This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
I roll into Cuba with Tennesteve. It doesn’t take long before other hikers follow. Everyone was right behind me the whole time! I go to dinner with Tennesteve, Hurricane, Thunder and Snow. Snow is a woman, and as always I am super excited to hang out with other ladies!
I zero as everyone else is too and I don’t want to head out alone. More and more people roll in. At one point, I am sitting in the motel room drinking beer with six hiker guys. It’s a bit of a shock after five days completely alone. A storm rolls through while we are in town. I walk to the Post office to drop off a few things, and when I look to where the trail heads, the hills are dusted white. Yay, more snow! I head out early with Tennesteve. There’s a big hill and twenty miles before it’s low enough to camp without freezing. We head up the road to the trailhead. Soon, we are struggling through the famous New Mexico mud as snow begins to coat the sides of the road. We hit the trail, and it soon alternates mud, snow, mud, snow. And then mostly snow. I slip on the first stream crossing and my wet feet are soon numb from the snow. As we climb, it gets deeper, with fresh powder coating drifts from last winter. We make it to the Mesa as dark clouds build behind us. The next storm is rolling in. Slush, snow and ice water cover about ten miles of the trail all told. We finally start to drop down, and just as the snow becomes the odd patch, the blowdowns start. Suddenly I feel like I’m back in Oregon as we struggle through tangles of downed trees, looking for the trail the entire time. We reach a stream and I stop to grab water. Tennesteve checks his maps: we’ve done 22 and a half miles through mountains and snow and it’s not even 6pm yet. We decide to stop, camping by the creek. My second night camping with someone since Shake’nBake left! I wake up in the middle of the night to the soft brush of snow on cuben fiber and the claustrophobic dip of my tarp. I push gently on the walls and the snow avalanches. In the morning, there’s an inch or so of powder on everything. My shoes are so frozen that I can’t move the laces and am forced to knot them loosely. I pack up with painful fingers despite my gloves, and by the time I’m finished, my feet are completely numb. I tell Tennesteve I’ll see him down the trail and roll out. It takes a long time for my feet to stop being blocks of ice. The sun has no heat to it and snow squalls move across the sky. I climb up and up to a notch in the ridge, then wait for Tennesteve in a patch of sun. The sun doesn’t last, and soon we are dropping down and down towards the valley floor. In the distance are mountains shrouded in snow. It warms up a little as we return to the cactus and the scrub and the cows, but we are definitely moving out of the desert now. We cross Rio Chama and it dwarfs any other river we’ve seen. Then, we road walk. We make it 8 miles before we find somewhere sheltered from the wind. A 28 mile day. Weather hangs low on the horizon in the morning. As we hike the three miles to Ghost Ranch, the clouds hugging the mountains lift a little to reveal fresh snow. We cross a suspension bridge with missing boards: I sing the Indiana Jones theme song in my head. We hit Ghost Ranch just in time for breakfast. In the back of the dining hall we find Thunder and Snow. They made it in last night and are zeroing. Do we want to share their hotel room? I know I should go, but I just want to be warm for once, so I quickly agree. In the library, I go online and order a stove. Over 3,000 miles hiked stoveless, but the CDT has been so cold so far and I haven’t even really hit the high elevations yet. The end of an era!