Friday, October 22, 2021

Day 3: Desert Wildlife

April 23: I woke up and hit the trail. Evenstar got a bit of a head start on the rest of us, and Pez was moving a bit slower than myself, so we all left camp at staggered times. That was okay, though, since we all needed a little privacy to dig some holes in the ground that would need filling. ;o)

Pez slept on his tent after the wind tried to blow it away last night. Here, he's getting ready to leave camp.

I caught up with Evenstar after a couple of hours, and while walking together, I spotted what looked like wild hogs up up the trail. Hogs are out here?! Who knew?! Evenstar missed seeing them the first time I spotted them, but saw them later when we rounded a corner and they were still visible. They were not, however, particularly social and ran off long before we could get close enough for a recognizable photo. 

Later, while talking to other hikers and describing the animal, they said we had probably seen javelinas, an animal I don't ever remember hearing about before but apparently looked much like hogs.

Another hour or two later, Pez caught up with us, but Addie was still missing. We had assumed that we'd catch up with her sometime after leaving camp but by noon, we started wondering if she had camped out of view of the trail and we had missed her completely and she was behind us. Maybe other hikers would catch up with us and confirm that she was, in fact, behind us. 

Pez was beginning to walk a little slow and reported that his knee was hurting. There wasn't really anything we could do about it at the moment, but we suggested taking it slow and listen to his body.

The morning had been cool, but temperatures rose throughout the day until it was uncomfortably hot by the afternoon and every bit of shade was a precious resource. The wind continued to blow strongly, however, which was pleasant in the hot afternoon but an annoyance in camp.

Later in the afternoon, the three of us started drifting apart, hiking at different speeds. I took the lead while Pez with his hurting knee took up the rear. Evenstar was in the middle, but she was struggling from massive blisters on her feet. Despite the blisters, however, she still kept up a punishing pace.

We didn't expect to reach the next water cache until the end of the day, about 18 miles from where we camped the morning before. That was a little more distance that I wanted to do so early in the hike, but we really needed water! There was another water source several miles before that, however, pumped from underground for the cattle to drink. The area was surrounded by cattle who watched me like I had no business being there.

The cattle are watching. The cattle are always watching.

I kept my distance, walking around them, and rested in the shade of an old windmill. It was located next to a stagnant, ugly pool of water, but fortunately, there was a facet from a nearby tank where we could get much better, cleaner water.

While sitting in the shade reading my Kindle, I saw Evenstar in the distance approaching. She carried a large, shiny umbrella to protect against the sun and it flashed in the sunlight every time it shifted in my direction. But then I noticed her bypassing the water. This water source was perhaps a quarter-mile off the official trail, and Evenstar blew right by it. I wasn't sure if this was deliberate on her part or she just didn't realize the water was here, but it concerned me a bit as this was the one and only reliable water source between the two water caches and she hadn't picked up more water since yesterday's water cache.

So I filled up an extra bottle with a liter of water to give to her in case I could catch up and she needed it.

I took a break in the small amount of shade cast by this dilapidated windmill. Fortunately, I did not have to drink the water from that ugly pool behind it!

Pez soon arrived at the water and told me that he was going to stop there for the day to give his knee a rest. We chatted for a bit and I was tempted to camp with him, but I also had only so much food to reach Lordsburg so I couldn't slow down too much. And anyhow, Evenstar might soon die of thirst if I didn't arrive with some extra water for her. 

So I parted ways with Pez, but with the hope that he'd catch up again soon.

Not sure why this photo ended up so blurry, but this tank was where I got water from.

Another hour or so later, I caught up with Evenstar again and gave her the extra liter of water I carried. She told me that she chose to skip the water not wanting to do the extra miles off trail to reach it and that she'd be okay without it as she was rationing her water and could make it to the water cache without it. 

I told her that I wasn't going to carry a completely unnecessary liter of water and if she wasn't going to take it, I'd pour it out on the ground to save weight. I literally picked it up just for her. I had more than enough for myself and there was no good reason for me to carry the extra liter if she didn't want it.

Once she realized that she wasn't taking water from my supply, she was happy to get the extra water and not have to ration it quite so much. And I was happy to get rid of the extra weight. =)

We pushed onward, eventually reaching the third water cache of the trail not long before sunset. Two other hikers were already camped there, Natalie--who I had met before at the first water cache--and Paddles, her significant other. I was also informed that Natalie now had a trail name as well: Sprout. 

Privately, I thought that wasn't a great name only because I had met multiple different Sprouts before. As far as trailnames go, it wasn't particularly unique--but I didn't bother to say that. There's no rule that trailnames needed to be unique or special out here, and what were the chances I'd run into another Sprout nearby? All-in-all, I hadn't really been meeting a lot of people on the trail. At this point, I could still count them on my fingers.

As the sun set, Evenstar and I set up camp. Once Evenstar had her tent up, she went to work on popping her blisters--which were absolutely massive! I was stunned that they hadn't already popped on their own, and I asked if I could take photos and videotape her popping them. No problem! So I did. =)

You might have have heard of Old Faithful Geyser, but this is its lesser-known cousin, Old Faithful Blister.

The biggest blister, however--I'm sorry to report--I missed getting a video of. I thought I had hit the record button and gave Evenstar the signal to pop away, but when I check the video, I realized that it recorded absolutely nothing. I was heart-broken! Noooo! When she punctured it, the blister juice shot out like a geyser, arching several feet from her foot. She named it Old Faithful because it shot out so well.

But she had a second large (but less impressive-looking) blister so we tried it a second time, and this time the juice in her blister shot at me getting on my hand and camera. Come on! That was gross! I'm pretty sure she wasn't trying to hit me with her blister juices, but ewww! And I did get all that on video. *nodding*

Once the sun set, temperatures plunged quickly. It was going to be another chilly evening. Once it got dark, I pulled out my black light again and scanned the area for scorpions, joking with the other hikers that I should start charging for performing a "scorpion check" around their campsites. I imagined walking around from camp to camp and whispering, "Ten bucks for a scorpion check! You'll sleep better knowing there are no scorpions around your campsite!"

And if I could actually find a scorpion, I could trap it in a jar and release them during the night for anyone who didn't take me up on that offer that they shouldn't have refused... ;o)

Anyhow, all joking aside, I did go out looking for scorpions, but given how cold it got, I didn't think my odds were good. So imagine my surprise when, just a few minutes into the hunt, I found a scorpion! It was a tiny little thing--I'd never seen such a small scorpion before. The thing looked like it was a quarter-inch long (or about a half-centimeter). I shouted out to the other hikers that I had found one, and Evenstar came out of her tent to check it out. Sprout and Paddles chose not to.

I tried taking photos, but it just didn't work. My camera just couldn't focus on something so small in the darkness. If I moved the camera too close, it was out of focus. If I moved it too far away, it was too small to see. I took about a dozen photos but could immediately tell none of them clearly showed a scorpion. It was really frustrating for me, but the trail ran through New Mexico for over 700 miles. There would be more, I was certain.

I just couldn't get a good photo of the scorpion. It was so small and tiny! If I hadn't had a black light, I'd never have found it to begin with!

"Now that I've actually confirmed there are scorpions around here," I joked with the others, "I'm charging $20 for a scorpion check." =)

And that was the end of the third day of hiking. It was a good, satisfying day of hiking, but I had already lost 2 of my 3 hiking companions from yesterday.

I take a break in a rare patch of shade


Evenstar said...

awww, Old Faithful. I was super glad when THAT one finally went away!!!

GG said...

It's probably a good thing you didn't interact with the pig-like wildlife.
You might have ended up on the short end of the stick.

I hope we'll get to see a shadow photo somewhere as you post about this trek.
I've begun to think of them as de rigueur.

Tina said...

Javalina. If you go way back in the file cabinet of your childhood, those were the pigs they were rounding up and marking in Old Yeller.