Wednesday, April 21
The section of the Four Corners Loop from Pie Town an New Mexico to Alpine Arizona was filled with joyful memories about the Continental Divide Trail from the start, then shifted into learning and observing the unknown after leaving my prior stomping grounds of the Continental Divide Trail. A lot has changed in this area, I discovered a random shower built in the middle of nowhere for CDT hikers. This made me laugh and smile. I had to take a shower, it was hot and amazing.
This section also rewarded me with a test of “water management endurance” due to the dry conditions on trail. Ultimately, I walked 58 miles between water supplies. I left a newly developed well water source, and did not know it would be 58 miles until I reached another cow watering tank. The goodness of people, and pure luck in the section did provide me two unknown sources of water.
My water was supplemented by two I Mexican Spotted owl biologists who gave me three liters of water at dusk in a random infrequently used jeep road. This was pure luck for me. I thought about turning them down because I thought I had a good source the next day, but they were going to hoot for owls, then head out for town and had 14 gallons in the back of their truck, so I accepted the “Trail Magic”. My water was also supplemented by a snowstorm where I hard-packed my empty bottles full of snow because I was unsure where and when the next water would be.
The serious lack of water ended when I approached a cow trough I was sure would be full of water. My confidence came from looking at it on the satellite many times at many different times of the year. I could tell this was a new cow trough, well-managed and I just had a feeling it would have the elixir of life contained within it. I loaded up with 9 L of water about 18 pounds added to my pack. I knew this would get me to Alpine Arizona. I have the capacity to carry 12 L of water on me during this hike.
Right after I entered Arizona I saw my first stream on the Four Corners Loop and then another and then another. So far a total of four streams have seen in Arizona. The only flowing stream I saw in New Mexico was the Rio Grande River. Most of Arizona is currently in an exceptional class five drought. The highest severity of drought levels. I am going to use the same caution I did on the last section, and choose to carry the weight in water, because keeping my body hydrated is important for good function and continuation of this amazing journey.
What about the scenery. As I traveled from East to West, the trail gained more and more elevation. There was a high 9600 foot lookout I went over, Mangas Mountain 9,691’. The elevations around 8000 feet were predominately Ponderosa Pine forest. When you gain in elevation you begin to see Aspen trees, Douglas Firs, Blue Spruce, and Engelmann Spruce trees. The higher elevations, there was a coolness in the air.
The travel was easy, with a mixture of high-quality dirt roads, some jeep roads, and a very large portion of cross country travel. I’m finding cross country travel in New Mexico and Arizona is very easy. Especially with the Ponderosa pine trees, they leave a soft cushion of needles for your feet to enjoy. When in the woods all you have to do was walk and enjoy the mighty large, old, gnarly trees, while following elk paths. These were punctuated by open expanses. One cool brisk morning while walking in the open, I was paralleled by a wolf. I would watch the wolf, the wolf would watch me, I would stop, the wolf would stop. We were both spending our time watching each other, wondering if the gap between us would increase or decrease. Then before I knew it the wolf was gone never to be seen again, prompting me to take a lunch break and relish in the shared moment.
Similar to prior sections I saw several herds of elk in this section I have a feeling the sighting of elk will continue for miles to come. When I entered Arizona my emotions were high. This was a glowing experience for me, and remember when I glow you glow. I was greeted by a horny toad lizard basking on a road in the sun I thought it was a great sign to welcome me to Arizona with a lizard, thank you earth!
As mentioned above there was a lack of water. The general cool temperatures for the six days really helped manage my water consumption as I continue on tomorrow I will continue to have cool temperatures. One day it was quite snowy, ending with a sunshine window, I got up at 1 PM packed up was able to move 8.1 miles before it begin to snow again, so the short duration day acted as if it was almost a rest day. There was another day where I took about two hours eating lunch just sitting up looking into the branches of a mighty Ponderosa Pine tree.
I encountered some loggers doing forest treatment clearings To reduce the risk of catastrophic wild fire. I had a good conversation with them, and yes they shared their contentions with the Forest Service and how they were only allowed to cut the smaller trees. The cut trees were sent for the mill to make wood-stove pellets. I enjoyed this conversation because during the snowstorm I listen to several podcasts by Oregon Public Broadcasting called Timber Wars, which I recommend.
The town of Alpine is small, there is only one place to eat food, and the grocery store doesn’t have much. I am very glad I sent myself the food I need to get to Pinetop Arizona about 80 miles away. Tomorrow when I leave it appears I gain some more in elevation so I’m expecting to hike with aspen trees, with open areas of grassland.
Thank you for reading,