The slog on the road gave me plenty of mindless time to think. It would be an overnight trip, as my day was starting late. It’s a grind when you have only the thud of your feet for company. A car offered a ride but on telling them my plan suggested there was a national forest not much further that would make a good camp and wished me luck. After dark I arrived at the forest, walking back through thick trees to a small clearing out of sight. The night is long and full of terrors. I heard the odd vehicle on a forestry track and wondered what they could be doing at this hour, what heinous crime was afoot. On waking the next day I found the forest was full of skeletal remains of animals, not the most welcoming sight but not out of place in this forest. The evening before I noted a fuel station with a cafe, shop and bar. I figured it would be a good place for breakfast in the morning, and when woke I walked back the way for a coffee.
In a town along the way I went into a shop to buy water. On leaving a driver in a car outside offered a ride. I declined, wanting to hike as much of my route as possible and was glad I did. The driver became abusive, swearing and rhetorically asking if I was too good to get in his car, and screaming to get in the car. I noted the open bottle of what apeared to be whiskey or tequilla in the centre console. I went back in the store and hung around for a while until he’d gone. I kept an eye over my shoulder for the next miles of hiking. Even in the short time I’d been in this new state, New Mexico had a very different energy to it.
Maybe five miles before Ghost Ranch I came across red sandstone caves, a half mile or so from the roadside, it was pretty hot having been on a steady drop in elevation since Colorado. I planned on taking a break on my mini diversion to the cave, but arriving and finding no water I decided it wasn’t the place for a break. Turning back around, I decided not to sit down til I arrived at Ghost Ranch. The ranch itself was a few miles off to the side of road and added an hour to the day. I arrived at reception, booked onto the campsite and went to use the computer straight away. I was pleased to find a quick connection and high quality printouts. I printed the next few hundred miles. There wasn’t much to talk about here, few friendly campers to talk to and a quiet library. The night passed slowly and I was relieved to be on a trail and away from asphalt again the next morning.
The next section started in arid land on hot dirt roads before eventually breaking off to trail. It climbed up slowly and into forested hills. There were many snakes, I guessed mostly corn snakes or similar and didn’t think they were venomous, but didn’t want to find out. I came across a lot of elk grazing that didn’t seem to fear me too much as I passed through. Creating a hill I came across a man on a quad bike, beer in hand riding around. On the back of the quad a beer cooler, on the front a compound bow. ‘Have you seen any elk around here? He shouted over his engine. I responded ‘no’ not because I hadn’t, but, quite honestly, I mean, really…you’re going to try to hunt elk while revving around with a beer in hand. C’mon, in man vs elk, those elk are gonna win, I didn’t want to interfere in the natural pecking order. I’m sure he was having fun but he was going home hungry every time. I imagine him getting home to a wife and saying ‘Nothing today honey, there aren’t any elk on these mountains this year’.
The trail wound down to crossing over a road before climbing again. There were annotations on the maps warning of experiences of hikers all through New Mexico. At this particular point, it warned of hikers that witnessed a drug deal. Arriving at the road myself, a few Harley bikers passed giving a thumbs up as they did. I have to be honest, that gave me positive vibes but I still wasn’t sure how I felt about New Mexico.
The area I hiked into was lush and green. Enjoyable. The route was faint but easy to follow but it was obvious I was beginning to run myself down. Dropping into Cuba N.M. I booked into a little motel for $30 dollars. I checked the remaining maps. My closest CDT finish was about 300 miles away. 300 miles from the end. I checked my calander. I had been hiking for 91 days. I figured there were 9 days to make the border at 33 miles per day. This was a pace I had been doing over high mountain passes easily, and now I had smoother desert walking to finish on. I was nearly done. I checked the distance I had apparently come, knocking off the area at Yellowstone and allowing for the alternates used. I had hiked at least 2300miles. I stocked up on food for the next section and went to bed. I was drained, and the morning I woke late. I packed my bag but I was struggling to get going. I lay there and accepted I needed at least rest, and more importantly a pharmacy or doctor. I booked in one more night. The day was slow with junk on tv. I figured if I made it to a bigger town there might be a doctor that could help. I checked the balance on my credit card one more time. It was dismal. I slept as much of the day as possible readying myself for the heat and miles that were to come.