CDT Day 25: CDT Mile 534.2 -556.7 ( 22.5 miles – 36 km)

Saturday May 11, 2019

I don’t know if it’s the weight of 6 days of food or the effects of 2 lazy days but this morning my pack felt like a house on my back. I checked the weather predictions again before leaving and was pleasantly surprised that today’s prediction has improved somewhat, rain with sunny breaks. Hammer looked out the window and seeing dry ground was keen to hit to road. And hitting the road it was. We had more then 6 miles on the road before getting to the trail for a long climb out towards Mt Taylor. As we walked along Route 66 it was very sad to see so many businesses closed. Some beautiful 1950s signage still stood. A reminder of the heyday of this strip.

The sun was coming up and we even saw a trace of a rainbow, what a nice departure. We are so pleased we did not leave yesterday. On the way out of the residential area we were farewelled by 7 dogs in one yard barking incessantly until we passed, on the other side of the road. They stopped immediately after we passed the boundary of the house they were guarding. Further along from the residential area we passed by a correctional facility. It’s the closest either of us has ever been to a prison. A bit unnerving being watched from the guardtower and from a car driving circles inside the perimeter. We were relieved to pass. Not far from the gates of the prison we stopped at the town’s unofficial shooting range. Poor Lou-Seal didn’t know where to look. There were thousands of empty bullet shells of all types. This was even more unnerving. So it was a relief to reach the trailhead. And just as we were about to head off two cars pulled and 2 hikers got out. Two we’ve met before Lt Dan and Aeroplane Mode. Quite a few hikers were like us, stuck in Grants until the weather improved.

It was a nice morning, the sun would break out through the clouds occasionally as we started on the steep climb. After about 2 miles there is a post with a bell on it. We rung the bell and stopped to take a look at the valley below. Just at that point it started to rain and it got very cold very quickly. We were passed by Lt Dan and a little later by Aeroplane Mode. The mud was horrible to walk through. It would build like a platform on the soles of our shoes. Making the shoes heavy and slippery. Cactus flowers were as bright and cheery as ever, reminding us that we were still in the desert.

With the rain not abating it was not the pleasantest of times. We passed a hiker going in the opposite direction. It was Tuna Roll, a Warrior Expedition hiker we met at Motel 6 when we arrived on Wednesday. He left Grants yesterday and did not have a good experience out on trail. He has decided to return to Grants and flip north to hike in Wyoming. So disappointing to see that he was feeling so down.

The rain eventually stopped and the sun came out. Even though it was early we decided to stop and cook lunch, just in case the rain returned for good. It was nice to stop briefly and eat, it means less weight in my bag.

Hiking through the pine forest after the rain was really quite nice. The forest smelt of freshly cut tobacco. We were loving being back on trail, despite the grey clouds hanging around.

The snowy peaks of the mountains surrounding Mt Taylor were visible through a break in vegetation, while Mt Taylor remained shrouded in mist. With the sun illuminating the snowy peaks, I thought maybe a hike over Mt Taylor may be OK after all, despite the snow cover. I’m glad I didn’t persist with that thinking. By the time we came to the junction of the Mt Taylor Alternate Route, the rain had returned and it brought some small iceballs with it. The sky was a dark grey and it was hailing, so there goes that idea.

We continued on the trail which skirts around Mt Taylor. Small patches of snow remained on the ground. Groves of Aspen started to appear and the landscape looked so different to that at the beginning of the climb. We got to the top of the climb for today at 9600 feet when the rain with small hail stones returned. It was cold and we were pleased to start a slow descent. A cold wind was blowing off the snow covered north face of the mountains.

The sun would break through the clouds every now and then making the white bark of the Aspens shine. We stopped for the day in a grove of Aspen trees. It was such a beautiful camp spot. Despite the patchy weather, we were so pleased to be back on trail.