Leaving New Mexico in the Dust

We’ve been off trail for four days, spending the time in Boulder, Colorado for Wiz’s brother’s wedding. The time is relaxing and enjoyable. When we arrive back in New Mexico we meet Taco and Peppermint in the town of Chama and get back on trail the next day.

A Joyous Reunion

It’s fun to have the whole group back together. We hike leisurely through green meadows and fields of wildflowers. We are leaving behind the last traces of the desert- the ground turning from red dust to thick, black dirt. We end our day early, around 5:00, when we stumble upon a hillside campsite overlooking the perfect stage for a sunset. We aren’t disappointed. The fiery colors last for hours as the sun disappears behind layers of mountains. In the distance, the San Juans loom, snow-capped and taunting.

The next few days are beautiful. We hike through green, lush lands with plentiful water and shade. Elk cross our path on a few occasions: Taco even finds a fawn curled up in a grassy bed. We leapfrog with several other hikers that are in the area and share campsites. It’s nice to have the added social element. We get rain several nights in a row, but conveniently it’s always after we have pitched our tents for the evening.

The Inconveniences of Thru-Hiking

Despite all the pleasantries, I feel the annoying nuances of thru-hiking nagging at me. My sinuses have hated this arid environment since we arrived here, and I spend my mornings and evenings with a constantly running nose. I ration squares of toilet paper to clear my nose and I never seem to have enough. I am struggling with the food I have packed, especially breakfast. I am always hungry in the morning, but oatmeal and other convenient camping breakfasts make me nauseous. I am low on energy in the mornings as a result. Even after I am well fed, I still seem to be dragging on trail. I chalk it up to the elevation, but I am constantly hiking slower than I am used to. And even with the beautiful scenery, I am bored. I spend a few hours thinking about what it might be like to just throw in the towel and head back home for the rest of the summer. This train of thought is unique for me: on the AT I never thought fondly of leaving the trail.

The Conveniences of a Great Hiking Partner

I am glad to report, however, that even with all the challenges and annoyances of thru-hiking, my relationship with my partner is stronger than ever. Wiz is a fast hiker but will slow down to hike with me for a few hours of the day. We chat about anything that comes up to pass the miles, and there is a lot of conversation about future travel and adventure plans. At camp, we have an established system for getting the tent up together and getting our camp chores done. We tease each other about taking up too much space in the tent, examine each other’s scrapes and bumps, and trade massages. We have found small ways to lift each other up and stay motivated and excited.

The Hiking on the Horizon

The last few days in New Mexico pass without much incident. The Colorado border approaches quickly, and with it the start of the San Juan mountains. We trade gossip about the snowpack and conditions up ahead, but we have no real way of knowing what the mountains hold. The day before we hit the border, we begin encountering more snow. It’s minimal and easy to pass, but oftentimes in the middle of half-dead forests. Pine beetles have left dead trees everywhere, many of which block the trail in tricky, pokey ways. The last few miles of the day take hours. Oddly, I find myself thankful for the challenge. It’s a break from the monotony of just walking, and I appreciate the distraction.

We arrive at the Colorado border early on a Sunday morning. We’ve spent the last 43 days walking the length of New Mexico, and in hindsight, it is crazy to think of all the variety the state had to offer. Mexico feels far away now, but so does Canada. We look north: there is still so much trail left to travel, and so many more challenges ahead. We celebrate the border crossing then finish the last few miles into Cumbres Pass, where we easily get a hitch into town. Here, we pick up our snow gear in preparation for the daunting San Juan mountains ahead.

Featured image by Michael Hanson.

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