The Magic of the Trail

The sun, waking up the forest

Day 33: May 26, 2019

Destination: CDT Mile 605.6

Today’s Miles: 21.4

Start Location: CDT Mile 584.2

Trip Miles: 504.9

This entry is about what a magical place the trail can be. It’s more than just receiving trail magic.

It’s the timing of things, the weird circumstances that lead to a chain of events that, in the end, seem to all be beating to the rhythm of some kind of drum. The magic of the trail is the seemingly random circumstances that come together to play a symphony right before us, to the shock and awe of our own eyes and ears. But it is only there if we accept the trail as it is, and are grateful for what it provides.

I woke up to the sunrise today and made myself a coffee. I sat under my quilt for a while, postponing the transition to being chillier while I taped up my feet and got ready to hike. My feet seem to be doing well after recovering in Pie Town, which I’m ecstatic about!

I hiked out around 8 and kept a quick pace. I planned to walk at least 25 miles today. I will get to Cuba day after tomorrow, and I would really like to get there in the early morning to maximize my stay in town.

I stopped after a mile and a half to get water from a spring. This required me to hike across a ravine and then down into a canyon where the water was. I crossed the ravine, climbed up again, and then followed the trail to the right around a corner. I was suddenly staring at a beautiful canyon and a view out from the mesa I was on. It was worth hiking there for the view alone! I never would have seen it had I not needed to get water.

Looking over the canyon before heading down to the spring

I went to the bottom and collected some water from a crystal clear spring that was piped into a cow trough. On the climb out I saw Cat Lady and Ocitello coming down. I said hello and continued on.

What a great spring!

I hiked through forested, or at least sparsely forested land for a while. The wind was really blowing! I had to take care to secure my hat. I started noticing that I could see where there was nothing beyond the trees to my left. Soon enough the trail leaned that way and suddenly I was at a viewpoint. I was surprised because I didn’t realize I was up that high or hiking on a plateau of sorts. The view was beautifully vast, looking over canyons, mesas, and desert, and my first thought was, “I’m definitely in the middle of nowhere!”

Welcome to the middle of Gorgeous Nowhere!

I kept hiking and eventually started a steeper decline. As I worked my way down I was again spoiled by a beautiful view. I was also startled by another hiker behind me: Girly Girl. Girly Girl hikes pretty late in a regular basis. The last time I had seen her was on the Mt. Taylor summit, but while I thought she was far behind, she had actually hiked past my camp spot last night and camped near the canyon spring. Somehow I had passed her and now she had caught up. This disappearing/reappearing hiker phenomenon is always a fun part of thru-hiking.

Girly Girl and I chatted a bit as we continued to go down the side of the mesa. Once down, we hadn’t gone far when we saw a trail magic sign. WHAT?!?! How could anyone be doing trail magic in the middle of nowhere? I looked in the direction of the sign and saw a group of tents about two tenths of a mile away. We bolted for the tents!

Once there we met Tom. He was out here with his wife and some friends and they had driven from Albuquerque, their home. The others were out hiking in a canyon, while Tom held down the trail magic tent. The dirt area they were in is apparently a popular place for people to drive to for canyon exploring, though it looked more like sandy desert than any kind of parking lot.

Tom and I, doing that awkward man side hug pose thing

Tom was awesome and invited us to sit down under his canopy and eat food. He had bananas, apples, cookies, bread, coke, water, La Croix, and....dill pickles! It was a blast talking with Tom, and he had a lot of knowledge about the geology of the surrounding area.

While we were sitting there, a storm passed overhead and the wind became so strong that the canopy we were under tried to fly away! The stakes for it were no match for the wind, and at one point all three of us were holding it down to keep it from blowing away. The wind was intense, but it only rained lightly for about 5 minutes. After 15 minutes, it had blown over.

Tom’s wife and friends came back and so we met them. Shortly after, Cat Lady and Ocitello arrived. I was just about to leave when I found myself chatting and eating again. It was a long break! Maybe an hour and a half.

The storm a brewin’

We all finally got going. I left first, and within 10 minutes stubbed my toe on Joe Pesci. He did what Joe Pesci does and sent needles through the toe of my shoe into my foot - ouch! I kept walking for about a mile, but then I had to take my shoe off and deal with it. My tweezers came in handy....

I hiked on and talked with Cat Lady and Ocitello for a bit. They are good people. Girly Girl took off ahead. The terrain was super interesting and beautiful. Canyons were embedded in canyons, and I climbed up and around rocks that had curvy shapes, almost like they were some kind of Flinstones furniture that was designed by George Jetson.

The scenery just got more and more beautiful and complex. For a while, I thought it was going to storm again, but the wind blew it right over. I passed Girly Girl again and took off, just enjoying the hiking.

Despite my 25-mile plan, at about 7pm I was walking on the side shelf of an east- facing mesa. It was gorgeous! It overlooked a canyon valley with canyons embedded in the valley floor, which eventually, way off on the distance became the top of another canyon. Standing at the overlook, I wondered if this is how Simba felt in the Lion King.

I had walked 21 miles - close enough! This spot with an incredible view was too good to pass up. I would be rewarded with a sunrise in the morning as well. I set up my tent and was getting organized when Girly Girl hiked past. She usually hikes late, and even she opted to stay because it was so pretty. I was happy to have the company, as almost every other night on the trail I have camped alone. I hoped Cat Lady and Ocitello would also make it, but they did not.

Dusk in the desert, from the perfect spot

Girly Girl has a bunch of extra food she wanted to get rid of, so I got some M&Ms, a beef jerky stick, and some sour gummies. We chatted and ate and watched as the stars came out. I saw three shooting stars just randomly while sitting there. I should mention that, prior to this, I was able to get a nice view of the setting sun bathing the opposite smaller cliffs. I sat out and looked at the stars for a while, then headed to bed.

Today I had no idea what was in store. I got trail magic, and coincidentally was able to weather a short storm there. I ran into other hikers and was able to socialize a bit. Then later, foreboding clouds and a distant storm seemed to stay just far enough away, and I found an amazing campsite looking over my kingdom for the night. Then, I got to share that spot with another hiker, which almost helped make it more real. Had Girly Girl not been there, I might have thought I’d dreamed it all up. She is my witness. Today was a reminder that it’s ok to believe that things have a funny way of working out. I just have to remember that it probably won’t happen my way. If I accept that, then I become open to magic.

Today was definitely one of the best days I’ve had on trail yet. I can’t wait to see the sunrise tomorrow!

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