Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Day 12: The First Fire Detour

May 2: I woke up bright and early to hit the trail. The trail only lasted a few miles, though, since it was closed where it normally crossed Red Rock Road just three miles ahead. A prescribed burn was ongoing and yellow tape blocked the route.

Once I reached the road, my trail maps were worthless. They had no information about the reroute. I pulled out my smartphone and used Google Maps to check the route. I entered in a route for the Motel 6 in town, and Google reported back that with 26 miles away. With the three miles I had already done this morning, it meant I could reach town if I hiked 29 miles today. That wasn't going to happen, though. My longest day so far was only 17.7 miles, and I definitely wasn't ready for a 29-mile day yet! But I'd push on as far as I could and see where I ended up.

There was a water cache here. I wasn't sure that there would be anymore water until I reached town, so I filled up with a bit more water despite having several liters already. Better safe than sorry! It was a shame that Evenstar detoured off the red line when she did. If we had known definitely that there would be water here, we could have both easily have reached this point with the water I picked up from Mud Spring. Oh, well.

Water cache at the fire closure!

A big, orange sign at the road warned "Fire in progress," but I didn't see any evidence of an active burn. No smoke, no flames. But the area on both sides of the road were charred black, so it didn't seem to me like they had done a very good job of containing the prescribed burn.

Evidence of the prescribed burn was on both sides of the road, but I didn't see any evidence that it was actively burning today.

The first 4 or 5 miles of the gravel road weren't too bad and there were very few vehicles.

But then the road turned to asphalt and became busier. Not busy, but busier. The asphalt was terrible for walking on, though, and I still had 20 miles into town. Ugh.

I followed the road. The trees faded away and the heat increased as the road slowly descended in elevation. Shade become more and more sparse as the temperatures ratcheted up. Why does that always seem to be the case?

It was a generally uneventful walk. One woman stopped to offer me a ride, but I turned her down. She had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail years earlier and understood my desire to keep my steps connected.

The low point for the day arrived in mid-afternoon, near the intersection of Red Rock Road and Mangus Valley Road, which also happened to go by what looked like an old mine. I couldn't tell if the mine was still active or not. Nothing about it looked like it was actively being worked, but the huge piles of tailings suggested that there had certainly been a lot of mining nearby at some point.

I followed Mangus Valley Road onward to Highway 180, which was a moderately busy highway and definitely the least pleasant section of the day's walk. Somewhat ironically, it was actually the official CDT. The fire closure detour was officially over once I reached this highway.

I stopped at the intersection next to a large tree that provided ample shade and someone had put in a small water cache. I wished I had known about this water cache earlier--I wouldn't have carried so much water if I knew about it--but it did allow me to guzzle an extra liter that I would have rationed otherwise.

Another water cache! Sure wish I knew about this earlier.... You can also see Highway 180 crossing over the bridge in the background.

While resting there, a tumbleweed suddenly rolled up and attack me! I'd been watching tumbleweeds roll hypnotically through the landscape all afternoon, but this one rolled right up to me and positively decided to go on the attack. I beat it back, eventually picking it up and throwing it off on the other side of me where the wind picked it up again and continued pushing it through the landscape. Stupid tumbleweed. *shaking head*

I was tempted to stop here for the day. It was actually a pleasant spot despite the nearby highway. I was pretty well hidden from both the highway and Mangus Valley Road, I had shade and water, and I had covered a decent chunk of trail already. But I also wanted to push on further and get a little closer to Silver City before calling it quits for the day. The road walk, although hot and miserable, hadn't been physically difficult for my feet. But I risked having to use an awful stealth camp next to Highway 180 if I couldn't find a good place to camp before it got dark.

I decided to take my chances, though, and pushed on after a short rest.

As the afternoon passed, the smoke and haze in the sky increased. At least I suspected it might be smoke, perhaps from the prescribed burns? Maybe it was the wind blowing up dust, though. The winds were quite strong and steady. Visibility was definitely falling throughout the day.

As sunset neared, I started looking for a place to camp, and eventually found a place that I really liked. It was down in a river bed that passed under the highway, making me completely invisible to passing traffic. The ground was level and clear, and the depression provided an excellent windbreak from the strong winds. The location wouldn't have worked in a heavy rainstorm, however, since it was at the bottom of a dry creek bed. Flash floods would be a real threat if there was any chance of rain. But there wasn't, so I camped there. =)

In camp, I discovered that I had another small blister on my foot. I named it Banana. It was too small and deep for me to pop, but this one I felt was a good idea to keep an eye on to make sure it didn't get worse.

And, for the first time on the trail, I didn't see another hiker the entire day. 'Twas a lonely day on the trail....  But I did have a cell signal for most of the day so I was still in touch with Evenstar and Addie. (Pez didn't have a sim card yet that worked with his phone, so he would be out of touch until he reached civilization.)

And... I shattered my longest day on the trail, having completed 21.9 miles according to my GPS. My first 20-mile day of the trail! But I was still about 8 miles from the Motel 6 where I planned to stay. I was anxious to get into town bright and early tomorrow. =)

My campsite for the night! (I'd set up camp on some dirt near where you see my pack.)

Oh, no! Not a fire! Not that I actually saw any evidence of an actively burning fire....

This is definitely a result of mining activity, but I couldn't actually tell if there was an actively-running mine nearby.

Flooding was not a problem today....

Temperatures actually felt quite nice sitting in the shade, but it felt miserably hot in the sun!

Just 10 miles to town! Almost there! Tomorrow....

That small blister near the back of my foot? I named him Banana. =)

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