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Posts Tagged ‘campsite’

**From October 2015**

We lingered at Ghost Ranch while Crosby and Memphis planned to hitch over to Santa Fe for the balloon festival. Memphis, having finished his flip and went a little extra, would head out after the festival, while Crosby found a way back to the trail.

Extra fiber…?

The Darkness, E.D., and I set out meandering through the desert, attempting not to run into the increasingly numerous plants sporting large spike devises. Eventually we followed the Rio Chama over to one of the more entertaining water sources we’d seen yet. It boasted a cow trough hidden slightly off trail amongst high grasses and a dead coiled snake near the easiest spot to grab water after we scraped the green slime to the side.

After grabbing some water from the trough, which tasted surprisingly good despite its outward appearance, we hiked on into canyons and on mesas. I found myself surprised at the amount of trees in northern New Mexico. I somewhat expected a desert more like the first 700 miles of the PCT, but I am quickly learning that the different areas of desert have significantly different characters.

For example, this desert boasted quite a few tarantulas. So many, in fact, that I purposely set up my tent each night simply for the peace of mind that I would not wake up with one on my face. Fascinating to watch, I found that the tarantulas photographed quite well and did not seem to mind my phone hovering near them.

I had heard through the thru-hiking grapevine (mostly from nobos) that to be free of the big snow potential, we needed to get south of Ghost Ranch. However, we still had to climb up and over the San Pedro Peaks to get into Cuba which reached 10,500 feet. We climbed up towards the end of a day looking for a flat campsite. Right as the sun had set and dusk began getting dark, we narrowly missed a turn in the CDT. One of those where the obvious trail goes one way and the CDT breaks off to the side. Just down in some trees off the trail, we found an excellent campsite.

San Pedro peaks, which we camped on that night, resembled more of a large mesa instead of mountains. When we woke up, the large grassy, swampy, fieldy areas were covered in frost. Cue: frosty feet. Meaning: very cold feet.

My feet did not warm up until we hit a dirt road at the bottom of San Pedro peaks which would take us into Cuba. We went from lots of layers straight into tank tops. With a several mile meander into town, we made some of our necessary town phone calls, then went straight into El Bruno, a popular Mexican restaurant.

Stuffed full of Mexican food and margaritas, we stumbled into a motel room where we proceeded to have a TLC binge for “My Strange Addiction.” Coming from the mesas and frosty feet straight into five hours of reality television was a shock. However, it gave us fodder to quote incessantly for the rest of the trail. Our favorite included a couple and their very strange addiction to coffee enemas.

Man: I thought coffee enemas were disgusting. Then I tried a coffee enema. Now I’m addicted to coffee enemas.

You can imagine how the rest of that show went.

We continued watching TLC the next morning until we had to leave with several hours of 90 Day Fiancé. Not as entertaining.

The Darkness’s new leggings.

Of course, leaving town took forever. But The Darkness had bought a Melanzana skirt to match the ones E.D. and I picked up in Leadville as well as some French Fry leggings. We had a several mile road walk out of town, which went right past the Cuba Café. By that time, it was noon and we decided lunch should happen.

Finally, we stumbled out of town in absurd heat. Once we got off the official road walk and onto a trail, we found patches of shade to take a break under. The trail between Cuba and Grants had very diverse landscapes to go through. Some looked like Mars. Some had amazing petrified wood. Others had thick piñon pine forests.

On some BLM land, The Darkness found a piece of petrified wood that she became rather attached to and decided to carry. E.D. and I took turns guessing how much it weighed.

Me: Five pounds.

E.D.: Six pounds.

The Darkness: No, it’s not that much. Maybe four pounds.

Me: At least four and a half.

E.D.: At least five.

The Darkness: Maybe I shouldn’t carry it.

Me: No, you should definitely carry that, it’s super cool.

E.D.: Yeah, I agree.

That evening, we found a spikey-plant free location. We set up our tents without rain flies to see the stars without having unexpected tarantula visits.  This location also had just enough cell service to get a text from Crosby that he was doing his best to keep up.  Due to our lingering and his not lingering, he was closing in.  We texted him our location and our plan for Grants, the next town.

In the morning, we had another extremely hot day. Despite starting early, we hit one of the main water sources for the day right at lunch, before a large climb. We sat at a questionable tank.

E.D.: Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

The Darkness: I feel like an arm is going to come out of it and pull one of us in.

Me: It’d be another good horror movie set.

The color of the water discouraged us from drinking it, however, we did anyway. We decided to update the source for sobos because all of the water sources had notes from and for the nobos. We gave it a Halloween twist because that was coming up in about two weeks.

From the water source, we plugged up one of the big climbs in this stretch. At the top, The Darkness did some talking that ended up extending this section by about half a day at least…

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**From October 2015**

As we were hitching and not getting picked up, a mini bus pulled over. A tour mini bus. With older people. We thought there was a mistake. Until Memphis popped out of the window and the driver opened the doors and told us to get in. Only Memphis could yogi a ride from a paid tour group full of people in nice shoes and cardigans. In exchange for the ride, the driver had us talk about our hike until we got to Chama.

Hoping out of the tour mini bus, we set our packs down in the bar. E.D. and I had both sent packages to the post office, so we ran over there before it closed while The Darkness, Crosby, and Memphis got a head start on beers. Technically, E.D. finished her flip in Chama, but The Darkness, Crosby, and I had been trying to convince her to just keep hiking and become a true sobo. What’s another 700ish miles? Why not, right? We had celebratory beers anyway, partly because Platoro had none.

Full of food and beer, we heading toward the Y, the best, cheap, hiker friendly motel in the area. It was about a mile away, so we threw our thumbs out just in case. At an intersection, a very large man in camo pants and a neon green shirt waved us down and ran across the street. He was giving out New Mexico bandanas to passersby. When he heard we were hikers, he offered us a ride in his monster truck to the motel.

We climbed up and got there lickity split. As we piled out, we saw the front desk lady laughing and shaking her head. Leaving our packs outside, we meandered in to see what spaces she had.

Front Desk Lady: I knew you were hikers the second I saw five of you jump out the back of that thing! Haven’t seen to0 many of you since April!

She hooked us up with a good deal on two rooms between the five of us and we set about the normal chores plus a few extra ones. In The Darkness’s absence from us, she had decided to stop brushing her hair and had formed a single dread under her hat with all of her hair somehow in it. One job was to brush that out.

The weather had begun to look nasty again as we managed to sneak in the laundromat right before it closed with a six pack. We snagged that and decided to leave the next day late morning or so, hoping it might have a chance of improving in the morning.

However, when we woke up, the weather in town had cleared, but we couldn’t see the ridges in the slightest. We took our time leaving the rooms and ultimately decided to road walk to Ghost Ranch as we heard thunder cracking. In short time, we were trudging along the road in full rain gear plodding away.

Apparently we looked odd enough that a cop turned around. We dutifully took off our sunglasses and chatted politely. She seemed simply curious. We pointed where the trail actually was and her reply was:

Cop Lady: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be up there either.

Thunder clapped again.

Cop Lady: Hmm, yeah, definitely not. Have fun.

We proceeded over to a store on the side of the road where we enjoyed sodas and chips and scoped out the maps for possible stealth sites. Loitering until we finished our snacks, we headed back out and found a slightly stealth spot off the side of the road near a fence. We stayed on the roadside of the fence.

Suddenly, I woke up to dogs. Loud dogs. Sniffing. Great. We probably shouldn’t have camped where we did, but we weren’t trespassing either. The dogs went away eventually, although not silently.

The next day, we had a fun activity planned. Walk 14 miles to a bar on the side of the road. On the way, a car slammed on it’s breaks and pulled over.  All of us paused.  Then Axel popped out of the car excited having finished his flip.  We met his sister who had taken him to Ghost Ranch for a massage and they passed us sodas.  We meandered along finding odd bits of trash, license plates, and other questionable roadside items until we found the bar.

The $2 bill.

The Bar, El Cuerno, had five bar stools. The bar itself had no food, however the gas station convenience store attached had a microwave in which one could put frozen pizzas and other classic convenience store items in to heat up. The bartender also ran the convenience store and conveniently believed in tabs. El Cuerno had $1, $5, $10, $20, and a few $50 bills plastered to the walls and ceiling.

About three hours into our patronage of El Cuerno, we decided to put a bill for the CDT up. The Darkness looked smug and pulled a $2 bill out. We wrote “CDT SOBO 2015” with all of our trail names.

Eventually, we meandered on to find another stealth campsite when we ran into the spot where the trail crosses the road. Conveniently, it had a wonderful campsite near some questionable water.

Coming into Ghost Ranch.

We meandered into Ghost Ranch just in time for lunch the next day and were greeted well. They reminded us that lunch was not AYCE like our guidebook (Yogi) said. We just said ok and loaded a tray up each. Probably higher than most, if not all, but we did not need seconds after that.

Snagging a campsite, we split the cost and headed for the shower room where we could charge devises and do some laundry. Underneath one of the sinks, we found Whistle’s discarded and decrepitated Altra shoes. We knew they were his because we had been following his tracks for close to 2,000 miles.

Whistle’s discarded shoes.

We used plenty of their wifi and hoped to watch a movie in a room ED remembered with great fondness. However, when we wandered that way, a religious meeting of some sort had staged a coup of the movie room for the entire evening. Instead, Memphis downloaded some comedy podcasts and we enjoyed them over the picnic table at the campsite.

In the morning, we plotted our route to into Cuba, New Mexico.

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**From October 2015**

Around dusk, we stumbled up to a campfire “cooey-ing” and receiving excited “cooey” responses. We knew we had found The Darkness. Dropping our packs haphazardly we each gave her a big hug and all spoke at the same time with different stories from the past 1,000 miles that she had gotten slightly behind us.

We set up tents and swapped story after story until the weather tried to snow and rain on us. We were glad to have her back, joking that the harem was reunited. Since Scallywag had taken the San Juan’s loop, he was about five to six days behind us and we needed a new bull elk. We decided Crosby was up to that task.

The weather decided not to improve in the morning, so while The Darkness stoked the fire back up, we poked around on maps and Memphis mentioned a tiny “town” called Platoro was where he had gotten off trail going nobo to flip. Taking some dirt roads over that way avoided quite a bit of above treeline in the sleet that started trying to dampen the fire. Plus, then we could catch up more since we had not exhausted our stories the previous night.

Meandering around on the dirt roads, we heard all new tales of hikers a few days behind us like the whereabouts of Lighthouse and Fun Size, Das Boots, and the Swiss Couple. The precipitation shifted switched between rain, sleet, and wisps of potential snow faster than most politicians can change positions. However, with good conversation, we stumbled into the “town” of Platoro, Colorado.

It looked creepy. Everything seemed closed. The weather added to the creepiness. Memphis started to meander away from the group looking for something.

The Darkness: Where’s Memphis going?

E.D.: Not sure.

Me: This is the point in the horror movie where we start getting picked off one by one…

Crosby: Follow?

We followed Memphis though someone’s lawn, whose windows had plywood covering them and we walked past a business of some sort, also with plywood in the windows and went toward an “open” business. It appeared to be a store, restaurant, cabin rental, and RV spot all in one. We looked longingly. We lingered. Memphis returned saying it would open in about half an hour. We wondered if we could linger on the porch out of the rain when a man approached us seemingly out of thin air, who we later learned was Michael.

Michael: You all look cold! Why don’t you come inside and warm up by the fire with tea and coffee until we open.

We gladly took him up on the offer, placed our packs on the porch, and went inside to hover as close as possible to a wood stove. Michael was incredibly hospitable and gracious opening early, putting an extra log on the fire, and letting us do a jigsaw puzzle until the kitchen could be ready again.

All of us scarfed down food as fast as they could crank it out of the kitchen. At that point in the hike, all of us needed to put on weight or at the very minimum, not lose more. The cold had been depleting our calories faster that we were able to replace them with trail food—food that we were all getting tired of.

Memphis disappeared for a bit and came back saying he got the “CDT” cabin for us all for the night because the weather tonight looked bleak. The single room cabin had three beds, an old TV, and a VCR. Naturally, all five of us fit perfectly and watched a George Clooney movie that night while the rain refused to let up. Right as we were trying to fall asleep, huge thunder claps kept us up just long enough to be thankful for the shelter.

We waited for the restaurant to open for breakfast and scarfed down even more food, while we attempted to motivate ourselves back out into the weather that had improved, but not greatly. After we reluctantly finished packing up and thoroughly talking Memphis into a cooler hat, Michael brought us back to the trail, while trying to give us jobs for the following summer.

Out into the misty, cold cloud drenched hills we climbed. We had to cross a large creek to jump back onto the CDT itself which Memphis skillfully hid from E.D. until we got to it.

Memphis: WHOA! This was raging when we had to cross it. This was why we bailed into Platoro.

We all looked at it and managed to rock hop across without our feet getting wet. What a difference snow melt could make.

The misty campsite.

Once we had climbed back up, we found a glorious campsite. Unfortunately, it was only lunchtime. As we all sat there, The Darkness scrambled around and got a small fire going while we ate. She was so excited for people after hiking alone for a week.

On top of the ridge.

It was one of those days where we all had to put on rain gear, then take it off twenty minutes later only to put it on twenty more minutes later. We hiked over one of the last 11,000 foot ridges and dropped down to a campsite by a marshy lake where The Darkness decided we needed more campfire time.

Pitching our tents, we set about helping her gather the driest wood we could find in a largely wet area. With the help of some heet, we had a fire going in no time.

The five us of sat around the fire that whole evening, well past dark talking until we hit hiker midnight (around 9pm) and fell asleep just as another rain shower passed through.

In the morning, we had to climb one more lower ridge and meander along it until we got to Cumbres Pass which we could take into Chama. The rain had ceased, but clouds passed through frequently adding a new texture to the hike. When we looked back at the last ridge over 11,000 feet, we saw the snow line. Had we camped higher, we would have woken up in snow. The top of this lower ridge had a thin layer of snow as well that melted quickly as we hurried south.

I hiked toward the road with Crosby and E.D. and the three of us caught The Darkness right before hitching. However, Memphis was nowhere in sight. We all thought he was in front of us, so we thought that he might have gotten lucky and found a ride. We threw our thumbs out while we tried to look for him coming down off the trail when we found him in the oddest way…

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On the way into Yellowstone, there was a strange junction that threw us all for a loop. We had to make a left on a “road” which was blocked by large berms and small lodgepole pines. Jeff and Memphis managed to find it. E.D., and I missed it by .3 and had to walk back. Scallywag and The Darkness missed it by a lot and didn’t catch up to us that day.
E.D. and I found the tricky spring and kept heading toward the Yellowstone border and subsequently, the Wyoming border. When we reached the end of the Macks Inn alternate, we stopped for a break and heard voices. We thought it was The Darkness and Scallywag, but it was Tails and Chaps! They had hauled and managed to catch us! We were very excited to see them and we hiked closely together for both borders.

They went to camp at Summit Lake while we stealth camped right before it. In the morning, we didn’t see them, but found Memphis.

E.D., Memphis and I walked the 14 miles into the zoo that is Old Faithful and went toward the backcountry office for permits. However, when we got there, something we did not expect happened.
Ranger Lady: “Sooooo…we don’t have any permits for you. Everything on the CDT is booked up…”

 

Memphis: “What would you like us to do then?”

Ranger Lady: “Camp in designated areas only and ask people if you can share their campsite…”
We all looked at each other. Ok…

After about an hour of going back and forth, she gave us a permit for a campsite 12 miles out from a no show, then an admin site 13 miles later (because we’re totally going to only do 13 miles…) and then a site somewhere on Heart Lake 10 miles later.

We decided to stick to the permit the first night, then use her suggestion for bumming onto a campsite for the next night, then getting out of the park and it’s regulations the third night. However, we couldn’t just show up empty handed and bum onto a campsite…so we picked up a handle of fireball at the general store and split it into two plastic bottles to carry out as bribery.

After watching Old Faithful and the zoo of humans watching it through their screens instead of their eyeballs, we found Scallywag and The Darkness at another general store. We were on our way out and they said they’d be twenty minutes behind us.

The hiking flew by. The miles were easy with hardly any real climbing. We passed a geyser field that was actually way cooler than the Old Faithful area and with NO people. Amazing!

We were making good time, when we hit a marsh a mile before the campsite. It was a field of ankle deep water with no good way around. Again came a major theme of the CDT…wet feet.

Plunging in, the cold water infiltrated our socks with no hope of drying because the sun had just set. Occasionally, in the middle of this marshy stuff, an actual creek would flow through and a board would appear to cross it. Not that a board was necessary when one has to step up out of ankle deep water to step onto it.

After the marsh, we threw our poles down and took a shot of fireball. The warm whiskey went down so well and made us both feel better.

When we found the campsite, we also found Memphis and we cooked a late dinner.

The next day, the weather turned to shit. According to our permit, we only had to do 13 miles. Easy miles. Right.

The storms and rain seemed to come in waves. There was no point in putting on dry socks to walk in the rain, so we all put the wet socks back on. If you’ve ever had to put on cold, wet socks, you’ll understand the frustration.

We started running into a slew of nobos. Despite the fairly constant waves of rain, we always stood there with our packs on and swapped beta for about 200 miles in either direction. One of the major points immediately south of us was a ford that the Ley map said could potentially be chest deep. It was ankle deep. Maybe Ley just went for a swim in the lake instead of crossing the outlet stream.

In hardly any time, we got to the “admin” site assigned on our permit near the road. The road that went to Grant Village…which has food…and beer…it was lunch time…

We went toward the road and decided to try hitching there for fifteen minutes and see if we could get a ride. If not, we’d hike on. Memphis spotted the parking lot nearby and suddenly yelled over that he’d yogi’ed a ride.

After a good lunch, we got a ready hitch back from a couple hard of hearing from Missouri. We had about half an hour of dry hiking when the rain came back.

Later in the evening, after getting soaked for hours, we found a ranger cabin without the ranger (conveniently) and we cooked on the porch.

The three of us moved on to try and find a campsite that we could share with someone else.
We took a right down a side trail toward a campsite and the damn side trail was about a half mile off. When we saw the people there, who looked utterly confused, we explained ourselves. Then we offered fireball.

Dude: “Oh shit! Christina forgot hers! She’ll be so happy!”

Other dude: “Cool, we’ve got some Maker’s too!”

A mutual stand around and drink whiskey from assorted containers happened with friendly conversation and we shared the campsite. Note: diffuse situations in the woods by sharing whiskey.

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I awoke suddenly.  I noticed all of my senses heightened and my body fully alert.  No thoughts crossed my mind.  I listened.  Munch, munch, munch.  I peered out my tent under my rain fly where I heard the sound of munching.  A large brownish black hoof stepped about three feet from my tent.  Then another.  Munch, munch, munch.  Bison.  Multiple bison.  Very close to my tent.

The bison seemed calm, so I stayed calm.  I laid there and listened, secretly hoping they would not accidentally step on my tent.  Maybe they just needed breakfast and breakfast happened to grow near the free campsite I occupied.  Munch, munch, munch.  I decided to look at the positive: at least I did not need to go to the bathroom first thing in the morning!  The bison munched and I listened.  Each time a hoof clomped down, I could feel the vibration in the ground.  My rain fly blends in fairly well with the pale grasses.  I hope they do not run into my tent.  Munch, munch, munch.

Eventually, after about half an hour of munching, the bison continued on their way.  From what I could gather, they munched their way north out of the small aspen grove.  I felt my body begin to relax as the munching grew fainter and I no longer felt the ground vibrate with their steps.

When I could hear them no longer, I got out of my tent cautiously and looked around.  I could not see any wildlife in the vicinity, so I began to make breakfast and a healthy amount of hot water for yerba mate.  I set up a chair in front of hippie TV, i.e. the Tetons, and sipped mate.  I had decided to camp in the national forest near Grand Teton National Park for two weeks to further enjoy the area and hopefully hike what I wanted to hike all year at grad school, but did not have the time to due to schoolwork.  To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed lazy mornings drinking mate and watching the clouds change just as much as hiking.

As I sat there with mate and a good book, I watched as the clouds changed shapes and colors.  The clouds and the mountains played peek-a-boo all morning long.  The best part about sitting quietly and watching: the wildlife became accustomed to my presence and began to play, eat, run, and fly right in front of me.

One of the ground squirrels taking a look around.

One of the ground squirrels taking a look around.

Three ground squirrels lived near my campsite.  Two seemed to have some sort of dominance over the third, but the third had sneaky tendencies.  While one of the first two ground squirrels stood guard from a prime fallen log, the other ground squirrel nibbled at the ground or stood on its hind legs and used its forelegs to pull down a wild grass three times its size to eat the seeds on the top.  The sneaky ground squirrel took every available opportunity to sneak toward the other two ground squirrels and then hop away.

A female mountain bluebird flew in and startled the ground squirrels.  All four froze, eying each other for a few moments.  Deciding they could all eat peacefully, they began ignoring each other and carrying on with their business in close proximity.

Half an hour later, I heard the clear call of a red tail hawk in the distance, but coming closer.  All three ground squirrels immediately dove into their holes and I searched the skies.  I heard the call several more times before I located the hawk flying in gracefully above the aspens.

The next night, the temperature dropped into the upper 30s and I fell asleep with my hat on planning on waking up early in the morning.  The moon shown so brightly, that I could see just fine inside my tent without a head lamp.  However, I did not plan on waking up around 2:30am.  Grunt.  Munch, munch, munch.  Grunt.  Instantly alert, I laid in my sleeping bag listening.  My body did not feel the ground vibrate, and the munching seemed faint, but apparent.  The sounds came from the direction of my feet, so the bison munched to the west.  After careful listening, I decided to poke my head out and see how far away the bison munched.  They peacefully munched and grunted down in the sagebrush, about fifty feet or so away from my tent.  After the previous morning, that distance seemed oddly comforting.  Laying awake, I listened and heard quite a variety of bison noises that I had never heard before, all variations of grunts.

Hippie TV

Hippie TV

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