Day 4: mile 59.9-78 (18.1 miles)
Today was a great reminder that this is not the PCT. 18 miles to water or 25 miles to town, it should have been a cakewalk with the hardest decision to push to town or not. Not so much.
I'm not sure if Thatch or the rain woke me up. Either way at 5:15 it was sprinkling. I popped open my umbrella curled into a little ball and pretended nothing was happening. The rain stopped but by 5:45 was at it again so I packed up and headed into the predawn light. Thatch was already gone and within minutes the wind was whipping into my face and it was pouring. I couldn't see a trail sign to save my life and all the landmarks to navigate towards had disappeared into a gray wall. I kept walking, under so many barbed wire fences through flat cattle land. By 8 my hands were no longer working well and I couldn't get them to function with my gps. Plus I was starting to full on teeth chatter kind of shiver. I had made it to Mayfield Rd which the trail crossed but I just couldn't figure out where. I bee lined to the best trees/shelter I could find and got my tent up in the wind. Ever try putting stakes in solid mud with cold hands and not a rock in sight? Yeah that's a challenge. But it was up and I was in, warm sleeping bag, warm socks and some peanut butter. Back on track.
The wind and rain kept up for awhile and I slept on and off. Using my umbrella in my tent to prop it up when a stake came out, I was not moving from that sleeping bag. Finally around 11 it looked like the sun might stick around. I finally ate some more, packed up my wet and filthy gear the best I could and headed out.
I headed off and was ridiculously happy when I found my first sign.
Less happy when I realized during the storm I had gotten 100% turned around and had actually been heading south, I was almost back to where I had started. Back heading North I felt good, until I again stubbornly went too long in one direction despite not seeing any signs. I was never too far from where I should be but far enough that it was frustrating. It wasn't until almost 2 that I was truly on track again and I was a little gun shy, assuming I would get lost again at any minute.
In all those hours I had gone less than 3 miles. I now had to get 15 miles to the water cache and it was getting late. Town was out of my reach, I was just hoping for water. So I started booking it across wide open countryside fighting some head on wind the whole way.
I had been hoping to avoid cow water but I was low enough that I went for it. To explain there are no natural water sources these first 120 miles or so. The caches are present the first 80 but otherwise you rely on cow water. See cattle is big money and those guys have to drink too. So things like solar wells and windmills get water to thirsty cows and hikers.
The first tank I passed was pretty rank but the next wasn't bad so I happily grabbed some slightly green algae water and off I went.
Back on the trail still feeling great. The plus side of the crazy wind is you can sing at the top of your lungs and no one can hear you. The cows certainly don't seem to mind.
The rain continued to spit occasionally, I even got some hail when I was wandering around 1 but thankfully nothing like the morning.
The cross country gave way to some road walking and some really beautiful scenery near Pyramid Peak.
I made it to the cache by 6:30. No way was I trying for town. I was going to enjoy my sleep and take all of Monday to do town chores in Lordsburg.
There are registers all along the trail which are super fun for us hikers. They are in places like water caches, trail heads and businesses hikers frequent in town. Everyone writes in them as they pass through so you get to see everyone whose ahead of you. Hanitizer of course had already headed into town, the Maine Guy must have passed during the storm and there was no sign of Thatch so I hope he's okay. I'm thinking he might have had a similar day to mine. But for me I'm cowboy camped behind a bush near the cache in a vague attempt to stay out of the wind. Tomorrow town!