Photo Tour of New Mexico

I’m in Durango, CO today. I caught a ride with a stranger yesterday to get closer to rental cars, and already we are sharing a hotel room and having life direction and boy talk. It’s incredible. Her name is Lindsay and she’s a gem. So glad we met, and so nice to have a woman to spend some time with. Durango is a great place too! I went to a brewery last night and met some nice women who work corporate for Domino’s Pizza. We shared stories and showed each other pictures and they didn’t judge me when I cleaned up all three of our plates:)

Lindsay let me get some photo’s on her computer, so I can finally show home what this amazing state looks like. Here we go, New Mexico, the diverse, the stunning, the fierce!

The Southern Terminus

The Southern Terminus

The Boot heel, look out for snakes

The Boot heel, look out for snakes

Then came the rain!

Then came the rain!

Someone's driveway, just as good as rose bushes, if you ask me

Someone’s driveway, just as good as rose bushes, if you ask me

The Gila River Canyon, 237 crossings

The Gila River Canyon, 237 crossings

Al and Sam, my friends to dork out with at the native cliff dwellings

Al and Sam, my friends to dork out with at the native cliff dwellings

More of the glorious river canyon

More of the glorious river canyon

This is the box canyon where I was lost and should have known better than to scramble up the side of.

This is the box canyon where I was lost and should have known better than to scramble up the side of.

The Wolf Pack I've had the pleasure of hiking with, Butters, Page, and the dogs

The Wolf Pack I’ve had the pleasure of hiking with, Butters, Page, and the dogs

Cookie Monster:)

Cookie Monster:)

The top of Mt Taylor 11,300 ft

The top of Mt Taylor 11,300 ft

The string band at the pie place

The string band at the pie place

A gorgeous arch

A gorgeous arch

Lots of these road walks!

Lots of these road walks!

Lave at El Malpais

Lava at El Malpais

I'm not sure

I’m not sure

The morning after the storm

The morning after the storm

Which turned out beautifully

Which turned out beautifully

Flip-Flopping

For those of you who have been following the weather of the southwest this spring, you might not be too surprised by this. Turns out, Colorado is snowy. Huh. Weird. Although, more so, it turns out, Colorado is too snowy for me to feel comfortable walking on through. It’s 100% snow pack from here on north, and that may last weeks. So I’ve found a group of wienies like myself and we are renting some cars up to central Wyoming to hike south. That puts us back here (Chama, NM) in 6-7 weeks. Which will be a remarkable time to walk through the San Juan Mountains! All is well. Loads of logistics to work out, but I’m getting it together. My mail drops will chance a bit, but otherwise, I’m just hiking on. Happy, healthy, and ready for more adventure.

New Mexico, You Magnificent Bastard!

Marvelous New Mexico! What can I say? In one month I can hardly believe what I’ve seen. In one month I’ve had more life-rocking experiences than an entire summer in Glacier or my other two thru-hikes combined. I simply can’t believe there is one state with all of these things. From low desert, to over 11 thousand feet. I’ve never been hailed on so much in all of my life (sometimes it feels like mother nature is shooting at you). Never crossed a river so many times. Never been lost so much. Never had to pitch my tent early in the evening to get out of the elements and woke up to crashes of thunder and a caved in tent with pounds of heavy snow. Never actually yelled, “That’s enough!” like a pissed-off child, at the weather before. Never drank water quite that color. You have reshaped me, New Mexico! Hats off to you.

The morning after the storm

The morning after the storm

And as much as I sometimes get grumpy at your majestic demeanor, I also thank you. Thank you for the sun on the mesa. What a thing to see. The painted rock, the turquoise water of the rushing stream, the cacti in bloom. Thank you for the canyons, so many canyons connecting the way! The caves. The alpine. The humble towns opening up to us dirty hikers. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the opportunities to get found. For leading me home and teaching me so much along the way.

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I’m in Ghost Ranch tonight. It’s magical. In the last week, I’ve had it handed to me! I sit here now, dry, clean, and aware of being alive. Thank you, always, for the love.

Pie and Presence

A series of what could be considered unfortunate events led to an experience I absolutely needed. Pie Town, NM. A town literally named for the fresh baked pie. What a place. There are about 60 people living there, and they treat the hikers like family. You can stay at Nita’s Toaster House if you’re a weary traveler. Nita was not there, but her neighbors keep the fridge stocked and you can crash anywhere there is space to lay down.

I got behind schedule from being lost and was going to just spend the night and head out the next morning, but then I woke up sick in the middle of the night. I think it was something I ate. The next morning, I felt a bit nauseous and still thought heading out that afternoon was a good idea. Which is silly. Yet, my old friend from the PCT, Thirsty Boots, changed my mind right quick. I had no idea he was on the trail this year and was thrilled to see him. He’s one of the only hikers I’ve met on any thru-hike that I had visited in their home. I know all about his family and he knows the people in my life too (Shasta and Eric, Thirst Boots says, “hello”). We caught up with each others lives a bit and talked trails. It felt great. He also mentioned that later that night, he was hoping to recruit a friend in town with guitars over for some music. That sounded incredible. Turns out we’re both rather fond of old Appalachian tunes.

I took a lot of naps that day, which was perfect. Hikers pet me on the head, and wished me well and brought me some tea. My old friend Cookie Monster was especially kind. It felt great. Like a hiker family. Considerably better than sleeping alone in my tent would have been.

In the afternoon, I felt much better and went out for some pie. It sat well, so I knew the sickness had passed. A familiar sound was coming from the art room. A friendly band of string players were singing some of my favorite songs in harmony. Which was such an amazing comfort. I forgot how much that music can warm you. I went in and sat in the room with them and sang along. They were the nicest people and so talented. A banjo, a fiddle, and a guitar, with the occasional string bass and mandolin added in. It reminded my of my past winter in Montana and was an incredible spirit lifter.

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Shortly after another nap at the Toaster House, I awoke to good food and my friend G-Funk, who I had zeroed with in Silver City. Then later that night, we sang more of those wonderful mountain tunes. It felt like a slice of home and family and gave me wings on my feet to get up here to Grants. I even sang an original tune that I had written about thru-hiking. They were the perfect audience to appreciate it.

Life is great here. Beautiful people, great challenges, and always the love of Montana and my friends and family walking with me. Gratitude!

So Very Lost

I seem to recall joking over the last few months about the in’s and out’s of navigation out here. Laughing off the heaviness of how being misplaced is just part of the experience. I had a great opportunity to practice the acceptance of that concept this last stretch.

For the majority of the last week I’ve been in the Gila National Forest. It’s incredible. Unique native dwellings, caves, sheer cliffs surrounding the river, and a whole lot of water. The Gila is a beautiful river. So rewarding to walk through that I hardly even noticed the work involved with fording the same river over 150 times. Still, it’s taxing on the body, whether your high spirits notice it or not.

Al and Sam, my friends to dork out with at the native cliff dwellings

Al and Sam, my friends to dork out with at the native cliff dwellings

The Gila River Canyon, 237 crossings

The Gila River Canyon, 237 crossings

One night, I came to these relaxing hot springs. It was a happy place with a lot of campers enjoying their time away from work and friendly talks with strangers. For reasons I can only chalk up to my German blood, I moved on after a dip in the pools and tried to put in another couple of miles before dark, even through it was 6:30pm. As I walked away, I got this strange feeling I was making a mistake, ‘Why am I opting to go spend the night alone just to get in another mile. I have all summer to be alone instead of sharing some laughs with strangers here at this happy place.’ I pushed on anyway, and told myself I need to stop doing that.

Then I got what I asked for. I woke up alone the next morning, pushed a little over 20 miles without seeing a soul, slept, got up, and pushed again, still no sign of another hiker. Around 2 in the afternoon, I was starting to get a little weary and uneasy. I had to do some scrambling in a box canyon. Trying to keep three points of contact with my heavy pack up steep rock with the gushing river under me seemed pretty crazy. “CDT, you rat bastard!” I said. “I’ve heard you were going to be brutal. I’m game…..I think” I really thought I should have made it to Snow Lake hours ago. Soon after, the river had become more of a creek than I expected. I tried a side trail to get up high and see if I could catch a glimpse of the lake and saw nothing even remotely like one. I came back down and carried on a bit more, then got out my compass (what a concept) and saw that I was traveling rather in the direction of south. It was then that I realized I was not where I was supposed to be. And not knowing where I went wrong, I figured I had walked right off my maps.

This is the box canyon where I was lost and should have known better than to scramble up the side of.

This is the box canyon where I was lost and should have known better than to scramble up the side of.

A range of emotions comes to play in those situations. Disappointment in oneself being the predominant. The “I want my mommy” feeling. Then acceptance. ‘Well, I asked for time alone and the growth of getting lost in the woods. There you go, kid!’ I turned around. Walked for the rest of the day hoping to get back to where I went wrong. Figuring I would either find a confluence I missed, or another hiker. Feeling comforted to know that I had that safety to walk back to. Climbing back down into the river canyon was right on the edge of my comfort level, but I pulled it off, and felt grateful.

Around 7pm that night, 12 miles later, I figured it out. The night before I had been exhausted and stumbling through the bushes trying to find a decent place to step on the bank of the river, and I didn’t even notice that a lovely little tributary, Iron Creek, had joined us. Rather, I joined it, and how! I followed that beautiful little stream for a day without knowing what it was.

I followed every turn in the river religiously with my map from then on. With my poles stashed and map in one hand, and compass around my neck. That’s how you navigate. That’s what I should have been doing the whole time I was on the river. I got lazy, and thought, ‘Sweet, just follow the river. Easy!’ Paid for it, learned from it, and ended up making some great friends out of the deal.

The next group of hikers I came to I stuck with. Brett, Butters, and Page. Page is driving a camper-truck to meet them and camp with them and their three dogs. We’ve been joking and telling each other stories about our homelands. A great thing to come out of my mistake. Or perhaps not a mistake at all.

Iron Creek rules!