Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 12 Day 18 Getting to Pie Town!

It was a relatively monotonous day actually.  A LOT of road walking!  I was very antsy to get to Pie Town around 3pm, which is when the storm was supposed to start coming in, so I plowed ahead of Wide-Angle and Ratna and was doing a good 3mph on that road.  

(Montana Mike a south bounding section hiker)
(Omg we have the same shoes! Only other person with my shoes out here. It's all Altras and Brooks Cascadias)

It looks like I would have gotten into Pie Town around 4 if I had actually kept walking, but 9 miles out a car stopped to chat and rain started falling.  I totally scared myself into the hitch thinking "THIS IS IT! THE STORM!"  So, yah.....Ended up catching the ride into town and, of course, it stopped raining after I got into the car.  Oh well.  I'm not a purist about this, so I really didn't mind.
(Awesome electrical well water source I didn't filter this yum!)

The guy was really chill and had grown up around these parts his whole life.  He had no desire to be anywhere bigger or more populated.  At one point another truck was passing and they both stopped and chatted for like 20 minutes with very long, quiet breaks between points.  They had no sense of urgency, no feeling of time wasted.  It was beautiful and frustrating to this city girl.  I was also in no rush really, but I felt this urge to get on with it and get to town.  It'd be nice to have that sense of relaxation these guys had.
(Food at Pie Town Cafe- Patty Melt and a Blueberry pie a la mode!)

I got dropped at the Pie-O-Neer restaurant, which was closed, so I found my little map of the place and made my way toward the Toaster House, a hostel for hikers and bikers.  The Pie Town Cafe was on the way and I noticed it closed at 3:00!  I wasn't going to miss an opportunity for a hot meal and pie!  As I walked in I got the usual stares, looking like a weird creature human with a giant pack, but then I got a "Hello over there!"  It was Dutch and Pacer!  Thank goodness!  HoJo showed up not too long after and we all enjoyed food and wifi!
(The Toaster House- hiker hostel)
(Hiker packages being held :)

I eventually made it to the Toaster House where a substantial amount of hikers were.  It is such a cool spot!  The donations in the donation box go to filling the fridge with food and beer and soda.  I settled into the living room with a couch as my chosen bed spot.  I didn't even make the effort to check if there were any beds available.  Showers at the RV park next door happened and laundry, wash only hang dry, in the Toaster House.  The community was amazing and Lint and Patches showed up soon, followed by Grim and Spoonman.  Hot Springs was there too along with a biker named Dylan, who looked like a fit version of Jared Leto. The Warrior Hikers, veterans, were in the RV Park with their support vehicle, a large RV full of good things.
(Showered and laundered. Wearing borrowed clothes as my clothes line dry)
(Lint showing off his choice of the perfect thru-hiker underwear to Dylan a thru biker)
(Dutch wearing his seatbelt)

We all enjoyed a fair few beers, delicious food, music, and lots of trail stories.  It was definitely one of my absolute favorite town days!  Ratna and Wide-Angle showed up in the late evening, and found a bed upstairs.  Planning a zero tomorrow!  Time to relax.

May 11th Day 17 En Route to Pie Town

(Windmill means fresh flowing water!)

Another cold night snuggled with my Pashmina and gravity filter.  Boy am I exhausted!  We decided to do 25 miles today and another 25 tomorrow in order to get to Pie Town before a storm hits. I am so ready for sleep.  Overall a smooth day actually, just a bit long.
(Beautiful well maintained trail)
(Sometimes the trail just ends....)

It was a bit of a slower start due to trail finding issues.  No trail, just blazes, which I thought was pretty fun actually, but Wide Angle seemed a bit frustrated at.  It is nice to just be able to cruise and rock out the miles, but, sometimes things just don't work out that way.  It was 10 miles of that until we hit a dirt road and then cruise control until our goal for the night, the Manga Lookout.  Not an exceptionally significant day, though I did enjoy my music again and shared it with the others for stretches of hiking.
(Road walking)

There was a fair amount of up and down with inclines gained and lost, but the way was fairly clear, so that was pleasant enough.  We did manage to get out of the burn and blow down areas and then it was uphill for a long while before getting to the lookout.  I was heading uphill, getting grumpy when I saw the smaller peak to my left and a much higher one in front of me.  I thought to myself that the lookout MIGHT be on the smaller peak, maybe?  But I knew in my heart that the lookout would be on the highest point around.  So, as my heart sank, my feet kept pulling me upward.
(Manga Lookout)

I got to the Manga Lookout around 7:00 PM and dropped all my stuff in the little campground.  The watch tower was another climb up stairs, but was in such a state of exhaustion I just made myself put one foot in front of the other in hopes that I would be able to lay my sleeping bag on a floor with a roof and stay the night up there.  As I tried to open the bottom hatch I heard some shuffling, not something I was expecting, and a man's voice called out to me asking who I was.  I told him I was a CDT hiker and he let me up.  Apparently the place was closed for the day, but since I was already So I checked out the views and he explained the way I'd be heading to get into Pie Town and even to Grants.  Very neat.
(View from the lookout)
(Duluth suspenders!!?! Love it!!)

He shared some of his personal water with me, which was really kind, and I set up my tent next to a fire pit.  All of a sudden I see someone and it isn't Wide-Angle or Ratna!  It's so disconcerting to meet others after so long not seeing many people.  It was Patches and Lint.  Both very fast hikers.  It turns out Lint is working on his triple triple crown!  So this is his 3rd go at doing all three long trails, the PCT, AT, and CDT!  Very impressive.
(Little cabin on top of the mountain)

They decided to camp off the high point and shortly after they left Wide-Angle and Ratna showed up.  Unfortunately the watch tower was really closed off at this point, so we all warmed ourselves by the fire and ate dinner late.  It was chilly up there, but I was just too tired to care and move down the mountain a bit.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 10 Day 16 En Route to Pie Town

It got down into the freezing temperatures again last night.  I kept my shoes and stuff closer to the tent and under the rain fly so they wouldn't freeze.  Shortly after stepping out of my tent, my heart started pounding hard. It happens sometimes and I figured it would just subside in a few minutes, but it didn't.  It started to worry me.  I figured I was having an anxiety attack or something so I practiced some breathing exercises and calming phrases.  It didn't help.  We had a big climb this morning and I didn't know how I would fare.  I finally mentioned it to Ratna and Wide-Angle and he said it sounded like I was having a bad reaction to the elevation as we were near 9,000 ft.  We did the climb and it was pretty awful.  I had to take it really slowly and took many breaks.  I figured having my period was also screwing with my system.

When we got to the top of the ascent, I couldn't talk to them or really do anything.  I just sat there and ate some food and drank some water hoping that would help the situation.  I guess my not eating a substantial enough breakfast played a part in my suffering, obviously, because I felt perfectly normal after that break.  Ratna shared some of her food with me since I was rationing my resources at this point.  Note to self: always pack more food than you think you could ever eat!
(Follow the cairns to find the trail. This one was a bit ridiculously huge)

Once we got going again life was good.  I was moving quickly and we had some good clear times on trail.  Other times the trail would just vanish.  We had read Wired's blog beforehand and knew this section would be a bit tricky with the trail appearing and disappearing, so mentally we were prepared. When we got up to an exposed part of the Divide, Wide-angle got reception on his Verizon Wireless Hotspot, so he let me Skype my mom for Mother's Day!  What a treat! She was very excited to get a call from me on top of a mountain.  He also called his mom while up there and we all headed down through some serious blow down area.  
(Getting reception)

Once we got down the mountain we would be going up and down a lot and along ridges, so I played Queen and rocked out to the trail.  It was one of my favorite days and I really enjoyed this section of trail.

(Our water source for the day. A "tank" aka a dug out pond for cows)

Up on the divide we were again when the evil clouds started to move closer and closer.  Their dark shade of grey was not encouraging and we were prepared to set up camp if it started raining due to the already frigid temperatures.  When the cloud moved over us, we braced for the worst only to be dusted with fine snowfall.  What a fun and pleasant surprise.  Light snow we could handle, and so we walked on to lower ground.
(Dark clouds on the Divide)

We did about 21 or 22 miles today, camping between two blazes carved into trees.  It is a beautiful forested area covered in pine needles and mossy rocks.  I hope for a warmer night tonight.

May 9 Day 15 Snow Lake en route to Pie Town

(Windy and exposed)

I slept with my filter last night.  That's when you know it's cold.  The filter shouldn't be allowed to freeze, so it becomes your cold weather snuggle buddy.  The Pashmina wool scarf gifted to me by Nick Prince in Silver City was my bag liner and was pretty much the only thing that made the night bearable.  It was hard to fall asleep due to the cold and I woke up to frozen shoes and socks!!  What a laugh I had as I tried feebly to tighten and tie my shoe laces.  They weren't going anywhere.  I had to shove my socks into the outside mesh of my pack because I swear I could have snapped them in half they were so solid.  I hiked in unlaced shoes and different socks.

Apparently I didn't take many pictures today so I apologize for that. The frozen socks would have been pretty ace.

I was ready to head out before Ratna and Wide-Angle.  While I would have waited on any other day it was frigid and windy so I got moving as soon as I could.  Shane had left before me and Dutch right after, so I was surprised when, as I walking down the road, I didn't see him behind me anymore.  I got that uneasy feeling that I might not be where I am supposed to be, so I checked my Guthook App (GPS) and sure enough I had missed my turn on the road a half mile back................UGH!  Nothing to be done and no cross-country route to fix it, so I just had to turn around and claim the extra mile as bonus points.

At the turn off I intersected Ratna and Wide-angle, so now we were even.  We hiked together for a while on the forest service roads and when it turned to trail again.  Eventually Downhill and Tiger Lily caught up to us on the trail with the intention to hitch into Reserve, NM because they had essentially eaten all their food already!  Talk about a change in appetite!  I ended up zoning out at following them for a longer stretch than I should have and, again, got that funny feeling in the gut that I wasn't where I was supposed to be.  Checked my Guthook and sure enough I had missed my turn off again! ARG!  I cross-country hiked up a small mountain, which was no fun, and yet again intersected with Ratna and Wide-Angle.  Face Palm!

We finally connected with another Forest Service Road on top of the divide and had a completely exposed path across these little mountains.  By exposed I mean the wind and cold were relentlessly beating us down.  Air is something we rarely see as having much substantial mass, but let me tell you, air HAS MASS!  The gusts were so strong we were staggering off to the left then stumbling to the right as the wind pushed against us and then let us go like being dropped horizontally. It wears you down that wind.  Makes you crazy in the head.

Our goal was 21 miles to camp by water and we rocked it.  I realized just before camp that  I got my period, no fun, but at least it wasn't debilitating or anything.  I took care of that and settled into another cold night in my tent.  Time to get cozy with the water filter again.

May 8 Day 14 Gila River to Snow Lake

We made our 16 mile goal today and boy were we glad to get out of the Gila!  Love that place, but enough was enough.  It was more of the same: huge gorgeous canyon walls towering over us, river crossings, caves above us and in the river, river crossings, large fish and small fish, river crossings, losing the trail, finding the trail, river crossings, losing the trail, destroying our legs with razor like grass and thorns, river crossings, and losing the trail.  Oh, and amazing canyon walls, and did I mention river crossings?

We did run into Dutch and Shane, two other thru-hikers.  They had been doing some big miles and caught up to us fairly quickly and easily.  Then they passed and fell away into the distance, one river crossing at a time....I eventually had to change from my skirt into pants because my legs were getting so cut up!  It was like sand paper meets chafe meets fresh tattoo burning.  Ouch!  A lot of pain!  Ratna had a nasty sunburn on her legs on top of that and somehow managed not to change into pants, though she regretted that decision later.
(Bear print)
(Dead Javalina)

The pants I had bought before trail didn't really fit me when I got on trail due to a little too much wine and indulgent food in Chicago.  Today, they fit.  I didn't know how I felt about that considering it had only been 2 weeks on trail and I had gained 15 lbs between buying those pants and getting on trail.  I had a feeling I had lost a bit of weight already, but didn't expect a huge loss at this point even with my underestimation of my food needs for this stretch.  I had under packed for my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.  So basically I was only set for my dinners.  Oops.

We eventually managed to get to our last river crossing in the Gila and celebrated with pictures and cleaning our shoes.  We had made it to Snow Lake!  Dreams of RV campers with hot dogs and ice cream were talked about as we approached the campground.  When we arrived, there were Dutch and Shane and one little RV (no treats alas).  Shortly after we arrived a couple, Tigerlily and Downhill, arrived as well.  We all took advantage of the pit toilets and clean water coming from a well.
(Made it to Snow Lake!)

We built a potentially last fire and that brought everyone over from the other camp spots.  We shared stories of our trial experience thus far as well as an update on the trail news.  The people ahead and behind.  Many laughs were had and I grew very fond of our new friends very quickly.  Shane gave me some of his extra snacks, which I was very grateful for.  It looks like it is going to be a cold and windy night tonight!

May 7th Day 13 In the Middle Fork of the Gila River

The Gila is beautiful but thoroughly exhausting!  Mentally and physically!  Your mind is constantly on, watching the rocks you're walking over, paying close attention as you cross the river and try not to fall, looking for that ridiculously evasive trail, and trying to catch sight of the rattlesnakes before they freak out at you. 

Oh, and avoiding the sketchy piles of destroyed trees that came down in the flood.  My legs, man oh man my legs.  Stepping over trees, climbing over trees, squatting under trees, crawling under trees.  My legs are getting some great training.  Good thing because it looks like the San Juans (the mountains in southern Colorado) are gonna be a serious physical challenge.
(Field of flowers!)

We got out of camp at 7:30, later than planned, but not unwelcome by me!  We wanted to do about 15 miles in order to get halfway to Snow Lake, a campground and the end of the Gila.  We ended up doing about 14 when we found a nice camp spot, which is peachy.  No reason to rush and this section is very beautiful.
(Wide Angle at Jordan Hot Springs.)

I pissed off 2 rattle snakes, which was a great adrenaline rush.  It was overall a hard day.  It is tough if you haven't done something like this before and those 14 miles were well earned miles.  Wide-Angle said he's had 30 mile days on the PCT that were not as difficult as these 14.  The tedium of crossing that river over and over and over again definitely gets to you after a while.  It's all about finding the best spot to cross so you don't accidentally get in too deep!
(Ran into some horse packers)
Speaking of getting in too deep, my dreams have been full of emotions that I have been needing to deal with, but have been avoiding.  Trail strips you down and you brain has A LOT of time to take care of everything it needs to.  Night time is when it sorts through all the thoughts and feelings from the day.  It's been intense at night.  My dreams since I started trail have been about letting go of my past hurts and the hurts that I have caused.  They haven't been about the present or the future at all.  It is very interesting.  I hope I get through this phase sooner than later, but I am grateful to have the opportunity to remove the distractions of city life in order to become more whole.
(The river bed view)
(A steep scramble down a hillside to avoid small waterfalls)

This night included another earlier night at a campsite with a fire pit.  I've been cooking dinner in the fire instead of using my stove, which has become increasingly a nuisance to use out here.  It is good for a more leisurely trip, but not for thru-hiking.  I have been thinking of getting something smaller and lighter soon.  We were leap-frogging with a pretty cool chill girl who is section hiking for a few weeks.  She saw a small mountain lion and got thoroughly freaked out, so she booked it to camp with us.  I hope we don't have mountain lion issues!  

(Drying things out by the fire as I cook)

May 6 Day 12 Gila Cliff Dwellings en route to Pie Town

The five of us had a lazy morning in.  Waking up AFTER the sunrise!?  What a luxury.  Since the Cliff Dwellings didn't open until 9:00am, we figured we could take it pretty easy, leave around 8 to get there in time, and get going on the trail not too long after that.  WEELLLLLLL, Ratna and Wide-Angle went for another dip in the hot springs in the morning while Fozzie and HoJo went back up to Doc Campbell's to use the internet one last time.  We all eventually met there and saw Porsche and J.W., who had just arrived!  It was really nice to see them again.

It was a 3 mile paved road walk to the visitor's center, which we thought was a necessary stop.  If you're a hiker, you know that road walking is no fun on the feet.  I know that usually, us city folk, walk on paved sidewalk and streets all the time, but that is really rough pounding on the feet!  Anyway, thru-hikers are the laziest people when it comes to unnecessary miles, so we were not exceptionally pleased to discover that the trail head to the Cliff Dwellings was another 1.5 mile from the Visitor's Center and then we'd have to go back to the Visitor's Center to get on the trail through the Gila River! That's 3 EXTRA miles of road walking. All with our packs on....not so much.  After a fair amount of dilly dallying we walked to the Cliffs.

Wow!  What an amazing place. First of all, we could drop our packs at the trail head and get cold water as well as see some Javelina.  
(Pardon the fuzzy pic)

Then, we got to hike a leisurely trail up to these caves where people had been living for thousands of years, changing groups over the course of time.  

There was a tour guide up there who told us about the most recent inhabitants' diet and lifestyle.  These caves provided safety and comfort for so many different people over the centuries.  It was pretty mind blowing.  I'd have no problem living there.  I wonder why they weren't still inhabited.  Why do people leave places?  Why do town become abandoned?  Why do civilizations crumble?  Unfortunately they didn't have too many answers there because most of the artifacts had been removed by people who had come through the caves before they became protected.  I wanted to connect with these people more, but had no choice but to accept the lack of information.

As we left the Cliff Dwellings we saw a small rattlesnake sunning itself in the rocks and Ratna used her magic and charm to convince a tourist to give us a ride on the 1.5 mile road section back to the Visitor's Center.  He had a small pop up addition on his truck that Ratna and I and our packs crammed into as Wide-Angle rode shotgun. HoJo and Fozzie decided to take a higher route to avoid the river crossings, so they got on a trail head closer to the Cliff Dwellings.
(Our ride back!)

We did 5 miles.  We got on trail quite late and were happy to move slowly through the rough terrain.  The Flood that had come through a couple of years ago really wiped everything out and screwed up all the trails.  
(Nuff said)

It was not an easy 5 miles, but it really was nice to chill and take it easier on my feet.  

(Some hot springs along the way)

We came upon a lovely campsite with a fire pit around 6:30 and decided to call it a night early.  We were in the company of great canyon walls that towered over us and a roaring fire in the fire pit to help dry our wet shoes and socks.

I, unfortunately, had my new sock liners a little too close to the hot fire and burned a large hole right through them!!  I loved those liners!  For 2 days.... Big shame!

The frogs sang me to sleep tonight, gurgling their lullaby near the river.