CDT day 22: summer was there all along

May 26
Mileage 32
487.5 miles hiked from Mexico

When I wake up I realize that I left my shoes outside my tent and they’re now frozen solid. Dammit. I make hot tea with brown cow water in my pot, which is still coated in the remnants of last nights’ dinner. The end result is a hot rich tea broth which is actually incredibly fucking delicious. Is this how the most basic of human cuisine first evolved? Last night, while making my pasta, I noticed that the brown cow water acted as a sort of stock base, very much enriching the meal. I oughta bottle this shit, I think, as I drink my tea-broth. New Mexico cow pond water: the new superfood.

Putting on my frozen shoes is difficult but not unpleasant. What is happening to me, I think, as I wedge the icy things onto my feet. Be careful when you set out on a thru-hike, folks. One day you might find yourself loving brown cow water and enjoying the sensation of putting on frozen trail runners. You might wake up and suddenly realize that you’re more ruined for regular life than you ever thought it was possible to be.

Slogging all morning through dogshit mud, three pounds of it on each shoe. The sun is out today in full force, though, and as rapidly as the desert laid down this water, it begins to take it up again. After a few hours the road is dry. Oh, glorious solid ground! There’s a water source a half mile off trail, way down in a canyon, and when we get there we find a cool, clear, piped spring. Hallelujah! Then I’m cruisin fast under the blue sky, feeling for the first time as though I’ve got my trail legs, as though I could walk forever. I’m on a wide open yellow plain and suddenly the ground ends at a cliff- and I realize that I’m way, way up high, that we’ve been walking on a huge mesa and we have suddenly reached the edge. Now way down below me I see a great, open, baking desert- there’s summertime! There it is! It’s been there all along! Dotted all over with smaller mesas and rock formations, and cinder cones. The trail goes straight down, into this desert, and I am practically jogging, and the air is growing warmer, and warmer, and warmer still. Here is summer! And now I am roasting, positively roasting, crossing a great open place to some rock formations on the other side. And then a patch of cool shade on the other side and I sit, and suck at my lukewarm water. The boys arrive and collapse as well.

Clouds appear, and curdle and threaten, and play games with the sun. Rock formations, incredible light, I’m in heaven. I’ve got butt chafe, I’m racing to a water source that would make a 35 mile day but then the sky opens up and I know I’m not going to make it. I spot a cow pond way off, drop my pack and jog across the desert. It’s far- a half a mile. The storm is full-blown now, whipping the water and pelting me with rain. But it’s warm down here at six thousand feet- so warm! I get brown water for myself and whoever else ends up camping with me and jog back to my pack. Track Meat appears and we hike another mile, look for a cave but don’t find one, watch the most incredible sunset from on top of a small mesa and camp on its sandy flat top, among the gnarled trees. The storm ends and the stars come out. I make my noodle dinner, so happy to be warm.

Photos on instagram