Day 27: May 20, 2019
Destination: Cebolla Alternate Mile 1.7
Today’s Miles: 13.6
Start Location: TLC Ranch, CDT Mile 440.5
Trip Miles: 378.4
Sleeping in the RV last night was awesome! It was a windy night, so every now and then I would feel a gust of wind rock the trailer back and forth.
I was happy to be inside! Fast forward to now, and as I type this I am listening to scary gusts of wind, pea-sized hail hitting my tent, and seeing lightning followed by thunder that is a little too close....
Backtrack and I left the RV around 6:30 to go to the house to have coffee. When we got there, not only was there coffee, but Larry had set out some Thomas English muffins and jam. One of the jams was prickly pear jam. Last night Larry described to us how they made it from the fruit of a cactus. They use tongs to pick the fruit, then sear it with a flame and boil it. These two steps get rid of the needles. Then they peel it before making the jam/jelly. Apparently the fruit itself is very sweet. The flavor is unique,so it is hard to describe, but it almost tasted like there was a hint of apple. I really liked it!
We all chatted for a while, and then it was time to go. It hadn’t rained overnight at all, but was now calling for a 40-50% chance of rain today. Backtrack helped me take a picture with Larry, Charity, and Granny. We thanked them profusely and popped some cash in their donation box. I didn’t have much, but I had some, fortunately. They had just started a hiker box, so I added some food to that to help get it started.
It was fun listening to Larry and Charity’s vision for their ranch. I think Gillian would have loved talking with them and hearing about it. I headed out for the day with Backtrack, in good spirits.
Backtrack is an interesting guy. He’s older than I and has lived in different countries through work he has done with the Peace Corp. He has a lot of interesting stories. He has also hiked a lot of long trails. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska, at the moment, and it’s interesting to me to hear about Alaska because both Gillian and I really want to go there (during the summer, of course!).
I had a lot of road walking to do today. Backtrack and I kept leap frogging. I have a faster pace, but I stopped a lot. I was hungry today and ate a lot of snacks, perhaps because it was getting colder. Around 10am I stopped to take my shoes off, air out my feet, and eat an early lunch. I could see, and feel, storm clouds rolling in. The wind was picking up, so I sat right under a small tree to help block it while I ate. The sun was still out, so the break was nice.
After lunch the wind picked up and the sky started to darken a bit. Then came the slanting hail. I put on my dish gloves that I picked up in Pie Town. My hands were so cold they stung. The dish gloves helped. I was hiking in shorts, which was ok except the wind and hail were turning my quads bright red, chapping them into large, fat lobsters.
After about 30 minutes, there was a break in the action and I stopped again, threw off my pack, and dug out my puffy coat and possum down gloves. I put my coat on under my rain jacket, and my possum gloves under my dishwashers. I also threw on my light wind pants. This was much better!
I hiked on enjoying a light sprinkling, rather than hail. Two cars stopped for both Backtrack and me. The couple in the first car gave me a piece of dark chocolate. They had trail names, but it was so windy and I was trying to turn down my podcast, so I am not sure what they said. The second couple I had seen at the Pie Town Cafe. I knew the man was a Korean War veteran. They gave me two cookies! So far this road, minus the hail, was pretty cool! It was so nice of these folks to stop. They thought I was crazy to be out in this weather.
Backtrack and I arrived at the turnoff for the Cebolla route, am alternate we were both taking. I’m piecing together two alternates and the official CDT to get to Grants, namely because of some land features I want to see. By the time we got to the junction, a heavy, wet snow was falling. Backtrack said that he was considering hitching back to TLC Ranch. I considered it as well. In the end though, I knew I could hike further and dive into my tent if I had to. This wasn’t a storm that would kill me, and I needed to push north.
Cows moaned in the fields beside me as I trudged through the snow. My wind pants were now wet and clinging to my lobster calves. I sang to a cow so that it would get out of the dirt road in front of me that was the trail. It was obvious none of us were thrilled by the weather. Backtrack dropped back. A pickup truck with some university kids in it came by and stopped. We joked about the weather and they drove on.
I hiked 1.7 miles into the alternate. The snow was getting worse and I now had some small to medium trees I could use as cover, so I thought for a minute. It was only 2:30, but this was getting ugly. I decided to bail and look for a spot under a tree where the snow wasn’t accumulating. I waited a bit for Backtrack to tell him what I was doing, but I never saw him. I have a feeling he probably hitched a ride back to the ranch with those university kids (they were driving a college-branded truck). I kind of wished I had too! Oh well, this is trail life.
I found a pretty good spot and set up camp tucked in under a small bush tree. I left my wet pack in the vestibule and dove in, slowly getting my wet clothes off and dry items organized. The snow continued, then paused, then continued, and then turned to small hail. This continued on for the rest of the afternoon, and by 5:30 I was in the middle of a thunderstorm with pea-sized hail. That might sound small, but think about the size of a pea for a minute. Now picture it hurtling out of the sky and hitting a tent....
Everything has blown over for now. It’s 8:13 and I think the hail stopped an hour ago. Blue skies emerged amongst grey clouds, so I’m fairly sure the worst is over. The wind is still gusty, but now it seems more intent on freezing its work of art to preserve it like a proud parent, rather than on adding more hail to the collage of mud and precipitation.
I put on more layers to prepare for a cold night. I wiped some of the condensation off the inside of my tent. Doing this, I noticed three small holes in the top of my tent. I immediately knew they were from the tent struts that were broken. I worried about this when I had the broken tent erected in the last storm, which was the last time I used my tent. The ends of the broken struts were sharp and must have poked a few holes. UGH! I found myself feeling annoyed with Zpacks. Oh well. I used some seam seal tape and patched up the holes. I tried to dry the area as best I could with toilet paper first. Hopefully that does the trick and they stay as is. I suppose I should be glad it hailed - had it rained I might have gotten wet through those holes. Fortunately, they are small.
I looked at my map. I thought I was 7 miles from the next water source, but Guthook was giving me mileage as the crow flies. I am actually almost 12 miles from water. That’s ok - I can make it on what I have. I calculated that, most likely, I won’t roll into Grants until Friday morning now. I checked my food supply and I should be ok. This cold weather makes me burn a lot of calories though! I’m glad I packed extra food, though part of that was because I hadn’t yet picked a route to Grants when I mailed my resupply box to Pie Town.
I texted Gillian a bit to check in. I am missing her and Lucy extra tonight. But, I’m proud if myself for making the smart choice to stop early today. It feels more like winter than spring here lately. I really hope warmer, sunny days come soon.
Time to get some rest. Sleeping with my water filter and electronics since it is so cold. Freezing ruins a filter, and electronics batteries drain much faster in the cold, so I either tuck them in my pockets or in the foot box of my quilt.
I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers today, the fact that I am warm (mostly!) and dry, and that the storms seemed to have stopped for now. Tomorrow’s another day to head north.