Hike toward Cabezon, take wrong fork, head alongside, view old ghost town Cabezon from afar. Wonderland of buttes, mesas, desert flora in an area under wilderness study by the BLM. When road heads west, I drop off to a road southwest, which soon hits bridge with a sign warning against crossing. Backtrack, eventually come to gate signed, "No Trespassing" and "Beware of Dog." But no choice, so hike on. Luckily no dogs, breathing hard I pass house, car parked in back. Horses study, but no sound.
I'm out, but road wrong-headed, so I slide down to Rio Puerco, cross wet wading, back up to better road, spied from the other side. Meet two young guys, then old hunter, take a break happily reoriented, possibly on a lucky shortcut. Up, back on BLM road, happily find well ranger had talked of with a pump before intersection. Camp in site "designated for hunters," enjoy water, read and crash.
Up early, cook (freeze-dried) shrimp creole for breakfast, hike into the Ignacio Chavez Grant, which is closed to vehicles. Long climb through cacti and rocks. Too long for six miles, but make it to a gate with some pushing. Break before hiking back onto my maps and the (National Forest Service) Mt. Taylor district.
Pinon forests open parks, follow jeep roads as dark comes. Only frozen green pool, puddles in the road, so push too late. Find good spot in grove, hike from sudden traffic, cook in dark, often losing flashlight.
Dry breakfast. Push hoping for water. Very cold. End up all day in long underwear. High winds, thankful when parks become timbered. Enjoy Chivalo Mesa, then Mt. Taylor views. Meet hunters, they laugh at my deal. Man and young son just got first deer give me water, information.
Only one stock tank with water. When the second is dry, I stop and eat dry again, my mix, plus Sandi's Hawaiian mix. Sun nice. Friends of first hunters, pull up, more help on roads. La Mosca means lookout tower. But weather looking grim, so hike on. Stop to check mayp. Family hunting stops and gives me cookies, water. I show them my map.
Hike on, then decide to stop early, catch up on my journal, plot my move into Grants. Snow starts. Pitch tent in snow, cook mac and cheese, read of the winning of the West. Snow stops, but soon resumes. Stops again, but iffy skies make me feel I was wise to stop early. Update since Cuba, darkness comes. Snows on and off all night.
Tent cloaked in an inch of snow, ice from weather that by the looks of the skies will be around for awhile. But I pass on cooking breakfast. Gorp and go, once I get my tent to fit into the sack and poles to melt free.
Rooad walking, gloomy, gray skies, snows on and off, unable to find a clue to San Mateo Springs, frozen end of hose unavailable. So hike on, pondering hitch from the pavement. When family that passed earlier does again going my way, I go for it. Few cars to choose from. Ride with them, a young girl and younger siblings. Pass wierd camp left by hunters: blonde wigs on stump, high heeled shoes in the y of a tree. We stopped to put out a fire left burning. Also carnage in several spots, blood frozen from butchering. We drive on, stop to tell ranger. Stop at closed campground, then into town, stop at second cheapest hotel in town. Cheapest too nasty.
Take room, shower. Order a pizza after watching football. Eat two larges for $13.95. Watch tube, football, venture out for wine coolers, settle for cans of pop. Bars look risky. Spend rest of night watch tube, writing letters, munching pizza. Call Mom. Robin Williams live, then to bed, Route 66 on one side, railroad on the other.
Up by 7 a.m., shower again, put gear up and out to the post office. Organize in the lobby, ask questions, nice clerks watch my pack. I go to the Bureau of Land Management office. A state land man is there. He sets up a meeting for me with a BLM official. First lunch, call Sandi, return notes, etcl. Gregory pack company to send me another belt clip for me to product test, as well as a pack cover to Pie Town. The one I'm using has worn out.
Back to the post office, finish, get pack operable, hike down to BLM office, where official Steve Fischer shows me a shorter route and the Dominguez-Escalante Trail. Decide it's for me, no luck calling Pie Town. So on to store where I buy lubricating oil for my boots, gas station for stove fuel, then walk out of town on Route 66. Find Zuni Canyon Road, spot snow-covered Mt. Taylor.
Pass trailers, out of civilization, into National Forest, but road well travelled. Dodge gravel until I decide to ditch behind a tree. Pitching when a state highway patrolman notices me and comes back. But he's no trouble, say I have more guts than him to camp in these days. He leaves, I finish pitching, cook, eat dinner, massive candy dose. Read, then crash.
Frozen awakening again. I hike down Zuni Canyon Road, soon in sun, but not too warm. Stop at road intersection, use snow to cook meal, then hike on down Bonito Canyon. More wide open with parks to the sides interspersed with timber stands. At windmill, move float to get water, then find auxiliary spot where I take water for my next meal, a cold wind chilling that break.
Strange guy with woman in car comes back, drives up. He warns of a "cantankerous" man in the Malpais, says it's 12 miles to the highway. I basically tolerate him, take little heed. Woman remains in car. He drives off. On down the road, past Gallo Mountain. Cross to parking area, use facilities, hike into the Malpais, after checking out burial spots, on the Dominguez-Escalante Trail.
BLM guy said it wasn't possible, but I manage to pitch on lava. Great stars, views of snow-covered Mt. Taylor. Cook and crash at spot on the edge of the Malpais.
Struggle with cold gear, icy tent, but head into Malpais with the sun out. Follow cairns, posts across lava, spot and talk briefly with hunter. Soon lose trail, decide to head southeast into a hot, shiny sun. Down to shorts quickly. Tough going, but what a change. Avoid sinkholes, walk through gullies, wild cuts, look for plates of lava with long runs unimpeded. Occasional island of grass, trees, but mostly lava with trees.
Looking back, ahead, it appears to be heavy forest, but when amidst the lava is predominant, with trees, scrub providing a natural obstacle course.
Kick hole in right boot's toe, rugged going, good views to Mt. Taylor, Gallo. Also the Narrows ahead get progressively closer. Break, wonder on progress, but Narrows loom close, eventually see road. Still takes some doing, occasional cairns spotted. Flip pack over barbed wire fence, climb over, begin walk along Route 117. Cars fly by periodically. Hitch, hunter out scouting picks me up, gives me a ride, drops me by a windmill, where I munch, entertain cows.
Hot day. I resume roadwalk. Quickly picked up by guy, two girls doing "God's work". They drive me to the intersection. Quickly I'm back on the road as the sun fades. Vehicles pass, push to King Brothers Ranch. End up camping across from entrance in an open pasture, wild stars, trucks passing, cook and eat in fading light, and crash. Photo red cone with sunset.
Begin early. Sun quickly takes freeze off. Cowboy with trailer can't believe I'm walking. Long climb up mesa. Hot! Hit shade by graveyard for Perry, a former rancher. Then pass fellow in woodcutting business for the first of several times.
Take meal, use snow when windmill by abandoned ranch structures not operating. Then on down, Lester Jackson, and Magdalena ex-ranger pass headed home from coyote hunting. Talk, Lester offers me lodging. Drink water, he gives me more to carry me through the night. Earlier I drank boiled tea from stock tank, water taken by breaking through ice. Soon the sun behind the ridge, head into a pinon stand, pitch, camp and cook in growing darkness. Read and crash.
Granola, then off for Pietown. Warm quickly, down to shorts and t-shirt. A couple vehicles, another cowboy with a trailer disbelieves me walking. One break, just before the 36 intersection, three miles to town. The Datils looming larger. Allegre Mountain too.
Meet Mark Devlin, he passes with bad brakes. He comes back and we knock off six Coronas in the road. Good b.s. session. He's fried, bad wreck.
Get's cold, beer's gone, we part. Into town. Lester comes out, I walk in, find his pad. He has food waiting. I munch with a Miller, then shower. A tour of the park, the town's minimal development. An overgrown ball field, wood pile. Pop, writer Milan Kozak, come and go. We talk the Gila, etc. Go to cafe, where his wife of 35 years has a divorce settlement. Indian family, laborer with a bad back complete cast in the cafe. Ice cream, java. Back to Lester's house, we get ready and head to Jonay's bar in Quemado. Gas up, head in, Paul of the highway department joins us for beer, stays for hours. Others in and out, keep the beers coming.
Sheridan, woodcutting Mexican and semi-literate worker come in. Apparent inbreds, win at pool, pee on the floor. Jonay makes them clean up. Get drunk, talk with everyone, including two Mexican chicks. We b.s. Chicago archeologist with power company laying line. Look at Jonays' wild find. Talk with forest firefighter, interesting work.
Place clears out, we drive home. I knock off Oreos, fall down stairs, luckily only bruised. Crash after opening boxes.
Nasty hangover, woodpecker cause early rising. See to tasks. Feeling bad, organize, walk to post office, take care of business. Back, do laundry, watch football after burgers at cafe. Meet Lester's daughter, grandson Thomas returns with us. We munch cookies from BG friend Debbie, watch TV, Nebraska-Oklahoma football game. Write letters, organize, wash, then hang to dry with sleeping bag, tent.
Cold forebodings of morning give way to another hot day. Lester keeps house baking, so I hike upstars, open windows and cool off. Thomas joins me. Try to organize food from Debbie, AT friend Clark, munch a bit. After football, omelettes, I go for bread. Back, munch more, Sheridan, Mike back. I update my journal, read Washington Post, prepare mentally to head out again. Omelettes with ice cream, more TV, then crash.
Up early, ramen for breakfast. Packed and bid farewell to Lester, who never gets up. Walk by Pop's house, adios to Pop. Then down road, to his son Mark Devlin's home, farewell to him. Then on down the road, a few trucks passing. Get to intersection, turn, soon taking lunch at windmill. Luckily no one's home. Rugged pinon and juniper and cactus and scrub surroundings. My socks covered with stickers after walk to windmill.
Back on road, views of Allegre Mountain, surrounding ridges near the Divide, cross the Divide without knowing it, possibly for the last time. Mark passes on the way to get tires. Desolate hiking, but nice. Few cars pass on gravel road. Decide to camp. Hike into pinon and juniper forest, Mark passes again, but I can't get his attention. Cook, read, crash. Another site too close to the trees.
Up early, cold take down. Cold breakfast, take to the road again. Once miss turn, but realize, go back. Views to Mt. Allegre, the Datils. Hike to Manges, then opposite into forest after passing an old church, sour woman. Waste an hour looking for water, guard station, bad bushwhack leads me back to the road. So I take Route 93 up the hill, soon desolate, come to park with windmill. I take a late lunch, then hike on, abandon hopes of of making Slaughter Mesa. Camp in dip out of the wind. Cook, read, crash.
Up freezing, but it's soon sunny. I enjoy big park atop Slaughter Mesa. But 93 becomes too busy, so I hike down canyon road, trail, into private land, down canyon. Meet hunters in nice canyon. We talk, they give me my capacity in water. So I push on. Sunny, nice views near where I met the hunters. Accidentally back to 93, bushwhack over to jeep road past windmill I immortalize on film, then past Gallo Lake, a duck pond, shallow at that.
Into another canyon. Map doesn't match landmarks. Confused, I take a road uphill hoping it's the trail on the map. It dies up high. I spot a dam and hike down, spotting deer that check me out while I pitch. A tough job with the hard surface. Rigged, I cook, crash, a bit lost.
Frozen morning again. I break camp, noting fresh bear scat near where I was pitched. Road leads to an T, in one direction a "no tresspassing" gated option in the right direction, the other clear. It seems to be a road I left the morning before, so I walk back, into beautiful unattended ranch of 60 sections, according to Any Carrejon, who I meet soon after exiting the ranch.
Apologize for trespassing, but he's cool. When I ask about a phone, store at the highways, he ends up inviting me into his house. Wife Elayne interviews me for the local paper, but I turn the conversation. Then a relative from Alaska comes, they go and inquire about jobs with the VLA (Very Large Array), a telescope or radio antenna for the universe.
Andy and I talk long about his life on this property sandwiched by National Forest Service land. His family's lived here for four generations. He's always cowboyed, but ranching is down. So he's a truck driver for the state, hunting on the side, now only with bow. Horns, pelts and skins everywhere, including a cactus buck rack (lost testes, funky horns).
I move to leave, he proposes lunch. So I munch, he gives me jerky to go. We talk more, I get tour of the house. But I must go. Hike out to road, cross fence as Andy suggested. Something's not right, I'm headed to far west, almost north.
End up on a ridge, spot landmarks, road, but steep and rock descent looks too rough. So I try several things, walk one way, then the other, on road. This gets me down lower, to where I can slide down to the lake and road.
Follow road up canyon, get impatient for red-topped building, walk into field. Spot it from afar, determine southerly road, which takes me up into woods, down to a park and sign for Road 545. Success!
Hike on back into the forest. Cook, although my stove seems to be broken, read and crash, prepared to push to Reserve to meet Dave Reinker coming from Los Angeles.
Thanksgiving begins very cold, stays cold, snows slightly four times. I never take off my rainjacket, polypro pants. Road windy, weather nasty, me nasty. Miss route, possibly would have been OK, but come back a ways to road headed south, which soon hits Route 49.
A ways farther, cross Route 545 with power saws loudening as I approach. I walk by lake, then Torrette Lakes, ducks hanging around. Down canyon after break, guys hauling wood fly by several times.
Canyon to high views into the Gila Wilderness, as the road begins a descent to Reserve. A grader, survey workers working on the road. Looks like it'll soon be paved. Seems like a long way down, legs hurt. One break with cows watching. Now it's sunny. Then push to the bottom. Grader passes, I keep going down. After a day staying on the road, I cut the corner and, of course, end up on the wrong road. Have to walk back. It's getting late.
Angry, I'm glad when I hit the intersection, hike past more cows along the river to the highway. Hear a car coming, rushing to get to the road when I notice Reinker behind the car in his truck.
I dump my pack, we throw football a bit, then cruise toward Glenwood and its hot springs. First check out post office in Reserve. Drink, end up driving an Arizona guy whose car broke down to a phone. He's reckless. We leave him and book down to Glenwood. Stop to ponder meal vs. hot springs.
Decide to take a hotel owned by a relative of Allred, a surgeon in McKinney, Texas, where I worked as a reporter. Another wierd coincidence. Into the room, party. Restaurant not open, so we buy frozen Mexican pork dish and ice cream, cookies, potato chips. TV has no channels. Back at the room, munch, party, pass out after unsuccessful search for hot springs.
Cold shower, but language barrier crossed. Dave and I finally get to the hot springs, but there's a family in the pool. We're fried, wandering. Drive to Silver City where I do laundry and leave my sunglasses. We check out Deming, too dead for the Angeleno. Los Cruces also proves too dead, but El Paso-Juarez too far, even for a guy who's already driven from L.A. for the holiday.
We cruise around the college, but nothing's happening. The Hacienda gets dashed for lack of margaritas. A cop follows us to El Patio, freaking out Dave. We eat in the Cantina, check out bad band, weird crowd. Back to room, I crash after a donut binge, after a day spent eating tortillas and cheese.
Up slowly, dry tent, finish donut dozen from last night. Dave up, we begin to head back after a Denny's pig out. Dave decides to start home, we hit the Windy Mountain Road over the Divide.
Laundromat in Silver City has my sunglasses! Drink beers in L.A. water. Nice drive, Dave and I talk, but time gets late. Quick so long at Reserve.
Alone at store, I get fuel. while preparing for return to the trail. Grocery shop, check alternative routes. Down to the motel after a call home. Burger and fries at the diner, then talk. Then down the road in the dark, bivouack in yard near the road I was seeking. No problems.
Up early to avoid detection, out onto road as smoke comes from the chimney. Down past Negrito Creek Road, past more homes, then lumber mill, into the national forest. Rip rainjacket on a flip over a barbed wire fence. So much for that method. Nearly pass state forest river trail. Walk back, begin freezing fords, follow river through a pretty canyon. Some private lots, one camp, never find actual trail, but make my way.
Wet, sandy crossings. sometimes knee deep. Thankful prospective storm never showed. Sunny, but cool. See two deer.
At break, notice trail fork. When river cuts east, I abandon canyon and get lost. First rock draw, then ridge. Head east, almost north, then adjust and contour until it's getting time to camp. Find a spot, pitch, boil snow, stove iffy, but boils water and i can barely finish my freeze-dried cajun chicken dinner. Update journal since Pie Town and crash.
Up and on the ridge quickly, hoping to find my way found. Hike east-southeast, easy ridge walking, cross one ravine, up ridge. Minimal heavy overgrowth nice after yesterday. Down ridge to road.
Hike west, soon at Kelly Ranch house. No one around, no water, but a sign for Trail 503 Frisco River 7.. I'm way too far west, I decide, so I hike east, never crossing trail that I was to have used. Decide anyway its best to hike to 141, a gravel raceway for logging and gravel trucks running loads up and down the road.
A long walk with little enjoyment. Truck fumes, haze as they pass, noise a flashback I'd rather have left forgotten. But it does take me to road back in. One near collision. I direct traffic expertly. Hike in to less used road, back over the Divide, pass gravel pit, a forest ranger, perhaps same one I meet tomorrow, but I don't stop him today.
Camp near road I end up on tomorrow, boil snow and crash after reading far west adventures.
December starts with a hike to the end of a road, snow a factor, but I find the trail. Up ridge, snow deepens, trail illegible. I follow blue ribbons I later learn are for lumber inventory. Badly lost, confused, I realize I should be hiking to a lookout on Bearwallow Mountain, but no lookout is visible. Roads all die out. See two deer.
Decide to climb to high point of ridge I'm on, hit road, decide to break after a sweaty ordeal of a bushwhack in deep snow on steep ridges. Meet Len Schuffman, a ranger, out hanging ribbons for a timber sale, as I reconnoiter while boiling snow. He shows me the great error in my ways. He joins me for lunch, which I'll enjoy, relieved by my latest savior.
He shares orange, info on the area. A Michigan Tech grad, he loves his job of solitude, known the Carrejos, saw Roofists on 141. We talk about firefighting, Michigan spots, my hike. He also provides tree explanations.
He also advises me to stay on roads, snows could come at any time. I am likely to agree, as it is the last month of the year. I enjoy his company, he mine. But I must venture on.
Down the road I'd passed the night before, slippery ice alternates with snow and patches of dirt road. Fall once, slide much, but glad to be descending.
Hit several intersections, finally at main gravel Rd. 28. Hike down to an intersection with 143 to Snow Lake, one vehicle passes as I finish bread with p.b. and j. Push on tired to intersection, down a mile or so, camp in ponderosas beside the road, boil snow, eat, read and crash.
Tired miles to Snow Lake, one car passes. Good views from the vista, but the sun shine's wrong. Down to nice grassy mesa, then soon see lake, push to edge and trail. No water, so boil and rest. Revitalized by raviolini and two cups of coffee, I cross the dam and start down the Gila on a trail.
Nice trail, excellent views, many fords. But the sun is hot. The only problem is the river is frozen, making for precarious, icy crossings. One bang of a shin increases my concern, but soon the river is running, snow on banks comes and goes.
Beautiful canyon, caves, cliffs, trees and the trail's well marked. Make good miles, enjoy the signs. Birds enjoy the area, as do three raccoons I see at a beaver dam. Beavers also plentiful. I get close, but too slow on the camera trigger to photograph them. It's still neat.
Great caves, one set up for camp, but it's the wrong time of year. More snow, temperatures drop. Getting cold, sun goes behind the ridgetop.
Finally stop, camp near the river beneath Ponderosa pines. Pitch, go to the river for water. No need to use snow for a change. Stove stalls, but starts on second try. Set up, into tent, off with soaked socks, boots. Cook dinner, tea, water for manana. Update from Reserve, read a bit, then to bed.
Up in a freeze, hike away from nice camp. More frozen fords. Everything from straight wades to scrambling across frozen top, cracks hurrying the pace.One time I have to break steps in marginal ice, gravitating between solid and liquid states. Step by step in an awfully cold river. Still views are excellent: wild cliffs, caves, blue skies, but a shortage of sun.
Hike up on three raccoons about a beaver dam. They're unaware of me 'til I'm almost upon them. Push on to the Meadows, where signs talk of places not on the map, Double Spring and Little Bear Canyon. A half mile later, signs have the same names in a different order. I find myself on a trail heading steeply out of the canyon, river irritatingly below. So I hike back down out of the sun again.
The afternoon is scenic, including excellent unmarked hot springs east of the river, noted because overflow rushes down a ridge to the river. I cross, wondering its source, possibly it's my trail. But no, it's a second wrong turn, more unnecessary fords freeze my toes. Two near dunkings, but I stay dry below the elbows used as third legs when I'm toppling. The only break I take all afternoon is a quickie for gorp.
The hot springs, mellowing of canyon walls, make me think I'm near the end, but darkness convinces me to camp. I pitch in failing daylight, cook in dark and read until my flashlight dies, switching once to finish the chapter.
Up early, I am a bit surprised to hit Little Bear Canyon and find it's six miles to the Visitor's Center, with an option to the Cliff Dwellings apparently not indicated properly and no Little Bear Canyon on my map. So I push on to the visitor's center, breakfasting a second time before hiking the final miles past hot springs. More fords make for more fun.
Pretty girls retard my push to the visitor's center, but I make it. Clean up under watching eye of old redneck. Call Texas friend Richard Alvarado, who may join me in Columbus, N.M, at the end of the hike. Talk with unhelpful visitor's center helper, a maintenance man named Julian who knows more, guarantees good weather despite clouding that kept off the freeze during the night for the first time in awhile.
Julian meets me as I walk to the Cliff Dwellings packless, drops me where I need to sign in and climb numbered route, reading educational entries. I talk with a watercolorist who I convince to go hiking down the Middle Fork, then hike up to the Cliff Dwellings, pass Richard, a wild guy with long, gray hair, overgrown handlebar mustache and mirror sunglasses, scrubby attire.
Into dwellings, have woman named Nancy (who later invites me to her goat farm in Corsica) shoot my photo. We talk, Richard returns. We talk, explore, establish rapport. I end up sitting with them until closing. One old woman who entertains us with her fear of falling later is full of piss and vinegar revived by her hardiness.
I munch dinner of veggie stew at Nancy's cabin, we talk about everything, including her farm in Corsica two miles from the nearest road. She knows Harvey Mudd, the owner of the preserve I crossed in Colorado. Ties him to Richard Harvey Mudd colleges.
Head to hot springs. Richard displays his mountain man talents. He's three-eighths Cherokee. He's lived long periods in the mountains with his knife and knowhow, apparently. We enjoy hot springs, then I head for his cliff dwelling. They hang out a bit, then hike I out. I crash soundly in this excellent lair, never realizing it rains hard.
Up once to restoke dwelling fire, I enjoy daybreak dry, then pack an leave with regrets. Two tricky fords and I'm at the cabin, getting in on banana pancakes. Richard will join me today. We part from Nancy at the visitor's center, after getting information from the ranger on the trail ahead.
Excellent walk. Learn of Richard's bass playing, life on the reservation in Corn, Oklahoma, living in various states, he's seen all them apparently. Fog clears to a beautiful morning. Great views of the canyon, then begin climb.
Stop at store for agua, Oreos. Then on up the road, few cars. We talk, gaze at changing panoramas as we climb. Amazing views, storm gathering to the northwest. It gradually gains on us, Richards leaves as it hits, heading back.He's quite a fellow. We resolve to meet again.
I hike to the vista, the storm getting nasty. I awaken Ohio vacationer who drives off. I photo plaque, then head down, not enjoying damp snow and high winds.
At one steep, slippery spot, find young Mexican guy and girl who offer to drive me to the intersection.I'm quickly in the flatbed, keeping my butt out of a small puddle as we head down the hill. Storm slows, they drop me at the Lake Roberts store. I get coffee from a nice lady, talk and wait out storm. When it clears amazingly, call Texas friend Richard again, then hike by lady's instructions around the lake on trails.
Bill Daugherty, an El Paso fisherman, at the edge of a camp. I approach, initially mistaking is trailer for that of a Florida couple I'd seen twice. We talk, I pitch. He invites me to dinner. Learn he's a veteran of Vietnam, etc., Special Forces and Green Beret who's retired to enjoy fishing trips. We munch spaghetti, etc, and talk, but ends quickly as he suggests I crash, which I do after pudding. One midnight snacking binge interrupts my slumber after a reading session with new batteries.
Up frozen, gather it all up, meet Bill's dog, then head down road. Soon sun is out, I push to the Divide, realizing near GOS ranch my best Gila roll of film was shot on wrong setting. Many cars, mostly heading in. Beautiful day, sunny and clear again. Double ramen munch, photos at last Divide crossing.
Short hike beginning into Mimbres Valley, past some development to ranger station, where I get my mail. Organize, call home, read letters. All together, I hike down to Rustic Inn, families with Christmas trees passing.
Hit buffet many times, talk with "Mom" Lunscome and waitress. I'm the sole soul to serve. Munch big time, head up to room, as I'm leaving I meet a big group for a birthday dinner, who've reading of me. Some adulation, etc.
I head up, shower, do laundry, fitting in coffee and talk with all in between. Birthdayers leave, I call supply guy Mike Way, nice talk. Chilly night, back for coffee to go as the restaurant closes, while I talk with Way.
Up in room, organize, head, down try to Saucier, my old boss at the Washington Post, but he's out to lunch. So back up, I read Mom's clippings, update, before more letters, try Saucier again. Post hike imminent. Just a walk through the desert to go, especially if Richard, friend from Texas, meets me.
After a huevos rancheros breakfast and tales of a woman's birthday hike with gun and knife on her belt, I hike down the Mimbres Valley on pavement. Sun soon comes out and I'm glad to hit the post office, so I can mail back unnecessary items, letters, then leave the friendly post office, hiking on down the river valley.
Good views toward Cooke's Peak. The river's close, but out of view. Mile markers tell of progress to intersection, where I hit La Cantina, drink a pop, then push on pavement still, hike past confusing intersection, then on down the highway. No access to the river, and no one home when I go for water in San Juan, no more than a few houses grouped together. Hike past more farms, orchards, along river the entire way.
Faywood post office is a closed store, on out of town of Dwyer-Faywood?. Then out of town, spot stock tank, slide under fence, pitch as vehicles whiz by. A few note my spot, but no problems. Pitch, cook with tank water, munch and crash. Muddy boots from tank end a clean day dirty.
Up early to avoid detection, I'm pleased to find myself quickly at a turn off. No luck flagging down truckers, hunters. I stop for water uneasily at farm bureau tire outlet, get water, and hike on more easily. Break at last crossing of the Mimbres River. Big pasta chow. Watch a breakdown. A local questions if I'm prospecting. "There's gold in that river.", he says.
Ramon, who I meet later, again advises me to take the low road, past ranches. I pass an old schoolhouse, ranch of Los Chapparales. On down road, talk with a guy in a neck brace.
Rather than following to intersection, I follow scrub, rousting rabbits and climbing over a ridge, under a fence line to road, passing an empty water collection bottle. Take break at road, survey marker. Up pulls Craig Holme, who offers me a bit of civilization. I take him up on it.
We drive back to Los Chapparales, where he lives. I meet Cowboy Mike, his wife Debbie and Roberto and David, illegal Mexican immigrants working at the ranch. Learn Richard from Texas won't be meeting me at the border. Into the house, I talk with Craig, then Mike and pretty young daughter Carrie. After shower, b.s. and eat quick burgers, we drive to Deming for Carrie's Christmas Chorale.
After performance, we head back, check out tunes, beers and screwdrivers. Talk of religion, life, etc. before I crash late.
So far I'm feeling an anti-climax. It may take time, friends, to bring it all into perspective. I'm about to end at the Mexican border where I began three years and 8,000 miles ago.
A day off the trail. Three excellent meals. Help David and Roberto drop the top floor from an old lady's old house. I crash early after an excellent home-cooked steak dinner.
Up and ready, I cook an omelette we munch, then my host drives me back to where we met. I leave sadly, but it's time to go. Trucks hauling road cover make the hike out a haze of anger. Finally hit the road, after a break, hike a ways, but abandon paved shoulder for thumbing. Quickly a ride with a guy from Taos who drives me to Deming. I wander a bit, hit a pie ala mode spot, then hike back out of town. Megatraffic, nothing but sage and house at roadside. Views of the Florida Mountains are often obscured by vehicle exhaust.
Down the road, darkness approach. So I look, finally find a spot in high scrub, dash into thicket, concerned by truck passing slowly, but I get set up and sleep under the stars on my final night. Sleep fitfully, dogs, voices, trucks flying by.
Awaken near road, so quickly pull my gear together. The sun shines on my last day on the trail. Out to the road, hike more mile markers. Make it to within 20 miles of the border, a bit more after a break. But the pavement, road traffic bring me down. Then the Border Patrol pulls into the shoulder where I'm walking, stops me. So I hitch with a suspicious looking Mexican guy and a girl. They're nice, but we get stopped for speeding enroute. They drop me at the Columbus P.O. I pick up my last mail, celebratory liquor from A.T. friend Clark.
I visit the monument marking the state park. Gallery friends John 3 takes me to Palomas, Mexico, where Pancho Villa and his men sat as his troops fought in Columbus, the last time they crossed into the U.S.
Anti-climax. It may take time, friends to bring it into perspective. I end at the Mexican border where I began three years and 8,000 miles ago.
John 3 drives me to El Paso. I'm snowed in, airlines set me up with suite at the Hilton. Next morning I fly home.