Monday, December 20, 2021

Day 29: Chain of Craters

Day 29: I slept in a bit late since I expected a relatively quick and easy day. Which seemed kind of odd since I was actually planning to do my longest day yet--about 24 miles to the next reliable water source. But it would be almost entirely on flat, easy gravel roads. Knocking out 3 miles per hour, I could be done in a mere 8 hours! That's like a normal 9 to 5 workday. =)


The perk for sleeping in late was warm biscuits with plut jam. Plut, you ask? What's plut? I had the same question! Also referred to as plucot, it's plum and apricot jam. Larry brought out some warm biscuits for those who didn't get a super early start, and I was the beneficiary of that. Hurray!

I wasn't the last hiker to get going, but I was among the last eventually hitting the road by around 7:30am. It had sprinkled a bit during the night, but by morning, the skies were clear and sunny. By the afternoon, big fluffy cumulus clouds dotted the sky and strong winds picked up. I wondered again why I wasn't seeing more wind power out here. New Mexico certainly seems like it has a huge abundance of wind.

The first several hours, I hiked by myself, alone through the New Mexican desert, but by around around noon, Wi-fi caught up with me, a tall lanky fellow from Spokane who had previously thru-hiked the Florida Trail and Arizona Trail and was excited to now be doing the CDT. And having spent a few years living in this area, it was particularly special for him. So then we started hiking together and chatting for a few more hours.

This is Wi-fi. I didn't actually get any photos of his face, though. Not today, at least! =)

Late in the day, we reached the Chain of Craters, a series of volcanic craters lined up in a row that finally break the monotonous flatness of the last couple of days. Instead, it was a rough and tumble terrain with geologically recent lava flows. The lava flows didn't look more than 10-20 thousand years old to me--not that I'm a geologist or anything--but I found this surprising since I had no idea that New Mexico had volcanic activity so recently. For all I knew, the lava flows could have been 1 or 2 thousand years ago. I figured it must be more than 100 or 200 years ago since I can't imagine I wouldn't have heard about it if it were that recent.

But it made the walking difficult and slow--much slower than I had expected. The rocks were sharp and the trail was lumpy, and the trail often wound around old sinkholes and cave-ins from lava tubes. At this point, Wi-fi far outdistanced me, but I wanted a rest anyhow. He walked much faster than I did and I was ready for a break, so as we approached the imposing terrain, I took a short break while he kept going. 

Lava flows! This section was annoying slow to get through!

Fortunately, that section was fairly short, then I was back on regular, flat gravel (but boring) roads again. The next water source, a cow trough, was located a bit off trail. There actually was a real trail through this area, but I decided to follow the more direct gravel road to the water source and took a wrong turn, heading the wrong way down the road for about 5 or 10 minutes. Argh!!!!

Late in the afternoon, I finally reached the water, which was a remarkably good source for being a cow trough and there wasn't any evident of recent cow visits. Wi-fi was resting nearby behind a large tank that help break the wind--the only windbreak for miles around--and I joined him.

He decided to keep going a bit further, but I decided to call it a day. I was next to water that I could use and abuse it to my heart's content! And I had already walked 24.4 miles according to my GPS and 51,935 steps according to my Fitbit--both new highs for me on this trail. I was happy to call it a day. And I could use this large tank as a wind break. Who knows what sort of wind breaks, if any, would be available further up the trail. Nope, I was ready to stop.

I camped behind the tank (where Wi-fi is in the photo) since that made such a good windbreak. The windmill, however, would be cause for concern after sunset....

I cowboy camped, but started having second thoughts about that after sunset when I noticed flashes of lightning on the horizon. It wasn't even the potential for rain that gave me the most concern, but rather that I had set up under a giant metal windmill--the single tallest thing for probably 10 miles in any direction. The flashes of lightning came from mountains far on the horizon, though, and I crossed my fingers hoping it would stay there. I wasn't anxious to move camp in the dark, nor with such strong winds, so I decided to wait things out a bit and see what happened.

But... nothing happened. The lightning didn't get any closer, and eventually faded out completely without coming anywhere near my camp. Whew!

This ended another day for our hero, the Turtle.

Check out that beard growing in! =)

I wasn't always neat and tidy when I ate.... Five-second rule!!!

So many photos like this....

See a couple of other hikers ahead of us here? We aren't alone! =) They ended up taking an alternate, however, so I didn't really talk to them. Wi-fi and I stayed on the main red line.

That lumpy mass behind the cairn is the start of the lava flows.

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