September 26th, 2019
Mm 2340.9 to mm 2375.1
Distance in miles: 34.2
I sleep very well and for the first time in a long while, wake up feeling hot. It’s so warm and also dead silent overnight. Not even the crickets are stirring when my alarm goes off. Some coyotes start up while I’m eating breakfast…they too have a thing for the sunrise.
And what a sunrise it is… quintessentially New Mexico. Oranges and pinks reflect off the bluffs, pinnacles, and canyon walls. It’s delightful.
Just before I cross a highway, a hiker calls out to me from his cowboy camp. It’s Paha, the guy whose footprints I’ve been following and that the artists told me about. Except he isn’t Swedish but Czech. It’s a hard accent to pin down, I know. We chat for a bit and he’s so impressed that I not only know where the Czech Republic is but I’ve been there.
Paha is also going all the way to Grants and I think for a minute that I’ve just found another hiking buddy. But he plans to take 2 zeros in Cuba. From what Relentless told me about the place, I don’t even want to spend one night there. Our schedules are off. Still, it’s nice to be seeing new faces on the trail this late in the game.
Between the mesa and the rise to the San Pedros is a wonderful ponderosa forest. I walk easily and relaxed through it, enjoying the most lovely of mornings. I reach the first couple of water sources and collect from a spring gushing from the ground. With all the cows around, this is ideal, but I still filter the water. Then I start the 2,000′ climb to the top of the San Pedro peaks. The gain is spread over 5 miles so it’s pretty easy. There are a couple viewpoints that allow me to glimpse a few peaks to the north but mostly all I can see are trees all day. Soon I’m up at 10,600′ again, surrounded by dense forest and large meadows. Back in May, my trail friends all had to hike through snow in this section. It’s dry and easy going today, albeit slightly chilly once some cumulus clouds start building overhead.
I make good time and before long, I’m working my way back down to 7000′. I know that going over this range is quite a highlight for NOBOs, since it’s one of the first high mountain environments they encounter. But going south, I’ve seen enough high mountains and just want more warm desert.
The trail ends at a forest road, where I run into a NOBO section hiker. He plans to go all the way to Steamboat and I wonder at the wisdom of trying to hike the CDT through Colorado in October and possibly even into November. All I know is that I was glad to get through before the end of September and I felt it was not a minute too soon. Hope he knows what he’s getting into.
I begin an 8 mile road walk into town. It’s pleasant enough, with only a few cars passing. At one point, a bull stands in my way in the middle of the road. I clack my trekking poles together and shout until he moves off to the side. Yes, I just bullied a bull and won…sort of. I’m so used to seeing bovines, both on the CDT and TA, they don’t really concern me. Then again, it’s the only large animal ever to have charged at me. It gets hot suddenly and I marvel that only a few days ago, I was praying for this kind of heat. Now it’s a bit much but I can handle it. Supposedly it breaks into the 90’s today.
I reach the town of Cuba and shortly can tell, it’s the kind of place that I don’t want to linger. A busy highway runs through it and everything is so run down, it’s depressing. I eat a disgusting hamburger at McDonald’s then visit the small grocery and dollar store to get my resupply. The dollar store has so many items un-stocked or missing from the shelves, it looks like there’s been a recent hurricane scare.
I’ve already walked 30 miles to get to Cuba but am happy to walk some more to leave it. Trouble is, it’s a long highway walk out of town and I don’t have much daylight left. Something will work out, it always does. At least it’s cooled, which makes for a pleasant pavement walk. The outskirts of town are filled with trailers and junk collections. Dogs bark and gunshots occasionally ring out from a distant location. Aggressive “No Trespassing” signs are posted everywhere and many places have high barbed-wire fencing.
It’s all very off-putting and I just hope to find a stand of trees off the road, but the trees are getting scarce too. I seize an opportunity to head up into some trees where there’s an open gate. I ensure that there are no cars coming before ducking off the road but realize too late that there’s a truck off-roading on the other side of the highway. I fear someone might have seen me but I set up my tent on top of a bluff, behind some trees, not even using my headlamp. I don’t care for my location but it’s what I ended up with. I listen to the revving of the truck move further away and then feel secure enough to go to sleep.