CDT Day 135 — November 7
Ed Jones Rd to Wagontongue Mountain
Lightning Show Camp to Sciatic Ouch Camp
Miles hiked: 27.5
Total miles: 2422.5
A couple days of warm weather. No snow seen in days. Flat walking on smooth road. Burritos with green chili. New Mexico and the CDT finally seemed to be giving us a chill time. But of course, there is always something. And something struck today. This challenge is for SpiceRack, who seems to be getting more than her fair share out here as anyone following along will know. A pinched sciatic nerve, it appears to be, a pretty crappy affliction for a hiker trying to hike 28 miles a day. However, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that Spice is a trooper and crushes all forms of adversity. This sciatica thing doesn’t stand a chance.
After a night of off and on rain, we woke up to a damp cold that made packing up harder than usual. We were hiking just before 7am. We’re not early risers, but even this was late for us. Damn hour change. But that didn’t bother us. The easy road cruising continued and the morning was beautiful. Tall ponderosa pine dragged my gaze up, and I wondered why so many of them tilted with a stylish gangster lean. Peanut butter mud combined with pine needles to create a robust wattle and daub concoction on the bottom of our shoes that made us feel like we were wearing ankle weights. This affected our gait, and though it was futile, we scraped it off on a rock only to have it accumulate again in a few steps. Nita had said that the rain in New Mexico is a “dry rain.” Lies! This forest was a damp sponge.
Steam rose from the ground and trees after the sun had a chance to warm up the world, like a great exhale. Spice and I breathed this in, breathed in the forest. We climbed up gentle road switchbacks to the top of Mangas Mountain, surprised by the closeness of the clouds and the expansiveness of the view through the trees. Ponderosa covered hills in every direction. The road continued its gentle ways on the way down the other side. Miles scrolled by in an easy comfort that has been rare on the CDT. I savored the moment and noted the resting smile on my face.
We took a short backrest break, just because we could, then continued gradually down past an unexpected water cache then a quiet campsite. Almost constantly I craned my head backwards in awe of the massive ponderosa that populated this place. In a grove of these magnificent trees we settled in a patch of sun for lunch. I ate what I could, then listened to the silence and pondered whether or not I had enough food for this section while Spice napped. If you always eat your best food, then you’re always eating your best food.
Shortly after getting back on trail is when Spice’s sciatic nerve decided to jam a hot knife into her sacrum. Initially a twinge, it grew until it she was limping, a rye grimace telling me that this was serious. We did the best we could. She stretched, massaged, and applied icy-hot cream, trying to loosen up the muscles. All of this had limited mileage. After some starts and stops, she decided to try pushing through it, and to her credit, she did great. Crunchberry and Rooster caught up with us, and I was grateful for how their presence and conversation improved the mood. Spice limped on, in pain I am sure, but unwilling to let it stop her. We talked about TV shows and tried to rename New Mexico.
Sunset was spectacular behind some dramatic clouds. Then we were in the dark. We crossed a paved road and continued on the dirt, resisting the temptation to make friends with whoever had that campfire over there. Filtering water from Aragon Tank under dim moonlight was probably a blessing, as the dark masked just how nasty it was. The flavor of the final product was good enough for me though. From there, Spice and I were looking at five more miles to camp. This would have been a big ask on the best of nights. Tonight, I wasn’t sure… But you know it by now, Spice rules. She ground out the miles and, after a big climb and endless forest meandering, we pulled into camp right where we planned to be. It was late, and I was exhausted. I struggled to imagine how Spice must have felt. There wasn’t much time to consider it. I passed out hard after polishing off my supply of Oreos, with little regret that there would be no more for many days. A lack of Oreos seems like a trivial thing now.