Saturday Apr 24th, 2021, 1100-1900
Johnson Hill (Socorro) to Grey Ridge cut, Segment 33, mm 643
23.5 miles (plus 9 from Thursday’s attempt)
I had never been so on the fence about finishing a hike before. I didn’t manage to hold dinner down overnight and the knot in my stomach felt the worst it had when I woke up. I fretted for hours overnight about what to do. I knew Stellar was ready to walk again, so at least that was settled. Sam was driving to Phoenix on this day, so I could just go back with him. Or hang out for a few more days, meeting Stellar down the road. Or just keep walking…which I’ve never been more loathe to do. I was pretty sure I might just forfeit the remainder because it just didn’t matter that much to me anymore.
After getting some coffee, fruit, and half an english muffin down, I felt a lot better. I wavered 180 once again, deciding I should at least try to walk. I felt very apprehensive packing my bag, wondering if I was doing the right thing. For starters, I either had too much food, given my lack of appetite, or far too little if my hiker hunger were to come back with a vengeance. And would I have the strength to push through to at least the next highway? So many extremes.
After dragging our feet for awhile, reluctant to leave a beautiful refuge and to say goodby to our sweet host family, Kate dropped us off at the point where I had been picked up on Thursday. My stomach at least felt ok and didn’t get worse as I walked. The weather was beautiful, clear with a cool breeze at our backs and not too hot despite the fully exposed sun. We walked a series of dirt roads most of the day, passing two different ranches that had been abandoned. We stopped for a break to collect water at the second. Remnants of stone and mud structures were all around, with the main house still largely intact. The windmill was still working, filling a trough with fresh water. Coy fish swam in the trough and a huge cottonwood stood guard over the whole thing. There were many birds coming to drink and I watched a sharp shinned hawk give chase to a dove. There’s always an element of risk in nature. For us, it was all very peaceful and a great place to relax in the shade. I wanted to stay longer. Too bad I could barely choke down anything for lunch but I managed a few small things.
I thought I wouldn’t miss out on much if I skipped this stretch but already I was glad I didn’t. The surrounding hills and mesas were quite stunning and I actually enjoyed the walking. Thank goodness it was pretty level all day, with perfect soft tread to boot. It looked like it had rained the day before, as the sand and dust was somewhat packed. It made it so we could just look around while we walked. There was barely a tree when we started, just miles of creosote. But eventually we went higher, escaping the Rio Grande valley into the juniper studded hills.
We made it to another wind and solar trough at the end of the day. We needed to collect water for the night but cows were standing in the corral and started freaking out as we approached. One lone calf got stuck inside, bashing itself against the fence repeatedly. I felt so bad. We got our water and moved on quickly so the cows could go back to their business. I hoped to walk right up until dark but came to a stretch that went over a big hill cross country. I was in a wash with a decent juniper for protection, so it seemed wise to settle on that, leaving the more difficult stuff for the next day.
The wind was still blowing quite strong in the wash and I had a hard time fighting it to get my tent up. Once protected inside, I realized how comfortable the temperature was. It would be nice to have a warm night for a change. I forced dinner and went straight to sleep, hoping I could trick my stomach into accepting the calories I needed so badly. It was good to at least be back on the trail.
PS…I didn’t count the 3 days off in Socorro as trail days since they were unplanned. Normally I count zero days, as I did with the previous 2 on this hike. It doesn’t really matter either way since it’s not like I’m trying to set a speed record on this trail.