April 28th, 2019
Burro Peak Trailhead mm 116.5 – Side Canyon tank mm 144
Distance in miles: 27.5
I found the best frog and horned lizard today, so I called it a “herpy” day. Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. I love salamanders but also other herps. I just don’t mess with snakes.
Climbing almost 2000 feet up to 8000 feet in elevation was the order for this morning. The climb went well but all the while I was dreaming about a smaller and lighter pack. Just when I thought I was pretty content with my gear, Trail Days gave me a bad case of packserexia.
There were many nice views around the tops of Jacks and Burro Peak. I could see back towards Lordsburg and the Bootheel, thinking of all those hikers scrambling through the desert. Up here it was cool and full of Juniper, Piñon, and Ponderosa Pine. There were also many wildflowers, including Paintbrush, which I like very much. In fact, the wind made it downright chilly.
I descended and came across the first naturally flowing stream of the trip. It was just a trickle and seeping into the ground but still. I could have collected water but didn’t need to. Around 1030, I stopped at another real stream, this one with good puddles and flowing water. I was elated to find the cutest frog, which I almost stepped on since it blended in so well with the rocks. Desert frogs. This place was a little haven, with shade trees and green grass. I took a good break to collect and drink water.
Up the hill from the stream, something scurried across the path and I gasped when I saw what it was. The biggest and most elaborate horned lizard ever! I’ve seen many on this trip so far but all pretty small at about 1-2 inches. This guy was about 5 inches and had the most wild scales, bumps, horns, and colors. Seriously, it was like looking at a miniature dragon.
It was really friendly too. Without grabbing it, I was able to coax it onto my hand for a better look. What a cool creature, probably even cooler than the best salamanders I have found. Later I will probably discover that it’s like the only venomous horned lizard and I shouldn’t have handled it. Supposedly some can squirt blood from their eyes. Given that this one was very gently guided onto my hand, no blood came out.
This made my day but I was on alert to see a snake next…but I never did. I did see and hear tons of other wildlife the rest of the day. Many birds, including jays and ringtone birds…I don’t know what they are but their song sounds like a ringtone and they have been everywhere in the desert. There was also a lot of bear and coyote scat. Later I saw some big bear prints. People hunt them with hounds in season so I was told to make a hound sound and that will scare them away.
The afternoon finally got hot and I was struggling for the last few hours. I had to put the umbrella up. I passed another flowing stream with good campsites, but it was too early to stop. There was also a cooler with trail magic near a road…water, granola bars, lst aid items, and some chips. I ate pringles.
Near the end of the day, I came to the infamous intersection (mm 142) where a trail is marked with CDT markers but is incomplete and ends in the middle of nowhere. The correct path is to the right on a road. Blindly following the markers can actually get you into trouble on this trail, so other navigational aids and local knowledge are key.
I needed to make it to a water tank for the night. The trail broke off the road to follow a dry wash and canyon, which was very cool. There was flowing water at a few points, but it always disappeared into the ground. I love these ephemeral streams…water coming from the ground then going back in, like magic.
I found the tank in a side canyon, which seemed to form a bowl, well protected from the wind. It was a cozy spot and I was surprised not to find anyone else there. In fact, I had not seen anyone else since early in the morning. Trail Days created a bit of a gap and I am way out in front of those in the Lordsburg to Silver City section. Finally the CDT proves itself to be desolate.
I had a nice evening in this quiet spot, even if the tank water looked a bit gross and there were lots of bugs…gnats and flies mostly. I used my pot to scoop water below the scum on the surface and it was surprisingly clear and good-tasting water. Today had the best water of the whole trip, not having to rely on caches. Tomorrow: Silver City again.