Friday, October 29, 2021

Day 6: Lordsburg, the first trail town

April 26: Evenstar was already leaving camp as I was just waking up a little before 6:00am. I don't know how or why she woke up so early--it was still quite dark out and the stars were out--but she was off and moving before the sun even rose. Probably trying to take advantage of the cooler temperatures of the morning.

I, however, didn't get moving until a little after sunrise at about 7:00am. My usual start time. But Evenstar was still limping along with her massive blisters and we both knew that there was a good chance that I could catch up with her at some point.

The day's hike was pretty uneventful and followed the pattern of previous days. I stopped briefly at the fifth and final water cache, but I didn't actually need any water since I had carried more than enough from the last water source in order to camp away from water and still had a liter available. The town of Lordsburg, was only about 6 miles away, and given the cool temperatures of the morning, I figured that was plenty.

I did catch up with Evenstar barely an hour into my walk which surprised me. I had expected it to take longer for me to catch up, but she explained that she had taken a wrong turn and walked a half hour in the wrong direction. Ouch. That had to suck.

She continued limping along, and I passed by eventually arriving in the small town of Lordsburg. I already knew my way around the town a bit since it was the same town where I stayed with my mom the night before I started the trail.

I checked into the Econolodge, the thru-hiker's favorite hangout, reserving the room for two nights and made myself comfortable. I took a shower, rinsing off all the dirt and grime from the past week, then walked across the street to Kranberry's for lunch where I ordered a burger with fries.

I checked into the Econolodge in town.

After lunch, I walked a few blocks further into town to the grocery store and picked up a few items to stock the mini-fridge of my room with.

Then I headed back to my room for the rest of the day. I had left my laptop at the hotel before leaving town for the border, so I had my laptop readily available to catch up with messages. (I also left some clean clothes so even though I hadn't done laundry yet, I still had some clean clothes to wear.)

All-in-all, a pretty dull day, but it sure felt great finally being clean again!

The fifth and final water cache before Lordsburg

I stopped at Kranberry's Restaurant for lunch.

Where I ordered the burger with fries. Delicious!

Then I passed under Interstate 10 to get to the grocery store.

I think calling this a "super" market is a little generous--seemed more like a large grocery store to me, but it served my purposes! =)

This is the hiker box in the lobby of the Econolodge where hikers can leave stuff they don't need or want anymore and other hikers can grab anything they might want or need.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Day 5: Blistering heat, blistering feet....

April 25: I slept well, despite the mouse running through camp during the night. At least the little guy didn't chew through any of my gear or food.

Sunrise in the morning!

I managed to get hiking by 7:00am, my earliest start-time yet! I had planned to start at 7:00am or earlier each day to get as much hiking in before the heat of the afternoon settled in, but it seemed like I always fell a little behind in breaking down camp. At least today, I finally hit my goal.

The weather forecast called for a high of 85 degrees--certainly on the hot side, but I knew it could have been much worse.

The day's hiking was largely uneventful for me. I soon caught up with Evenstar and her blisters continued to be a massive problem for her. Today, they mostly managed to pop on their own just from walking which saved her the effort of popping them herself, but they gave her so much trouble, she couldn't even get one of her feet into a shoe and walked with a Croc on one foot instead for half the day.

Evenstar hiking with one Croc due to the blisters on that foot.

Several times during the day, I managed to lose the trail but quickly realized whenever I veered off track and corrected. I did, however, use the opportunity at one point to dig a hole and poop. It seemed very unlikely that another hiker would catch me in the act when I had actually lost the trail--they would have had to have lost the trail at the same place that I did which seemed unlikely. If I tried to go somewhere near the trail, the chances of being caught on this very exposed terrain would have been much higher. =)

Throughout the day, several hikers passed us, including a second hiker named Sprout. Only my 5th day on the trail, and I've met two Sprouts. They joked that one of them should call themselves Sprout 1 and Sprout 2. Or maybe one could be Brown Sprout and the other Small Sprout to distinguish themselves from each other. (The one had a darker complexion, perhaps with some sort of Latino heritage, but that's just a total guess on my part.)

Another hiker, Sweep, swept past Evenstar and me while we were stopped under a shady tree like we were standing still. In fact, we were sitting still, but even if we were walking, I still think it would have felt like we were standing still. He started the trail only a couple of days earlier, I believe, pulling in 30-mile days for who knows what reason. It didn't sound like fun to me, but he seemed in good spirits.

Initially, my goal had been to camp near the last water cache before Lordsburg, but I later decided to stop before then because it sounded like almost every hiker who passed us was planning to camp near there and it sounded like that area might be a bit crowded tonight.

So Evenstar and I set up camp before then. Evenstar stopped before then because her feet just couldn't carry her any further. I stopped to keep Evenstar company and avoid the crowds at the water cache.

Then we set up camp and watched the sun set. I wrote in my journal and read my Kindle while Evenstar did, well, I'm not sure what she did. She might have just gone to sleep. In any case, we were done for the day!

Perhaps a warning to thru-hikers?

Definitely a warning to thru-hikers. *nodding* You can die out here!

Yum... nasty scum water. =) Today, we had no water caches to enjoy so instead we had to use stuff like this for our water supplies.

Shade! Precious shade!

More nasty cow water....

The best water of the day came from this tank. In the photo is Sprout, Paddles, Guru and... I think Fraggles and Tumbleweed? I'm actually having trouble connecting faces with names since it was so long ago I met these folks and I never really saw them again after today. They were hiking much too fast for me!

Evenstar attends to this blister on the back of her foot during a break.

Don't confuse this photo with the first one on this post. That first one was the sunrise. This is the sunset.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Day 4: The First Trail Magic!

April 24: The wind finally died down during the night, so today was the first day with little wind. Evenstar and I woke up and hit the trail, but Sprout and Paddles hung back waiting for a friend who was going to pick them up at the road crossing for a quick trip into town to resupply.

The lack of wind, however, was not compensated with lower temperatures. Temperatures were still hitting highs in the mid-80s. I recognized that it could be worse, but it was still hot and I took breaks at every shady place I could find. Today's stops included once behind a water tank and twice under random trees that somehow managed to thrive in this harsh environment. At the last tree, I took a whopping 2-hour break during the hottest part of the day. I was in less of a rush today than the last couple of days, planning to complete only about 16 miles, which also gave me more time for breaks. Especially during the hottest parts of the day.

The terrain was mostly flat and easy. It was a little amusing to me when I heard other hikers complain about the "rugged" terrain. What would they think when they had to hike through the mountains in Colorado? It's true that the ground wasn't Kansas-flat, but compared to what we'd have further up the trail, this was be a cakewalk. The difficulty in this section wasn't the slopes, but rather the heat and lack of shade and water.

A dust devil sweeps through the cattle

Evenstar and I typically walked at our own comfortable pace which meant I would pull ahead, then she would catch up when I took a long break in the shade somewhere.

Late in the afternoon, I reached the fourth water cache. My initial plan had been to stop and camp somewhere near the water cache, but I revised it when I found a bucket with a note saying that there was trail magic 1.5 miles ahead. It seemed legit. Often times, I'd hear about trail magic ahead, but it was gone or ran out before I arrived, and Evenstar said that she wasn't going to get her hopes up until she actually saw it.

I believed in the trail magic because of this bucket. I figured whoever was providing trail magic would have retrieved it before leaving if the trail magic was gone. Evenstar wasn't going to get her hopes up, though. She was more skeptical!

But I believed there was a good chance of it still being there because of the bucket. Whoever set up the trail magic probably would have retrieved the bucket after it had ended if it had, in fact, ended. Believing in the trail magic, I pushed onward. Hoping for trail magic, Evenstar did the same.

And a half hour later, I arrived near another road crossing where Apple had set up a trail magic rest stop. It was a slick setup that included a hexagonal sphere that provided shade and lightning protection, and he had a large ice chest with ice cold drinks. Oh, cold drinks! My hero! And shade! My hero! =)

A shady oasis!

It didn't even really matter what the drinks were. Anything cold in this dreadful heat was welcome! I wound up lounging around for about an hour during which time I drank two ice cold Cokes and a Gatorade.

Cold drinks weren't the only thing on the menu, however, as Apple also provided some food. I basically ate dinner here which consisted of two hot dogs, Cheetos and a small apple pie. Apple explained that his trailname came from his fondness of providing small apple pies to hikers. He often did trail magic for people on the Appalachian Trail and the Colorado Trail as well, and as it turned out, Evenstar remembered meeting him before during her own thru-hike on the AT.

Apple said he'd been waiting all day for thru-hikers but had only seen one earlier that morning. He was about ready to pack up and go for the night when he sent out a drone to check if there was anyone coming up the trail soon and discovered me taking a break under that last tree where I sat around for about two hours. According to Apple, almost everyone hiking the trail takes a break under that tree. =) He might not have realized that I was going to sit around under it for two hours, though, and reported only seeing me. I never noticed a drone watching me, but he must have used it before Evenstar had caught up with me since he didn't know she was coming.

Anyhow, I was quite happy running into him. =) We weren't there for long before more hikers started arriving. Sprite and Paddles caught back up, this time with their friend, Guru. And not far behind them came Fraggles and Tumbleweed. It was quite the party!

A photo of me with Apple, while I was eating one of his trail-famous apple pies. =)

When I first arrived at the site, I planned to stop here for the night. After all, I got my needed miles in by the time I reached the water cache 1.5 miles back. But then all these other hikers arrived and it started feeling a little too crowded for me. They all seemed nice enough, but after more than 3 or 4 people, it started feeling a little too crowded. I didn't really want to be camped among such a large group.

Neither did Evenstar, so eventually the two of us picked up our packs and pushed onward. We didn't go far, though, mostly just wanting a quieter camping experience. I found a nice place to set up camp, and I assumed that Evenstar would join me when she arrived, but she decided to push on even further and passed me by. 

Which was fine--it just meant that I didn't need to use my earbuds while watching Netflix shows tonight. I could be as loud as I wanted. =)

When I took off my shoes and socks, I was surprised to discover a small blister on the long toe of my left foot. Where did that come from?! I hadn't even felt a hot spot when it was forming. At least it didn't hurt, but now I was left trying to think of a name for the blister. I thought I'd somehow avoid them on this trip since I was starting slow so I hadn't started the trail with a plan for naming blisters.

I was shocked--shocked, I tell you!--when I discovered this small blister on my foot. I hadn't felt any problems with my foot and had absolutely no idea it was there until I took my shoes and socks off at the end of the day.

I liked the idea of using local landmarks of wherever I was located when the blister formed, and the idea popped into my head that I could call it Apple. He was the last major landmark I saw before discovering the blister, after all, but it felt somehow wrong to name a blister after such a nice trail angel.

But the name appealed to me for a second reason--it started with the letter A. I liked the idea of naming my blisters like hurricanes. The next blister would start with a B, then a C, and so on. If I went with a fruit-themed naming system, I could call my blisters Apple, Banana, Cranberry, etc. I liked that idea.

So, apologies to Trail Angel Apple, but I named my blister Apple. =)

And that was the end of my fourth day on the trail.....

Evenstar and I play some shadow games at a road crossing early in the morning.

Evenstar looks out over the trail ahead. She doesn't seem excited or inspired by the barren terrain. Or maybe it's just that her feet are so sore from blisters.

Often times, there wasn't any real trail to follow. You just aimed for those signs in the distance.

Giant tires were often used as a way to supply water for cattle.

This particular tire hosted a hive of bees!

Bzzz! Bzzz!

It's a bird nest! Cool!

Salt lick for cattle

Another rare, shady place for a rest. I probably spent about an hour enjoying the shade here. =)

I imagine the person who put this up realizing it was upside-down after he finished and thought, "Well, crap. Ah, who cares? They can still tell they're on the right track!"

Evenstar and I enjoy a little shade. I spent about two hours under this tree. When I started, I set up at the edge of the shadow so when the sun moved, I'd stay in the shadow. Evenstar is beginning to move into the sun, though, and is putting her shoes and socks back on to continue hiking.

The fourth water cache

Shiny, reflective umbrellas were very popular on the desert portion of the trail. I could see Evenstar's shiny umbrella a mile away!

After it got dark, I had an unexpected nocturnal visitor.