Cowboy Cabin to Los Indios Spring, 12 miles
Again, the stars are a glorious sight, each constellation clearly visible. Not a cloud crosses the sky as it pinkens.
My hike today is road, hot and dusty but not far to a water source. I thank Mark and Daniel and leave while it’s still cold, two liters weighting me down but plenty for the 12 miles I’ll walk.
When I walked the Pacific Crest Trail four years ago, I stayed with trail angels in Bellingham, Karl and Holly. They are such lovely people and angeling because Karl had hiked the Appalachian Trail and was well cared for.
He’s now walking both the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide in sections so was the logical person to discuss my New Mexico sojourn. He warned me about the water carry and called this section boring. It is relentless and much the same, especially as I leave my view of Mount Taylor and the Cerros de Alejandro with their tapestry of glorious multi-colored scrub oak recede.
He also tells me his strategy was to camp near the water sources. With time less of a concern and a deep desire to enjoy the walk rather than crush miles, I take my time setting Los Indios Spring as the day’s destination.
Right away I meet pinyon gatherers and hunters who offer gatorade and well wishes. I have only seen one woman hiking and she was with two men, so I imagine I look a bit of a daredevil.
Sure enough, I pass three solo men in succession, one surly and reluctant to offer much information on water ahead, another cocksure and impatient with any advice I might have, and finally a lovely young bearded fellow who tells me he thought I might be a mirage.
We chat about what’s coming up before he notices my Wahine Toa Te Araroa (Wonder Woman of New Zealand’s Long Pathway) patch.
He also walked the Te Araroa and then saw his job eliminated just like I did after returning to work. His solution was much the same too by putting himself on the CDT as I had done on the PCT!
“Take the opportunity when it’s there,” I tell him before wishing him well. One nice hiker is all it takes to put a smile on my face.
At Canyon del Dado, any trace of water is long gone. During monsoon, the rain funnels through lava rock and is captured in a narrow space, but now it’s baking in hot sun. Walking north is ideal with the sun at my back and wind in my face. It’s desolate but the air is fresh and spicy from pine.
As the road drops down, ponderosa pine, tall and majestic, join in. The squeeze-toy jubilance of a pinyon jay breaks the silence, then an entire battery fly over me chattering like gossips. A car lumbers towards me, taking each rock and indentation with care. A Navajo couple stops with concern. “Aren’t you scared all alone? This is Big Foot country!”
I assure them I am ok and tell them where Mariah and I found all the pinyon yesterday. Crickets leap out of my way, unfolding brilliant red wings. It’s not long before I reach the turn off for the spring, though nothing under my feet has changed to indicate a canyon.
Soon, it unfolds in tall, smooth pillars of rock dusted with soft green lichen. A hundred feet below, brilliant yellow aspens glow in the sunlight.
It’s steep heading into this magical slash of color and life in the flat mesa. A Townsend’s Solitaire welcomes me to his riparian home with a cheery whistle.
Two large tanks are filled to the brim with crystal clear spring water. Someone left a bit of bottle to use as a scoop and I begin purifying tonight’s water supply.
Beyond the spring to the other side of the canyon is an easy walk up 10-inch pine needles to a flat area. A fire ring under tall pines indicates this must be well loved, though no area looks freshly cleared.
I return for my water and bag and meet two hikers, Ghost and Nancy Drew, who assure me water now until Cuba will be easy carries. Mountain chickadees swish at us and a hairy woodpecker chooses a tree nearby to look for insects.
My spot above is out of sight but I hear more hikers arrive. It’s early and they will push forward to camp on the other side is my guess. This beautiful grotto of lichen-covered boulders I use for sitting, lemon-colored oak and ponderosa with arms as gracefully animated as bonsai, is the luxurious benefit of section hiking.
The tent is set and food eaten. More birds visit including a pygmy nuthatch, a lot more chippy than those in the Upper Great Lakes, but as repetitive as ever.
The sun dips behind rocks and I put on a jacket. Hikers arrive at the water below and their voices echo upwards, but so far no one joins me.
Light filters towards the pillar wall across the canyon as the colors deepen and my splendid day comes to an end. At 7:00 already, darkness falls.