We enjoy a relaxing morning with coffee, oatmeal and the colorful leaves all around us. On a gentle incline we walk towards the ridge. It's another easy, well-graded path. The kind I could walk forever and never need anything else in the world. But then we reach a junction and begin our journey on the Crest Trail through the Manzano range.
We turn left and shit gets real. Without wasting any time the path is overgrown and reaching out to grab our legs. On the up side, only some of the plants have thorns. The rest is scrub oak, just scratchy and mildly painful.
I wonder if the whole day will be like this. I left behind my hiking pants in favor of shorts and am questioning if this was the right decision. I guess eventually I'll get used to walking through constant shrubs tearing at my skin. But no,
I don't want to. I put on my rain pants at the top when it gets extra windy and feel like a super hero when I walk through the bushes pain-free.
The ridge turns out to be amazing. The wind keeps howling and roaring just to keep things dramatic and the shrubs die down. It's just us and the yellow grass and many rocks underfoot. We lose the trail and find it again many times over, always walking between cairns. It feels like a puzzle and exercises the part of my brain that loves to solve problems. Eventually we descend and it gets way too hot so I walk in my shorts letting the branches scratch at my legs. Being too hot in my rain pants, they stick to my legs and it limits my range of motion. Shorts are the only option. So my legs begin to bleed at all the scratchy shrubs.
At lunch time we stop to look for water. It's 'a short bushwhack', says the map. 'Avoid thickets at all costs' says the map. Easier said than done. We traipse for about an hour through the throned bushes and never find the water source. And we can't cook lunch until we get more water.
Mud says we could have found it if we kept looking. But there's a campground one mile up the trail and we decide to test our luck.
And so ensues the all-time low point of the day. The next mile is straight uphill. Straight. Up. My stomach roars of hunger and I shove a Luna Bar in my mouth between gasps for air, just to try and stave off the bad mood of low blood sugar. Finally we crest the top of the mountain and wander toward the campground. No faucets, but there is someone camped there with twelve jugs of water just sitting out. We call out and hear no answer, so just fill up on water and go eat lunch. Thank you! We say, to no one.
It becomes clear now that with all the water finding and losing of the trail that our pace is closer to 2 than 3 mph and may cost us an extra day before our next resupply. It's that kind of trail.
And so continues the climb through thickets. There are no places left on my legs that have not been scratched, so the new scratches are all on top of old scratches which makes it extra painful. We reach the top and climb down, losing the trail again and scrambling over fallen trees on an exposed mountainside.
After another trek off-trail to find water, we set up camp in a protected grove of trees. Our search for waternthis evening is simple
consuming, as the spring drips at a rate of 1 liter every 1 minutes. Mud stays behind to fill the rest of our bottles while I go back to camp and set up the tent.
Inside the tent,
I eat dinner and count the remaining food in my bag. Mud gives me two of his bars and with this, I think I'll make it. We fall asleep to the wind howling over the ridge and temperatures dropping to almost freezing.
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