Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Big Mile Days

Hi everybody, writing today from Anaconda, MT, a lovely (if very linear) town.  The walk into civilization was long and hot on Highway 1, but everything a tired hiker needs is arranged along the main drag, so its all good.  The people here seem very friendly, as four of them stopped to chat while I repackaged my bounce box in front of the P.O.  They were all intent on giving me rides out of town, but I'm not about to ruin the continuity that easily.  I was able to retreive my passport and remaining maps, so I'm pretty excited; the end is approaching at a rate that hardly seems real given the leisurely pace of life out here.. though that is probably the wrong word, seeing as I've been putting in 16 hour, 40 mile days to meet my stated ETA of August 15th.  I know it doesn't really make a difference, but I already changed the date once, I don't want to again, damn it!

Once again I missed an update from town as I had to jet through Darby on a weekend when the library was closed, so here is some catch up.

The trail from Leadore (pronounce LEAD-ore, like two seperate words. weired) was fairly easy and straightforward, with lots of open ground and grassland up on the Divide.  This made for some longish dry stretches, but given the ease of the rolling terrain, it wasn't a concern.  The open skies were a constantly changing tableau, with bright mornings morphing to cloudy skies seemingly instantaneously, and numerous thunderstorms rolling through daily.  Luckily the lightning stayed away, as the fired danger is always high up here, regardless of the precipitation, as attested to by the number of bucket-trailing helicopter seen on the horizon.  I ran into several other southbounders, bringing the total up to 7 so far.  Who knows if I'll see any more, or if they will take the longer Butte route and we'll miss each other completely.

From up on Chief Joseph Pass, I hitched down to Darby.  It seems to be pretty easy to get rides around here as I wasn't waiting long in either direction, though I hear that changes closer to Glacier NP.  The town was pretty quaint and compact, making it perfect for hikers, but alas it lacks an outfitter.  My shoes, which I picked up in Silverthorne waaaaay back in CO, are in rough shape and need to be replaced a.s.a.p... which in this case means in Helena, another 70 miles away.  A generous application of shoe goo and duct tape should do the trick, though every scrape of trip on a rock is cause for concern.  Luckily they survived the Pintlars, a tough but short stretch of rugged peaks that makes the Divide look like it was broken with a titanic hammer.  The trail goes up and over several times, dropping and ascending thousands of feet each time.  While the views were spectacular, and the preponderance of good water and alpine lakes is nice, it was definitely one of the harder bits of trail in a good while. 

With that behind me, however, the rest of the way into Glacier should be a (relative) breeze.  There is still an unfortunate amount of road walking to get back to the main path, but I'll consider it pennance for taking the easier route.  I'm looking forward to putting in the big miles, regardless of whether by choice or necessity, just to put the ole' body through its paces and see if it can still keep up.  For now all seems well, and I can't wait to see what else the trail has in store before heading back east.  Talk to you all later! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 100 Mile Day?

Hi everybody, writing today from exciting Leadore, ID, a hopping, one stop light town out on an open plain at the bottom of Bannock Pass.  The only road that leads up to the trail is a lightly traveled dirt ribbon that allows one to see cars coming from miles away, making hitching slightly easier, but it is somewhat intimidating looking down and seeing no potential rides coming for what seems like forever.  Even given the dismal state that a hiker must seem to someone going by the trail, I was passed by 3 cars driven by what I can only assume are human scum.  Luckily, and very surprisingly, I was picked up by an empty charter bus that had just unloaded some alumni from Rice Univeristy, so that was a first.

This section of trail has again been characterized by lots of rolling sagebrush and grassland terrain.  As before, it follows the divide closely resulting in lots of ups and downs, but also a good number of open views.  The weather has fallen into an afternoon thundershower pattern, with lots of fierce wind and hail blowing through every few hours to cool things down before settling down for the evening.  Last nights sunset was particularly amazing, with an orange-yellow-magenta horizon on one side resulting in a hue-shifted rainbow on the other.  It sounds like the next few days will be more of the same, but seeing as its pretty spectacular up here, that is fine by me.

This stretch was also the first in which I've started encountering Southbounders, including Freebird, a well known hiker whom I met (and had a small butting of head with) on the PCT in 2010.  I've talked to 3 others so far, and have been able to get some crucial info about the trail going forward from here.  The most important bit was concerning an alternate route a few days from here that will cut 75 miles off my remaining total.  Given that I only had about 700 miles left anyway, thats a big chunk to slice off.  Regardless, basically everyone says the Anaconda route is better in just about every way than the Butte version, so I'll be taking the shorter one.. ya know, for science or something, not because I'm lazy.  This makes some complications given that I have some boxes waiting in Butte, but I'll figure it out somehow.

So, thats about it for now.  The miles are just evaporating at this point, and I expect them to keep dropping off pretty fast.  New ETA in Canada is August 15th, I'll try to zero in on an exact time when I can.  Talk to you later.   

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Three State Stretch

Hi everybody, writing today from the amazing, awesome, spectacular (and much needed rest spot) Mountain View Motel in tiny Lima, MT.Its been a rough stretch, as I’ve essentially hiked 11 days straight to get here with only a couple brief resupply stops in Brooks Lake, Old Faithful Village, and Sawtelle Mountain Lodge, but no real place to recharge. It was definitely a relief to finally see I-15 and know that a bed, a restaurant, a shower, and a washing machine lay down the road somewhere.

But now, the good stuff. The hike coming out of Lander was amazing as the trail swiftly heads up into the Wind River Range, a rough and rocky area popular with climbers and classes from the Northern Outdoor Leadership School located in town.  Due to my long hiatus from the outdoors I was caught by Lint and DirtMonger, two fellow Northbounders, whom I hiked with for several days. It was nice to have someone else to walk with, though I let them do most of the talking. Their prescence made pushing in a few extra miles daily a little easier, though we eventually went different ways when I decided to take a more challenging route up to Knapsack Col, an absolutely beautiful pass at the top of an awesome basin full of overflowing lakes, and surrounded by glacier-draped peaks. From there, the path skirts more crystal clear ponds and drops down to the silt-tinged Green River before heading north toward less well tread trail nearer Togowtee Pass.

The next section, once again hiking alone, started towards Yellowstone National Park. This was yet another highlight on the trail, and included the unexpectedly cool Buffalo Falls, an undeveloped cascade into a narrow limestone ravine with overhanging cliffs, dripping stone formations, and knife-thin cracks etched into the bedrock. The lack of roads or tourist in the area lent much to the appeal of the place, particularly given the preponderance of equestrians crowding the rest of the trail through the area. Also of interest was the Parting of the Waters, an aptly named point in Two Ocean Creek where the stream divides and the water heads off for opposite end of the continent. I can only picture a gaggle of water molecules, falling like hyperactive elementary school kids from some cloud, forming cliques in their teenage years as they as they rush downriver, then parting to go their different ways as if to college; one, to the Atlantic, to get some job at a law firm.  The other, westward, to open a surf shop in La Jolla. But maybe I just have too much time on my hands. At least it takes ones mind off the threat of grizzlies, of which I have only seen one, and that was running in the opposite direction.

The hike through the park itself is somewhat lackluster overall, with long, flat stretches of swamp walking, but the cool bits obviously make up for the the less interesting hauls. The park is huge, so some fluff is to be expected I guess. The path passes through several remote thermal areas before reaching the main event at Old Faithful Village, as well as some huge open meadows and lakes which help relieve the monotony. While normally the National Parks can be a bit disappointing due to the swell of tourists and shops, its hard not to be impressed by this one. One look at the steam-filled basin, with its myriad of gysers, hot springs and bubbling pools, each with its own unique character, makes you aware that it is a special place on Earth. The park itself however is a good example of the thru hiker taking the bitter with the better, as one can't pick and choose the cool parts, or just run for cover when the swarms of mosquitoes arrive. And OH MY GOD the mosquitoes in Yellowstone. Now lets never speak of them again.

The trail eventually climbs out from the park basin and into the hill again as it crosses the border into Idaho. Alas, there is little fanfare as the state line lacks even a sign, but it was a good feeling none-the-less, and yet another milestone. From there, it seems to take special care in following the physical divide, resulting in a roller coaster ride of ups and downs complete with some great views overlooking the distant, river strewn lowlands. Unfortunately this also means alot of steep elevation loss and gain, as well as alot of unmarked bushwacking that can slow the hiking alot. It can be frustrating, and I only hope that it gets at least marginally better as it heads up into Montana proper. I hope to be done in approximately a month, but given the unpredicatbility of the terrain, it can be hard to make such a call, and the amount of miles one can cram in a day fluctautes quite a bit. Anyway, time to rest up and prepare for the next stretch; its finally begining to feel like the end is in sight with only 800 miles or so left to go.  I'm definitely excited to get to the finish line and back to civilization.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Exploring the Countryside

Hi all, writing today from Lander again, which Kate and I have been using as a home base for our explorations of Wyoming.  Since she got here late on the evening of the 3rd, we've made the most of our time, and the availability of a car, to see as much as we could of the area around here. 

Luck aided us with a fortuitous run in with an old thru-hiker acquiantence named Mike whom I walked some miles with on the AT down south back in 2008.  He happens to work at the outfitter in town, and was at the register when I came in to do some shopping the other day.  It turns out he moved here immediately after finishing his AT hike, and, due to the accessibility of some world-class cliffs and his complete obsession with climbing, decided that this was a pretty good place to spend a few years.  He's pretty much an awesome guy and a great host around town, even lending us his two person tent to use for a few days and introducing us to some of his many friends.  Even though we've only been here a few days, it seems like we already know about half the folks around here.  It was one of those "small world" moments that seems to strike so often out here on the trail, and it definitely worked to our advantage.  Hopefully somebody will wind up in NYC so I can return the favor one of these days.

Kate's first day in town was the 4th, which is apparently a very big deal in town here.  We started the day off checking out the parade, then took a stroll around town, a process which only takes a few hours; everything is conventiently compact, and the tree lined streets and numerous parks make for good walking.  After hitting up the (incredibly overpriced) fair in the strip mall parking lot, we drove around and got some errands  done, then hit up the local rodeo.  Now in its 118th year, it was a pretty cool experience, and definitely a first for both of us.  Unfortunately the fireworks were cancelled this year due to the fire ban, but we're told that normally the town goes ape shit, with people setting off professional grade explosives on every street corner in addition to the county run one.  As such, this was apparently a very tame year for Lander, but its all probably for the best given the dry conditions.  After wrapping things up at the rodeo, we hit the bar with Mike and some of his friends before turning in early. 
The next day, we chose to start the day off with a brunch at the swank Middle Fork Cafe, run by one of Mike buddies.  It was a surprisingly upscale experience, very reminiscent of the brunch scene back home in NYC.  Next up, we decided to explore the area south of town along the Popo Agie River.  This included a trip to "The Sinks" and "The Rise", a section of the creek where the water disappears underground into a series of limestone cracks and caves, then reappears 1/4 of a mile later in a trout filled pool.  We also headed up to a waterfall farther upstream, where we took brief, frigid dip in the pools there, then on to an abandoned CCC fire lookout on Blue Ridge, before throwing down camp at Fiddlers Lake.  Thankfully the fire ban doesn't extend to established campsites, so we were able to get some flames going before hitting the sleeping mat.

Yesterday was our big trip, as we decided to make the long drive to Grand Teton National Park.  Its about 2 1/2 hours away, but the drive was beautiful as it passes through harsh badlands, sculpted red rock canyons, green river valleys, and high wooded passes before dropping to the open plains that preclude the Tetons themselves.  These seem to rise straight up from the flat grasslands into a jagged wall of snow capped rock dotted with lakes at their base.  Like all national parks, it was somewhat crowded with RVs and families towing children, but we still got in a little swim and a hike up to Hidden Falls and Inspiration point before heading to a campground outside the park.

Today, we took the drive back to town, stopping in the town of Dubois (pronounced DEW-boys), then hit up the local museum. We're probably going to just take it easy, as Kate has to head out at 2:30 tomorrow morning to catch her flight back home. Which sucks. Its going to be very hard going forward from here, especially after having her here for a few days and getting to slack off for so long. Its been fun, and Lander is a great little town to spend some time in, but the Winds are still calling, and having had the chance to see some of the terrain going north from here, I am definitely anxious to get back on the trail and get her done. With that, its time to get off the computer and get back to life. It'll probably be some time before I get a chance to update again, given that I plan to skip the next town for resupply, and after that is Yellowstone. Talk to you later... whenever that is.

 Driving through a heard of Buffalo in Teton
 Kate doing her Sports Illustrated shoot at Jenny Lake
 At the rodeo
 The Sinks, with the limestone cavern in the background
 Titantic moment atop the CCC firelookout on Blue Ridge
 The crazy peaks of the Tetons in the distance
 Hilarious, and hopefully unnecessary, sign
 The view from Inspiration Point
 Beautiful red canyons on the drive to the park
 The Tetons rising straight up from the plains
 More Jenny Lake photos
 Another pic for the Kate swimsuit calender at Popo Agie falls
 Sill more Tetons

Rainclouds over Togwotee (pronounced TOE-gut-ee) Pass

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Random Photos

I decided to start carrying my actual camera back in Silverthorne, as opposed to using the particularly bad one on my phone, so here are a few of my random pictures.  Its signifigantly easier to upload from here than from my phone, so I'm not going to bother trying those until later.  So, in no particular order...
 A blaze on a signpost right through the middle of Grand Lakes
 Granite Falls, in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
 A marker for the old Rabbit Ears Pass highway, near the real road into Steamboat Springs
 A section of bleached, dead trees north of Rabbit Ears pass
 Flat Kate at the Wyoming border
 Singular dead tree atop Bridger Peak, just before a thunderstorm rolled in
 Found this guy sitting alone at the top of Bridger Pass, on the way into Rawlins
 The trail into historic South Pass City... which is surrounded by an electric fence, kinda unsettling
 The lovely trail leaving Rawlins, heading down into the Basin.  Kinda hard to get lost there.
 The view from the awesome Shadowcliff Hostel, overlooking Grand Lakes.
 Lakes in the Basin, surrounded by a salt encrusted shore and swarming with gulls... and biting flies, ugh.
 Colorado River canyon above Radium Hot Springs.  Got to visit here with the staff from Shadowcliff.  I elected to be a wimp and not jump from the 60 ft cliff into the river below.
 Random shack filled with Forest Service radio equipment atop Parkview Mt.  A very tiring climb.
 One of the hilarious signs posted before going above treeline in RMNP.
 View from Flattop Mt in RMNP.  The mushroomy looking cloud in the distance is from the Collins Park fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history.
More fun and exciting trail coming down from Bridger Pass.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Landed in Lander

Hi all, writing today from lovely Lander, WY, where I will be taking a few days off to reconnect with Kate when she gets here on the 4th.  The town isn't one often frequented by thru hikers, as there are several other, more conveniently located resupply options, but given its size and relative nearness to a bunch of activities, it seems like a good place to spend the holiday, particularly with several cheap lodgings available.  The trail itself passes through South Pass City ("city" being a very loose term out here), which is actually a preserved historic mining town complete with log cabins, gold panning demonstrations, small exhibits, and a general store, but no place to actually stay.  It also runs concurrent with the Oregon Trail through the area, which is a neat little bit of history to be a part of, but it does raise concerns about my oxen dying of rattlesnake bites, or Mary getting typhoid again (who says video gamjes can't be educational?).  

This last stretch was one of the more psychologically challenging areas I have encountered so far, on any trail.  The trek across the Great Divide Basin, which is thankfully over and done with having crossed South Pass, was a long, dry, hot, and flat one (though not also crowded; sorry Friedman).  The trail mainly follows dirt roads or buried pipelines the enitre way, which can seem to stretch for endless miles straight across a relatively featureless savannah of scrub grass and sagebrush.  While this makes for fast hiking and big mileage, the hours seem to drag by as that hill on the horizon just... won't... get... any... closer.  You know when you are in trouble when you can literally see the next 15 hours of your life traced out as a line receding into the distance. 

The mind can do wierd things in an environment like that, particularly when there is no tangible peak to set as a goal; the only motivations to keep pushing are mental and invisible -- the promise of a spring in several hours time, or the though of reaching an arbitrary border.  The body, however, doesn't always do so well with such distant promises, often resulting in an antagonistic dialogue between my brain and the thing it supposedly controls.  When anywhere is as good a place to stop and rest as the next, why keep walking?  Because I told you to, Feet, thats why.

Thats not to say the area wasn't without its moments.  The huge skies this area is know for didn't disappoint when it came time for the sun to rise and set, particularly when colored by smoke from (yet more) wildfires on the western horizon.  Thankfully these are once again distant enough not to be a worry, but the threat is always there; I should be out of the perpetually fire ban once I get to Idaho and into slightly wetter climes.  Ironically, the highly flammable shrubland does have a nice velvety glow to it at magic hour... until one realizes there is no place to actually camp in it.  When the trail does climb high enough to get a sense of the surroundings though, one can't help but feel the vastness of the place, and wonder at how continued exposure to its light and space must have affected the settlers who traveled across here.  The ocassional cabin or RV parked in the few year round stream beds attests to the fact that some do find this place hospitable. 

The wildlife in the area, though not so varied as before, does at least provided some entertainment as well, as innumerable pronghorn antelope could be seen racing in small groups everywhere thanks to the incredible sight distances (btw, a baby antelope would make a great Christmas present... just saying).  Lastly, the sparseness and scarcity of...well, just about everything in the region makes one appeciate it all the much more.  The shade provided by that one tree can seem a huge blessing.  The fleeting breeze can be a godsend.  And finally reaching that one flowing, non-cow-contaminated water source after 28 miles of trudging?  Forgetaboutit.

Clearly, 5 days of desert is enough to get my brain pretty chatty, but its time to go plan some activities for the next few days.  It will be good to have some rest as the next section through the Wind River Range is supposedly one of the hardest, most rugged, isolated and beautiful on the trail.  I am looking forward to reaching Yellowstone and the last leg of the journey, but for the meantime viva Lander.  The trail will still be there in a few days, and who knows, I might even finally meet some other thru hikers if they catch up!  Talk to you later.   

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Like "Mediocre" Basin

Hi all, just got into Rawlins, WY, and damn I am tired.  This town is reminiscent of those in New Mexico, where a long road walk leads right into civilization.  It seems like a mirage, an incongruous collection of buildings huddled around a span of railroad tracks hard up against a set of hills in the middle of a desert.  The people seem friendly enough, and a man even drove some ways off road just to offer me some water on the way in to town.  Even funnier, I was mistaken for a homeless traveler, this time by a woman who has "been there" before.  Despite my insistence that I was not "where" she thought I was, and my patiently explaining what the trail was, she shoved $5 in my hand and gave me a hug before jetting.  It never ceases to amaze.  Maybe I'm just not explicit enough, or should carry some CDT Association literature on me for such occasions. 

The area also shares the unfortunate distinction of being cattle country, which means several things.  First of all, poop.  Poop everywhere.  Wherever you want to set up camp, there it is, dried up or fresh, constantly taunting with its seeming invulnerability.  It makes one question the wisdom of eating red meat, seeing home much of the stuff these animals can produce.  Second, the random dust storms that occur with their frantic flight from any hiker, particularly when they run in the direction you are already walking on the road.  And third, the trampled ground around any water source that turns it into a muddy mess, and renders ground unwalkable once hard.  Why anyone would choose to raise such animals in an environment like this is beyond me.  

The Great Basin is a giant bowl formed where the Divide splits in two, resulting in an area where all precipitation flows inward, with no outlet to the ocean.  Because it is in a perpetual rainshadow, the whole region is exceptionally dry, and all the groundwater eventually evaporates.  This leaves behind excess salt in most of the drainages, meaning potable water is dangerously scarce.  Its a bit cruel to be walking beside a flowing stream in the middle of an arid wasteland and yet not be able to drink a drop of it.  I was forced to filter water from a cold but sulfurous spring just to make it to town, which, if you've never drank sulfur before, is ewwww plain and simple. 

But not everything out here is bad.  The famous big sky is present with every sunrise and set, the temperature isn't as bad as it could be (particularly with brisk winds during the day), the trail is an easy dirt road for the most part, and the fauna is different than I've been seeing; pronghorn antelope are literally hopping around everywhere, as are badger, muskrats, and, paridoxically, gulls at the saline lakes.  These water sources can look suspiciously like a white sand beach, what with their salt-crusted shores, adding more insult to injury.  Beautiful, but ultimately useless.  Ultimately, the trail continues in the basin for... longer than I would like to contemplate right now, but its continued distance will make the entry into the Wind River Range and Yellowstone all the better.  The fact that Kate is coming out to take my mind off things for a few days doesn't hurt either, but it will certainly make this next section seem like an eternity.  Regardless, the trail goes on, and I'll talk to you all from South Pass City in a few days.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Beetle Kill Mania or New Mexico Redux

Hi all, writing today from Steamboat Springs, the last town stop in CO (woohoo!).  After this, things are downhill for a bit, literally, as the trail heads into Wyoming and the Great Divide Basin, a huge desert where the divide splits apart, leaving a rain-shadowed depression where water is at a premium.  I'm already reminiscing about the days of abundant streams and eating snow, though it will be nice to escape the touristy-ness (and expense) of the towns down here. 

Once again I missed an update in Grand Lakes, so I'll try to make up for things here.  The path from Silverthorne started out easy enough, but quickly became a challenging series of steep climbs with little real trail to speak of.  It seemed to stick to the physical divide as much as possible, which makes for some crazy views, but also increases the difficulty as there was little tread to follow; often one is walking one talus and loose scree for long stretches, making for slow and tiring going.  Furthermore, the water sources are often far below the track, making for uncertain rehydration, which is always important at altitude anyway.  Lastly, it also increases the danger from thunderstorms, particularly in the summer.  I have lucked out for the most part and was only held up by weather on the ridge once so far, but it always pays to be cautious in those circumstances.  The last leg into Grand Lakes was particularly interesting, as I went from a campsite above treeline at 13,000 feet overlooking the lights of Denver one night, along a cloud-shrouded ridge the next morning, and down to a series of large lakes at (relatively) low elevation that afternoon.  I was even treated to some free food and good conversation at the Little Moose Trading Post, a small campground store that hooks up the thru hikers as they pass on towards more civilization.

The final jump into Grand Lakes was a bit of a downer, unfortunately, as a particular stretch is inundated with downed trees, the continuing result of a massive infestation of invasive bark beetles that has affected the whole state.  The trail was completely wiped out, and fighting through the tangle of debris and shrubery was an arduous task that sapped yet more time.  I'd say it would be nice to see it cleared sooner, but given that the state is busy fighting several massive forest fires, that probably isn't high on their to-do list.  Fortunately, Grand Lakes more than made up fo the difficulty as I stayed at the awesome Shadowcliff Lodge and Hostel, situated in a massive wooden building above the town and overlooking the several lakes in the area.  At only $23 a night for a bunk, it was a pretty sweet deal.  I even got to tag along with the staff when they went to a nearby hotspring in a ravine, complete with a great cliff jumping spot.  Good times.

Leaving town, the trail gives hikers a decision; either take the expedient route, which heads straight northwest, or take a long, scenic loop through Rocky Mountain Nation Park which is directly adjacent to the hostel.  Not one to pass up exploring a good view, I took the long way.  It heads one creek, passing meadows and waterfalls on the way, tops out on aptly named Flattop Mountain, and heads down another drainage much like the first.  The most striking sight was the huge clouds seen on the horizon from the Fort Collins fire burning to the northeast.  Thankfully, the prevailing winds and several barren ridges seperated us from the conflagration, but a helpful woman in town reminded me of the danger of getting caught in a sudden, lightning induced fire.  Thanks bunches!

Ironically, once out of the park the trail takes a quick turn for the worst as it heads through several clear cut areas.  Its a jarring juxtaposition, one that mercifully only lasts for several miles.  Once back on the divide, the views open up again, giving some last views back towards the lakes and the park beyond.  The next few days were another series of strenuous up and downs oscillating above treeline.  The climb up Parkview Mountain in particular was a butt kicker, but I was treated with several amazing ridgetop campsites that offered perfect sunrise views.  The real highlight however was a rare mountain lion sighting a few mornings ago.  Even though I only saw him for a second before he booked into the trees, it was awesome to finally see such an elusive creature, particularly when one sees signs of their comings and goings so often.  Regardless of what I know about them, and their extreme reluctance to attack adult humans, I still found myself looking over my shoulder for the next few miles. 

The last bit here into Steamboat Springs offered fewer things to be rave about, unfortunately.  As the trail leaves the high mountains, it once again encounters private ranchland, which supersceded the desire of hikers and resulting in some ugly reroutes; the path to town includes many miles of asphalt walking.  It seems that I am in for some more long stretches of road from here into southern WY before the real funs begins again in the Wind River Range and Yellowstone beyond.  For the moment I am enjoying this last luxurious town stay, but much still awaits.  Next stop is Rawlins, 150 miles or so away, talk to you all later!  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Silverthorne or Bust

Hi all, writing today from scenic Silverthorne, CO, where I have been lucky enough to stay with a family friend, Rebekah, older sister to David whom I crashed with in Albequerque while rehabilitating from my injury (which seems like forever ago already).  Basically, karma dictates that I hook the Jordan family up with some hardcore hospitality at some point, so hopefully I'll be able to return the favor next time they come back East.  The help was particularly appreciated given the layout of the town, (or towns really, seeing as Silverthorne, Frisco, Dillon and Breckenridge seem to run together pretty fluidly) which definitely has all the services a hiker could need, but is a little spread out for easy access.  Having a car available takes much of the stress out of getting resupplied and all.  The area is pretty spectacular, with several 14,000 foot peaks ringing a huge reservoir which the towns surround, and the hike in was fairly relaxed knowing I would get to spend some time in a real bed.  In fact, the whole trek from my last town was very enjoyable, and I'll be sad to exit Colorado for the drier climes of Wyoming in a few weeks.

Leaving Salida was somewhat difficult, partly for the fact that the highway is a fair distance from downtown where I stayed, and partly because the place was so damn convenient.  After hitching half way with an opera singer-slash-secretary, and the rest of the way with a former professional hangliding racer turnered writer and gold prospector, I finally got back on trail at Monarch Pass.  The tread was rather easy for a few days as the path now seems to follow a rhythm of tough climbs followed by long stretches following a ridge or traversing a mountain at contour, often through pine and aspen groves.  It passes the remains of an old mining town, now converted to backcountry cabins, as well as several packed trailheads indicating the start of summer and the flood of day hikers soon to be swarming the trails.  Luckily the remoter places are still largely deserted, with largely unobstructed views from the tops of high passes down to snow dotted alpine lakes. 

The highlight of this last stretch was Mt Elbert, which at 14,400 feet is the highest peak in Colorado and second only to Mt Whitney in altitude in the continental US.  The trail leaves from Twin Lakes, a large reservoir with a postage stamp sized village mainly comprised of a general store and gas station, then climbs the south flank of the mountain, quickly ascending above treeline.  I made a very windy camp about a quarter of the way up and continued early the next day, arriving at the top shortly after sunrise, finding two other hikers already at the summit.  They had walked through the night to get there and were warming snow for water with their stoves, and for a short while we had the place to ourselves.  With the sun up and the sky clear, things warmed up quickly and made for some amazing views back down towards the lake and the surrounding ranges. On the descent I encountered an increasing stream of peak baggers in various states of exhaustion and preparedness; I stopped counting at 75, and there were probably double that all told.  It was a fun if tiring 4,000 foot scramble that left my knees and quads shaking, and I was glad for some relatively flat hiking afterwards. 

The next goal was Copper Mt, a full sized ski resort with hotels, tons of shops, and some restaurants... almost all of which were closed due to my arriving before their summer season began.  After hitting up the ice cream store, I headed up and over some passes towards the Silverthorne area, passing around the headwaters of some pristine streams and near an impressive waterfall crowded with hikers from town.  I did stop to talk to 2 PCTers whom hiked in '10, the same year I had, so we reminisced for awhile before parting ways.  I also gleaned some unfortunate information from some southbound Colorado Trail hikers concerning Greg, my hiking companion from Pagosa Springs to Lake City; apparently he got off trail in Salida and went home to Seattle for some reason for an indeterminate amount of time... which generally means for the rest of the season.  Apparently I'm not the only one who found leaving that town difficult.  As always, getting momentum leaving civilization is one of the hardest parts of thru hiking, and here is no different.  On that note, I should get going; the trail won't hike itself!  Talk to you later.          

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Slowly in Salida

Hi everybody, writing today from lovely Salida, CO.  I was lazy and managed to miss posting in Lake City, so I'll try and make up for it here.

The trip from Pagosa Springs to Lake City was a fairly challenging one.  Knowing this in advance, Greg, the other thru hiker in town, and I decided to make the 115 hike together, so we hitched out and hit the trail.  Very soon after departing we started running into long stretches of snow that had the annoying tendency to soften up early in the day, resulting in yet more postholing.  As the days went by however, the snow started to suncup, forming into shallow bowls that herald the start of the real thaw.  While this provided its own challenge in terms of hiking for us, it means that anyone traveling through just a few days after will probably have it free and clear.  Dang.  Still, as the suncups progress they acquire a beauty of their own, resembling waves and spines of snow that give the odd impression walking over a flash-frozen ocean.

The terrain was another challenge through this first section, with many ups and downs that lacked switchbacks to make the going easier.  At times it felt more like the Appalachian trail, with its brutal straight up climbs, only this time at 13,000 feet.  Luckily the views more than made up for the hardship, as the sparse vegetation means near constant views for dozens of miles.  The sight distance was somewhat limited by a haze produced by forest fires in New Mexico, and at one point we could see smoke billowing just over a neighboring ridge, but all in all the sights were spectacular.  One highlight was "The Window", a perfectly square notch knocked out of an escarpment above the trail, as well as the headwaters of the Rio Grande.  The terrain gradually became more gentle as we headed down to Spring Creek Pass and the way into town, where a 2 and a half hour hitch put a slight damper on our spirits.

Lake City was a nice respite from the trials of the previous days, particularly since a new hostel had just opened up there.  Greg and I were the first hikers to stay there, and in fact he knew the owner, Lucky, from his PCT thru hike in 2006.  Lucky, an Irishman of course, had since gotten married, had 2 kids, 4 dogs, and a mortgage, but retained his hiking spirit and was happy to give us info about the trail in the area.  The town was awesome for hikers being quaint, compact, and generally nice smelling (there were lots of lilacs, what can I say.)  It is nestles in a narrow river valley, giving it a very sheltered feeling, and seeing as we were there slightly before tourist season, wasn't very crowded either.  Greg decided to stay another day to heal his feet, which were rubbed raw due to the wet conditions, but I got a ride out with Lucky and continued north.

The trail to Salida has been suspiciously easy compared to the last stretch.  This might just be due to increasing snow melt, but the trail itself has been pretty tame, thanks to the fact that it runs congruent to the well-maintained Colorado Trail.  It generally climbs up to the divide, then follows the ridges on contour, meaning less strenuous up and down.  There has been more vegetation, including a smattering of aspens which add some nice contrast to the pine forests up here.  As always, the views are beautiful when the path clears out, revealing more snow capped mountains in the distance that hint at future trials to come.  It has been nice hiking alone again, as Greg and I had a very different pace to our days, but the loneliness does add a further challenge to combat.  Luckily, with the start of the summer season and the entrance into more populated parts of the state, there have been many more day hikers to interact with and pump for info regarding conditions north of here.

 Salida itself is great, easily living up to its reputation as one of the best trail towns.  While the whole city itself is relatively spread out, all the hiker needs are centered in the small historic district which is crammed full of restaurants, bars, an outfitter, a Safeway, the library and the PO.  All of life's needs as far as we are concerned.  There is even a river complete with whitewater rafting runs going straight through town; it reminds me a little of Bend, OR, in its outdoorsiness.  Sadly, I'll have to be hiking out soon, but given that the next stretch looks pretty idyllic, and that the town stops come very frequently for a little bit, I'm not too worried.  Anyway, time to hit the trail, talk to you later.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

San Juan Slog

Hi all, writing today from Pagosa Springs, CO, a lovely little town that seems to be indicative of what most of the supply stops in this state will be like; quaint, touristy and more upscale than those in New Mexico, for better or worse.  Everything is arranged along the bucolic San Juan River, and true to its name the place is full of hot springs fed spas interspersed with cafes and the like.  More importantly for the hiker, its all fairly compact, so getting around is rather easy.  The drive down from Wolf Creek Pass was spectacular as well, as highway 160 winds thousands of feet down to the valley floor, though a nearby forest fire smogged up the air a bit.  Luckily, I got a hitch easily with a doctor/ rock climber named Jay who also treated me to some coffee in town.  I still haven't decided whether I'll stay here tonight, but given that day passes to the springs are cheap and there is a fair in town tonight, chances are I'll elect to be lazy, again, and give the ole' knee some more rest.

The trail from Chama has been pretty much everything I had hoped and feared.  The San Juan Mountains are beautiful in a stark way very different from the Sierras in California, with less trees and more barren grassland up high, though perhaps that is more due to the lack of snow.  Wind has been the most persistent phenomena, as it seems to blow consistently all day and night at about 40 mph, with gusts up to twice that.  Often I find myself leaning at a 60% angle just to stay upright, only to topple over when a brief lull comes by.  Only the heavily forested sections can give any respite.  This is probably because the path tends to go up along the ridges and only drop to the valleys when absolutely necessary, but even then it never drops below 10,000 feet.  There have been several astounding views as the trail circles high above the headwaters of several rivers, as well a some cloud-bound peaks clad in stone covered sheets of snow, the proof or erosion in progress.  And all throughout the background are the ever present mountains, harbingers of climbs to come.

Fortunately, this has been a very low snow year, so the going is a bit easier than it might otherwise have been, but even with only about 10% ground cover, it can still be agonizingly slow going sometimes.  It has a different consistency than Sierra snow, being much looser and lighter, thus a small snowfield can turn into an exhausting slog through ice-crusted slush up to your waist.  As usual, forested areas and north facing slopes are the worst, and trail that traverses these areas is frequently buried and dangerous or tiring to navigate.  As an example, I elected to drop about 1,200 feet down a precipitous slope and hike up a valley floor, as opposed to traversing its length through snow at a higher elevation.  It required a much bigger loss and gain of altitude, as well as a near suicidal descent that was more like a controlled human avalanche, but in the end it felt worth it.  In the end, all the toil feels worth it of course (though one wouldn't know it given my epic bouts of swearing in the middle of the more draining postholing marathons), but it sure feels nice to be in town for a bit.  With that, I'll talk to you all later.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Mas New Mexico

Chama-Chama-Chama-Chameleon.  Sorry, the brain does wierd things while wandering around out here.  So, I've made it to Chama, in case that wasn't obvious, and in doing so am officially done with New Mexico.  The trail passes out of the state near Cumbres Pass, though the town itself is actually back across the border... sigh, NM just doesn't like letting go. 

It certainly feels like a different state however, for the scenery changes drastically after leaving Ghost Ranch.  While there had been scattered areas of snow and patches of green at the higher elevations before, everything is now verdant in all directions.  There have been multiple high meadows full of blooming dandelions and wild irises, as well as some drier plateaus populated by elk, pronghorn antelope and coyotes.  These give way to pine and aspen forests, providing some much needed shade and protection from the wind, which can lower the temperature pretty quickly even on sunny days.  Snow drifts and mountain streams abound, making water access a non issue for once, and lightening the pack load even if it is somewhat balanced out by the extra warm weather gear I'll be carrying.

The section north of here supposedly starts to get quite a bit more difficult, with weather and snow travel becoming an issue.  Elinor, who I was hiking with before my knee injury, apparently got dumped on with hail near here and her tent collapsed, so here's hoping I miss that bit of adventure.  Pagosa Springs is the next stop, just trying to take things one step at a time here, so the push must continue on.  Talk to everyone later!   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ghosts of Artists Past

Hi all, writing today from Ghost Ranch, NM, a resort most well know for hosting Georgia O'Keefe in her prime.  Naturally, the view is pretty spectacular, with everything tucked away into a valley coming down off a multicolored mesa, and adobe structures fronting a green swath of hay fields.  Aside from the usual cabins and such, there is also a large mess hall (all you can eat meals, huzzah!), a palentology and archaeology museum, guided tours of all things O'Keefe related, a bluegrass festival, and some sort of school outing.  All in all, it feels more crowded here than it has even in the towns, but it is relaxing either way.  Given that the next major town, Chama, is only 44 miles away, and that I need to pick up packages at the post office, which will be closed by the time I get there if I leave today, I figure I'll chill here for the night and let my knee continue to heal.  

Seeing as the hike from Cuba was so short, one would think there would not be much of interest.  Instead, this last section was a bit of a surprise as the path climbs to over 10,000 feet over the San Pedro range.  The vegetation quickly turns into dense pines at that height, and we saw our first real signs of lingering snow cover.  In that sense, the long delay in Grants might have been a good thing; 2 weeks ago this area was much more blanketed.  Now, however, the high meadows that the trail crosses near the peak are simply flooded, creating wide open marshes that require getting your boots wet to cross.  Ugh.  Fortunately, these areas aren't too far across, and give nice views complete with small groups of elk off in the distance.  Upon coming down from the mountain, the terrain quickly turns drier and heads off to yet another colorful mesa before crossing the Chama River and heading towards the ranch.

There has finally been some other hiker info to report.  Gale, another thru hiker is here as well, though on her way out for the moment; she hiked part of the trail last year and is going to flip up to finish some bits she missed then.  A few other guys who passed me by while I was in Albaquerque also showed up briefly, as they had just taken some time off in Santa Fe.  They seemed pretty determined, but having been down that road before, constantly racing with one another and pushing all day long, I don't really envy them.  With so few people on the trail, its much easier to relax and take time to enjoy the sights, even if motivation is more of an issue when your boots freeze, etc.

Lastly, Crystal, Celine, and Frog should be showing up tonight.  Only Crystal is human (and a French one at that).  Celine and Frog are her two mules that she has bought along the way here, and they are her riding and pack animals, respecitvely.  We've been hearing about them right since the get go, so it was nice to finally meet up and put a face to all the trail rumors.  Even on a path as sparsely populated as this one, news has a way of getting around.  Anyway, going to hit up the shower and hopefully do some laundry, talk to you all later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No Mojitos in Cuba

Hi all, writing today from Cuba, NM, where, as the title says, there is nary a beachfront bar in sight.  It has been described as "sketchy", so I don't think I'll be spending much time here, but in full daylight it doesn't seem too bad.  There are, however, a hilarious number of prarie dogs running around outside the library windows, so theres that. 

The big issue this section has obviously been my knee and its back and forth state of distress.  Its held up fairly well in the intervening 110 miles from Grants, which included a fair number of ups and down that added quite a bit of stress to the situation.  Thankfully it seems to be recovering on the whole, though how it holds up over several weeks will be the real test of things.  For now, its more a matter of rebuilding strength and stamina; taking 2 weeks off pretty much put me back to square one in that regard.  Heres hoping that was the one and only setback on this little trip. 

Fortunately, this section wasn't too long, giving me some comfort if something did go wrong.  Leaving Grants, the trail quickly climbs atop a mesa and towards Mount Taylor, an inactive volcano whose 'peak' is now the highest point on the rim overlooking a massive crater, complete with an old cinder cone in the center.  From the top, one can apparently see a third of the state.  I found it particularly interesting that you can see weather patterns and duststorms from very far away due to the huge sight lines and all.  The area around the peak is heavily forested, one of the first such stretches so far on the enire trail, due to the increased rainfall from the high altitude.  There were also substantial patches of snow in the treed in areas, a taste of things to come in Colorado.  We also encountered some of the best natural springs yet, which, particularly given the lack of water in New Mexico, are some of my favorite things ever.  Cold, clear water that doesn't have to be filtered?  And doesn't have cow crap surrounding it?  Yes Please.

Following Mt Taylor, the trail necessarily goes downhill and traverses several lower desert areas interspersed with high mesas.  The terrain is pretty awesome, with massive sand and mudstone cliffs rising suddenly in bands of red, orange and chalky white.  The canyons at the bases of these areas show all sorts of erosion, from rounded, water carved rock, to pillars of crumbling mudstone surmounted by precariously balanced boulders, to huge overhangs pitted with smaller holes worn by the wind.  The trail wends its way through all this, often climbing precipitously up the sides of cliffs in ways the AT or PCT never would, before abruptly leveling off.  The tops of the mesas are like worlds of their own, more heavily wooded than the lowlands, thats makes one forget that you are hundreds of feet above the surrounding valley.  The edge of these highlands can appear suddenly, a reminder of the altitude and the loneliness of the terrain.

The last leg into town was a tedious roadwalk, which seems to be the way of the trail out here.  Thankfully there is less of that for the near future as the trail approaches Colorado.  I don't plan on staying here in town, but there are quite a few stops in the coming days, so I won't be pushing too hard.  Anyway, here's hoping the legs hold up, wishing the best for eveyone.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Albequerque and Other Spelling Errors

Hi all, writing to you today from Dave Jordan's laptop in Albequerque, NM, a pitifully long distance from the trail.  I've been down here a few days now, recuperating from my stubbornly persistent knee injury (patellar tendonitis, pez anserine bursitis, a minor ACL strain, and a crazy tight hamstring, btw), and am finally approaching a point where I am ready to try and hit the trail again.  After two visits to the ER up in Grants, a trip to the orthopedist, and several physical therapy sessions down here, my body damn well better be able to handle some hiking, albeit at reduced mileage.  Already, everyone I was hiking with is probably hopelessly out of reach, barring a ridiculously fast return to form or some catastrophe on their end, and who knows who else has passed by while I have been away.  The only course is to take it slow and hope for a full recovery in time, as a reinjury will probably result in aborting the whole shebang for this year.

I suppose there isn't alot to report in the way of action.  I was driven down here by the sister of Carole Mumm (the trail angel in Grants), who was bringing her mom to the doctor in Albequerue already.  In that sense at least, my luck has been pretty good; between the Mumms and the Jordans, I haven't been for lack of someplace to stay, thankfully.  Given that continued medical attention in the U.S. is certainly not free, and always more than a little complicated, not having to pay for a motel has probably saved this trip from utter disaster.  Tomorrow, I plan on taking the Greyhound back up to Grants and hitting the trail the following morning, making this my longest and most expensive digression from hiking a dozen times over.      

For what its worth, at least this detour hasn't been without its merits.  I'll never turn down the opportunity to see someplace new, so, despite my crippled situation, I am glad I got to see a little bit of Albaquerque and some more of New Mexico than I would have otherwise.  Being in a car when crossing the giant valleys, and having access to air conditioning while seeing the weather systems come barreling through, is always a nice treat, particularly out here where the sky is so phenomenally different than back East.  Getting to see The Avengers was a nice touch, though a summer blockbuster is about as far from the silence of the trail as one can imagine.  It'll definitely give me something entertaining to think about on the hike out of here, as will the massive amount of reading I've managed to get done in the last few weeks.  Some Lovecraft, some Vonnegut, some comic books, and some history of science books will make for a strange mix of thoughts on the trail.

And, as always, this experience has reinforced the importance of humility out here (as much as I may try to resist it).  When a 28 year old, in relatively good shape, can get hobbled for no discernable reason, while multiple sextugenarians (see, spelling errors.  People in their 60s, whatever they are) can go casually strolling by, it makes me wonder how there can be such a thing as hubris.  My prolonged mooching off people's goodwill definitely drives the point home (thanks again Dave!) that we hikers exists at the mercy of others.  That being said, hopefully I'll be able to put all this behind me relatively soon and make tracks for Colorado.  At least I won't have to worry about and excess of snow in the Rockies at this rate.  Talk to you later.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hi all, writing to you today from Grants, NM, about two thirds of the way up the state.  I've been essentially stuck in town for the past several days due to some rather crippling right knee pain that is taking its sweet time healing, but more on that later.  Seeing as I haven't had any internet access since Silver City, there is quite alot of ground to cover.

 I was hiking with Elinor, a woman originally from Israel who has lived in the states most of her life, who is going to grad school in August.  Given her time constraints, she is trying to finish in under 4 months... a tough challenge for just about anyone, with a 25 mile a day average overall.  We booked it out of Silver City and headed up into the dry hills surrounding the area before dropping down to the absolutely beautiful Gila River Canyon, a deep scar of red rock cliffs and pinnacles towering over the twisting watercourse that we would follow for the next few days.  Given the back and forth path through the narrow canyon, the trail fords the river around 150 times during the length of its stay in the gorge.  And no, thats not a typo.  There is no extra 0 there or anything.  150 times.  Thankfully, its been a low rain year in the associated drainage areas, so most of the crossings came only to our knees or so, and the water wasn't moving fast enough to be a threat, but regardless it did get tedious at times.  The views more than made up for the effort however, with broad, grassy expanses where the canyon widened giving way to narrower sections complete with over hangs and watery caves crowding the river banks.  Seriously, just Google some pictures, mine won't do the area justice.

Halfway up the canyon, we had the opportunity to explore Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, an old Indian settlement build into  a series of caves overlooking a tributary stream.  The look into the history of the area was pretty cool, especially from a hiker's perspective; with no pack animals to freight around the building materials, the natives would have had to treck tons of stone from the stream bed far below on their backs.  Luckily we were somewhat spoiled by some visiting boyscouts who hooked us up with burgers and drinks in exchange for the usual peppering of questions and requests for trail stories.  We also ran into Uncle Don and Dan Bedore, 2 other long distance hikers on a seperate trail from ours who happened to be staying in the next campground.  Given the small number of us out on the CDT, particularly this early on, it was a welcome encounter with some kindred spirits who gave us some helpful info about the trail ahead.        

Upon leaving the upper canyon, we once again entered an arid stretch with little water access.  After being spoiled by days of light packs and fording-cooled feet, we shuddered at the prospect of schleping 10 pounds of water on dusty roads, but the trail must go on.  We once again entered areas of big skies and distant hills, a stark contrast to the closeness of the trail in the previous days.  In places, the path climbed to over 9,000 feet, resulting in a somewhat surprising change of schenery affording long views of rolling, grassy hills (and possibly an impending forest fire that thankfully petered out).  Because of Elinor's deadline, we elected to push a few extra miles each day in order to reach our next town stop early, and despite a few close calls with some... unsavory water, we managed to reach our next destination half a day early.

Pie Town is a tiny settlement on route 60 about half the way up the state on the trail.  I say "settlement", because with a population of about fifty people, its hard to call it a village even.  It does however have 3 churches, no gas station, library or convenience store, and 2 restaurants (very crucial here).  Most importantly, it is home to the Toaster House, a hostel of sorts owned by Nita, that is open to hikers.  Unfortunately, she was not in town, but the doors are always open there and the hiker box was full of goodies.  Gale, an older hiker who had been a few days ahead of us, was already set up there, and we were joined soon after by Richard (a former CDT thru hiker now doing a section hike), and 2 hippie travelers who apparently knew Nita in decades past.  With such an ecclectic crowd, the conversation was... interesting, but with hippie types not really being my favorite individuals, I was content with getting some reading done.  Thankfully, the 2 restaurants offered some respite, and Pie Town lived up to its name with a great selection at the Pie-O-Neer Cafe, including an apple-pinenut-pepper confection that I doubt I'll ever taste the like again.  The staff there, though small, was an interesting combination of people hailing from such diverse city centers as London, Dallas, and Chicago.  All chose to come to remote Pie Town, and despite its seclusion, they seem to lead a pretty charmed life.

Seeing as Pie Town was my first real opportunity to relax (given that I had been hiking with Elinor and choose not to stay in Silver City or Lordsburg), I elected to take a zero at the Toaster House.  Elinor and Gale continued on, and I spent a quite day reading before heading out onto the road once more the next day.  And road it was.  This section was characterized by much road walking across relatively flat landscape, with a few scenic breaks up some dry canyons.  The highlight was a trek across El Malpais (the Badlands) on the Acoma-Zuni trail, an old Indian route that traverses a huge section of basalt formed by a lava flow 10,000 years ago, overlooked by high sandstone bluffs.  The tortourous terrain in plagued with crevasses and swirls of rock, essentially looking like an enormous pot of asphalt had spilled over the countryside before cooling and splitting.  A long hike down Zuni Canyon, a dry watercourse flanked by colorful, twisting cliffs, concluded the trip into Grants, including a deceptive and agonizingly long road walk to the McDonalds where sweet, sweet hydration lay. 

Unfortunately for my joints, I apparently managed to push myself a wee bit too hard over the last few days.  Despite being used to walking or riding everywhere in NYC, and having a job where one is always on their feet, my right knee managed to get fatigued somehow.  Its pretty painful to walk short distances, though in the long run it seems to stop bothering me once I get going, so it looks like I'll be hung up in town for a few more days while it rests up.  Obviously, this is not ideal, but given that Colorado is still probably covered in snow, I'm not too worried about the miles just yet.  Eventually, my restlessness will get the better of me however, and the need to maintain some momentum will force me to book it out of here on the next 125 mile leg to Cuba, NM.  Hopefully I'll be 100% by then, but if not I'll just have to try and take it slow for awhile.  Regardless, I'll try and keep posting a bit.  In the Meantime, I'm staying with the local trail angels Hugo and Carole Mumm, an awesome couple who really go above and beyond for the hikers, and without whom I'd be somewhat screwed for the moment.  The continued generosity of people on the trail always astounds me.  Talk to you all later!   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stuck. In Grants, NM. With some sort of ankle & knee problem for an indefinite time. Sigh. Listening to traffic on I-81 instead of hiking sucks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chilling out at the Toaster House hostel in Pie Town, NM, 350 mi. in to the hike, talkin w some aged hippies. Might zero here and continue in the a.m., no rush

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Silver City Stop

Hi everybody, writing today from the library in Silver City, NM, the second town that the trail (or this version of it anyway) goes straight through I'll probably be blowing through here much like I did in the previous town of Lordsburg before taking some time of at the trail angel Doc Campell's place in a few days.
The route so far has been much different from what I am used to, with longer flat stretches, less water, and more open country . There has been a fair amount of road walking, either paved or otherwise, but the landscape has been getting more diverse over the last few days. Whereas before there was only desert and scub, there are now the occasional live oak and pine tree, more akin to the hills in southern California. The fauna has been rather sparse, discounting the ubiquitous cattle (and their even more everpresent droppings--just howe long does it take for those things to decompose out here?), but there have been some pronghorn antelope sightings, a small group of javelinas, some wild horses, an elk, many hares and quail, and always hawks overhead.
Much more interesting are the other hikers I have met out here; there seem to only be a few of us so far, and I feel like I have met most of them already. I ran into Shroomer and Why Not a few days back over the corpse of a recently deceased cow. The strange(r) part of this is that I had met them before on the PCT in 2010. I suppose its not that unheard of, given the small size of the thru hiking community and all, but given the setting (out in the absolute middle of nowhere, over a rotting ungulant) it was a tad surreal. I have also caught up with Eleanor, a 2011 PCT who is out here by herself with a supposed finish date sometime in early August. Given that I don't particularly feel like running the enitre way, she'll probably outdistance me soon, but it is nice to know there is someone else out ahead as well. That being said, we plan on hiking together for the next few days up the Gila River canyon, which is apparently a challenging but rewarding bit.
We'll see what the next few weeks bring, I'm just kinda winging it this time out. I hope to slow down before hitting the San Juan Mts in Colorado, but we all know how that usually turns out for me. Anyway, talk to you later!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Country is beautiful but different, very open so far w lots of cross country bits thru desest and scrub. Water is sparse but manageable.
Hi all, writing from Lordsburg NM. All comps in the library booked, so can only text: have to make tracks out of town before it heats up too much.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sooo. Stuck in Lordsburg NM due to freak snowstorm. Highways closed in both directions an hour and a half from the border. Always an adventure. epic lolz

Once More into the Breach

Hi all, feels a little weird sitting here trying to start writing this stuff again, but I guess its all for the best. I'm here at the Westin Resort in Tuscon, AZ with my mom where we have been staying for the past few days resting and getting ready for the challenges ahead. Having never been to this part of the country, it has been interesting just driving around and taking in the desert scenery. Not wanting to over tax ourselves, we have only done a few touristy things while here. We took a drive out to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which was surprisingly large and inclusive, with a modest size zoo and gardens, as well as geology and native american exhibits. The place was deceptively far out, seeing as the maps here seem to operate on a different scale than elsewhere in the U.S. City blocks can be a mile long, and the terrain quickly changes from urban to desert to really desert very fast.

We did get to visit my cousin Caitlin, her husband Fred, and the kiddles Alex and Markus up in Tempe (or Tempe area anyway. Kinda hard to tell where one city ends and another starts)., which was much fun. With the family spread out so much currently (I'm looking at you , Hong Kong), its good to get to see everyone whenever possible, even if only briefly. Seeing as it has been a good portion of a decade since we last hung out, I'm glad we drove up to see them. We got to explore the botanical gardens up there, which were pretty amazing and informative given the novelty of it all for us east-coasters. It was also probably worth it just to get a preview of what I'm sure will be the bane of my existence over the next few weeks; the many varieties of cactus and their accompanying array of insidious spikes (mental note -- possible indie death metal band name?).

Anyway, we head out shortly for the trail, a scant 5 and a half hour drive along I-10, then down along some... less developed roads to the Antelope Wells border crossing in the NM bootheel. It is surprisingly cold and rainy outside here, with precipitation (including snow at higher elevations) expected into tomorrow before the real heat returns, which is largely a good thing I suppose. There is little while hiking that comes without some price, but trading the scorching sun and unreliable water sources for rain, wind and a brief cold snap seems like a plus, but time will tell I suppose. When all your time is spent outside, the weather becomes less a hinderance and more a simple fact; I'll walk regardless of what its doing outside, so why give it too much thought? As always, I am rather nervous about setting off, which isn't necessarily helped along by the (hopefully) exaggerated accounts in some hiking books, but it is what it is. Regardless of what happens, or if my plans have to change, if I have to flip-flop the trail, wait out a storm, route around a forest fire, hitch 50 miles to town, or whatever else the trail has in store, I'll give it a shot. Talk to you later, wish me luck!