Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 20: La Ventana and the Rim

I'm 5/12: Mile ?-522 somewhere on the side of the road

Miles: well that's a great question, I'll pick a nice midpoint, maybe 25? Just estimates but was looking close to 23 but my super fancy iPhone pedometer says 28...

Total trip miles: 378.4

We camped pretty close to a construction zone thinking we'd duck out before they started. Yeah not so much. We woke up to construction sounds. I'm a giant chicken and didn't just want to pop up from under barbed wire, I walked up to the fence a few times but when Bigfoot got up and I finally manned up and we headed out. Turns out I didn't have to worry at all. We spent a good 15 minutes chatting with the stop sign holder who thought we were nuts. He was super nice and even wanted our picture and gave us some water. I guess they were radioing each other because by the time we had walked through the other end asked in disbelief, "you guys are really walking to Canada?" A rad way to start the morning. 

A quick peek at Lava Falls (we were to lazy to walk the whole mile off trail but we looked down). More road walking and after we saw what looked like a solar well we stopped to check it out. Good water and somehow Funsize was behind us and we were back to 3. 

Because fake walking is way more fun than actual walking, that's our Mesa coming up in the distance. 

The whole day was pretty much giggling, bad jokes and a whole lot of nonsense. We took the turnoff for the Canyon Rim trail and left highway 117 walking along the top of Mesa overlooking fields of lava. It was pretty cool but awfully sandy and I got pretty rattled when my Achilles started acting up. I slowed my pace, took out my insoles and grabbed some ibuprofen crossing my fingers. 

Being up on top of a mesa as thunderheads approach isn't the best plan so I was just trying to reach the end. The whole idea of taking the rim trail was to look at the lava from a different angle and get a peek of the La Ventana natural arch from the top then cut down and get a glimpse from the bottom. 

New views, getting close to the arch 

Much more obvious in person, the arch is to the left

Doesn't that look like a trail?

I caught up with the guys when the trail just ended at the viewpoint. Pretty cool, huge mesas and the rock out here is so gorgeous. But the clouds were looking serious so after so good old fashioned wandering and GPS use we found a route down. It started a little on the sketchy side but soon enough there was a bit of a deer trail, even a cairn or two. 

Not that impressive from the bottom but it was pretty steep

At the bottom we were a bit wrecked. It felt like we had walked a ton. But we were only 10-12 miles into our day and it was already 2. We lounged a bit then wandered to the parking lot making use of the beautiful bathrooms and trash cans. Then it was back to the road. 

Funsize is apparently a magical rain repellent and as the clouds built we had a happy little sunshine spot right above us. Cool rocks, we even passed an Eagle Rock. Although unlike the PCT this was on reservation land so no trespassing to play on it. 

There was a little water cache and another trail decision a few miles later. Either walk 8 miles across lava fields or take the official CDT down 117 the rest of the way to Grants. We vetoed the lava, I'm sure it's awesome but no one really was feeling a long slog in thunderstorms. Word is its a tough section, no camping and very slow cairn to cairn travel. The road stretched out ahead. Moving slowly we laughed our way down the road. The last mile before the El Malpais Ranger Station stretched on forever but we finally got there. They were closed since it was after 6 but thankfully their water was on. I'm bummed we got there late, it looked like a cool visitors center. We decided to push on another 45 min-1 hour to get closer to town. The trees surrounding us thinned and the rain sprinkled on and off, nothing bad but camping was not looking as promising as before. 

About 2 miles in we ducked a fence that was missing the ever present no trespassing signs and headed up towards a bluff. Dinner and tents we happily avoided any rain until after bed. Tomorrow it's about 14 miles to town and an official zero day. Which means no hiking and two whole nights in motel, luxury awaits. 

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