Day CDT 89-94: Life in the rainy desert

CDT Day 89

We sleep until 7am. Skybird and I are starving and try to raid the kitchen when we wake up, only to find it’s closed until 8 am. And no one else gets up until 8 o’clock. So different from a backpacker hostel. We finally walk into the kitchen and I drink all the real coffee and devour loads of fruit and pastries and even make scrambled eggs! Everyone in the hostel has a quick chore to do each day, which helps keep the price of the hostel cheap. After that, we all left alone to walk around the city. Santa Fe is full of history and art and I walk for miles seeing a lot of both. I hit REI for new socks and grab a water filter for Skybird, then find a rooftop pub to grab a beer overlooking the square for all the best spectators.

I finally return to the inn where Physics and I are lounging in the courtyard and smearing our poor feet with petroleum jelly. I’m sure we get some weird looks from other people staying there. We set off to catch the bus and get caught in a ridiculous rainstorm while waiting for it. Thunder cracks overhead and the downpour comes and goes quickly, but absorbs everything in between. We meet Skybird on the bus and head to the real reason we came to Santa Fe, to see the Meow Wolf interactive art exhibit. I don’t know how to describe it, other than it’s a choose your own adventure, self-guided, mysterious, wild, interactive, and eclectic art exhibit/experience. Check it out if you’re ever in Santa Fe. We walk around for a few hours until we solve at least part of the mystery and are full of people. Then I return to the hostel with an epic view of the sunset after the storm and pass out early after a fun day of walking and having fun.

CDT Day 90

We get up early and leave before the sun to take the bus back to the trail. We return to Ghost Ranch, then spend the rest of the day meandering through canyons and forests, taking in the views, praying for the rain to hold back, and sliding through the mud.

The trail is mostly just a landslide after all the rain and it’s both ridiculously boring and hilarious to spend all day sliding around. My legs and my shoes are covered with it.

And all water sources look like chocolate milk.

But all the insane rock formations make up for the horrible walking conditions.

Physique and I miss an unmarked turn at one point and have to back up the long distance to the trail. There is always something here. I have the most gorgeous sunsets and I hike until dark trying to find a place to camp that isn’t covered in mud and might shelter me a bit from the rain that’s supposed to be falling tonight.

CDT Day 91

I wake up to the sound of rain at some point during the night and when I wake up to start the day everything is wet and dripping. The rain continues throughout the morning and the trail is again a muddy, muddy mess. The cold isn’t too bad while I’m climbing, but once I get to the top of the mountain it starts snowing and brrrr it gets cold fast. I stop to drink water and put on all my diapers and even a five minute break is enough to chill me to the bone. Getting soaked and walking in sleet and a trail that is a river isn’t so fun above 10,000 feet. But the only way to stay warm is to keep moving as fast as you can. Eventually I drop in altitude and the rain and snow stop for a bit and I can finally feel my fingers and toes again.

But quitting is still not an option. I walk about 30 miles all day which is slightly exhausting but better than being numb. The rain finally stops when I drop low enough and have a good view of the valley.

It has never been so nice not to be frozen.

I took a road and took a long walk through the city of Cuba.

I do my best not to get bitten by all the dogs chasing me and grab some Mexican food when I get to town and walk to the RV park hoping I can spend the night there. There’s a sign on the door when I arrive saying “come back in an hour” so I hang out on the porch and hope someone comes back before it gets too dark! Physics appear in the night and we finally decide to camp out back since no one seems to be working tonight. Super happy to be lower in elevation even though it’s supposed to rain tonight and I’m camping next to a busy highway.

CDT Day 92

It’s a noisy night next to the highway. Luckily the cars dwindle into the night, but when they start whizzing by before the sun comes up, I’m wide awake and decide that might as well be productive. I walk into town and head straight for McDonalds, probably the most productive thing I can do at this hour. I always arrive before the dining room opens. I never would have known that most McDonalds don’t open their insides until 7am if I wasn’t a backpacker. Look at everything I learn here! Big breakfast, coffee, charge my phone and wait for the Family Dollar to open so I can restock. There too, they must unlock the door for me since I am the first customer. Never in my life have I been the first person in a grocery store until now because hiking is the only time I’m a morning person.

Quick restock, there are only so many options in a small town dollar store, then I have a five mile walk on a highway out of town. Finally get back on track. Or rather the mud bath. I slip and slip and at some point I swear I’m in quicksand. It’s funny. And exhausting trying to walk. Once I get off the dirt roads the tread improves a bit and then I start to get all the views.

I climb plateaus and omg why has no one ever told me New Mexico is so amazing!?!

Needless to say, it’s been a pretty nice day.

Even the rain can’t deter me. It helps that there is no snow-snow-rain at 10,000 feet like yesterday. I turn a corner and I swear I’m in a sci-fi movie.

If The Lord of the Rings and The Lion King had a baby on Tatooine, this would be the one.

Although the trail is a muddy mess, I only have two water sources today so I’m pretty parched when I reach the second at the end of the day and find a spot to camp a little overcast under shrubby trees. The clouds are looking bad so I’m sure I’ll get some rain at some point tonight. So much for a dry desert.

CDT Day 93

It rained a little during the night, but nothing crazy. The morning isn’t too cold either, which is nice. I find a cache of water, so grateful for it in the desert.

I get on a set and omg how is this real life.

It’s just getting better and better.

There is always something cool to discover in the desert.

I climb in canyons.

You then have to ford a big muddy wash.

I cross barefoot and when I close my eyes I can almost pretend to be in the ocean with the cold water flowing around my legs and sand in my toes. An ocean of chocolate milk that is.

I find a cow trough at noon to draw some tasty water and the sun even comes out enough for me to dry out my gear a bit. But then the clouds darken and I run to pick it all up in case the storm hits. One thing I learned about the desert is that it can go from a beautiful day to a downpour in a second. I climb another large plateau and the view is even better.

Now that I’m off the desert floor, I’m back in the high desert with trees and all.

I cruise through the rest of the day, skipping with the random thunderclaps, but staying dry. I have to go half a mile off trail to get water at some point, but being thirsty isn’t much fun either. This is the first day on the whole CDT that I haven’t seen another human. I don’t see a ton of hikers, but I usually see at least one hunter, day hiker, or someone when I cross a road. The desert is always the quietest place. I walk until dark and find a tree under which to settle. The sky looks like a Halloween movie set, especially with the nearly full moon parting the clouds from time to time, so I’m sure it will be humid tonight.

CDT Day 94

Wake up to the pattering of rain on my tent. It’s early in the morning. Too early to get up. I wait until I can see some light in the sky and luckily the rain is just dropping random drops now so it’s easier to pack. I can tell by the looks of the sky that it’s not going to clear up today. But the rain is light and with all my layers, I stay warm. The trail is just straight mud at this point so I basically spend the whole day meandering the road and trail trying to find whatever grip I can.

It’s mostly useless, I slide pretty much all day. And become a mess myself.

After a long morning walk on the road, I pass on the path which goes up and down each canyon and each hill.

I find a grove of aspens that I haven’t seen for a few days.

I’m supposed to go around Mt Taylor today, but the fog never stops so I can even see it. Well, I guess that’s a good reason to come back and climb it someday!

I find strange things to see in the middle of nowhere. I always find the weirdest things in the desert.

It’s quite chilly in the late afternoon as I’m wet and climbing towards 10,000 feet.

I find the driest place possible to pitch my tent which is practically impossible. The whole forest is soaked. And my tent and my sleeping bag are also wet since the sun never came to dry them today. Well, I will survive. I usually have more food than I need, but I had to skimp on shopping this time around as I have to ration my last meals. Luckily, I’ll be in town by noon tomorrow. I’m already dreaming of everything I’m going to eat. I make tea to warm myself up and to help me pretend to consume more than I do. I took an “emergency” shot of Fireball whiskey with me that I found in a backpacking box in Colorado, waiting for a cold night when I needed it. As this will hopefully be the last rainy day for a while, I decide that is reason enough to celebrate. Chai tea with honey and fireball… oh wow, quite a tasty cinnamon concoction if I do say so myself. It definitely warms me up.

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