CDT Day 118

CDT Day 118 — October 21
Conejo River
to almost Cumbres Pass (Chama, NM!)
Gosh Darn Dirt is Nice Camp
to Y Motel Camp

Miles hiked: 23.6
Total miles: 2049.6

We made it to New Mexico! Woooo hoooo! Alright alright, we still have about four trail miles to the actual border, but the town we hitched to at the end of the day is in the land of enchantment. Our last full day in Colorado was the coldest yet and had me dreaming of warm days in the desert. Are those really just four miles away?

Wow, by far the coldest morning of the CDT so far and hopefully I won’t need to say that again. It was 4°F (yep, four) when we started hiking at 7:20am, continuing on the dirt road along the Conejo River. There wasn’t much I could do besides hike as fast as my legs could carry me and blow hot breath into my gloved fists. Numb fingers and kneecaps.

Down at the bottom of a deep valley, the sun was a long time in reaching us. SpiceRack and I were both fighting a losing battle to stay warm in the shade so we ducked into the first building with and open sign in its window. We weren’t even sure what town we were in, but the heater was on inside. The friendly folk there running the lodge took us to their kitchen in back, offered us coffee and let us launch a counter attack on the chill next to the wood burning stove. We made it a short stop, knowing that the sun was close, but it was just what we needed. Warm fire, warm people.

Cold roadwalking along the Conejo.

The rest of the miles went smoothly after a sunscreen and delayer break. The forest warmed up and we passed the next couple of hours listening to an audiobook through Gronk Ball. Some squirrels enthusiastically tried to drown it out with insane chatter, but we made it.

We finally reached highway 17 and turned along it for the 13 miles to Cumbres Pass, where this alternate route reconnects with the CDT. It also marks the official end of the mountains and has represented safety from major snow since the very beginning of this hike. All we have to do is make it to Cumbres. We were now learning that this isn’t quite the case, but Cumbres still represented a huge achievement for us and we were super duper excited to finally reached it.

Looking back up the river valley where the last San Juan grizzly was killed in 1974. Sad!

The first five miles were constant up, but not too steep. I even had to take off my fleece! There was a sad sign about the last grizzly in Colorado, which was killed in the area in 1974, but my spirits were generally high. This was a beautiful place despite the paved highway. The mountains had disappeared while we were down in the valley and it felt a little strange not having said a proper goodbye. There were mountains, we hiked next to a river for a couple of days, and now they are gone. Just gentle hills covered in trees now. I missed the transition, but still felt good about the decision to take the low route. Being alive is a pretty good feeling.

What happened to all the mountains?

At the top of the hill we stopped for our final lunch in Colorado in a meadow, protected from the wind by the raised highway. Then we just walked and walked for the afternoon. The usual. At around 4pm we were still four miles from Cumbres, but traffic was light and we wanted to catch a ride to Chama, NM before dark, so we started poking out are thumbs for every passing car. This was our toughest hitch of the trail by far and it took us over an hour to snag a ride. We were only a little over a mile from the pass by the time we got picked up.

Time to hitch to Chama on this deserted highway.

Chama was beautifully New Mexican. A little rundown, dusty, and cheap. We got dropped at the Y Motel, the cheapest place in town and checked into the so-called Lucy Ricardo honeymoon sweet. I have no idea what that means, but it’ll do the trick. It has the cutest little oven and nastiest smelling sponge. Spice and I picked up groceries across the road, then made it back to the room to hunker for the evening.

The heat is cranked up, spaghetti and cinnamon rolls are cooking, and the bathtub is filled. After the cold this morning, we really are in the land of enchantment.

1 thought on “CDT Day 118

  1. Allridy
    Dear hikefordays, following my previous messages Im sending the avalanche (dissertation) of questions as promised. Compacted and shortened so far as practicable, they are put in order down below for your consideration. I know you have a busy schedule ,but it’d be astronomically helpful if you could run through some of the compiled aspects. So here it comes. Lets dive right into it, (whenever you you feel like getting around to it):
    1) I know there are numerous options from handheld gps units to inReach explorer+ and phone apps and who knows what else on top everything else. When it comes to navigation I definitely go frenzied as I always have been fascinated by maps. I still remember my best New Year’s present when I was a child and it was a huge political wall-map of our planet exactly the same as we had on the wall in our geography class-room. I spread it out on the floor and got down to meticulous exploration of our tangible material world. Long story short… if I come across a carcass/carrion on a trail, a kill in other words… Id like to fix my position (to mark a way-point I guess it is called in this case) and later on let other oncoming hikers know where exactly with the precise coordinates, where that carrion is located. I dont possess neither handheld dedicated gps unit nor a garmin inreach but I ve seen some tutorials on creating waypoints and that seems to be the answer to my Q. I might be way off with my guesses and quite willing to be corrected. Also, how would I be able to inform those who goes behind me? Can I send messages via inreach to others without knowing their numbers? How to notify all hikers about some potential danger? And again… it comes down even to wildfires,,, but fires has smoke at least, it is not some type of hazard lying just around a tree.
    2) What else… So, do I dare ask you would you do NOBO cdt in the future?
    3) Have you seen any rattlesnake in the basin or currently in NM? To the best of my knowledge they go to hibernation once it drops below 60 F . (And anything around and above 110 F kills them.) . So roughly March to late October in the most locations. Of course it is according to theory textbooks, how is it in reality?
    4) Getting back to basin… How have you felt being so exposed in the great divide basin? Ho much is it.. approximately 150 mi of flat semi-desert without a single tree for shade OR a shelter from thunderstorms. How bugs where out there… Hailstorms by the way, Cheyenne is the most hail-prone city in the US.I have recently discovered such phenomenon as a hail alley =D
    5) Speaking of bugs. Which place was the worst in terms of mosquitoes? Probably it is greatly variable from year to year and weather conditions.
    6) Ok, let me take a look at your first aid kit, thats another aspect I am going crazy about. There are multiple and endless types of dressings, gauze, pads, bandages… Without getting into specifics, what do you apply to the wounds should the need arise? So obviously to stop bleeding we wear gloves and apply direct pressure using some sterile non-adherent/absorbent gauze or a pad. Then irrigation, then disinfection (which is questionable and up to debate but it sounds reasonable to do so) and… and now we have a ton of options what to cover our wound with. A dressing and what to secure dressing with.For a minor cuts it might be just some adhesive waterproof breathable dressings, for some serious some non-adherent gauze as a primary contact layer and plus PU/ PET medical film also called medical/surgical film roll dressing which is used for tattoos also. Just another option to secure. Or for example some surgical tape on top of a gauze to prevent the exposure.. or even band-aid tape. Or maybe just simple roll gauze if the primary layer is waterproof in itself as some foam dressings for instance… I dont know.. there are many options. Hundreds combinations for different types of wounds… dry, with exudation, infected etc. etc. By the way there is an incredible way of clotting blood, arterial bleeding by using haemostatic dressings! But if there is no chance of receiving a definitive medical help within 24 hours this method is inappropriate as this gauze should be removed only by the medical professionals (unless I am wrong). Unless I am much mistaken this gauze might replace tourniquet in some cases and the way it works is truly miraculous. I know it is way out there as a regular plaster can be more than enough on the trail, but… who knows =D You can check out these brands Celox, quikclot etc… So, I got off on a tangent. So, what do you use if need be, for a regular lets say minor cut? Sorry it might be a bit of a personal question.
    7) Speaking of personal… I will go ahead and ask even bolder Q. How do you manage go to the bathroom especially No2 in the desert or semi-desert or just in the field when you can see each other for miles. Exposure, exposure… how does it work?
    8) While we are on the subject… I keep seeing this over and over again – ”Placing toilet paper in plastic bags and packing it out as trash is the best way to Leave No Trace in a desert environment/ or even in any type of environment”. Does anyone carry human waste in their backpacks? If so, how do they dispose it later? In a hotel room? Man… I cant figure this out. And speaking of TP, do majority pack it out and carry? Where do they dispose it later? How do I know where should I pack it out by the law? How to carry used TP after all in a backpack =D ??! I have my food in there.
    9) And the last one related to the same topic. Tooth-brushing and mouthwash waste. Where to spit it out once I brushed and rinsed? do I need to carry some bottle where I would collect it and then pour it out somewhere in a town?
    10) Ok.. enough of that. Now, when are you planning to hike each Canary Island? If I go it right it is your upcoming trip.
    11) What will be your 1st thing you will do once you reach southern terminus?
    12) If you had to choose, what would be your best and worst days on cdt? Only one wonderful and only one hideous. 
    13) Have you ever felt as if being observed by a mountain lion?
    14) Speaking of a feline being… have you met anyone wearing so called ‘hans’, it is a brace worn in auto-racing to protect from whiplash. You might be wondering WTF am I going on about? Actually I saw it on one forum and some people wear it to protect from pouncing a cat on their necks. As they known to ambush and pounce on their prey from behind. I love and admire cats. But…
    15) Have you seen/heard of anyone drawing eyes on the back of the hood as it might deter a cat from approaching from behind. I ve seen this idea on some of the forums too… but then I thought to myself, grizzlies consider it a sign of aggression, imagine they notice these eyes which dont even blink! Another point is a hood itself. You cant hear sh*t wearing it so it is not so safe in sections where it might potentially jump at you. Being alert is more important than any of the techniques trying to scare them off. I am not an expert.. just speculating. Full awareness of the surroundings is the best weapon imho. And yet. 
    16) Speaking of deterrence or protection. Dont laugh but is there anyone hiking certain sections wearing antisnake gaiters? Yes there are such gaiters on the internet and can be as high as up to the knee. I know what you think. And I wish these gaiters were weightless and up to my neck.
    17) ursack or canister? I heard some wilderness areas require canister no matter what type of a bag/sack you carry. Do you have any, or both? Or none.
    18) Now. Since I brought up ”wilderness” term. What is the difference essentially between wilderness area, national forest and national park FROM a hiker’s perspective? Do they all have different permit types and regulations to set a camp? For some reason I think that wilderness areas dont make you obligated to set camp in the designated sites. I leave it up to your interpretation.
    19) Are there many people hiking cook-less so to say, oven-less? This topic is huge to me, as I have to follow certain eating protocol and that life wouldnt be feasible without this tiny piece of equipment. I guess you have to have very strong digestive system to tolerate harsh diet. Now… I will not deviate too much off the point but, how would it work if I take what I can boil for 5 minutes on full fire then switch it off and wrap with some cloth/clothes/towel to let it sit for another 15 min. Not to sound puffed with vanity and self-aggrandising but my eating regimen consists of buckwheat (which I pre-soak in warm water with apple cider vinegar and Himalayan salt and a bit of lemon juice maybe), brown rice (soaked right in the same bowl with buckwheat together), amaranth flakes, quinoa flakes, millet flakes (this one in moderation as it might cause iodine deficiency) , cous-cous (only if I am in a pinch, really once in a blue moon, probably it should be off the list), buckwheat flakes, sweet potato vermicelli, brown rice vermicelli, pumpkin seed protein powder, brown rice flakes (yes!) and a lot of green leafy veggies and cruciferous (green cabbage and brussel sprouts are the favourite). Starchy veg such as sweet potato or just regular potato etc just once in a while. It has been a while actually (2 months maybe since Ive eaten them the last time).This is the staple foods and I dont eat anything else at all. Of course sometimes I fall off the wagon but it is not too long until I am back on track (in the best case scenario). No gluten (so far as practicable), no sugar (this one avoided like a plague at all costs god forbid even thinking about it=D), no dairy (another plague), no soy, no junk fast-food food (very very occasionally), no grains (yes brown rice and others are all virtually grains but… I am on and off from it), no anything fried etc etc. Where am I going with this? I would like to ask what if I carry some of my flakes (4 different types, they are lightweight and increase in size when cooked) only and vermicelli which I could 5 min boil and 15 minutes to steep and absorb all the liquid wrapped in some clothes. I know it is a hassle. I wouldnt take vegetables or grains that require soaking such as buckwheat whole roasted groats or brown rice etc. It can be cooked only in home conditions. But I still would take some dried parsley as a seasoning ( I love it so much! ). I know some people eat tortillas…some eat nut butters… some eat oats… I do eat oats here but only as an emergency back-up meal. Id take instant oats or a quick cooking version (5 min max) along too for a variety sake. I hate cooking oats in all honesty. Not to mention that it is very acidic (I know rice too, buckwheat too to some extent) and ALWAYS burns to the bottom of the pot. It always runs overboard spilling the whole oven-top and is hard to cool off so you always burn your mouth roof and when it cools off it taste like cardboard. It doesnt spill ONLY if it is put on top of other things (as a top layer) in a cooking pot which are not notorious for burning/overflowing and left to cook on full power without a lid on for the first 5 to 10 min. Each to its own. On the trail people eat from the practical and less time consuming considerations. I totally get it. I acknowledge that. Thru hike is like a f***g marathon. But…. I need to find my way around it. You see… if I treat my GI tract in an untactful manner it will punish me mercilessly. My whole digestive pathway should be taken care of otherwise I am totally out of commission. As I said, if I feel like eating garbage I go for it happily but I am aware of repercussions which are always on the other end of the scales with the short-lived 5 minute pleasures. But, in any case, maybe by that time I will come with some fresh ideas. Now all my preparations are in the initial development/ infancy stage. Another roadblock is where would I get my food to resupply myself if I way outside of the US and trail-towns for me would mean only shopping and not boxes sent to myself. Right… Everything changes as time moves on. Doesnt matter. My  problems. I will take care of it. What is up next… 
    20) Have you ever done bikepacking / mt biking with camping =) ? Do you have any friends who accomplished GDMBR from Can to México? Or PCBR pacific crest bike route? It sounds way too cool and appealing. Or maybe you heard some stories about long distance biking… how it differs from hiking in general terms ? What news are out there in this regard?
    21) Now let me make full circle waaaay back to the questions where I mentioned navigation sources.  Garmin gpsmap 64st, seems to nice piece of kit. It is a handheld device which works on BOTH gps and Glonass services which makes it more reliable similar to PLB in terms of signal which is not hampered by the canopy overhead or any other obstruction. Would it be reasonable to use it in place of a phone app? And keep that phone somewhere just as a back up? Or inreach is better as it features life track and satellite communication which are imho awesome components. Do you need PLB if you have inReach as some people say that inreach actually not so trustable as it seems and nothing can replace good old plb. Do you use paper maps when you go on shorter hikes in some national forests? I am trying to learn how to read topography charts and all the features on it in order to be able to locate myself. It is in the process, not all at once. These skills are definitely not applicable to thru hike although some claim you need a compass and maps.. well I would have it with pleasure but not for 3000 mi route. I am a total lunatic and fanatic when it comes to maps, I am in love with it, but not for thru hikes. Thats just my tenuous and inexperienced point of view.
    22) Pfff.. I truly apologise for such a wall of text. Now I will say this: Mt Shasta! Yes. Have you ever hiked around that area, I mean, specifically on the foothills of it? That sacred place is so magnetising. It has been revered by the Native indigenous tribes since the time immemorial and even by those who inhabited that site way back before the First Nations. That whole area is very prominent in that sense. The whole cascade range , for instance the mount itself, then  Lassen peak, Medicine Lake highlands , lava beds national monument , klamath falls link river trail , Crater Lake, Mt Hood-Mt Adams-Mt Rainier triangle (there are shots of these 3 giants in one frame which is simply mind-blowing) all these areas are very strong energetically. Id also like to visit lake Almanor and Redwood national forests and parks along the coast… and of course Cannon beach area/Ecola state park in Oregon. Do you have any reviews on this score?It would be quite costly to make my own trail/loop around all those spots but I guess… it brings us to the next point.
    23) If you dont mind my asking, how much it costs to traverse from one terminus to another, and is Pct more expensive than Cdt? (including all the gear and some extra savings for a rainy day or emergencies).
    24) Speaking of emergencies. My feeling is that I need some type of insurance which covers snake bite antivenom treatment (I almost fell from the chair when I saw how much it costs!! The company that provides antivenom is based overseas and it is a monopolist hence it can make any price tag they want.). It can go over 500 000 USD depending how many shots you need i.e. your personal response to the bite. Only one vial costs 3000 usd. So in general by all accounts it is from 80 000 usd to 150 000 usd. Extortionately and exorbitantly expensive)) Also… helicopter reimbursement that includes medical emergency requiring a chopper extraction. It might also be very expensive depending on help you needed. I am not aware how it works for the US citizens, maybe it is all free of charge… so, just something to reflect on as it can be an issue.
    25) Enough of issues. Let me say that I prefer reading blogs and seeing just a few pictures rather than watching youtube videos where you see every section of the trail in great detail. I prefer NOT to watch so as to keep it for me unseen in case I finally do it myself. I want it to remain an uncharted territory for me scenery-wise. No expectations in terms of scenery. I have watched a few thru hiker videos and now I regret about it to be honest. They are all amazing a content creators, editors and doing a hard work filming but… I dont need it =D One week hikes are watchable, thru hikes no it is forbidden.
    26) Guthook or gaia applications? Which one is more accurate… Ive heard no matter which app they all fail to provide anything outside of the trail boundaries, it shows things which are directly on the trail. If you need to bail out or find a water source or an alternate these apps appear to be of no use. Maybe there is some other app better than these 2? Some hikers use handheld gps units with uploaded maps where you have much wider area west and east with all the features on it and not only trail itself particularly as there is no trail on cdt as such.
    27) Since Ill definitely won’t take any cameras on a thru hike I have space for other tools to use that space to make me feel more safe so to speak. Which are navigation sources and portable first aid kit.From my perspective there is no redundancy when it comes to these 2 pieces of gear. If it is a 7-days exploration of some wilderness area where you are meandering in awe without any deadline and having freedom then camera is priority number one. Then certainly yes. What do you reckon of my reckoning in this regard? What are your feelings on that.
    28) One quick step back towards the first aid kit. What antiseptic/disinfectant do you//hikers use if need be? Some sources claim that only proper irrigation with saline solution is more than enough and sufficient for an open wound and advocate against antiseptics but I personally dont feel in peace leaving a wound without using something to kill pathogens. Yes alcohol or H2O2 is definitely a disaster for tissues but Id happily and with enthusiasm use some sort of a mild agent. Do you keep any of these: triple antibiotic ointment, bacitracin zinc ointment, neosporin multi action, betadine solution (10% diluted to 1%/not scrab or hand cleanser but pure), hibiclens antiseptic (pure, not scrab or hand cleanser), germolene, savlon, betadine, povidone iodine (essentially this is Betadine diluted and used for open wounds), brilliant green antiseptic ?? I am not sure about ionic silver (including all dressings impregnated with ionic silver) as there is myriad of conflicting information about efficacy and side effects of it. It seems to be so potent, but… it is quite arguable. Excuse my curiosity but what do you use out there? When I was writing this I realised that frost/low temps should be taken into account when carrying first aid kit. What if you need it and it turned into ice… interesting. Same logic applies to drops which are used to treat/filter drinking water (or even water which you wish to use as a debris cleanser if worst comes to worst). So… a great spectrum of agents to tackle this situations. Which one proved to be solid and reliable in the field conditions??
    So… here we go. We will call it a wrap for now. I might be left out a few Q and allow me please add them later on in case it comes come back to my memory. I genuinely appreciate the time you spent on putting up with this Chinese Wall of text. Thanks for any feedback you are able to offer as soon as time permits. I know I could have been more succinct and moderate with the use of words but what is done cannot be undone and Im pressing on ”Leave a Reply”. 

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