CDT Day 125: San Pedro Peaks to Marion Butte – Plan Camp to Cold Cuba Escape Camp
Miles hiked: 21
Total miles: 2203.9
I heard something once about how Eskimo people have a bunch of different words for snow because to them, it is important to distinguish between subtle or not so subtle variations in the physical properties of ice particles falling from the sky. I think I understand that a little bit better now. Yep, you guessed it. More snow for us in New Mexico today. Different intensities, different textures, and different levels of enjoyment. All of it was cold though, so hot food in town was a welcome treat after a snowy morning. There wasn’t much in Cuba, NM, but it was just enough.
The snow started coming down at the perfect time, if there is such a thing. SpiceRack and I felt the first flakes just as we were preparing to hit the snooze button for the first time. Nope, no snoozing this morning. It was light at first, but then started snowing hard. Cowboy campers get moving. So we did.
The snow was blowing sideways when we started hiking, following the edge of the trees then a faint trail across a meadow. I needed my headlamp in the dark to follow the light track, but I struggled to see anything at all even with it. Snow stung my face and eyes. I lifted a hand to shield myself, but then I blocked the light from my headlamp. I eventually found a tenuous balance, but staying on trail was a tough chore.
The world lightened a little as we made our way back into the trees where it was calmer, yet still cold and snowing. I sucked on the ice drops in my mustache, but they weren’t going anywhere for a while. We made first tracks through the accumulating snow, warm in the trees, cold out of them. Sleet came down in a loud barrage for a few minutes, then lightened to fatter, softer flakes.
I followed Spice downhill and hopefully out of the worst of the storm. It was calm in a small drainage, but I still had a hard time keeping my hands warm. My breath could only do so much. A misty snow filled the air, coating all my exposed hair in a white armor. Snow beard, snow mustache, snow eyelashes, and even a snow unibrow. I admit, this was a pretty cool feeling. The cold was worth the selfie. The beautiful snowy calm of the forest was cool too.
We made it to a trailhead then took a short break before moving down road for eight miles to town. I thought for sure that the snow would stop by the time we got this low, but brief views across the desert suggested that this snow was everywhere. Snow in the desert. Of course there is snow in the desert. SOBO life! The roadwalk was quick and beautiful. The sun even started to peak through the clouds occasionally. San Pedro Peaks were hidden in cloud and probably still getting a bunch of snow, but we were out of it. By noon we turned on the highway through Cuba.
Our first stop was at the local burritory. Spice told me to brush the drifted snow from my pack before entering. Hot beans were still fresh in my belly when Rooster and Crunchberry showed up, looking very much like I felt. Cold and weather beaten. I ate another round of burritos before we headed out to explore Cuba.
There was not much in the depressed town and it reminded me of Mojave, CA where I lived for a few years after hiking the PCT. Just a rundown gas stop along a busy highway. But it had what we needed. A post office to pick up our resupply boxes, bounced here from South Pass City, a Family Dollar for chips, and a library for internet. Spice and I handled our few chores, then found the dudes in their motel room so we could fill our water bottles and cook a warm meal before leaving town.
Crunchberry was having a hell of a time doing laundry or buying any food after the power went out in half the town. The washer shut down and the McDonald’s employees had all gone home early. The only open business he found was the liquor store. That just seemed to make sense for some reason. We heard his tale of woe while slurping noodles from a shared pot. Then, at 6pm, Spice and I shouldered our packs to walk out of town despite protests from the dudes. The temptation to stay indoors was powerful, but we had dreams of making a few more miles before setting up.
The sun was setting in a clear sky when we finally walked out of Cuba, sucking on a cinnamon lollypop for warmth. It was still cold, but there was no snow left on the ground down here. A glance back to San Pedro showed a snowy place with snowy trees. We turned off the paved highway after four miles, feeling pretty good about that after seeing a road sign that said, “Grants 124.” It was only 100 trail miles for us to Grants. That never happens!
We followed a sandy road for a couple miles further, then pitched the tent against the cold in the dark under a small juniper. It was cold anyway, but dry at least. After so many burritos in town, a bar was all I needed for dinner. I scarfed it down then burrowed into my quilt, hoping for a cozy ride to tomorrow. Maybe the sun will shine and the air will be warm. Maybe that was the last snow of this hike. We keep saying that. Eventually it will be true.