5/20 We walked out of the Comfort Inn on the road and continued another 7-8 miles uphill on pavement. A car going our direction stopped to offer us a ride to the actual trailhead. We said “no” and laughed when 2 hikers, Moses (the beard!) and Operator (the ride!) waved at us. I felt sleepy all day and it was uphill all day, not a great combination. We picked up water at an off trail spring, for me 3 liters–dinner, breakfast and a liter to get to the next source tomorrow. And then we continued up. I was starving and sleepy and grumpy and it was past 6. So we camped just a bit further, at only 19 miles instead of the 22 we were shooting for. The Ravens could have kept going, but they didn’t–how nice is that? We’ll make up the miles I’m sure.
5/21 I slept great in my little tent. Maybe 2 nights in town just doesn’t suit me. Trail and road were gentle today with beautiful weather.
5/22 We hiked 24 miles but it was a rather dramatic day. Last year when I asked Mickey DeCourten what she’d like to see more of in the blog, she said she’d like to read more about the challenges. This was one of those challenging days. It started out with an easy 10 mile road walk that we finished at 11:30 with a food break till 12:00. At 1:00:
5 little monkeys hiking on the tread
1 fell off and bumped her head
4 little monkeys hiking on the tread
“Catwater, Catwater, are you dead?”
I was cruising along a short traverse with lava rocks poking up into the narrow little path, when I tripped, came down on my right shin, then left knee, left arm, chest and finally whacked my head. My right shin is already thoroughly scarred from ankle to knee from a lifetime of klutziness so what’s another gash? I barely hit my head, no concussion or even blood. I told the Ravens I was fine. Good thing they didn’t have to run the concussion protocol.
“What day is it?”
“I don’t know, I’m a thru hiker.”
“Who’s the President?”
“He Who Shall Not Be Named.”
What really hurt was my upper left chest. I could breathe, nothing crinkled, collar bone fine, just painful to the touch and tightening up maddeningly. We kept going, quickly, and I dropped some Advil and watched the bumps on my shin and knee puff up. We reached the top of a climb and knew there was a steep 3 mile drop to another dirt road and spring. Bling was waiting for his family to catch up at the top, and I told him I’d keep going. After the fall, I was going to descend very slowly and carefully. When I reached the bottom at about 6 pm, I stopped to wait for the others at the junction to the water. On a connecting dirt road, a vehicle appeared with flashing red lights.
“Uh oh,” I thought. “Has something happened to Mama because of her sore feet?” The Sheriff’s SUV stopped by me.
“Mrs Sterley?” Nobody calls me that, yuck.
“Are you OK?”
“Um, yes. I took a hard fall, but I’m OK.”
“Your device has been sending an SOS, I’ve been trying to find you for hours.”
After apologizing to, thanking, reassuring and shaking hands with (never shake hands with a hiker, we’re filthy) the Deputy, I pulled the inReach from my shoulder strap, figured out how to cancel the SOS, and saw my daughter and husband had both been notified of the SOS and used the satellite text function to try to contact me to find out what happened. Five hours without hearing a word from me or the Search and Rescue folks. Of course they were probably following my tracker and seeing I was still moving quite a distance at hiking pace. As the Ravens joined me and we walked the side road to get water, a light bulb went off in my head. The reason my chest was so bruised was because I jammed the device into myself in the fall, somehow also setting off the SOS. The irony! The sorest place on my body caused by my safety device.
5/23 Amazingly, my bumps and bruises didn’t stiffen up overnight. It was a clear, calm morning walking through canyons and cliffs, mesas and sandstone rock formations striated red, purple, gray, yellow and fierce white. But after awhile it all looks the same and the steep ups are annoying. The Trujillo Family water cache after 11 miles was a highlight of the day. We all got enough water to dry camp tonight and through tomorrow morning. The day got hot and the usual ferocious wind came up as the dirt road-trail-dirt road continued up relentlessly. We found a protected sandy area and camped after about 23 miles, leaving just 19 to Cuba.
5/24 Bling is so fast! He hikes for 45″ or an hour and then waits for his family, patiently. Even with Mama’s sore feet, she’s still fast but sends me ahead of her. I find myself playing tag with Bling. I’ll catch up to him, tag, and keep going, knowing that as soon as the rest of the Ravens get to him, he’ll take off and pass me again. In the lead, I stopped at 11:30 for something to eat and we all got back on trail an hour later. Quicksilver caught us, he’s taken just 3 nights to our 4 for the 100+ mile stretch. I chalk it up to the 12 years he spent in the Marines, he’s tough! At the paved highway, with 4.5 miles to town, I watched him dwindle in the distance. There sure is a lot of road walking in New Mexico. I made it before the post office closed and got my box. New shoes! New Superfeet! Bacon jerky! I met the Trujillo family in the motel parking lot. The kids ran up and handed each hiker a bottle of water and a packet of strawberry flavoring. Sweet!
5/25 Zero in Cuba. Another funny little place with a highway running through it. Silly me, I bought a carving from a guy on the street, better than just panhandling, isn’t it? We have similar people at home, waving baleen at traffic from street corners. I had a nice conversation with BG, got god-blessed, and felt good about that $5.00. Another hiker later called him “that drunk” but he wasn’t. Although his front teeth had rotted out, he was less raggedy than me, and despite what must be a tough life, BG’s smile and warm handshake made my day brighter.