As per almost any day on the trail, today’s trek up Mt. Taylor was full of surprises. My trail angels, Carole and Hugo, set aside the day to help me. Hugo picked me up from my motel and dropped me off at the trailhead. It was 8:30. The forecast was for a pleasant day with some clouds. Perfect!
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Hugo had warned me that the first 2 miles (3.2 km) were a very steep uphill, and they certainly were. My pack is too heavy, per usual – I think about 35 lbs. (15.9 kg) and it should be more like 25 lbs. (11.3 kg) for my size. I was also starting at 6,800’ of elevation (2,072.6 m) and climbing 1,000 feet (305 m) in those 2 miles. So yes, it was a challenge.
But a fun thing: At the top of the climb, where there’s a nice vista, there’s also a cairn with a bell you can ring – I assume to signal you made it. So of course I rang the bell!
Making My Way to Mt. Taylor
Hugo had described reaching the top of the mesa as an easy jaunt for the next 9 miles (14.5 km) to their water cache, where they’d meet me to make sure all was OK. It certainly wasn’t as difficult as the climb, but it had its own challenges. The landscape here changes from desert to mountain to volcanic. There are lots of rocks that slow your going. And while there were some flat parts, the trail did keep climbing.
I took a lunch break and a guy came by on an ORV. He was looking for elk at a nearby water tank for cattle, as ranchers use this national forest for grazing their cattle. But that was the only person I saw on the trail.
The trail crosses a road that goes up to Mt. Taylor – it’s also the CDT’s Mt. Taylor Alternate and used to be the original CDT. (This trail has so many alternate routes it’s kind of ridiculous.) Carole and Hugo were a little more than 1 mile (1.6 km) up that road waiting for me. They were going to give me water and have Hugo lead me up an unmarked alternate to the alternate (ha!) that is single track trail instead of the road and a little shorter.
But then, two snags. First, something is wrong with either my iPhone, my back-up batteries or the cables. It appears to be my phone, but I don’t know …
So last week, I plugged my phone into an external battery to charge. I got a notice that said there was moisture in the lightning cable so I had to unplug it or it could ruin my phone. Weird, because the battery, cable and phone hadn’t gotten wet. But I unplugged everything and it took two days to work normally.
I used said battery, cable and phone on the way from the airport to Grants yesterday without a hitch. Then today I got the same message again. When I reached Carole and Hugo, I tried another cable. Long story short, every cable and both batteries gave me the same message. How could I continue my hike without an operating phone? Especially when I had no idea what was wrong. It kept saying the lightning cable had moisture in it, so why did I get the same message using a different cable and battery?
I finally noticed there was an emergency override option, so I pressed that and the phone began to charge. I hope it doesn’t wreck my phone, but what else can I do? Carole, Hugo and I came up with a code if my phone dies from this and I have to bail – because from here to Cuba (five more days) I’d either have one more chance to bail heading north or I’d have to return to this spot. The creative code: Text H for Help on my Garmin inReach if I am coming back here, and R for Rescue if I make it to the next (and last) road crossing.
Just after we got THAT out of the way, Carole said a storm was coming in about 20 minutes. What?! Nothing was forecast this morning. But, of course, it began to thunder. Lightning on a mountain at 11,000 feet (3,252.8 m) is no joke, nor is it when I’m on a lava field on the mountain face, which is apparently where I’m headed for after cresting the mountain.
I won’t bore you with the various options, but I followed Hugo a little way up his secret passage when rain began splattering down. Of course, I had ditched my rain poncho to keep my pack weight down, as it’s not supposed to rain in New Mexico now. I quickly set up camp and he left. I only got a little wet.
Day Is Done
So this was a disappointing end to the day. I’m about 5 miles shy of my day’s goal, which means 5 miles to tack onto my next few days. I’m also stuck in my tiny tent, which is uncomfortable to be in for many hours. But that’s hiking. It would have been far worse to have pushed to the mountaintop, gotten soaked and then developed hypothermia.
Today’s Miles: 11.8 (19 km)
CDT Miles to Date: 131 (210.8 km)
CDT Miles to Go: 2,969 (4,778.1 km)