The morning was chilly with the alpine breeze swirling through our campsite. Even the tree we had pitched our tents under could not block us from the piercing wind. It was a blustery night, but we camped on a ridge line and that always comes with the territory.
We began our climb up the remaining thousand feet of Jack's Peak. At the top, we were pleasantly surprised with cool air and towering pine trees. There also sat a foundation of an old homestead, chimney still intact. What a place to live. Of all the places we had seen so far in New Mexico, this was the only spot that seemed enjoyably inhabitable.
The tall pines made for a pine needle floor, clearly defined trail and cool, cool shade. From the top, we could see all the flat land and rolling hills for miles. It was hard to stop looking. We were at 8023 feet, but it felt like we were on top of the world.
With an entire day before us, we started our descent back into the depths of the pine forest. The critters here were giant, bushy squirrels, thick black lines of ants, and woodpeckers. All the chatter was coming from all the clusters of woodpeckers surrounding us. One group in particular must have been dealing with territorial matters because they kept dive bombing each other and running along limbs with their wings wide out beside them.
A couple of miles down, we found our very first natural water source. A tiny, seasonal creek no more than several inches wide flowed along rocks and gathered in a tiny pool. We grabbed for our filters and started filling up our bottles and bladders. This was the last good looking water for awhile, and that meant we would again be dry camping.
After leaving this small stream we began a mindless trot along the trail. Just as we got into a rhythm, a crashing noise occurred just in front of us and a huge bull jumped up breaking every limb above him. He proceeded to take a few quick steps, turned to face us and picked up one of his front legs. He was not exactly happy to see us. Since he was directly in line with the trail and wasn't budging, we made a quick detour loop through some scrub brush and began on our way again, looking back every now and then.
After a lunchtime nap, which are never long enough, we hit the trail for another seven miles. To pass the time we invented games. One game used each consecutive letter of the alphabet and each person had to say the name of a movie starting with that letter. For awhile we just played "would you rather." A few miles later and we were tired of playing. In fact, we were just plain tired. We didn't have many more miles to cover, but they dragged on. We were hungry and noticeably dehydrated.
We came to our last water source of the day. After passing a cow pond, we had arrived. A few clear pools with algae floating on the top sat in front of us. They weren't at all a bad water source, but after realizing that we only had a mile left to hike and each had over two liters, we continued to camp.
Just after leaving the water source we noticed a big pile of scat that look very similar to that of a bear. Great. We were too tired to have any bears ruin our sleep.
After arriving to camp we somehow managed to put up our tent and set up camp. A few hundred feet downwind of camp, we made dinner. Shortly after digging in to our meals, we started coming back to life. We began laughing again and telling jokes. Sleep came easy and bear free.
Cheers, and happy hiking!
Garbelly & Critter