Monday, November 8, 2021

Day 11: The Burro Mountain Traverse

May 1: When I woke up in the morning, I was a little surprised to find the temperature actually felt warmer than when I had fallen asleep the previous evening. It didn't bode well for the afternoon temperatures today!

But I had a plan for that. Today, I would pass over Burro Mountain which required climbing a couple of thousand feet up and temperatures at such high elevations would be cooler. Right? So that was my plan. I was going to go up Burro Mountain.

Some of the animals I spotted on the trail weren't particularly interesting....

It was a long, slow slog up the steep slopes. I moved slowly as temperatures seemed to soar. Evenstar seemed to struggle with it as well. We were in it together.

The vegetation changed as we climbed, eventually becoming a thick forest. Through gaps in the trees, we could see wonderful views. Except, perhaps, for an ugly open-pit mine toward the east. I wondered what they mined there. The logical guess would be silver since it was near Silver City, but for all I knew, the silver that Silver City was presumably named for could have been mined out years ago and now some other resource was being extracted. Later, when I got online and checked, it appeared that the main mineral they were mining now is copper.

Open pit mines are horrible eyesores, but I find them immensely fascinating and constantly wanted better views of the one to the east, but too many trees usually blocked the view!

It's an open-pit mine in the distance!

Just past the summit, the trail reached a wonderful overlook, so I stopped for a much needed rest. High in elevation, the temperature even got cool enough that I found myself craving the sun for warmth.

I wound up spending an hour or two at the viewpoint. I napped. I snacked. I checked email on my phone. Evenstar eventually caught up and took a short break as well, but she continued onward without me, saying that she knew I'd catch up later.

During my break, a couple of other thru-hikers passed by without even stopping to admire the views. I found this oddly weird. Why were they even out here if they weren't even interested in the views? Granted, I didn't expect them to stop for hours like I did, but it was the best view of the day by far. You'd think they might have stopped for five or ten minutes to enjoy the view. But I didn't worry about it too much. Not my problem. =)

Enjoying the view from Burro Mountain

Eventually I did pick up my pack and continue down the other side of Burro Mountain. Just as I was leaving, another thru-hiker arrived who introduced himself as Fugitive. When I introduced myself as Green Tortuga, he asked, "Did you hike the PNT in 2019?"

Well... yes, as a matter of fact. I did! How did he know this? I knew I hadn't met him on that trail. I met only one other thru-hiker that entire trail and I knew it wasn't him. He wasn't sure if he remembered me from trail registers or my posts on the PNT group on Facebook, but somewhere he had seen my name and remembered it. So we chatted about the PNT for a bit. Not my favorite trail--at all! But Fugitive said that he loved the bushwhacks. Definitely a crazy man! =) I usually didn't mention that I had thru-hiked the PNT since so few people have done it or are familiar with it. And there's probably a part of my brain that would prefer to forget that I ever did it.

The next reliable water source on the trail was Mud Spring which wasn't very far ahead, but it was located a bit off the trail and I walked by it without noticing. I had to backtrack several minutes to the spring when I realized my error, which annoyed me to no end. It was literally no more than a few minutes of backtracking, but any backtracking at all felt like pure torture.

This spring was also the last reliable water source that I knew about until I arrived in Silver City... two days from now. I wasn't even entirely sure how far away Silver City was located since I would have to follow reroutes around an area closed for prescribed burns. Not knowing for certain that there would be anymore water up ahead, I filled up with an astounding 7 liters of water. It was miserably heavy. Water weighs 2.2 pounds per liter, so that was an extra 15+ pounds of weight on my back. Despite the unpleasant name of Mud Spring, it was actually a pretty nice water source and the water wasn't really muddy at all.

Don't let the name fool you. Mud Spring actually had some pretty nice water.

I staggered down the trail under the extra weight. At least I hadn't planned to walk much further today. After cooking dinner and eating breakfast tomorrow morning, I'd knock at least a couple of liters off my back before tomorrow's hike.

About 15 minutes later, I saw movement to my left out of the corner of my eye and looked in that direction where I spotted something that looked red like a fox, the size of a beaver and a large, bushy trail as long as its body. It was running away, however, so I couldn't see its face and I only got the shortest of glimpses. I wasn't sure if red foxes were out in the wild here, but I knew about Coatimundis and thought it could very well have been one of them. Did I see a coatimundi?! I wished I had been able to see it's face clearly and made a positive identification, but if it wasn't a coatimundi, it must have been a red fox. From what I could find online, though, it appeared that this section of trail was a bit outside of their territory, so I'm leaning toward coatimundi.

Anyhow, excited about seeing a probable coatimundi, I continued onward, eventually catching up with Evenstar again. She was sitting next to a dry creek bed and informed me that there was a horrible, muddy puddle of water a bit upstream, but that the spring was dry.

I didn't much care--I already had 7 liters of water on my back. Didn't she get water at Mud Spring as well? Turns out no, she had missed it. In fact, she had thought that the muddy puddle she found up the dry creek was Mud Spring.

No, I told her, it was a couple of miles back. Evenstar hiked with a GPS, but it wasn't attached to any maps, and the devices that had maps of the trail wasn't attached to any GPSes. She had all the tools every other hiker on the trail had, but they were on two different devices which made using them together impossible, which is how she ended up here not even realizing that she had passed Mud Spring miles earlier without even realizing it.

And her GPS had some strange ideas of its own anyhow which just muddied the proverbial waters even further. Her GPS would report that we covered 25+ miles on a daily basis even though we actually only covered about 15 miles. One day, it reported over 30 miles. It had become something of an ongoing joke at the end of each night for me to guess how much her GPS reported that we had walked. ("At this pace, we'll be done with the trail in a couple of weeks!") Which all helps explain how Evenstar had blown past Mud Spring by a couple of miles without realizing it.

Note about trail closures ahead due to prescribed burns

But unlike me who only had to backtrack a few minutes to the spring, she was already a couple of miles beyond it--definitely more backtracking than she wanted to do. And she definitely didn't have enough water to get to Silver City.

I would have shared some of my water with her, except if there was no more water before Silver City, I would probably be running out by the time I arrived in town myself. I really didn't have enough to share.

That was, of course, assuming that there were no water sources before reaching town. Just because I didn't know of any reliable water sources doesn't mean that there weren't any.

But we formulated a plan B for her. And a plan C. There was a road crossing ahead that had Guthook comments about a water cache being there. At least there was water there a week earlier. Hopefully there was still water at the cache and she could just fill up. That was plan B. (Guthook is an app that takes  the entire set of tools needed for thru-hiking—a map, compass, guidebook, and water reports—and consolidates them into a single virtual location. It has become the go-to app for thru-hikers.)

If the water cache was empty (or gone), the next option was to hike out to the Old Burro Homestead for water, a mile or two down the gravel road. It actually sounded pretty nice, where hikers could take showers, buy food that they hadn't carried on their backs and so forth. We were trying to stick to the "red line" as much as possible--the main CDT route on the Guthook app was marked with a red line so we often called the main CDT the red line route--but the homestead was off on an alternate. Then, she could either backtrack back to the red line from the homestead or follow the alternate all the way through to Silver City by following Tyrone Road to Highway 90 and road-walking the rest of the way into town. 

That was plan C. There would definitely be water for Evenstar at the homestead, though, so we didn't make a plan D. 

This water cache was just before the climb up Burro Mountain. Evenstar was hoping to find another one a bit further up the trail which would allow her to stay on the red line a bit longer.

We continued onward, eventually reaching the gravel road with the possible water cache but found no water. I set down my pack and searched behind random trees in the area for hidden water, but came up empty. There was no water. It was down to plan C--Evenstar had to go to the homestead.

I was still inclined to stay on the red line as long as possible, though, so we parted ways here promising to meet up again in Silver City. I said, "Let's do lunch in Silver City," a throwback to my having said that about Lordsburg when we ended up spending 6 hours with Pez and Addie for lunch. Then jokingly added, "Last one to Silver City has to pay."

I was joking, and Evenstar laughed, but the alternate she was taking was probably shorter than the route I'd be taking so there was a good chance that she'd beat me into town and I wondered idly if I was now going to be on the hook for buying her lunch. She was disappointed about taking the alternate, however, wanting to continue on the red line like I was.

So we parted ways, and I continued on a few more miles before stopping near another crossing of a gravel road. It wasn't a particularly scenic or inspiring site and was surrounded with cow patties, but it would work.

And that was the end of another day!


Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

Your wanting to stick to the "red line" is admorable so I am really curious how that goes north of Silver City with the big and popular alternate up the Gila River. It seems that VERY few people hike the official route over to the east.

PI Joe

GG said...

I don't know if you could see it from The Long Trail in VT.
I think they're on the east side of Belvidere Mt.
There are old asbestos mines that look like a moonscape.
Totally barren and gray. UGLY
I'm guessing that Lou C. know where I mean in Belvidere.

Lou P still in VT.

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

I know of the old asbestos mine and I have hiked the Long Trail thru that are (45 years ago, yikes!) and I cannot remember if the mine is visible from the trail. I think I remember a fire tower on Belvidere. Maybe you can/could see the mine from there.

PI Joe