Heidenreich & Gass: CDT Thru-Hikers

Trail Dispatch: Week 5
El Morro National Monument
El Morro Rock, New Mexico

May 25, 2000—Day 29—115 miles since last update—Cuba, New Mexico —20 miles outside of Grants we ascended Mount Taylor, which we had been seeing on the horizon since Pie Town. We were lucky enough to find the new section of CDT trail departing Lobo Canyon Road but lost it numerous times before we finally decided to bushwhack to the base of the mountain. The trailhead was in excellent condition as were the first 5 miles of trail, but after that the trail petered out to mismatched sections: some with brushing, others with orange tape or blazes. We had been told by a man from the Forest Service that the trail would lead to Big Spring, where we had planned on getting water, so we continued to curse his name for the rest of the day.

Our desert garb was no match for Mount Taylor's fierce winds and 40-degree temperatures that day. We switchbacked up the grassy slopes in all our clothing, hands in armpits, watching snow-filled gulleys and fighting to walk without the wind blowing us over.

Since Grants the usual blue sky had been filled with low-lying grey clouds. Although everybody we talked to seemed doubtful that it would rain, we (with only our ground cloth) prayed it would hold off until Cuba.

At the end of a long day, just as we had the first bite of dinner at our lips, the ever-optimistic Sarah said"Oh, for a minute I thought that was thunder."

"It is thunder!" the sometimes pessimistic Adrianne exclaimed. She was on her feet in a second, pulling out shoelaces to tie up the groundcloth. As the rain held off, we went about barricading the sides of the now functioning tarp with partially burnt logs off the forest floor. Nothing like a little hard work at the end of a long day! Thus we spent the drizzly night in our newly constructed "New Mexican Dream House," getting only slightly sooty and wet.

The rest of our walk to Grants was uneventful, save the 10-mile bushwhack we ended up doing after becoming thoroughly confused with Jim Wolf and our outdated map. We began using the Wolf guide out of Grants—unfortunately it is written for the southbounder and can be somewhat confusing to follow backwards. It has, however, been very helpful for finding water.

As we head further north we have found more surface water. This has been evident in the patches of green grass and flowers. We have seen less windmills and more dirt tanks for the cattle—sometimes even flowing water!

As the biggest bonus, we found the Circle A Ranch just outside of Cuba—a beautiful old hunting lodge that is now a hostel. The hostel manager, Daphna, picked us up in Cuba, telling us that once we got to the ranch we wouldn't want to leave. She was right! Sarah and I are now aspiring to be caretakers here.


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