I kinda skipped over writting about this section in the last post, rather I focued on the fact that I was flipping up to Wyoming (Rawlins) and then Montana (Helena).
So, what happened during Grants to Cuba, well...it was an interesting section to say the least. The beginning was heading towards and up Mount Taylor the highest mountain in New Mexico. After having taken a week off in Grants I was not feeling good as I re-hit the trail. Often after a rest you feel great, this time around I was moving slowly and having trouble keeping a good pace. To add to that, several expected water sources were broken or not flowing. The end of my first day out I was hopping to hit water around noon for lunch, it was a little off trail but I figured I'dhead for it anyhow. Well I found the take and it was totally dry, looked like someone had been working on fixing it doesn't really help me though. That was an extra couple miles to look for water without any success. I regained the trail and had a decision to make at a fork, either I could head up to the summit of Mount Taylor or head around the backside. Offically the route runs along the back of the mountain but many hikers opt to hit the summit because, well its the summit. I was strongly leaning towards taking the summit route myself but the extra time wasted looking for water left me quite thirsty so it was either a 2000ft climb to water in 2.5miles on the summit route, or a 800ft climb (if I recall correctly) to water in a mile and a half.
I chose to go for the closer water, turns out this water wasn't as close to the trail as it appeared on the map, it was about 300ft down into a canyon with the only practical access being a .5 mile trail down. Wasn't terrible, but considering I wasn't feeling the strongest on trail it was somewhat disappointing to realize I'd have to do this bonus mile and climb back out.
Day two, didn't go too much better, coming along the back of Mount Taylor was basically a lot of little (300-500ft) ups and downs. Nothing terribly changing, and no rewarding views but the grass as I entered the national forst was rather green. It contrasted nicely with a blue sky, I'm not sure what it was about it stood out to me but I found it rather stunning to just look out over; sadly the pictured didn't really capture that feel. I mentioned how day one I wasn't feeling to strong, day two was worse, by noon my feet were hurting a lot and my pace was around a mile an hour. I decided I would just setup camp early and try to make time in the morning. This became a very short day as I only did around 10 miles and putting up camp in the early after-noon. I had setup camp in a nice medow with a wild horse keeping me company and just relaxed for the day.
That rest was worth it. I was feeling great as I woke up the next day out and was making a good pace all day. The only down side was when I reached American Tank and found that it was just a muddy puddle in the bush.
Not quite what I was expecting since American Spring is apparently one of the nicest water sources, I figured the tank would be pretty decent also, I should have expected it was a stock tank and not an actual tank. I pushed on without grabbing water here. My Sawyer Squeeze filter has been slowing down (Takes about 40minutes for a liter) on me and backflushing hasn't been helping so I try to avoid sources that need filtering.
I regretted that decision as my next water source looked like this:
It tasted about as good as it looks, and I had to spend quite awhile at this source slowly filtering the water. Fortunately I was keeping a solid pace for the day so the delay didn't hurt to much but it was getting very annoying to spend so long filtering. Fun fact about this source, it is about 3 miles away from where the map puts it, so I spent an hour and a half looking for this only to give up and find it easily an hourly later along the trail. Another fun fact, is while having lunch here I realized it had been over 48hours since I had seen another person making this the lonliest section I've done so far this year. If your wondering I went the next two days without any human interaction.
The fourth day out was pretty fun, it started out poorly though as my water was frozen in the morning, and so was my filter. The water I was okay with but my filter freezing basically means its no longer a trust worthy filter as some of its internals may have cracked removing its ability to sufficently filter out dangerous bacteria from the water. Though, hiking went great, I had planned on about 4hours to do the 10miles to a nice water source, and did it in 3. The next water was a piped sping at the base of a canyon. I was not looking forwarding to doing an extra mile and a half and 700ft drop/climb to get this water, but having done it...it was a really nice little side trail. I dropped my pack at the top and only took my lunch and water bottles down with me so it wasn't as bad as I expected, and the sights were pretty nice heading down.
I reached the water, and it was beautiful: cold and clear with access to the pipe so I got water before I could be contaminated, which was important given that I now couldn't filter at all. Being down in the canyon it was also fairly cool, but being down there I couldn't see the clouds coming in. As I was enjoying my mashed potato lunch I felt something cold hit me, which I figured was rain and I ignored it for a bit, as the hits became a little more frequent. Then I realized, it wasn't rain but snow...snow in New Mexico, in May. Granted, the snow was melting as it hit the ground it was still very surprising. What really got me moving though was that my pack was totally uncovered about .7miles away from me at the top of the canyon. I practically ran up the cayon huffing my way moving as quick as I could so my pack wouldn't get soaked, by the time I made it up it had stopped snowing and my pack was more or less fine thanks to the tree it was under.
Its a little hard to tell in the photo but hte white spots over the trees is the snow that was falling.
I carried out as much water as I could from the spring and carried on. This section was pretty nice as started dropping down off form the mountans and had open views onto the plains and the mesas the lay ahead.
The night however brought hail at first and then rain giving me a single day with snow, hail and rain. The next morning was undoubtably my favorite part of this area. I've never hiked or really been around mesas too much, even along the trail this was a considerably unique section to me and I savored every moment of it...except climbing up...that I didn't savor.
When I realized my filter had froze, I had made the decision to bail off trail. I had no backup system for purifying the water and I knew the sources ahead were not going to be too good. I simply didn't want to risk getting sick and ending my hiking seasn early. So I hiked and started on a dirt road walk out towards the highway. I'm actually somewhat pleased I did this as the road walk out took me along areas where the TV series Breaking Bad was filmed though I didn't realize why some of the places seemed familiar until later in the day so I didn't grab any pictures.
I ended up getting a hitch out to the highway and then to Albuquerque after about 15miles for the day. From Albuquerque I caught a greyhound to Rawlins, Wyoming and started my flip to become a south bounder.