A daunting 13 mile road walk into town makes for taking it easy today. This is due in part to not wanting to split up the 13 into two parts and sleeping on the side of the highway (very illegal) as well as not arriving to Silver City super late and losing the benefits of passing through a town. So we took it easy.
The sun was up by the time that we twisted our sleeping pad nozzles open and let our weight send the air rushing out. Unlike previous mornings we did not rush to fold up and pack our sleeping essentials or rid ourselves of our warm base layers in which we slept. We took it easy. Once we were packed up, we wandered along the forest service road and then a trail and then a forest service road again and then a trail. Following the trail we did not have any more climbs, we were just winding along through the hills with an overlook of the valley and mountains in the distance. It was beautiful, and moments of trail like this one are just another reminder of why we are out here.
We passed through boulder fields along the side of hill. Large, beautifully golden rock, that was so smooth and cold from the sun not yet hitting them, made it feel like we were on a playground. They were perfect rocks to climb on, sit on, and even hide behind to jump out and yell "gotcha"!
The trail sure does provide.
Following the signs we got to a road again with a sign on the other side framing a trail that skirted down to the left. However, arrows were made on the sand with sticks and the message 'CDT--->' was drawn in the sand pointing to the right down the road. This was the intersection where if we would have continued following the signs we would have hit a dead end 8 miles down the trail. Having learned that hint from Radar back in Lordsburg, we turned our backs to the trail marker and followed the road.
Veering off to the left parked by a rusty metal post and a gate led us into a sandy canyon. Then even further down the trail we saw tiny channels of sparkling water. Our second natural source of running water, and we had made it to our own personal desert oasis. An old rusted sign read ' Saddle Rock Riparian Restoration Area' and was placed at the fork of the trail. Looking down the right side was where we had just come from and down the left side you could see the sparkling channels weaving through the canyon. Of course, we followed the left side up along the creek, hopping from side to side of the clear flowing water.
About 200 yards away from the fork in the trail, the canyon narrowed, growing taller on either side, and the sound of rippling water from small waterfalls became more prevalent. We sat our packs down tucked in behind larger boulders in the shade, grabbed our filters and scurried over to a large, dark rock shinning in the sun as water rolled over its edges. Our empty bottles went from empty to filled with fresh, cold spring water, clear as glass. Just as a previous hiker noted, this place was our very own 'fairy garden.'
It is easy to take advantage of water. We are all guilty of it. Shoot, we even took advantage of the fact that we had five caches on the stretch to Lordsburg. At each cache we had clean water that we could pour right into our bottles. This stretch has been different and more realistic. At this point we have only seen two natural water sources, both small and seem incredibly fragile. However, the water was crystal clear and flowing triumphantly along its own trail. As we sat in the canyon tucked behind boulders, we could still hear the wind rattling the trees and the critters yipping above us. The sound that stopped us in our tracks, stopped our minds from wandering, brought us to the absolute most present was the sound of the water. The splashes and the gurgling and the bubbling water pooling up at the base of a small waterfall brought rejuvenation and another reminder of why we hike.
We stayed in the riparian area, chasing shade, until a good bit past lunch time. We climbed up rocks, lounged on rock seats, followed the canyon up a little ways, and pigged out on food (since we were still packing a lot and we would be in town in seventeen miles).
Once we started walking again, we followed the creek back to the fork in the trail. The sparkling water that caught our attention just a couple of hours ago had dried up leaving nothing but the channels it had carved in its place. We continued walking through the canyon. There were tall rock pillars and piles along the walls of the canyon. The trail zigzagged us through loose sand and pebbles, which made for difficult, slow walking. Who ever said they loved taking long walks on the beach must have never taken a long walk through sand with shoes and a pack on because you end up feeling like a Tennessee walking horse.
We did not see any horses on this stretch but once the canyon widen out at the mouth of the National Forest there were cows everywhere. If we could not see them, we could hear them mooing.
We left the National Forest. Before we reached the highway, we found a drainage ditch tucked away from the road and from sight. We sat there for an hour or so in the shade. At one point, we watched the silhouette of cows grazing above us on the lip of dirt. Occasionally one would graze over the edge and would startle off at the sight of us sitting quietly below them.
We made dinner and made sure everything was ready to go for our 4:00am departure. Setting up our pads and fluffing our sleeping bags, we were stealth cowboy camping tonight so that we could go by unbothered. We went to bed while the sun was still up, but woke up periodically to the 'rap rap' of a 4-wheeler and the brightness of the stars overhead.
C'est la vie!
Garbelly & Critter