahead was mostly open fields under blue partly cloudy skies along the top of the ridge. I noticed that if my socks hadn’t been damp when I put my shoes, my feet would still be dry because the grass wasn’t wet at all. As it was, my shoes were dry and my socks merely moist.

I entered a forest of tall pines and almost immediately scared off an elk, who startled me with her own sudden bolt. I came over the top of the last high point of the day and the section and then joined a road, only to immediately leave it to head down to Canjilon Creek, which at this point was just a soggy, grassy meadow with lots of springs, thin streams, and shin-deep pools. The trail went right across the middle of it. And there was nothing for it–my feet were wet again.

The trail went in and out of the woods, through mud, over springs and streams, close to and then away from the creek (now a proper creek) for the next 2.5 miles to Upper Canjilon Lake. This was a popular spot for visitors, as evidenced by the many trucks parked near the lake. It also had a privy and trash service.

I had put off lunch for an hour due to not feeling particularly hungry at my usual lunchtime. But by this time, I was ready. There weren’t any picnic tables in sight, but I found a nice rock under a tall tree to eat. The whole time I was eating (and before that doing some glove stitching), I heard some teenagers chatting nearby. When I went to get a picture of the lake, I learned there was a picnic table. Just one. In the sun. And they had been using it. I think I liked my spot better. Even though I was constantly brushing off flies. There were flies out in the sun too.

Anyway, I was there about an hour and a half and left completely free of trash. No storm clouds on the horizon either.

The trail descended into a thick forest. So many blowdowns. While someone had clearly been through to cut the trail some time during the year, there were still several crossing the trail. There was even one where the easiest way to pass it was crawl under it–the only way around was through another thick blowdown mess but with blackberries growing under it.

None of this stopped the elk though. I scared up a group of four of them close enough that I could make out an already sizeable rack on the bull. Unfortunately, dear reader, in such dense vegetation, the elk spot me before I spot them, so there’s hardly enough time to pull out my camera.

Just before 5, I came to the last confirmed water along the trail for quite a distance, so I stopped to grab a few liters. I realized, snacking as it filtered, I had not quite gone the distance I had hoped for by this hour despite the lack of rain and general downhill demeanor. Also, large dark clouds were then coming over the horizon. Not quite yet menacing–there was still plenty of blue–but a wet evening seemed somewhat likely.

I finished off a drink, made and drank another one because the unusually sunny day meant I needed more water. Both drinks irritated the ulcer on the inside of my lower lip that’s been plaguing me for days, but the first one more so because I put lemonade flavor in it, and anything acidic sets it off for a while. It hasn’t stopped me from eating my daily lime with lunch. It hurts a lot but it’s still worth it.

Soon the trail came through a meadow to join and then leave a road, cross a field, and join another road for a couple of miles. Right away it went through a gate, and the cows were right on the other side of the fence. They were this way and that, all along the muddy road. Even though my feet were killing me, the road was level and easy. The big clouds had rolled by and it was blue skies again. Such teases.

Anyway, with the road so easy and the cows so distracting, I missed the place where the trail left the road and didn’t realize until much later. Luckily, the trail sort of paralleled the road, so I just needed to take the next two right turns to get back to it. After the first, I had to pull off the road to let a guy driving a pickup truck full of firewood to by. I certainly didn’t expect to see any other humans this far from the usual fishing lake haunts. But then I found my way up to the trail okay.

The last piece of trail was through the woods and generally slightly uphill as it came around the side of Mogote Peak, through a gate where I could leave all the cows behind, and then into a big flat where all the roads met. Just down the hill, there was a big open grassy area that was clearly popular with cows when they were allowed, and it had excellent views in multiple directions, including of the sunset below the sliver of waxing crescent moon, both of which I was seeing for the first time in this section–until this evening every night had had too many clouds. Anyway, point is, I had found my campsite.

I set up my tent while my dinner cooked again. After dessert, I got my boots off to let my aching dogs depressurize and climbed inside. And then I spent the next 20 minutes zipping up the rainfly. It’s a nightly struggle trying to figure out exactly the right angles to hold the flaps and zipper truck to get it to hold closed and stay that way, and every night the condition of the zipper and the truck get slightly worse so the next time is even harder. The length of this fight was certainly a new record.

All of that was a long way of saying I made it an entire day without any rain on this section, which was an actual surprise to me. I really was expecting it. I don’t think I can attribute it to the falling elevation or latitude given it had rained in Santa Fe when I was leaving it. I can only conclude it was just a lucky fluke, which means…

One more day of rain!

Trail miles: 16.9

Distance to Hwy 84 & Ghost Ranch: 21.5 miles

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