5/15: mile 535-551.9
Total trip miles: 408
Well it was back on the trail today, but it certainly wasn't a speedy start. I annoyingly woke up before 6 and most of us headed down at 6:30 for the continental breakfast. Then we somehow managed to kill over 3 hours doing chores like cleaning up the room, organizing gear, updating blogs and who knows what else. All we keep hearing about is how much snow and rain Colorado has been getting, apparently 4 weeks worth. Bigfoots friend went snowboarding this past weekend. Big deal right? For us weather starved Californians rain and snow are great, except Colorado isn't that far anymore. In fact it's less than 2 weeks away now and all that snow will soon be right in front of me. So there's been lots of last minute gear decisions among everyone. Current consensus is ice axes and micro spikes starting in Chama. I ordered snow gaiters too so when my poor self postholes repeatedly my legs will hopefully be slightly less abused. Snow looks soft but postholing rips up your legs and mine have already suffered enough.
So when we finally had our act together we headed out. Nightcrawler and Thatch walked out from the hotel because they hadn't wandered farther downtown like us, and Bigfoot, Funsize, Mountain Spice and I grabbed the free bus back to the Lotaburger where we had officially gotten off trail. One last snack and we actually left. We spilt again with the guys heading to the post office and Nightcrawler, Mountain Spice and I heading out of town.
We stopped at the forest service ranger station hoping to get some on trail water updates (status of springs etc) but instead ended up having a frustratingly useless and overall disappointing conversation. The whole thing was bad vibes. Bigfoot and Funsize caught up, we filled up water to at least dry camp and didn't try to ask any more questions. Hopefully it was a one time thing, we heard the El Malpais ranger was great, this one not so much.
Road walking the afternoon away
We were headed out of town into an approaching storm so most of my attention was on the gathering clouds. But that didn't mean I couldn't stare at least a little at yet another prison. This was the most serious looking of the 3 we have passed but soon enough the road walk was over and we got on genuine trail!
It feels like it's been ages since real trail. We had one last group snack and then started off. Spreading out as we started climbing, this trail has not had a whole lot of big climbs but this was certainly steeper than anything in the last week. Nothing compared to what's coming in Colorado but hard enough when all my legs are to do lately is road walk.
I walked mostly with Mountain Spice. It's always cool getting to know new thruhikers. Our luck with the rain wasn't happening and thunder started rumbling. The storm was even had surreally loud thunder, it sounded like the sky was splitting right above my head. Very comforting when walking on mesas. The trail was pretty neat. It was a steep climb followed by long flat sections then more climbing. Unfortunately views were pretty nonexistent but it was in forest and super well signed so that was exciting.
I stared to slow down and between the breaks to take on and off rain gear I fell behind. You tend to overheat when hiking in rain gear but need it when it starts raining so it's a lovely battle. Especially when the sky can't decide what the heck it wants and flips every 20 minutes. Either way I was taking my time. My new shoes are nice, squishy and hole free but my feet are a bit confused by the extra support and are a little achy and whiny. So slow and steady. Funsize stopped to camp during a particularly long wet spell and less than a mile later MountainSpice calls it quits as well.
Kramers and I walk a bit together and I start to perk up, who knows why. We catch Bigfoot at the only viewpoint slightly off trail and head the last mile to the intersection where we planned to stop. Tomorrow is yet another route decision. We've actually been climbing up the base of Mt Taylor all afternoon. The official trail skirts the west side of the mountain while the alternate climbs over 2000 ft to the top. I of course want to do the alternate but we've heard it might be raining in the morning again which could mean nasty ice/snow conditions. So we decided to camp at the split and make the decision in the morning when we can see the sky.
We set up tents and only got a few sprinkles but soon enough it was hailing again and I just jeep slowly adding layers. It's going to be cold tonight! Weather was saying 30 degrees, all I know is I'm camped at 9000 ft and that's awfully high. Either way I get the joy of sleeping with my phone and water tonight so they don't freeze.
While eating dinner and trying to stay warm guess who shows up? Thatch! I had been sure he was ahead but I guess after the post office town chores got ahold of him so he managed to fall behind. And then Funsize appeared, when it stopped raining he packed up and joined us. There's one other mystery hiker camped here and right before dark Giggles showed up. It looks like everyone has the same plan. Depending on how crazy the weather is in the morning will be the deciding factor. I'm already dreading my cold shoes and taking down a frozen tent but am stoked for tomorrow whatever happens.