Daily Log: Day 69

Meetup: Day 69 – Saturday 9/19/2020 – 2213.0 – sunny, breezy, cool. I woke and packed up. I tried to sleep in but only got to 5:20 am. Oh well I tried on my last day. I put on my puffy to get warmer. I had my last on-trail pop tart breakfast sitting against the Jeep ‘s back tire. Then I was off at 6:10 am. Up the road by another campsite. I hiked quietly by them to not wake their dogs. I came to a gate blocking the road and walked around. The road walk was easy and now it was light enough to see. I went by a closed camping area trailhead and two small lakes. I had plenty of water so I didn’t stop. The trail began to climb. Easily I ascended. At about 7 am I was warmed up and stopped to take off my headlight, headband and puffy. I was disappointed that I had only gone 3 miles. Oh well I only had 7 more and I would be done. I started listening to my audio book Nine Perfect Strangers to help pass the time. Then at 8:15 am I stopped for my first snack. I was again surprised because now I had only 4 miles left. Where did the time and miles go? I must have been moving faster or misread the earlier mileage. The trail was up on the crest of a hill and became very rocky. Carefully I placed each foot. I was trying to make good speed. Nearly there I saw two mountain bikers approach. I said hi and they said they had met my son – a typical refrain but a good one for the last day – ha! I was only 1/2 mile to go. But I made a bad turn coming down the hill and when I looked at Guthooks I was a few tenths of a mile beyond. So I climbed back up the hill, went by the horse corral, by Ken’s camp but didn’t see his truck, and started down to the forest road to the intersection. I saw the Jeep. I yelled a big loud “Hello” and saw Justin waving. A moment later a big hug, lots of smiles, selfies and I WAS DONE, WE WERE DONE, IT IS DONE.

Hiking into camp where we had been stranded for three days in the snowstorm. This completes my goal of section-hiking over 1000 miles in 69 days from South Pass City WY to Cuba NM where I had gotten off trail in 2016. What remains is to hike from South Pass City WY to Glacier National Park and the Canadian border. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
I am happy. I am done. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Time to sit down, drink a celebratory Coke, and … (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
tell Justin that I couldn’t have done it without him. Thank you son! (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Marking the end I send my last Garmin InReach daily message: “I’m checking in, everything is ok.” As they would say in the movies: It’s a wrap. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 68

Meetup: Day 68 – Friday 9/18/2020 – 2223.5 – cloudy, some sun, cool. My typical 5 am sit up, get out of sleeping bag, pack it away, pack my pillow bag, do potty, pack backpack, put tent away, and eat breakfast. On trail at 5:45 am. Several medium climbs but with the day pack they were easy. I quickly passed two bow hunters coming the other way. I went through lots of meadows, pines, and aspens. I went from one mesa to the next. I arrived at Justin and the Jeep at about 2:40 pm. I set up tent, and prepped for tomorrow. TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY! Only 10 more miles. I will be returning to the spot were we were snowed-in for three days.

Hiking into camp on the eve of the last day. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Setting up my tent has become an easy habit. Only one more night after this one. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
With the tent up in the background the master chef, Justin, smiles and gets to work making another tasty and nutritious dinner: tortillas stuffed with carnitas, corn chips and bean dip. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Justin moves the trusty Jeep into a level position to pop the roof-top tent. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 67

Meetup: Day 67 – Thursday 9/17/2020 – 2245.0 – clear, sunny, warm/cool. I got up at my usual time of 5 am having awaken much earlier but laid there until 5 am. I packed up and ate breakfast. Justin got up at 5:30 am. We drove to the trailhead 0.8 miles away at 5:45 am. I was on trail at 5:50 am in the dark with my head lamp. I might have seen a bear ahead of me on the trail so began singing “She’ll be com in’ round the mountain”. The dark object ahead disappeared into the forest. If it was a bear then that was close. Whew! Today was a social day. I met Alex and her dog. She hadn’t seen anyone for 4 days. About 0.5 miles later I met six older (my age) hikers out for three days. I mentioned I had flipped to the spring near Cuba NM and they said that the last hiker maintains that section. I explained about ending my hike there in 2016 when two maintainers were working on the spring and that last hiker said it was he and his friend Charlie who was there that day. He said Charlie drove me to town. He remembered me! Think about that… meeting in the middle of the forest, chatting about 4 years ago, and to happen upon one of the guys who helped me. Wow! A big wow! A few miles later I had to cross a stream. It was probably 20’ across so I couldn’t jump it or step from rock to rock. There was a gigantic tree that had fallen across it about four feet above the stream with rushing water and sharp rocks below. My balance is not great and I very very slowly took steps to cross. I used my poles to help balance too. There were dead branches sticking out at various angles that were in the way. In the last few feet I began to wobble but luckily as I began to fall I was able to grab a branch and didn’t. Wow that was close! However my hands were shaking. Adrenaline! I had just made it. A little while later I met two more hikers named Sweet Pea and Beardo. They said “we met your son” and he gave us a soda! Justin the trail angel strikes again. They had flipped and flopped all around the CDT. At about 2:30 pm I completed my day’s hike arriving at the Jeep. Justin had been writing the snow blog entry. I went to set up my tent while he finished up. I asked him to read it to me and as he did he got choked up at the end. It was indeed our most exciting and difficult time on this overland adventure. We had brats for dinner. Only two more days.

Daily Log: Day 66

Meetup: Day 66 – Wednesday 9/16/2020 – 2265.4 – some clouds, sunny, warm. Sheesh, I can’t sleep in. I was up at 5 am. I packed up and was on trail at 5:45 am. Nowadays it is very dark out when I start to hike so used my headlamp for 45 min until dawn. Today was a very long but gentle climb. I went across wide grassy swaths. While hiking I stopped for snacks, and lunch. It’s the little things. I find it amazing that I’m out here in the middle of nowhere eating my lunch. I only had about 4 miles to go. I had been listening to Infidel audio book, I finished it and then moved on to 14 Minutes audio book about Alberto Salazar, the famous runner. I got to Justin about 2 pm – early afternoon. We chatted but we were both quiet. He hadn’t done or seen much today. He arrived early in the morning and did some writing. He also talked to some other people who were at the trailhead. After I arrived he drove me back to the camping area about a mile away. I set up my tent and did my chores for tomorrow. We had pancakes and bacon for dinner. Sugar high! He’ll have to wake early to drive me back to the trailhead. I only have about 50 miles to go. So close now. Only three days left.

Middle Canjilon Campground is funny looking when seen on Satellite view.

Daily Log: Day 65

Meetup: Day 65 – Tuesday 9/15/2020 – 2284.4 – clear, sunny, hot, windy and threatening clouds at end. I woke late at 5:25 am and rushed to pack up. I was on trail at 6:07 am. First thing was 3.7 mile climb to the top of the mesa. Then it was miles of walking on the edge of the mesa. The trail was confusing at times and I hand held my phone as I struggled to find the trail. Several times I was off trail and finally realized that I just needed to stay on the edge of the mesa. I descended and crossed Highway 84. I couldn’t find a gate. I had to climb under a barb wire fence on the other side of the road. I conserved water and used my platypus for the first two morning snacks. At lunch I guzzled my 0.7L bottle and another at my afternoon snack. I finished the day’s hike about 3:30 pm. At the Jeep I downed a number of cans of soda. Justin cooked pork tacos for dinner. I finished with a mini pecan pie, some cookies and tootsie roll pops for dessert. Overall it was a good day. Only have about 70 miles to go. It really looks like I’m gonna do this long ass section after all. Yippee! Tomorrow I’ll meet Justin at a road crossing and he’s going to drive me to a campground that’s 0.8 miles away.

Panoramic picture as sunrise lights up the distant mesas.
High on the edge of a mesa looking out as sunrise crawls across the geography below.
Setting up my tent beside an isolated forest road. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Time for bed. Only a few more days, a few more meetups, a few more dinners, and few more hikes. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 64

Meetup: Day 64 – Monday 9/14/2020 – 2305.9 – clear, sunny, hot. I woke at 5 am. I packed up, ate breakfast and was on trail about 5:45 am. I started with a descent and a flat. My first and only climb was steep and hard to follow. I had lost the trail. But then near the ridge’s top I saw a sign to my right “Horses left” and “Hikers right”. I had found the trail again. At top the ridge was flat. Later on I was trying to follow the trail but I lost it again. I was deep in the forest. The track was obscured by many blow downs. I wondered if I’d get lost in there, but I just keep pushing forward and using my Guthooks app to confirm my location and direction time and again. I made it through, but it slowed me down. I sent Justin an InReach message saying I’d be late [“At 2312.2, very slow going, expect me to be later than planned.” Sep 14, 2020 1:46 PM]. Then I had to cross a meandering stream a number of times. In the hot late afternoon I arrived at Rio Chama parking lot where I found Justin at 4 pm. It was a long day. We had PackIt Gourmet pizzas. I added pie, cookies and tootsie roll pops as dessert too. Tomorrow’s hike starts with a 3.7 mile climb. There is no water on this section so I’ll start with 3.7 L and conserve conserve conserve.

Meet up campsite beside the Rio Chama. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 63

Meetup: Day 63 – Sunday 9/13/2020 – 2326.9 – clear, sunny, cool, some clouds. I woke in front of the Jeep at Rebel Roost in Cuba NM at 5 am. I packed up my damp sleeping bag and wet tent. I ate breakfast at about 5:30 am and then hiked 0.3 miles back to the CDT alternative using my headlamp. I took Los Pinos County Road and began to climb. I followed the dotted trail line and went on a closed road. I passed another gate and continued to climb the road. Finally I got to Los Pinos Trailhead and the road because a trail. I scared a cow and its calf who were beside the trail. They proceeded follow the trail and climb ahead of me. After a while my cow company disappeared and I continued to climb alone. At a trail junction I met two hikers. We chatted and they said that most of the climb was done. I got to a meadow, got some water, talked to a fisherman and returned to the actual CDT. A slight climb and I was at the summit. I descended to Justin and got to our meetup at 2:20 pm. Overall I was feeling good and the climb and the distance wasn’t too tiring. Tomorrow I’ll be doing 21 miles with a climb in the middle to meet Justin. He says I only have 6 more days. Wow! It’s almost over, but I still can’t believe it.

Are those bear tracks? I think they are. Gotta keep my eyes open and be watchful.
Got to our meet-up point and Justin was there. Yippee! (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 62

Meetup: Day 62 – Saturday 9/12/2020 – flip flopped! started at spring at 2362.5 at 10:40 am and nearest non-alternative mile is 2347.o – sunny, hot, few clouds. Justin and I woke at 6:15 am in Chama NM at the Chama Station Inn. Justin stopped for coffee and groceries while I waited in the car. Together we drove the back roads to the spring that I had stopped at in 2016 south of Cuba NM. There is no snow except for a few little drifts here and there. The hike is not over! From there I hiked back to Cuba. This hike included about 7 miles of road walk. Once in Cuba NM I got to Justin in the Jeep at 5:15 pm at Los Pinos County Road, which is tomorrow’s hike starting point. It’s late, I’m tired, but regardless I’m on trail. He cooked two delicious ribeye steaks with corn chips and bean dip for dinner. Tomorrow I’ll slack pack about 20 miles on an alternative trail with a 3800’ climb over 14 miles. This re-route is due to a private-land conflict mentioned on the CDT website. I’ll meet Justin at the end. We plan on meeting up each day to be safe if weather turns bad again. Tomorrow’s weather should be clear.

There is no snow in Cuba NM which was my original southbound section-hike goal. It is now my flip-flopping northbound re-starting point (or at least the spring 15 miles south of Cuba where I had gotten off trail in 2016). (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Back nearby the spring south of Cuba NM. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Time to start hiking northbound now. Overall I’m heading back to where the snow storm has gotten me off-trail. But today’s goal is Cuba NM and meeting up with Justin. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Up on the New Mexico mesas.
No longer does it look like the Rocky Mountains.
After the stress of the snowstorm I’m looking quite relaxed at the Rebels Roost. Oh and we’re having delicious ribeye steaks tonight. Yum! (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 61

Meetup: Zero: Day 61 – Friday 9/11/2020 – 2213.0 – sunny, snow on ground, warmer. I first woke at 5:30 am then got up at 6 am as Justin stirred above me. He came down about 6:15 am and tried to start the Jeep and warm it up. But it wouldn’t turn over. OMG! The battery is dead. What did we do to run the battery down? We don’t know. We would have to wait until Ken leaves around 8 am to jump us. We are so glad Ken and the other hunters were there or we’d be totally stuck. Kind Justin made me hot chocolate and I had a pop tart. We wait wait wait. Finally Ken drove up. We tell him our battery is dead. We jumped the batteries and off we went. Just around the corner only 0.1 miles was the first hill. Ken led and up he went. Then it was Justin’s turn and he stalled and immediately realized that he couldn’t restart. The battery is dead. OMG! Honk honk. Tell Ken we’re stuck again. Justin runs up the hill and luckily Ken had a spare disconnected battery. We tried it. Nope. Again. Nope. It’s dead too. Ken and Justin walked back to Ken’s camp and came back with another battery along with some things Ken had forgotten. We tried it. Nope. Repeat. Nope. It’s dead too. As Ken carried his extra stuff up to his truck Justin went back to have Ken’s uncle drive his truck as a jump for the battery. Finally that worked. Up the hill we went. Ken lead and Justin followed. The next hill, although it looked easy, wasn’t. Ken slid off to the side. We tried, failed and backed down. We attached tow straps to Ken’s rear end and tried to pull him straight and down. As this was happening we got blocked by a small tree and he nearly slid into us but missed. OMG! We detached the tow straps. We gave it a try next and we got to the top. Yippee! Then Ken powered up the hill on the right side of the current tracks. He almost made it but stopped. He climbs out, grabs a shovel from the back and starts digging his wheels free. After with a burst of power he makes it. A little while later and further down the road he gets to the top and we get stuck in a muddy patch. Out come all our tow straps again, but wait. Ken yells to get in our Jeep because a flock of sheep need to pass. So before he can pull us up we get in our trucks and wait as one thousand sheep, several dogs and their shepherd goes by. Finally Ken pulls us up. The worst of the road ends. It’s still a bumpy muddy dirt road but there are now track to follow. Down curves and switchbacks we drive. Then we see a vehicle with a hay bale coming the other way. We’re in the lead so we pull to the side. They go by but now we’re in a ditch and can’t get out. Ken comes over and begins to dig and pack a ramp but every time Justin tries to get out he can’t. His Jeep keeps following the ditch. Finally he tries to power further along it and gets back on the road and he does. If he hadn’t then the ditch would have forced us further off road and down a hill. Whew! Finally the worst was over. Carefully we followed the forest road to the highway. Asphalt! There we wait for Ken. When he pulls up we congratulated each other and thank each other for the help. Ken said he is going into Chama NM and we offered to buy him lunch. On the way he stopped to talk to his sister-in-law Rose who owns the Chama Station Inn. We asked if she has an available room – and she does. So after a big hamburger lunch we went to our room and both got showers. Later after saying our goodbyes and thanks to Ken we leave to have pizza at the Local Local Local restaurant. Yum! A very very exciting day. And I’m so glad it’s over. I’ve come to the realization that if Cuba NM has snow anything like what we’ve been though then the hike is over. We will see tomorrow. But tonight I’ve got an actual bed to sleep on.

On Friday September 11 we and one of the hunters named Ken made our escape. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
However, our battery was dead for some unknown reason. So Ken jumped us but only 0.1 miles into our escape the Jeep stalled and we had to get Ken’s uncle to come restart us. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
One hill after another Ken in his pickup truck and us in the Jeep would try to climb it. Sometime one or the other or both succeeded. Other times one would help the other. Here Ken is helping get the Jeep over a hill with a tow strap. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Added to all this commotion a thousand sheep came by. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
While shepherds on horseback and sheep dogs herded the sheep down the “road”. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
After four hours we finally made it to the highway near Cumbres Pass and we offered to buy Ken’s lunch in Chama NM. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)
Although I was still cold we ate burgers, relaxed and chatted about our morning adventure. That night Justin and I stayed at the Chama Station Inn. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)

Daily Log: Day 60

Meetup: Zero: Day 60 – Thursday 9/10/2020 – 2213.0 – more snow! I woke up in Jeep. Even more snow has fallen overnight. I did nothing all day but sit. While we sat we listened to an audio book and sometimes I napped. Sweet Justin made brats for lunch. I did nothing. Dear Justin made pork and rice bowl for dinner. The snow is melting very slowly. It is falling off the tree branches a bit. Cows wander by, pause to look at us, and move on. I prepared to sleep inside Jeep again tonigh. Tomorrow we will attempt to leave with Ken at 8 am. It might take all day or longer if we get stuck during our escape.

We had water, and food and the Jeep. We were lucky to have them. So I decided to pack up my tent and stay in the Jeep to keep warm. (Photograph Courtesy of J. Watt)