June 12-16, 497 miles hiked
We lacked motivation to leave Grants the next morning, finally leaving the comfort of the motel around 11. The first seven miles of the trail followed a road that ascended into the hills outside of town, past a prison and into bare, dry mountains. Phil was in a particularly bad mood this morning, and not feeling very excited about hiking. At one point he took out his phone and looked up plane tickets to Thailand. We got into the groove as the day wore on, climbing on actual trail up a steep mountain towards Mt. Taylor, which the CDT passes. I had downloaded some new music – new Rihanna and Beyoncé, and some sugary country pop from Kelsea Ballerini that’s a little ridiculous but so catchy I can’t resist it- and it made hiking seem easy and fun.
The next day, we took an alternate trail that goes to the top of Mt. Taylor, which stands at 11,300 feet and has beautiful 360 degree views. It was so nice to see our surroundings after being in the desert for so long, and see where we’d be hiking next. The trail the rest of the day was pretty unremarkable – a long descent on dirt roads, other dirt roads through a sparse forest, finding a spring surrounded by cows, and finally a big campsite in a clearing next to a dirt road.
The next morning we had 16 miles on a flat dirt road until Ojos De Los Indios spring, which sat at the bottom of a small ravine. We saw a brown bear pretty close up that morning, and he saw us but just kept bumbling along, in search of bugs or water or whatever bears search for. We finally turned onto a real trail, which wound across the top of a mesa for what felt like an eternity until descending steeply into a huge basin filled with small orange mesas. The sun was setting during our descent, and it was one of the most beautiful moments on the trail so far. We camped in the middle of a deserted red dirt road.
The next day was one of the hottest on the trail so far, hiking across this big basin with very few water sources. At one point we got lost (not unusual) and had to navigate through a sandy, dry riverbed for an extra hour. The scenery was amazing – colorful mesas, cool rock structures everywhere – but we were grumpy and hot and probably didn’t fully appreciate it. Late afternoon we got to a paved road crossing (very exciting) and there was a water cache with poptarts and granola bars!! We made a beeline for it and sat there for two hours. We hiked until 9pm, with 22 miles left until the next town of Cuba.
The next morning, we continued our march through the mesas and the rock formations. The trail was awesome and looked like something out of Star Wars, but I was extremely grumpy. I had developed a new blister the day before and its existence made hiking very unpleasant, and I was just generally mad at the world this morning- mad at the heat, mad at the fact that the trail was all sand, mad at the remaining miles until town. My mood improved after a shady break and a Snickers bar, and we walked the remaining 10ish miles on paved highways into Cuba. These EVIL flies kept chasing and biting us along the road. We went straight to a Mexican restaurant and, as usual, went completely overboard on food consumption. The rest of the day was filled with the usual town activities: grocery store, post office, blog, phone calls with parents, motel, then finally ridiculous reality tv (this time it was Botched and My 600-lb Life) until we fell asleep. We had only 52 miles until Ghost Ranch, and there were rumors that the desert was nearly over…