Day 7: April 30, 2019
Destination: Stealth Camp Mile 137.3
Today’s Miles: 20.6
Start Location: Stealth Camp Mile 116.7
Trip Miles: 137.3
This morning was pretty chilly - 43 with a gusty breeze as I climbed up the mountain I camped near last night. I slept really well, and I think it was partly because I wore my down hood. It covers my ears so sounds - like my tent rustling in the wind, or a coyote chewing on my femur - are less likely to disturb me.
When it’s cold enough to need a jacket in the mornings, it’s generally a little harder to get moving. The transition from breaking down camp to hiking is a little more uncomfortable. But, the trail is all about getting used to being uncomfortable, at least for moments. If you think about it, it’s kind of funny how many modern conveniences are there just to prevent us from feeling discomfort - any discomfort at all! I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing. I’ve learned that being numb to the realities of life, even the small stuff, is a short-term path to no where good. It’s better to have some discomfort. It makes me stronger and allows me to appreciate the things I do have much more.
The views hiking up the mountain (Jack’s Peak) were beautiful! I had good visibility and could see the rolling desert landscape well into the distance. I kept climbing and passed a French hiker named Viper. He doesn’t speak much English (or so he said; I thought it was pretty good), and this is his first time in the US! Imagine just showing up in France and hiking a remote long trail there! I think it’s really awesome, and I hope he has a good experience here in the States.
I made it to the top of Jack’s Peak and saw another hiker packing up his tent near a water cistern. I waived and kept walking. After a while I took a sunscreen break and said hiker passed me and introduced himself as Macro. I found out later that he is a photographer. He takes pictures of tiny things and blows them up, hence the trail name. He is from Anchorage, Alaska. I can’t imagine what he thought about the heat of the Bootheel!
I continued down the other side of the peak. The trail wrapped around and around the ridge line, switching back and forth. I finally came to the road crossing for Burro Mountain Homestead. The homestead was supposed to be a good place to stop, and I definitely needed water and knew they supplied it, so I walked the mile down the dirt road.
I was sort of expecting an actual “homestead,” where people were living off the land and such. What I came upon was an RV Park. One of the ladies there told me that a lot of people just spend their summers there to get out of the heat in Tucson and Albuquerque. I went into the visitor office and signed their CDT log book. On the AT they would have multiple logs for one year. On the CDT, their log went back years and years and still wasn’t full! That should give you an idea of the difference in the number of thru-hikers on each trail.
They were incredibly hospitable and let me hang out and make coffee in their activity room. It was lovely! I was able to use a real toilet and wash my hands. I had some coffee and made the soup that trail angel Solo gave me yesterday. While I was making that, another hiker, Paws, showed up, followed by Samson and Heatwave.
I caught up with them and Heatwave gave me some seasoning for my soup, which was quite bland. With the seasoning though, it was delicious! I learned through Samson that Fluffy and Joe Dirt had gotten off trail the day prior. Apparently Fluffy started having serious stomach issues, and so they all walked those two down to the nearest road where they could hike to a place to hitch a ride. It must have been a horrible walk for Fluffy. Getting sick out here, especially painful stomach stuff, is no joke! Fortunately they both got a ride into town and Fluffy was able to get treatment. They will stay in town a few days. They aren’t sure what it was, but it could have been a number of things. No one else is sick, so it likely wasn’t noro - maybe bacterial, or maybe e-Coli from bad water that somehow slipped through into his drinking supply. I hope he feels better soon!
The other hiked, Paws, is a really nice guy from Portland, OR. He had some extra Leuko tape that he gave me, since I have been going through it like a hot knife through butter. We all rested and did our thing for a while, but after a few hours I was ready to hike out, so I left on my own.
At that point, I was thinking I would hike into the evening, then cut my hike short the next day and maybe try to stealth camp somewhere off the road walk, then walk 6-8 miles into Silver City the day after that. However, as the day went on, I was feeling good and enjoying the walking and just kept making miles. I had hiked out of Burro Mountain Homestead with 5 liters of water, which was conservative given some unreliable water sources. When I finally made it to a small, trickling creek, I did my gimpy version of a happy dance. Running water!!! It had been a while since I’d seen this lovely old friend.
As I sat and filtered water, which took a ridiculous amount of time since the Sawyer micro filter is barely dribbling it out), I looked at Guthook (my map app) and realized I had walked farther than I thought. I started thinking, “hmmmm, maybe I should hike more tonight, and then walk a longer day tomorrow to get to Silver City tomorrow evening. I could then have two nights of rest instead of one!” The more I thought about this and my desire to deal with my blisters and give them time to firm up, the easier it became to make the decision.
So, 20 years later when my Sawyer micro finished the job, I set about hiking a few more miles to try and cut as far into my mileage as I could tomorrow. I had five liters of water and would dry camp (camp away from a water source). That would be enough to get to town.
I pushed on and walked along the creek for a while. I saw a few tents as I crossed the tiny creek and bounded up a hill on the other side. It was about that time of evening. The light was starting to get low, but I still had an hour to walk before it would be time to pitch camp.
I spooked some cows as I took a hard right to follow the trail away from the creek and into a hilly valley. I sang to myself a little bit, and enjoyed seeing the green of the surrounding foliage contrast with the red hue of the dry, silty earth beneath my feet.
Around 7:45ish, I was walking up a hill in the valley, when all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of a large animal getting spooked in the bushes and taking off. It startled me, and expecting to see a cow, I looked and saw a short, squat thing tearing through the scrub brush at Mach 10. Small scrub trees were going down like bowling pins in its wake. “Could that be a....? No, surely not this far south,” I thought. I walked about 10 more paces and saw movement up and to my right beside the trail. I hear more crashing as something ran away, and then I saw a big furry, cinnamon-colored butt with a stubby tail swivel and thunder down the other side of the ridge. What???!!! Yep. Three bears. Black bears, to be precise. I didn’t really do my research on how far south I could expect to find them, but I had been seeing a lot of poop on the trail that looked closeto bear poop - full of seeds. But the portions were smaller than I’m used to, and actually these three creatures were on the smaller size (not cubs, but smallish). I stood there in disbelief, then continued cautiously.
It was starting to get dark, so I hiked about a quarter mile, and then decided it might not be a good idea to cook food at camp tonight with the bears so close. I set my pack down and pulled out my tortillas and peanut butter. Time for a trail burrito! Since I planned to go into town a day early, I had extra tortillas, so I promptly pulled out three, yes, THREE, and slabbed about a quarter of the jar of peanut butter on them. Maybe more. I rolled it up, packed up, and set about walking with my blunt-like dinner.
As soon as I started eating this thing, I realized that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. It was MASSIVE, and there was so much peanut butter it was hard to eat with any kind of speed. I walked and choked some down, then walked and took another bite. I had to stop. I needed water, and I needed to reassess this meal. I drank a few gulps and stared at the thing. What was I thinking?! Meanwhile, the bears were probably enjoying whistling dixie and skipping along to the smell of my peanut butter monstrosity. If it were Jif Maple, maybe I would have felt differently, but it was just regular Jif. I had to take action!
I squatted in the trail and took a few more bites, swallowing them about as easy as one swallows a handful of cotton balls. he go. Of burrito felt like it was lodging somewhere in my throat, as if I were a snake trying to digest a meal wider than my body. There was only one thing to do. I got out my trowel, walked off the trail, and began to dig. I chewed and dug, chewed and dug. The hole wasn’t for what you might be thinking. I’ve seen a lot of movies about holes being dug in the desert, and this one was no different. This, my friends, was no bathroom hole. This hole was for a funeral. I took the rest of my ridiculously large peanut butter roll of gluttony, and buried it like a mafioso-turned-rat. No memorial, no marker, no trace. Honestly, I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to throw it and let animals get to enjoy people food. I couldn’t finish it. A burial seemed more appropriate.
I walked back to the trail in shame. It was now almost dark, so I started huffing it down the trail. I wanted to at least make it half a mile away from this scene, if for nothing else than to avoid a haunting. Lesson learned - start small and build up.
I found a clearing and pitched my tent, convinced that the bears had already dug up my sandwich, and would soon put a hit out on me for my crimes against all things natural. I could hear the whistling of dixie under the moon as I drifted off to sleep.