Sunday, February 25, 2018

At Silver City: Mile 160 Unlocked on the CDT

At the Continental Divide along highway 180

We made it to Silver City yesterday afternoon after hiking 13+ miles along highway 180, in addition to the dirt road miles that came before. The temperatures have been cooler than we expected, with our water bottles transforming to slushy ice during the nights. The miles have been beautiful, and surprisingly tough. The elevation profiles suggested that it would be smooth sailing. Instead, the incessant wind, 40 degree days & repeated ups & downs challenged our bodies to adapt. I did still love the hiking, but I thought that I would feel strong & robust by now. Instead, my face is Ruddy from wind burn & my whole body aches with muscle growth(I hope!) And soreness.

We've hiked 161 miles of the southern New Mexico Continental Divide Trail, over the course of 10 days. It's looking like this may be the end of our hike for this month. We'd like to hike farther, but the weather conditions & logistics of getting back to Albuquerque in time for our flight would make it difficult. I wish we had more time!

View to the north from a ridge near Burro Mountain

In the desert coming out of Lordsburg, we hiked along behind a herd of antelope for two miles. At the time, I was suffering with a migraine & its strange visual effects. Following the antelope created a sense of wonder that allowed me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Later, we saw our first coyote, after hearing their yelps & yaps each of the previous days. It was amazing how quickly it could recede from visibility when not moving. That same day, we saw hundreds of javelina prints, but never did get to see the live animals.

This trail is tough, in a different way than the Arizona Trail (AZT). The trail tread is rougher and less defined, meaning that for many of the wide open desert miles, we progressed from one sign to the next, each spaces 400 yards to 1/2 mile apart. There wasn't an obvious trail between the signs. Other times, no signs we're visible, so we proceeded in the general direction until one became visible. The other major difference is the number of trail users. In Arizona, there were other long distance hikers, as well as day users. In these 160 miles, we have encountered zero other users on the trail. The posh amenities that appeared at intervals on the AZT, such as Trailhead pit toilets & trash cans do not exist here. Even flowing water is far more rare. Cattle tanks are spaced farther apart, meaning water carries are longer. Writing these differences helps me understand why we're wore out & feel like less of a weakling.

It's been glorious to be out here. All the difficulties & all of the beauties, I love you. Many thanks to Reed, who has become a competent long distance hiker & an excellent trail companion.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Adapting to the Desert on the CDT

On Thursday, we got dropped off deep in the desert of southern New Mexico. Many thanks to Leslie & Tanya for driving us, especially those last 33 miles over rough roads. Left at the border, we ate spam & cheese sandwiches with chili cheese fritos. Then we began to walk, my excitement at actually being on the trail making that first days 14 miles seem easy. 

We walked for 5 days through rough desert, feeling grateful to be doing so in 50 degree weather. On the afternoon of day two, fog turned quickly to a squall with beating rain & charging wind. We had not prepared for pouring rain, and by the time we found a safe place to erect our tent, much of our gear was sopping wet, including one of the sleeping bags. Fortunately, one was dry, and we had two emergency blankets with us. We made it through the night with minor suffering & mostly warm. It took most of the next two days to get that sleeping bag dry, just in time for last night's steady rain & wind. 

The desert is such a different place when covered in fog & rain clouds. We've enjoyed such gorgeous days and delighted in a couple of glorious sunrises. The coyotes, birds & jack rabbits seem excited by the weather, each of them darting around, the coyotes yipping us awake each morning. 

This afternoon we walked into Lordsburg & promptly got a room at the Econo Lodge. We are loving the comforts: shower, toilet, trash can, restaurant. Our bodies are struggling to adapt to the new demands we're placing on them. We're wore out, yet grateful for the time & resources to be out here. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

To Southern New Mexico: Our Logistics Good Luck Continues

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment has the most lovely license plates I've seen. 
We boarded a luxurious Greyhound bus in Albuquerque this morning well before sunrise, waking at 3am to a silent hostel of sleeping travelers. We quickly packed our bags and shared a chicken salad sandwich we'd purchased the night before at a nearby market. After sleeping only little and lightly, we had both awoken easily. Amid silent streets, we walked the 0.8 miles to the Amtrak & Greyhound station, grateful for our layers of fleece which held back the chilly air.
Beautiful mosaics adorned Albuquerque

Despite the early hour, the station filled with a cross section of travelers. We boarded with 10 others the bus coming from Denver and bound for Las Cruces. Once onboard, we gratefully fell to sleep, wedging our bodies against one another & the seats to create just enough comfort for sleep to be possible.

We had planned to spend a night in Las Cruces, based solely on logistical necessity. Even though we arrived by 8:30am, the westbound Greyhound connection had already departed for the day. Research ahead of time meant this information wasn't a surprise, but it was still disappointing. Worse was the fact that the nearest lodging was 5 miles away. Bleary eyed as we disembarked the early morning bus, we didn't know what to do, or in which direction to proceed. One of the practices we've adopted over the years helped us address this quandary. The practice is based on being legitimately lost in the woods, but applied well to this situation as well. It goes like this - when it's unclear which is the correct direction to proceed, stay put, drink water, eat something & only then pull the maps back out to consult. Fortunately for us, there was a lovely Mexican restaurant adjacent to the bus drop off, Chachi's, where we gratefully consumed huevos con chorizo and a custom avocado, egg & cheese breakfast burrito. 

Breakfast nourishment encouraged us to start walking the 5 miles to town. After all, walking is why we came to New Mexico. About 2 miles  into the walk, a retired couple on their way out to breakfast in town offered us a ride into town. Isaac & Tilly had lived in the area since 1968, with his work for NASA also taking them to Florida & California. They mentioned that there was another bus company, El Paso Limosine, that also provides service to Lordsburg, our desired destination.  All within an hour time, we had gone from being lost, resigned to spending an unwanted night in Las Cruces, to being dropped off right at the bus station with an upcoming departure at 11am. There were two principles at play in this encounter that astounded me. First, it helps to get physically closer to where one is desiring to go. From Seattle, the logistics of getting to the start of the Continental Divide Trail southern terminus were overwhelming & unfigurable, despite research. It took faith & past experience of success to be willing to just keep taking the next step. The other principle is one that Reed & I talk about each time we plan a trip with many logistics. It involves a tremendous amount of chaos & unknown. No matter how well we plan, the last couple of days before getting on trail end up presenting chaos & usually, surprising resolutions to the chaos. I don't think that chaos is indicative that resolution will follow, but it almost seems that it is a necessary step in the process.

So, here we are, sitting at McDonald's in Lordsburg, having just finished an m&m Mcflurry. It's 2:15, the motel where we'll stay, and hopefully sleep tonight, is just 1/2 mile away.  The plan for this afternoon is to take naps, buy and package foods & lounge in preparation for tomorrow. But, wouldn't you know it, we were finally able to arrange a shuttle to Crazy Cook monument while sitting at the bus depot in Las Cruces. That's exactly where we've been hoping we'd be able to start the hike, but the logistics of it required a shuttle. Take one step & the next step in the path will appear. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

We've Made It to New Mexico: The Joy of Walking Straight from the Airport

Albuquerque's characteristic rock & rough plant landscaping with the Sandia mountains on the distant horizon. 

Tonight we finally made it to our vacation! We'd been attempting since January 30th to depart Seattle, our layover between Alaska & a winter hiking destination, but my stress & strain caused health problems delayed us these 11 days. At last, here we are!

There's nothing quite like deprivation to nurture appreciation. In my particular case, 8 days of nausea & vomiting has made me all the more grateful for foods that nourish me & stay down! And being unable to travel made me jubilant when we successfully left the ground in Seattle earlier today. We enjoyed a two hour layover at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, during which I lounged on the carpet near a display Audi and we drank copious amounts of water, understanding anew how fortunate we are with our direct-from-faucet water quality in Seward. At the end of two hours, we obediently boarded our next flight, bound for Albuquerque and congratulated ourselves for getting one step closer to getting on the trail. 

Touchdown in Albuquerque came with extra excitement due to 30 mph cross winds. The pilot had cautioned us that we might not be able to land and that the plan B was to take us to San Diego. Fortunately, he landed the plane successfully and we were on the ground, bags in hand by 8:15pm. Even so, the City busses were finished for the day. We could have taken a taxi, or some version there of, but I was eager to walk, and we were prepared to do so, as our luggage was backpacks. 

Outdoors, the temperature was a luxurious 60 degrees, as later related to us by a bank thermostat. We walked out of the airport complex and through the suburban developments surrounding it. We jaunted past restaurants and car repair stores, through underpasses and amidst eye watering winds. It was glorious. The joy of walking filled my spirit. I felt alive again, something I desperately needed to recover my usual enthusiasm. Being bed and house bound had taught me anew how fortunate I am to have an amazing husband and caring family and friends. It also stifled my spirit, because I love to be going, moving, doing. 

About 2.5 miles into our 5 mile walk to our lodgings, we stumbled upon the perfect restaurant for us. We stowed our backpacks and ordered a hearty meal of pozole stew and Al pastor burrito. The items came with unlimited trips to the salsa bar and we partook heartily of radishes, green salsa, pickled carrots and sliced jalapenos. The winter Olympic figure skaters entertained us while we ate our fill. Afterwards, we walked on through urban Albuquerque and I felt at peace, content to be on the trail, moving forward. How fortunate we are!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

One Adventure Not Intended

Moss Growing in Lord Hill Regional Park
Our intention was to end up in a warm place, somewhere we could paddle and hike. Thus far, we haven't made it there. Instead, we're in Seattle, which was intended to be our in-between stopover on the way south from Alaska. The story of what happened is long and unpleasant, but the upshot is that we are fortunate to have kind and generous friends and family all around the puget Sound. A number of them have taken us in, offered us food and shelter while I recover from my sickness. 
Hooray for hiking with my niece, Amelia

On Tuesday morning, just before our scheduled airplane departure, I was struck with a debilitating headache and nausea. I ended up spending an inordinate amount of time in a few different Seatac Airport family restrooms, losing all the calories that I had consumed, and then some. It's taken a number of days, and a visit to a doctor and the Swedish Cherry Hill Emergency Room to figure out what was going on with me. It seems that I am experiencing midlife onset of severe migraines. The good news is that I didn't have a brain bleed, nor do I have a tumor. But I have been sick and mostly in bed for seven days now. During that time, I have learned anew of the superb care and concern that my husband has for me. I've learned how devoted my married family is to caring for me. And I've learned that Alaska Airlines is who I want to fly with for all future travel. Their "distressed passenger' services were superb. 

Prior to my sickness setting in, we had six days in Seattle of fun times visiting friends and family. A big perk was hiking in Lord Hill Regional Park with my niece, Amelia. I was honored when she asked me to take her hiking. We got to explore the park's trails, interpret the maps to the landscape and smell the rain soaked air. 

Beautiful shrubbery in residential Seattle, WA
View of Puget Sound from Edmonds, Washington
Back in the big city of Seattle, we walked around the gorgeous neighborhood of Seward Park, admiring the landscape and the perfectness of the majority of the houses. Our neighborhoods in Seward, Alaska shares so little in common with these manicured lawns and homes. Alaska is all about functionality and storing one's toys and tools. Our own yard has stacks of plywood, a trailer, and a big stack of paving stones, awaiting spring to be laid back out in the yard. Seattle, on the other hand, presents beautiful neighborhoods of gorgeous landscape and homes. It was delightful to the eyes to walk around the neighborhood. 

We're now reconfiguring, awaiting the healing of my mind and body. Soon, I hope, we'll have a new plan for this month. We are full of ideas and hopes, but it at this point, I can't travel anywhere until I'm much better. Even being able to write on the computer has been a long time coming. For seven days now I've been wanting to write. I'm thankful that I'm finally able to do so. Here's to tomorrow being brighter and healthier!