Monday, December 13, 2021

Day 26: Jumping fences, getting lost, and having fun....

May 16: I intended to have a relatively short day of hiking, so I slept in late--or at least laid around in my sleeping bag late--and didn't start hiking until nearly 8:00am, about an hour later than normal.

Much of the day, I expected, was going to be a long, miserable road walk into Pie Town, NM, but I had no intention of hiking the 30 miles or so it would require for me to reach town, which meant camping somewhere along the road walk into town.

But the first half of the day was a pleasant walk on real trail, and I stopped for a long lunch break about a mile before reaching the first part of the road walk which would be along a gravel road. The gravel road, I knew, wouldn't be as bad or busy as the paved highway, but I liked the peace and quiet of a real trail so decided to stop a little short of the road walk.

And anyhow, as the trail descended in elevation, the trees began to shrink and disappear. I wanted to rest in the shade and if I tried to find a place further up the trail, there was a good chance that I wasn't going to find any shade at all.

So I stopped and took a long break in the shade of a modest-sized tree. Evenstar had left camp before me, but I passed her on the trail, then she caught up and joined me for my lunch break.

She also didn't stop as long, and got up and kept hiking while I was still resting. We figured I'd just catch up again later, but as it turned out, I wouldn't see her again the rest of the day. Our paths would go in... different directions.

I did eventually get going again. Mostly because the sun had moved so much during my break that the shade I was in was no longer shading me well, but it was time to get going again. It had never been my intention to camp there!

Passed the 300 mile mark on the trail today!

I soon reached the gravel road, and started following an alternate route that led to a cow trough with reliable water--the last reliable water I knew about near the trail.

Eventually, I saw what looked like a faint trail that led to the cow trough. The trough was visible from miles away because the land was so clear, flat and empty of trees. The sun was hot, but the wind was fierce which felt nice on such a hot day. Although it didn't have to be quite so strong.

I didn't see Evenstar ahead, though. For someone who doesn't walk very fast, I was a little surprised not to see her somewhere up ahead, a little dot on the horizon wiggling along the trail. But there was no hint of her ahead.

Until I reached the trail that led to the water source, then I noticed distinctly fresh footprints on the trail. Evenstar. The prints must be hers. She had definitely come this way.

The trail I followed, I think, was more of a cow trail than a hiking trail, and it seemed to grow larger the closer to the water I got.

And I finally reached the water. Algae was growing rampant in the water. It looked pretty awful, and the area was completely surrounded with cow patties and the actual cattle that left then there. The cattle watched me with suspicion as I filled up my water bottles.

Given the poor water, I definitely took the time to treat it, using the trough itself to provide some shade while I worked on the water.

I definitely treated this gross-looking water!

After filling up, I headed back out, following a gravel road that was presumably used to service the water tank and cattle.

It was maybe a mile or two later when the road curved sharply to the left, and I found myself not really wanting to go in that direction. Pie Town was east, and it looked like the road would have me head northwest before intersecting the main highway that the trail followed into town. I really didn't want to go west at all--that was completely in the wrong direction! North was fine, but definitely not west.

I could see for miles in every direction and the ground was largely flat and I thought, Screw it! I'll walk cross-country to the highway! So I started hiking east, no longer even following any hint of a trail. I suspected I was trespassing, but I actually didn't see any signs or fences marking a boundary so I figured that I at least had plausible deniability. =)

I pushed onward, checking my GPS every so often to make sure I was heading in an acceptable direction. Sometimes it's a little hard to know precisely where to go when there are no landmarks to mark your progress, but I figured as long as my shadow was somewhere ahead of me--perhaps a little to the left of me--I was going in a roughly good direction.

I basically followed my shadow cross-country the whole afternoon.

After a mile or two, I came up to a barbed-wire fence. It wasn't labeled and didn't have any "no trespassing" signs on it, but it was definitely a boundary. It was also in my way, so I found a low-hanging section and swung my leg over it, passing to the other side. All the other barbed-wire fences I had to pass under, over and through along the trail (which I knew were total legal and legit) had been good training for this, even if I wasn't so sure about the legality of my location at this point. I was far off the main CDT at this point. I should have been much further north and on the highway heading into Pie Town, but it was a highway! Bleh. 

That, I figured, was probably where Evenstar was walking. But I kept walking in my own direction, cross-country without any landmarks.

Until I did see a landmark. It looked like a house ahead. I gave it a wide berth. I didn't really want anyone coming out of the house yelling at me for trespassing or something stupid, so I veered well around it, then used a slight bump in the terrain to hike behind where I'd be out of view.

I crossed a couple of gravel roads along the way, and would pause at each of them trying to decide if I wanted to follow it northward to the highway, but I rather enjoyed my cross-country adventure and continued on my own route. I liked the big, open skies, the lack of vehicles and the peace and quiet. And quite a few sightings of pronghorn antelope as well. 

And, I believe, I even spotted a coyote up ahead that kept a wary eye on me. The coyote never got close enough for me to be 100% positive of its identity, but I was able to watch it from a distance for about 10 minutes before it ran off and feel maybe 95% certain that it was a coyote. I was a little annoyed not to have a fancy zoom lens on a camera and get a photo of it, though.

I crawled under this fence.

I reached another barbed-wire fence, and this second one I crawled through rather than going over it.

The third barbed-wire fence I reached, I saw led to a cattle pen with a large tire filled with water. There weren't any cattle in the pen, but I figured there might be a gate or style or something that would let me through, and that's precisely what happened. There was a gate, which I locked up behind me. Leave gates as you find them--that's the rule out here.

Late in the afternoon, I reached yet another barbed-wire fence, and this time I decided to crawl under it. I kind of liked the thought that I had now come up to four different barbed-wire fences, and got to the other side in four entirely different ways: Over, through, through a gate, and under. The CDT had trained me well for all of those methods, though, and none of them gave me any trouble.

As the sun started to set, the wind howled around me. I really needed to find somewhere to camp that was protected from the wind, but the landscape was utterly bare of trees, and I pushed onward.

I did pass into a dry creek bed, which I considered camping in. It had a little protection from the wind, but it wasn't much. The land sloped very slowly down to the creek bed and really didn't provide much protection of the wind. Onward I pushed.

When I first started my cross-country jaunt, I had figured it would only last a mile or two. Then I'd reconnect with the highway and the official CDT route, but now I'd been hiking for miles cross-country. Basically all afternoon! According to my GPS, Highway 60 was only about a mile north of my location, and I aimed my GPS to take me pretty much in a straight line toward the general store west of Pie Town. I wondered if I could make it all the way to the general store without ever walking on the highway. That would be awesome!

Not many landmarks on this flat, dry section!

Near sunset, I noticed a few small trees on the ridge ahead. Maybe I could camp there? But were the trees big enough to act as a windbreak? Guess I had to head over to them and find out.

I veered off the direction I had set and headed toward the trees, and as soon as I stepped behind one, the wind came to an almost complete stop. YES! I could work with this!

I quickly set up camp and made myself comfortable. I had covered 19.0 miles according to my GPS--further than I had intended, but I liked the site. It was a mile away from Highway 60. I could see vehicles along it at times, but they were far enough away that I couldn't hear them or be bothered by them. It was a nice, quiet site all to myself. And unless someone was wandering around with night-vision goggles, nobody would ever find me out here. I figured Evenstar was somewhere along the highway north of me, but if she was, I couldn't see her. I also didn't get any sort of cell phone signal so it's not like I could text her to find out her location. We'd just have to meet up again in Pie Town tomorrow.

One cow started trying to sneak up on me shortly after the sun set, zigzagging back and forth pretending to eat grass but slowly coming up toward me. I watched her with suspicion, and eventually when she got close enough, I started shouting out, "Go away!" But she didn't go away. She'd stop and watch me for a bit, then slowly zigzagged closer and closer.

Finally I stood up in my sleeping bag and the cow freak out! She jumped, kicked her hind legs in the air, and ran off like ghosts were chasing her. She went several hundred feet before stopping and then, finally, slowly wandered further and further away. I hoped she wouldn't come back later in the night, and I'm happy to report, she didn't. The rest of the night was quiet, peaceful and entirely pleasant. =)

Evenstar, I knew, must have come this way!

This old water tank no longer worked and held no water. =( Looked more like a crashed alien space ship!

Did I walk through a wormhole and end up in Kansas?! Man, this place is flat!

This environment could be hostile to life as we know it. It was quite hot in the afternoon!

Taking a rest, but since there were no trees, I had to rest in the sun.

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