Day 31: May 24, 2019
Destination: Mt. Taylor Alternate Mile 8.7
Today’s Miles: 24.9
Start Location: CDT Mile 535.6 (Grants)
Trip Miles: 458.6
I woke up this morning determined to catch up on my blog. Last night I got my gear organized and took care of my feet while watching Happy Gilmore on the hotel TV.I also got inspired by Route 66 and decided to change my beard a bit ... into a handlebar mustache! Why not? I thought cleaning my facial hair up a bit might help with the hitchhiking. Now that I’ve done it, I’m not sure that’s the case....
First I wanted to get breakfast. The hotel had a continental breakfast: apples, bananas, waffles, three types of cereal, and coffee. They also had oatmeal, but I eat that every day as it is. Mouse was eating alone, so I joined her. She is hiking with her friend Dutchman. They are both retired and met on the Appalachian Trail.
Mouse and I chatted about this and that. Boot Scootin’, Girly Girl, and Dutchman showed up. Boot Scootin’ was leaving today for a few weeks, so we all said our goodbyes. I will miss running into her on the trail - she’s such a positive light.
Michele the Trail Angel was giving people rides to the trailhead. I couldn’t make the 8am with Dutchman and Mouse, but Michele offered to pick me up at 9:15. I sat in my room and posted my journals. I taped up my feet and got ready, and when it was time, I hopped in the car and we were off to pick up Cat Lady and Ocitello at Motel 6.
The three of us were crammed in the backseat of Michel’s car, packs and all. It looked like a hiker clown car! I got out first to pickup my footsteps where I left off. A few of the hikers got dropped off at the point where the road ends and skipped the road walk. I am trying to have continuous footsteps to Canada, so trail is trail for me!
Hiking out of Grants on the road was pretty unremarkable. I passed the prison on the way. I saw a bunch of razor wire and a black tarp covering a fence. There was a sign that said “Hospitality Center.” Hmmm.... I could hear voices behind the black tarped fence, and when I walked a little further I saw the sign for the prison. I’m pretty sure the “Hospitality Center” was just some marketing spin on “the yard.”
Once the road turned to trail, I started what would be an all-day climb. It was steeper initially, but then tapered off to a nice, smooth uphill grade. When I got to the top of the first steeper section, I was rewarded with great views back over Grants and the surrounding hills. I had nice blue skies and the sun was out. It was such a beautiful day, and now the trail was really stunning as well.
I walked on gradual grade for a while. It was sunny, but there were some shade trees around, so I decided to stop for lunch at 12:30. I sat under a tree and took my shoes and socks off to let my feet breathe. I had mentally committed to doing this for the sake of my feet and in an attempt to prevent blisters. My new kicks felt great though, and I was wearing a nice, brand spanking new pair of socks, so everything felt clean and comfy. My feet themselves felt good too - no hot spots or soreness on any of the areas where I had recovering blisters. It’s amazing how good a new pair of shoes can feel, and how easy it is to forget that until the new pair is on and the old pair is gone! I tend to wear shoes a bit too long, mostly because they are expensive.
After lunch, I continued climbing through a sparse pine forest. The CDT itself does not go over Mt. Taylor; it skirts it to the west. Most hikers want to climb the mountain and take the Mt. Taylor Alternate, which I think is actually a little longer than the corresponding parallel section of the CDT. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me that the Mt. Taylor route isn’t the official trail. I would think it would be, and the CDT route would be a bad weather alternate.
I saw in Guthook that there was a water cache at the junction of the two trails, so I looked and looked for it. There was none! I guess that comment was wrong (a hazard of using Guthook is that information becomes incorrect sometimes over time). I remembered Boot Scootin’, who had hiked up the mountain the other day, saying that the water cache was off the alternate trail. So, I took the alternate and scanned Guthook. I found comments saying it was a few miles north. Ok, I could work with that. My water was low, but I was fine.
The water cache was there, just before the trail narrowed and became steeper as it headed up the mountain. Grants’ elevation was 6400 feet, and I was climbing up to 11,300 feet, so I still had a good ways to ascend. As I went higher I came out of the trees and the incline of the trail got noticeably steeper. After about 10 minutes, I looked back and realized I already had a fantastic view! It was a clear day and I could see for miles around. I could even see a controlled burn off in the distance - it looked like a small dust devil from where I was.
Now I just had to push to the top. I breathed more heavily on the steep uphill, but I didn’t really notice the elevation that much because I’ve worked into it gradually enough to be acclimatized. If anything, its effects were just mixed in with the fact that I was carrying 4.5 liters of water up this mountain! I had to stock up to have water for tonight and tomorrow morning.
Snow appeared on the trail. There were a few large clumps I walked over, and then one that I climbed around on the slope side. When I reached the top finally at around 5:45, I was excited. I saw Girly Girl sitting up there, and I was surprised I caught up with anyone. She helped me take a photo, and I stayed up to enjoy the almost 360 (there was some forest on the north face) views. I was so glad that I decided to summit today! The good weather and views made it worth it. I had a fleeting AT&T signal at the top, so I sent my wife a picture.
It was cold and windy at the top and I didn’t feel like digging for my jacket, so after photos and a snack it was time to go down.
The descent down the north face was a different ballgame. It was covered in snow! Most of it was packed down and still slushy, so it wasn’t as bad as walking on frozen ice. It was slippery though, and a couple of times my feet plunged in when I diverged from where I could see footsteps.
I got down the initial steep descent, and saw a cairn marking an abrupt turn in the trail. On top of the cam was a little mini shot bottle of Fireball whisky. Weird! I wondered if someone had left that there for Girly Girl. I walked on and down the side of the mountain to a saddle, only to have to climb up again past some kind of antenna and/or weather tower. I walked on a muddy dirt road for a while. The mud was from melting snow and made me think what a mess Colorado will be when all that snow melts!
I kept walking and walking. I was ready to find a place to camp, and there wasn’t a lot of light left in the sky, but I was struggling to find a level spot that wasn’t surrounded by dead trees. Finally, in a forest where I wouldn’t have expected to find a spot, I came upon a beautiful clearing with lots of really nice campsite-worthy flat spots. I started to set up and realized that Ocitello and Cat Lady were on the other end of the clearing. Great minds! :-)
Today was an amazing day all around. My feet felt good, the weather was bomber (I threw that in for any Canadians out there, courtesy of my AT friend Whitewater), and I got to summit a beautiful mountain. Now I need to get to sleep! It feels like it’s going to be a cold one tonight, probably because I am still above 10,000 feet.