CDT Day 128 — October 31
Cerro Colorado to Mount Taylor
Ice Cold Mesa Camp to Soft As Pine Camp
Miles hiked: 28.1
Total miles: 2284.7
Our last ‘coldest night’? We will see, but I think it could be hard to beat. SpiceRack and I woke up with concerned text messages from our friends who had retreated to Cuba yesterday, wondering if we had made it through the night safe and sound. It was a pretty darn cold day to start, but it warmed up quickly as we cruised across an amazingly flat landscape towards Mount Taylor. We listened to some podcasts, learned about foraging pine nuts from some locals, and enjoyed our nasty trough water. The miles and conversation became more difficult around the wrinkled base of the mountain, but when the time to camp cam, Spice and I were feeling strong and united in our lust for Taco Bell. Burritos possess a great power.
So yeah, it was really really ridiculously cold this morning. Honestly, it didn’t feel too bad because the air was calm, but my thermometer read around -2°F when we packed up. Yikes, that’s cold. Just like yesterday and the day before, and wait, the day before that too, we got hiking wearing all of our layers, hands in pockets, water bottle in my jacket to thaw. Freaking New Mexico. Desert my ass. We continued along the dirt road, flat as can be, through meadows of sage and dispersed forest of pinion pine. Sunrise finally reached us, golden sparkles of frost at our feet and all around us, and we planted ourselves on the dirt in the nearest patch of sun, hoping to warm up with a cup of tea and dark chocolate. After leaving, Spice and I both commented on how we were actually colder than when we first stopped, but the yummy snack was worth it.
We left the trees behind as the day warmed up and we stripped off layers. The lumpy mass of Mount Taylor rose up in the distance, but we had miles of straight walking across lava flats to get there. We turned on Gronk and learned this and that from a couple podcasts, soaking in the warmth that had seemed so far away yesterday.
A couple hours later not much had changed, but we reached the only water source of the day, our first since lunch yesterday and our last before reaching Grants tomorrow. A thick layer of ice still covered the surface and Spice used her foot to break through to access the murky green water below. Filtering this stuff was slow work, but it was time for lunch anyway, so we set up for a long bask in the warm sunshine. I pooped. We ate.
Finally moving again, the podcasts and road continued for a short while before we got a little lost, then stuck on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Some quick GPS navigating got us back on track, on trail now instead of road, and we meandered through ponderosa pine and patches of snow. The sun sank low, the precious flatness became crinkled. Mount Taylor is an old volcano, which means that supporting slopes are cut with radiating canyons that are a huge pain to walk down, up, around, and across. Our pace slowed and the temperature plummeted. Snow from days ago still clung to these cold depths, and we made the first human tracks, finding that coyotes like to use trail too.
Heavy conversation blurred my memory of the after-dark hours. There wasn’t much to see anyway. Just a small spot of red light from my headlamp guiding me along a rollercoaster of slippery snow slopes. Time lost meaning with bigger issues at play than tired legs, aching feet, or a growling stomach. However, by the time Spice and I reached the top of our last climb around 9pm, the moonlight lit the way and we were in a better place emotionally. Smiles and jokes felt slightly foreign, as they sometimes can after a short hiatus, but we were feeling so fine that we even considered hiking another hour to allow the good times to roll. How do you feel about aliens? At a certain point though, addition today means subtraction tomorrow, so we pitch the tent under some trees on a springy pile of needles. Hungry, tired, happy. Cold couscous and Oreos for dinner. Tired, happy. Snuggle close in our quilts. Happy. Think about Taco Bell. Hungry again, still happy.