Monday, May 14, 2018

CDT Part 3: Pie Town to Chama

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. It has been several weeks since my last blog post. Not that this was unexpected or anything.

Yesterday I crossed from New Mexico into Colorado. I spent 33 days in New Mexico, hiking about 700 miles. New Mexico was a mixed bag. The Gila River was quite pretty. The high plateaus and mountains in the extreme northern part of the state were beautiful by anyone's standards. Yet the CDT through New Mexico also featured hundreds of miles of road walking. I love hiking and am glad I did the New Mexico section. But I can't help but think that the trail thus far is just a warmup for Colorado. And boy, am I excited!


Hiking the LBT: For years, the CDT has had a reputation as a difficult trail to navigate. Getting minorly lost was a common occurrence. This is a bit anachronistic in the GPS age though, as 90% of people use an app that gives them idiot-proof directions to Canada. There are a few of us holdouts, though, who navigate with map and compass. I'm not interested in removing the challenge from the CDT, and wouldn't have the same sense of accomplishment if I blindly followed a little red line all the way to Canada.

Up until recently, I had remarkably managed a 100% navigational success rate. A few days ago, though, I failed to pay enough attention to my map and went several miles down the wrong canyon by mistake.  When I checked my map, I realized my error, but not before I wasted a couple hours getting back to my intended route. It's almost inevitable that something like this happens from time to time, and though not at all dangerous, I felt pretty dumb. Sometimes you hike the Continental Divide Trail. And sometimes you hike the LarryBoy Trail.

We didn't start the fire: New Mexico has been historically dry this year. Wildfires have already broken out in places, and all the fire towers have been manned for a month now; they aren't normally manned until the end of May. Several fires have started because of unattended campfires. I found one in the Gila and put it out. The entire state is under fire restrictions; in many places you aren't even allowed to operate a chainsaw between 1pm and 1am because fire danger is so high. I'm glad to be leaving the state before it all goes up in flames.

Snow, snow, snow: I'm part of the first wave of thru hikers to hit the high terrain in northern NM and CO. I started early and have maintained a steady, if not fast, pace. It's a historically dry year in southern CO. Normally I wouldn't even consider entering the San Juan range for another month, but I'm poised to go up there tomorrow. Such is 2018. Thus far, I've seen patchy snow above 10,000 feet with widespread snow above 11,000 feet. In the SanJuan's, I'll be above 12,000 for extended periods of time. I've got my microspikes and ice axe and am ready to go. The trail rumor mill is buzzing with tales of horrific postholing. Are the rumors exaggerated? Only time will tell.

What's next: The San Juans, as described above. I expect beauty. I expect misery. This might be the hardest thing I've ever done. This might be the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I've got a cautious risk mindset and a good crew of people to team up with. Onward!

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