Saturday, April 29, 2017

Still in Gila NF and the story of my some good, but mostly very bad day

On Earth day we Marched for Science in Silver City, NM. From the facebook page we expected a small turnout, 12 people were confirmed. We arrived and the total tallied was 151 people, not bad for a small city. The walk here was short, only 3/4 of a mile from the WNMU to Gough park. At Gough park we wandered through the vendors for the Earth day celebration. I should mention Nick. He was the go to man for the March. He was a high energy fireball, apparently the guy for first aid, and all your stapler or duck tape needs. He had an army backpack that was stuffed with who knows what. He also carried a ham radio, and what I guessed to be 6 multi-tools clipped to the inside of his right pocket. He was funny and very excited to be at the march. (We have since seen him every day we've been in town)

After the March we wandered downtown to pick up a few things. It just so happened to be Tour of the Gila here in Silver City. Part of the road was blocked off for a timed loop the cyclists were doing. We arrived for what seemed to be the most exciting race of the day (per the announcer). We hung around and watched the cyclists loop around with one lead that kept his position and even added time between himself and the pelaton in the last lap. It was fun to get caught up in the event.

From there we headed back out to the woods. We did a long drive on a dirt road to a trailhead for a backpacking trip the next day. The road we took had not been maintained. We ended up moving 5 trees. The first we dragged, and I hurt my lower back a little despite trying to be careful. The next two we wrapped a jerk strap around the tree and dragged it out of the way. One we moved using a steel pipe as a lever and the last we was small and Matthew just dragged out of the way. Good times. We prepped for backpacking and for dinner made ash cakes and fried spam, a delicacy in the woods.

 He loves this stuff

 Had to drag this for a while to get it out of the way

 He's so strong... I ended up doing some of the lifting with the steel bar too

 Last obstruction


The plan was to spend 3-4 days out. With a possible loop in mind, should we make good time. The trail ran along the Gila river. This meant more river crossings. This time I wore my new mesh trail runners with no socks and had little trouble with the crossings. Matthew had his leather shoes, not wanting to get them wet repeatedly he took them off for crossings. So this time I was the quick crosser! As a result we did not make much headway on the trail. It took half a day to go a few miles. It also lacked a trail most of the time, we kept going just following deer paths, bushwaking and keeping the river in sight, occasionally finding a cairn which showed we were on the right path, at that moment at least. We stopped because his feet were hurting. We picked a nice spot in the sand near the water. Matthew wanted to try a neat method to keep warm where you dig a deep hole, start a fire, get good coals then cover with the dirt and sleep on it. Done right you have a cozy warm spot to sleep, done wrong you could burn your gear.

Digging for his fire pit

Prepping coals

The next day went much the same as the previous. We picked out a different, shorter, loop to get back. Part of the loop we were unsure would have water. It went up a canyon that had a spring at the opposite end. We saw no water where we were starting. We camped and loaded up and water, hoping to find some along the canyon, but with enough we would be ok to make it back to the car. We woke early the next morning to get moving on what we expected to be a long day.. and not fully knowing what to expect.
Lunch break by the river

And here is the story of my some good, but mostly very bad day. The trail we were to take along the canyon did not exist, at all. No cairns, no paths, no sign of markers on trees. The map showed it as a trail but that was it. We bushwhacked through rocky terrain, thorny bushes and clambering over fallen trees. It took several hours to go a few miles.. I don't know exactly how long it was but I was in a skirt. At first I thought it wouldn't be too bad, except it kept getting worse. I have this... personality trait, that I don't like to back out of things if I feel I can go on. I was physically able to continue to I did, but Matthew could tell I was not happy. I have this other... personality trait, when I'm upset I become very irrational. I'm aware of this and to keep from saying something I will regret I shut down, don't say anything or very little. So even though I was on the verge of tears and thinking I was going to break up with Matthew because he was to blame, when he asked how I was doing, I said I was fine. The thing was... the thorny bushes were ceaseless devils... small nicks that kept coming. I was reminded of the torture method of using small paper cuts. that's what it felt like, being tortured, becoming more sensitive, so that my spirit was being crushed.

I tried to stay positive and be thankful for my legs, for the fact that I could feel. That only helped for a short time. At one point when Matthew was far enough ahead to not be able to see me, I broke, I held myself and didn't hold back the sobbing. It was a mixture of pain and frustration. The route was hard, keeping my footing was tricky. I slipped, and fell over, the earth gave way under me while trying to climb, branches I relied on snapped and I got scratched some more. It was miserable. Probably the worst day I've had in a very long time. The thing is.. it was all physical and although it hurt... I was not seriously injured. I knew this intellectually but emotionally I felt beaten. I finally admitted to Matthew I had been crying (he wasn't surprised) and he was miserable too, but having experience with bushwhacking wasn't as beaten up as me.

We did find a way to bypass the end of the canyon which was continuing to get worse. To do this we did a very steep climb to the top of a mountain. Once almost at the top we hit some more thick brush, we avoided it by traversing around it. We had to go through some brush but it was not nearly as thick. Eventually on the way down the other side of the mountain we got out in some open pine forest. Elation. We found our way back to a trail and high-fived that going off the known route, we'd made it back to a trail. We'd made good time so that it was still early enough in the day we pushed on to make it back to the car. We were running low on water and didn't find any where there was supposed to be a spring. We could have stopped and camped but had the energy and drive to make it back to the car. We did stop shortly to eat dinner a little early.

View from the top of the mountain we climbed

We are not entirely sure how long the total distance was.. but the guesstimate is somewhere between 15-20 miles. Back at the car my first order of business was to lather my legs in comfrey salve. Even though we had water at the car it wasn't enough that I could wash my legs first... really I could and should have but I thought it was wasteful. So, instead I just rubbed the salve on, mixing it with the dirt and salt on my legs, into my wounds. I now know the burn of having salt in multiple scratches and cuts all over the lower half of my legs. I cried for the 5th time that day. Matthew, feeling awful and not knowing what else to do, made me tea. It was the best tea I've had all year. It took a couple of minutes but the burn gradually subsided and stopped. At the end of the day I was exhausted, I did a little reading of War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells as the sun was setting before falling into a very deep hard sleep.
 I already started to slather on the salve when we took photos

Just looking at this photo makes my legs burn 

If you are wondering where the some good of this day is.. The good was during all that treacherous terrain, we didn't get seriously injured, we bypassed some of it, it was a gorgeous day, I am blessed to be dating a wonderful man who understands me, we always had enough water, dinner was delicious, tea, a warm comfy bed, and the kind of sleep you only get with physical and emotional exhaustion. My scraps and deep cuts will heal, turn to small scars, most of which will fade completely away and I will be left with the memory of another struggle that I made it through.

We spent the following two days recovering. We got lucky and are here in time for the CDT trail days! So we are spending the weekend learning all about the CDT, meeting awesome thru hikers and getting excited about the idea of doing the AT, CDT, and PCT.. which is called triple crowning. I always wanted a crown lol

I think next we'll be in Cibola NF to do some rock climbing. Not sure yet, we're going to do some planning tomorrow or the next day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Exploring Southern NM

We spent a day in Alamogordo going to the Space History museum and researching our next destination, Las Cruces. On our way out we stopped by White Sands National monument and a missile museum at Holloman AFB. At White Sands we did a 5 mile hike that was strenuous. Oh, we did it barefoot, that was fun! It felt great and was a really good workout for our feet and legs. It was neat to be surrounded by white gypsum dunes. I once visited white sands in my teens with my family, and I did not appreciate it as much as I did this time.

We found a nice dispersed camping site off a dirt road in Las Cruces near Organ Mountain Recreation Area - our rock climbing destination for the next few days. La Cueva (the rocks we climbed) is all Trad climbing, which we have not done in a long time. To get us started we did, what should have been, an easy 5.5 climb. Matthew started us off and it took him about an hour to get done. The rock here is a bit more crumbly than we like. On that climb it was tricky to find good placements. Again, it's also been a while since we've done trad. Another thing that made this climb tricky was the rappel. In order to get all of our gear I had to climb, clean (pick up the placements), then get the anchor he set for me at the top. From there I had to down climb 10 feet, then traverse to the right on a slope to some anchors. I did not like this. On the way up I did the traverse to the anchors, clipped in my rope, traversed back (which was tough due to the added tension from running the rope out to the anchor. I climbed up got all the gear, down climbed.. and got scared. I was so close! I used a piece to help me do a move to get in position to do the traverse. I left the piece behind. Matthew did the climb again, now with the rope on the bolted anchors, and recovered the last piece. I felt bad, but if I slipped I would do a 10 ft swing and REALLY get scrapped up. Matthew is a slightly better climber so he had no trouble with it.  He was worn out after that climb. I could have kept climbing so instead I did a short run later in the day. I got a bit scrapped up on the climb because the rock is rough but it wasn't really all that bad. I did take the opportunity to get sympathy online though, haha.

Matthew (top center) at the top of the climbing setting up the anchor

Me rappelling down

Showing off my scraps, and shamefully getting sympathy

The following day we did two climbs. We found a 5.4 for me to lead, then he lead a 5.7 chimney climb. We felt and did better that day. I didn't complete the 5.4, I was rocking it until I got to the top and had to traverse something I didn't feel comfortable with (again). I backed out and Matthew took over. When he got to the spot I felt uncomfortable with he said it was crap, that made me feel better. Of course, he had little trouble doing it. It was a bit awkward but he completed the climb, set up an anchor and I did the climb again on top rope.

 Starting the chimney climb. As you can see around his waist is the heavy gear used to keep us safe on these climbs.

 Waving from the top

So this happened. What's really concerning is we don't know when. I haven't had a fall or hit my head recently.. that I can remember. 

Here's the crack in the foam you can't see in the previous photo

The 5.7 chimney climb was interesting, we don't do many chimney climbs, and this one was especially narrow. The saving grace on this climb were 3 bolts along the top section before you hit a 3 bolt anchor. So it started off as a trad climb, then became a sport climb. Matthew had fun, did great, and took two breaks on the bolts while he could. My turn came and I wasn't so sure about it, but he thought I could do it. I climbed and cleaned along the way. It was tough, a lot of small moves, pushing my back against the rock on one side with feet and hands braced on the other side. It was a longer route, 75 feet, and I refused to stop. When I got to the bolted section at the top Matthew said I could take a break. It was hard but I felt good so I just kept moving. I shimmied my way up to the anchors and was so tired! Then came the fun part of clipping myself to the anchor bolts, and transitioning the rope to rappel down. I got even more scrapped up this day. I saved myself some by wearing a long sleeve shirt. After that we went for a short hike, then headed back to camp for dinner and projecting.

The next day we did two short hikes. One to a historical site of an old hotel, that was later turned into a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients and the other hike was to a waterfall. After hiking we went into town to reserve a hotel room for the evening. After one year on the road we celebrated by cleansing ourselves. This is the longest we've gone without a shower or river bath. When considering how to celebrate, we agreed it was what we wanted to do most. We stayed in a nice Hacienda style hotel that had free wifi and included a decent breakfast the next morning. We ended up taking two showers, one just didn't cut it. We also went out to dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant. I thought it was wrong to go out for Thai in New Mexico, but it's what we were craving. We'll make up for it later.

Long distance view of the sanatorium

Before leaving Las Cruces we did a 12 mile day hike along Baylor pass. It was a lovely hike, that took us four hours. Depending on the day and difficulty level of a hike our pace varies from 2 mph to 3 mph. I thought we'd be doing a 2 mph pace so we ended sooner than expected. We headed out to Valles Canyon from there, which has petroglyphs if you are skilled enough to find them. On the way there google wanted us to take a road that was restricted, it was private property. We pulled over and were trying to figure out an alternative route when a lovely rancher stopped to check on us. We never got his name but he ranches the area and was on his way to round up some cattle. He was very friendly and seemed like a cool guy. He scribbled out a nice map for us to follow while explaining where to find some nice petroglyphs and how a friend of his found one that was painted.
our handy dandy map!

Meantime I was getting close with his laid back dog that desperately needed petting. The road there was treacherous at one point, we stacked some rocks to keep the truck from getting stuck in a ditch. We parked and it was a short hike (we hadn't hiked enough that day) along the canyon to Valles. We found the petroglyphs at the intersection but had no luck finding them along the canyon. Valles canyon was fairly short so it didn't take long to walk the length of it.

One of the few we found

We found a secluded dirt road to sleep off of and the next morning headed to Gila National Forest. On the way we stopped in Silver City and had a productive day in town. We made an appt to have the bearings on the car replaced, I got my hair trimmed, we got a quick oil change on the car and stopped by the Ranger station where we loaded up on maps.

The next day we drove to the Gila cliff dwellings. We were very excited to see these dwellings. It is one of the only ones were you can actually walk around inside. First we stopped by the visitor center to read some history and see some artifacts. At the entrance to the dwelling an amusing ranger gave us her spiel on the trail, advising us that it is a dirt trail like it would have been in the past, to watch for wildlife, and although it is only one mile there is a strenuous section that can be difficult at 6,000' so be prepared. We just smiled and nodded rather than explain we were just hiking at 9,000' in the past few weeks and do 10+ mile hikes regularly.
approaching the dwellings

The dwellings were impressive. To think people lived there... I was jealous. It seemed like a wonderful location I would happily inhabit if I could. How cool would it be to live in the side of a cliff? This location is prime due to it's proximity to both a spring and the Gila river. The dwellings consist of seven caves, 6 of which were used. The main cave had 40 rooms!

The photos can't show how large and cool this place was. As we went from room to room, I wondered how they were furnished, what were they used for? It was obvious which places they had fires by the black pitchy parts of the ceiling. How cool it must have been when people lived there. We read that the Mogollon people lived here 700 years ago. It appears they only stayed for one generation, from about 1200CE to 1300CE. The guess as to why they left was a drought around 1300CE. They were hunter gatherers who also had small crops by the river using the method of the three sisters (Corn, beans and squash - they grow well together). After visiting here I wondered we could get a gig living in an old dwelling as recreationists.

Our next stop was a smaller cliff dwelling near a cliff face with pictographs. These were the best pictographs I've seen so far. The dwelling was much smaller compared to the last place but still very neat. We then did a one mile hike to a hot spring. The water at the hot spring comes out at 150 degrees, we got in a little way down where the water was cooled to about 110 degrees. It burned enough to take about 20-30 minutes to get used to it and get most of the way in. It was right by a river so we did a few trips back and forth. This felt like a magical place. The weather that day was perfect, it was warm, with an occasional breeze. It felt very peaceful there. We met a few fun people and chatted for a while swapping information on places to visit.

There is another hot spring that is a 12 mile round trip hike we did the following day, Jordan hot springs. I wore my huaraches for the hike, but brought shoes in case it got rough (it never did). We were told the trail crossed the river 15 times, so being in the huaraches was convenient. It was a beautiful 6 miles to the hot spring. The hike goes through a canyon then runs along the Gila river, which you cross 15 times in the last 2 miles. The first few crossings were quit cold and once back on dry ground it took a few seconds for my feet to thaw. After about 5 crossings though my body knew what was up and it was much easier. The crossings themselves ranged from easy to tricky. Matthew is more adept at crossings so he took a ton of photos of me struggling. Here are two...

The hot spring was phenomenal! It is the number one all time best hot spring we've been to thus far. It didn't hurt that we were the only ones there for the 2-3 hours we lounged. The water was bathwater warm, it was a large pool in a gorgeous secluded place. It was blissful. I felt like... it just doesn't get any better.
 Hot spring

 glamour shot

Wild horses. We were at a campsite getting dinner ready when a herd of horses ran by. Apparently they got loose from the corral down the road and the cowboys had to round them up. I overheard they were wild mustangs 3 weeks ago.

We are spending a few days in Silver city getting car work done today, museum and laundry tomorrow, and Saturday we are attending the March for Science here. After that we are backpacking for a few days. Don't know what we'll do from there, maybe explore more here or take off to another area.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Living on the outside - one year on the road

After one year on the road...

1. My tolerance for being dirty is much higher. I've gone weeks, up to a month, without a shower. We sponge bath the essentials when we can't do a full cleaning.

2. Toilet paper is no longer paper, it's leaves, sticks and rocks (preferably smooth ones). When the weather is right, snow leaves a nice clean and cool feeling. None of these work well for peeing, pee rags (ie bandanas) are the closest to toilet paper without killing trees.

3. Favorite channels to watch: Sunset and Campfire

4. It's better to smell like a campfire than BO. Most people don't mind the smell of a fire as much as a smelly person.

5. Peoples expectation don't fit my reality. Several people have assumed we are independently wealthy to live this way. One girl thought we cooked inside our truck.. because it's our home.

6. Common comforts are luxurious. For instance, running water, central air, refrigeration, toilets.

7. People sometimes suck, even in the woods. We have cleaned campsites full of trash from previous use. One site there was a tree destroyed by being target practice. Then there is the hundreds of live trees that have been cut down to be used for firewood.

8. I love Matthew more as time goes on.

9. The only hard part about this life is missing my family and friends. I missed the birth of two of my best friends baby girls. My niece turned 7 years old and I wasn't there. And the hugs, there is a serious hug deficit for my family and friends.

10. It is possible to be ridiculously happy with very little. Experience > Things

I had a hard time trying to figure out what to say for this post. 3 previous attempts to write what it's like to live on the outside became a little preachy. I figured no one wants to read that. I hope this one was amusing if nothing else. Perhaps what life is like now will come through in my posts.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Land of Enchantment

From Big Bend we headed towards El Paso to do some shopping before making our way to the Lincoln National forest in New Mexico. In need of a shoe replacement I looked up outdoor stores and there was an REI in the area. While on our way I double checked and learned this was a realty company, not an outdoor recreation outfitter, darn. We tried a Gander mountain but they had no minimal or zero drop shoes. Next door was one of the most dangerous grocery stores we've been to. It was called Sprouts market and they had every new age crunchy food our little hippy hearts could desire. $150 later we walked out with our goodies. We then tried a running store and found the exact trail runners I wanted, happy day!

First night in Cloudcroft

We drove to the Cloudcroft, NM ranger station to get maps. In this forest they have a TON of dispersed camping. The map shows numerous roads we are allowed to camp off of. It also includes the trails. Unfortunately the free map and the $10 map don't have topo. Since the only difference was the one you pay for was colored, we stuck with the free one. Also the trails on the map don't have distances, or names. Instead they have numbers like T250, and there is a separate sheet of paper with a list of the hikes by number, then name, distance and use. Also, the free map is the biggest map I have ever seen. It would be a hazard to open it all the way in the front seat of the car while driving. Anywho, all part of the fun.

We stayed in an area called the White Mountains, aptly named as when we arrived they just had an unexpected snowstorm and all was covered in white. It was a bit of a shock going from 90 degrees to 30's. While in the town of Cloudcroft we did some very necessary laundry and purchased some new socks. We then picked a road to camp off of. While driving down the dirt road covered in snow we saw a gang of Elk! It was my first time seeing them in the wild so I was pretty excited and with the backdrop of tall pines and snow, it was perfect. We found a nice campsite to call home for the evening and decided a fire was appropriate. It was amusing to watch Matthew attempt to start a fire using matches as the snow got thicker. He finally got it going with a lighter, after all our nice dry pieces of wood got damp while he went through almost an entire pack of matches. It was lovely having a fire though. We did a quick dinner and once the fire died down crawled in under our down and blankets.

The morning was so cold! I won't even go into what it was like to get up in the middle of the night to pee. We bundled up, ate breakfast with cold fingers and headed out. We were told by a ranger to visit the Sunspot solar observatory. We didn't know it was here and were excited to check it out. Sadly, they are closing in September of this year. For $3 we walked around the museum and learned all about the sun. After that there was a short walk around the grounds to see the different observatories, there was only one open that you could go inside.

We thought we'd just hang out there until it warmed up outside then do a hike. We ended up spending about 5 hours, most of the time going through the museum, it included an hour NOVA video about the suns flares. Once we finished up there we chose a 7 mile loop hike. It was a gorgeous hike, the temperature went up to the 50's and it felt good. We found a bunch of stuff on the trail like a jaw bone, a skinning knife, ultraviolet flashlight, turkey hen caller and the ever pervasive beer bottle. Quite the treasure trove. We got done and decided to just camp at the trailhead. It was off a designated road and there was already a fire pit. This time I started the fire while he cooked dinner. We ate as the sun was going down.

coyote or bobcat jawbone?
The road to that trail was pretty long and we passed another hike on the way out. The next day we did the other hike, it was a 10 mile out and back hike. It was another gorgeous trail. The day before there was no snow on the trail so for this hike I decided to wear my new shoes. As it goes, the trail had several spots with snow and others with mucky mud, a proper breaking in hike for my shiny new shoes. They didn't get too bad actually, and with this lifestyle there's no point in holding off the inevitable. The hike was still very enjoyable.

Before and After...

This is the highest elevation I have been thus far. On that hike I think we were around 9500'. Some people get high altitude sickness and we didn't know how I'd react. At this elevation, aside from the expected slight shortness of breath, I've done well. No cerebral edema signs, woot! After the hike we needed to refill on water. We ended up back at the ranger station to see if we could fill up there but they said it was for residents only. They then directed us to a spring we could collect water from. We also asked about the water situation on the Rim trail. It's a 30 mile hike one way and we were going to backpack, then maybe hitchhike back. We learned not only is there no water on the entire trail, but hitchhiking is illegal. New plan, we are going to section hike it by doing 3 overnight out and back trips. This way we don't have to buy plastic jugs to cache along the trail, it's not like we are limited in time. It's also still cold, with unpredictable weather so being able to get a break after two days is a bonus.
Chillin' on a snow day

The day we planned to work on projects and prep for backpacking we woke to snow. The weather online made no mention of this the day before when we were close to town with reception. Shrug. We stayed in bed a little longer than usual expecting the snow to stop. Around 10am it was not showing any signs of slowing. We got up, started a fire, collected wood and set up a shelter. We did a lot of keeping warm until a little after noon. The snow slowed a little and we were able to start pulling our gear together for backpacking the next day. The snow stopped and it got just warm enough for much of the snow to melt away, looking like it hadn't snowed at all.

The next two days we did an out and back hike of the southern most 10 mile section of the trail. Doing 10 miles each day. It was difficult due to the elevation and being the Rim Trail it was a lot of climbing up and down, with some rough sections of trail. The views made up for it though. We had a blast, the weather was good for hiking. The campsite we found was across the street from the end of the trail. It was at lower elevation so it was warm. We had to look around for an area that wasn't covered in cow poop. Aside from that it was great. We also found a small stream to get water. I ended up doing the hike in my heavy Asolo boots in case it snowed again.

Cool shelter we found on the trail 

 Saw my first Horny Toad!

 One of the views, pictures don't really capture the awesomeness

Matthew showing off his six pack

Neat alligator juniper tree whose bark looked like a python wrapped around the branch 

End of day one

We took one day off between that hike and the next section. Matthew ordered new hiking boots (he blew through his shoes too) and needed to test them out before doing a backpacking trip. We tested them by doing the Trestle trail, about an 8 mile loop that is near the town of Cloudcroft. It is a rails-to-trails hike that goes along an old railroad track. One section of Trestle was intact, with remnants of other trestles in other parts of the hike. It started as a very windy cold day, by afternoon turning into a warm gorgeous day.
Mexican canyon trestle

For those who lack common sense? Found this amusing

His new boots worked out well, so we planned to head out for the next 10 mile section of the Rim Trail. We started late, just being slow that morning. From the start of the trail we got confused where to continue. There are no blazes here like I'm used to on the east coast. We guessed a route and as we started again a dog startled me from behind. It was a happy-go-lucky white lab, followed by a smaller more tentative black lab and a gentleman on a horse. He was a rancher out looking for antlers to sell. We had a nice little chat with him and he informed us we were on the right path. After a bit we continued our hike.
 We found a lot of bones on the trail, this was the only skull

Looking at a bush, per Matthews instruction

We got to another section of the trail we were unsure about. This time again a man appeared (minus the adorable animals), he too was hiking and unsure which way to go. We continued on in different directions, tried back tracking, then going forward again and eventually found a road that took us back to the trail. All this made the hike a bit longer. With three continuous days of long hiking behind me I was pretty tired by the end of the day. Ok, I was cranky and felt over the whole hiking thing. As if he knew it was what I needed Matthew started to sing toward the end of the hike and it lifted my spirits, taking my mind off of the fatigue. The evening was a cold one but we were prepared. My feet got cold at one point but I was warm most of the time. The one issue I did have, was my right hip. It was really hurting and in the middle of the night I had to take some ibuprofen. By morning the hip was still a little sore. I took more ibuprofen before heading out, did some stretches and after about 10 min or so I was warmed up and felt good. We finished the hike within 4 hours, the day before we did it in 6 hours. We were very surprised when we got to the end and it was early afternoon.

We enjoyed the rest of the day at camp and prepared to do the last section of the trail the next day. We got out in the morning by around 9am, this was early for us. Matthew had some pain in the front of his left ankle from the new boots putting pressure there, so we took a quick detour to the post office and found his new shoes arrived. He blew through those as well recently. It worked out that he was able to hike the last section in his new shoes. These were an exact replacement so he didn't need time to break them in and being low ankle shoes they didn't press on his ankle.

The last section was the easiest of the three. It didn't have nearly as much up and down, it felt mainly flat. We finished the hike in a little under 5 hours. Being at camp by 2pm we had a lot of time to burn. I was tempted to take a short break and start the trek back and camp closer to the end, Matthew vetoed the idea. Instead, we rested, which was a wise choice. After about an hour I got bored. We had limited entertainment options so we decided to try starting a fire the old fashioned way, by rubbing two sticks together aka hand drill.
After several minutes of trying to get a spark

First, Matthew went over the types of wood you want to use. Second, we started a search for wood that lasted about 5 minutes or less. Wood is in abundance in the woods, heh. He found a base board that was an old pine with no more sap in it and I found an elderberry bush with old partly rotted wood in the center. They were similar in density, so we thought it would work. I have done bow drill but not hand drill so I got to try the technique. Matthew tried to get an actual spark and came very close, with no spark. He got a lot of powder and it seemed like it was going to work, got some smoke going but that was it. In the end I started the fire the easy way, with a lighter and a nice bundle of dry pine needles (seen in right side of above photo).

Going shirtless! showing off my non-six pack (and feeling comfortable with it for the first time)

We did an early dinner, then read to each other for the rest of the evening. The weather has warmed up a lot in the past week, by this trip we were quit warm. I went so far as to not wear a shirt while hiking, I did have a sports bra on, don't get too excited. We slept well that evening and got back the next day by 2pm. We rewarded ourselves by going to Alamogordo and getting green chiles burgers for dinner, followed by way too big sundaes. We found a dispersed camping site 10 min out of Alamogordo and ended the day with this...

Again, the photo lacks the je ne sais quoi of being present.

That's all for now. Don't know if this was any shorter than the last post.. oh well. Hope you enjoyed it.