Archive for May, 2006

, 2006 Thorns and Stickers

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

I drank as much filtered water from the old tire as I could and continued
on my walk with three liters. My goal for the afternoon was Separ, which I
could see all day. The road I’d found in the dark last night continued to
the hills, and on in to them, with no sign of the CDT. Near a dry
reservoir, in the shade, I used the GPS and gave up on finding the CDT.
I set a cross-country course with the large tower near Separ as my target.
I followed cow paths until they no longer kept me on target. I followed
paths of immigration, until I lost them. I walked through the unkempt
desert, finding two long-abandoned children’s bikes. I could imagine what
happened: They hopped off their bikes to look at something, then
something else. When they went to find their bikes, they realized how
similar the landscape was: how they had no landmarks to find their lost
bikes. When they finally made it home to worried parents, they were in
trouble with parents who were, nonetheless, glad they were alive.

Walking cross country put me into the landscape that had looked so grim
from the road. It was as bad, if not worse, than it looked from the
safety of the white line. In the course of the day, I walked past three
dead cows: two dead this season, hollow from gnawing, one a long-dead pile
of bones. When the dirt wasn’t puffing up in dry clouds of dust underfoot,
it was crunching hollow as I stepped, squeaking and crying as my shoe
moved. My cross-country route took me distantly past windmills, but I
didn’t want to trespass in this harsh landscape. Anyone stuck living out
here was likely to be as hostile as the landscape.

At the time that I should have been eating lunch, I came across a
way-station of sorts for immigrants or smugglers. Two bushes provided
solid shade between and beneath them, enough space for two people.
Judging from the trash, many people used this space for shelter while
coming in to the US. I sat in the shade and ate a little.

A few hours later, some paltry shade was enough to put my body and mind at
odds. My body wanted to just keep on going. Walk, walk, walk. My mind
knew I should take a break. I finally released my waist belt to try to
stop. It worked. I was near the intersection of the old railway grade
and the telephone lines. The trail was supposed to be nearby, but I
didn’t bother to look. I was making fine time.

I’m going to take the time here to describe what almost every daytime stop
for shade has been like. The shade is thin and not very big, but it’s
something. Nothing has used this area for shade, so there are thorns and
stickers on the ground. The low dead branches and the shade source itself
has thorns. I pull at the dead branches, and kick with my feet to clear
the area. I throw my pack into the shade to serve as a back rest, then
begin to clear the stickers and thorns where my body will be. I use my
sit-pad to shield my butt, and clear the area for my legs. Inevitably, I
get stuck with some sinister thorn, dried and hard. I scratch my head on a
thorn in the bush, then settle down to rest, but not before recalling that
I did check for snakes and scorpions.
In this particular spot, my legs hang out into the sun, but not too much
if I curl them up. I suck on my water hose and try to eat something. The
meager shade, supplemented by a breeze, feels good.

As Separ grew bigger, I started hitting barbed wire fences. The trail
takes a jog around here, but I can’t figure out how to stay out of fenced
land, so, seeing only vultures and crows, I push my pack under, slide
under myself, and continue on. I think it was a total of five times. As
I was upon Separ, I got to go through a gate. It looked locked, but was

I got a liter of water and some grapefruit juice, which hit the spot, at
Bolins (?) Continental Divide, a tourist shop where they were friendly.

Healing in Tucson

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

I know Tucson, and I’m still here.

I hear the neighbor’s AC kick on and wonder why I have to endure the noise of their ancient machine. A lonely coyote howls at 11PM. I smell horse manure driving home. I drink water from the tap, even though I know I shouldn’t.

The old neighborhood has changed, for the better. I got my massage there. The road between here and there is better.

Today, I mostly have a lingering stiffness in my lower back. Moves that used to rack my body with pain don’t any longer. I’m on the mend.

Of course, my whole schedule is wrecked, but it has been a good time to be in Tucson. More than my back giving me a vacation, it has given me down time. And time to catch up on my movies. More for my own recollection: The Squid and the Whale, The Constant Gardener, Inside Man, Eight Below, Capote, The Dying Gaul, and, tonight, Rufus Wainwright: All I Want.

I learn more about someone like Rufus Wainwright and feel like I’ve wasted my life.

Tucson, again

Sunday, May 14th, 2006

I’m back in Tucson, where the weather has been trying to hit the century
mark the week I’ve been here. (The century mark is the first time in
the calendar year that the temperature hits 100.) Today may be the day.
Why am I in Tucson? My back is the simple answer. I’ve never had back
problems like this. If my back ever hurt, it was over in two or three
days. This has gone on much longer.
I original injury occured when I was working on my resupply boxes. I
thought it would just go away, but that was not to be. It hurt during
ADZ, during my drive with Larry, and from day one on the trail. Still,
I used vitamin I to ignore it. At some point, I realized I was being
wreckless and putting myself in danger.
I spent three nights in a hotel in Lordsburg seeing what would happen.
I didn’t make much progress, so I caught a Greyhound to Tucson to stay
with David. A cheap hotel gets expensive after a short while.
Here in Tucson, I’ve been laying low, watching movies and reading.
My back is improving, but not on the timetable I’d like. I’ll see my
chiropractor again tomorrow, but really I’m the only one who can say
when I can hike again.
I’m so grateful that I’m not thru-hiking. If I were, I would have the
stress of the lost time, knowing that fall snows are coming to Glacier
NP. I don’t have that worry.
It’s actually nice to be relaxing and recharging. My days are easy and
unstructured. It’s almost as if my back gave me a vacation.

My Back

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

What I’ve only alluded to or made reference to on this hike is my back. I started this hike with wincing back pain. I took the chance that walking would help it heal. It did not, although walking proved to be the least challenging of actions.

Any time I took off my pack, I did so wondering if I’d be able to get it back on me. With a shout of pain, I was able, sometimes with relative ease, other times after a bit of a struggle.

My back has never been this bad nor lasted so long. I realized how much I rely on my lower back.

In camp or during any break, there’s lots of stooping. I had lots of painful stooping and transitions from ground to standing. Then there’s free-form pooping.

I now think of the windmill on my second night as Agony Oasis. I was in so much pain, I thought I might have to crawl the 1/4 mile to the road. I decided to stop early there so that I’d have water if I was unable to go very far. I used the base of the windmill to hang on as I walked from my sleeping place to the pipe that supplied the water. I used it to catch my falls as I moved the wrong way and pain hobbled me.

Then I remembered that I had Ibuprofen.

It was still bad with vitamin i. I walked to Hachita and saw the near impossibility of getting a ride to Lordsburg, so I kept on walking. I could deal with the pain.

I started to feel too vulnerable when I left the road. I was walking cross-country through barren, dry land. I could get in real trouble and die out there.

Those 12 (or whatever) miles from the road to Separ left no uncertainty that I had to wait until my back was better before continuing my hike. I don’t hike for the peril.

I had made that decision before I started hitting the barbed-wire fences. Each fence was quite a challenge as far as my back. Sometimes I need this kind of clarity in my life. After the fences, no amount of thru-hiker pushing could get me to consider walking on (for more than an instant).

A Change of Fates in the Desert, Part II

Friday, May 5th, 2006

The nice thing about road walking is the mile markers. It’s easy to
know exactly how far I’ve come when each mile is authoritatively
declared. With this road walk, I also had the assurance from the woman
with the dogs that the trail was marked where it crossed this road to
As the miles ticked away, the sky bore down, and the wind pushed on my
mind, my awareness increased. I didn’t have as much water as I would
like. Flagging down one of the four cars that passed felt too dramatic.
A casual wave, like “Howdy fellow traveler of this road to nowhere” felt
The road stretched out before me growing longer with each step, then I
saw what I was looking for: enough shade for half my body, and it was in
a ditch, which meant less wind.
I crawled under the thorny, lanky bush, impaling my hands on no more or
no fewer dried stickers than any other attempt to find shade under a
shrub on this trip.
I decided to eat tuna. It was wet. I added a packet of salad dressing
and a packet of salsa. I’d had trouble eating much on this hike so far,
and combining my three moist foods was a success. My raw, sprouted,
dried bars were not a special treat in the desert. They were like
eating the desert and just as hard to get down. The tuna fest revived
my body and my spirit.
A car stopped nearby and a guy got out to take a photo. He was far
enough away that he didn’t notice me. The distant view was a Richard
Misrach photo of trains in the New Mexico desert.
I got up to ask for water, but he was leaving before I was able to get
my pack on.
Back on the road, I kept an eye out in the late afternoon sun for the
CDT signs, eventually spying them ahead after a curve. Once I was
there, I looked around a bit as I rested on a well-cut dirt road.
Although this road was headed in the wrong direction, it looked like it
curved in a compensating direction up ahead, so I took it. I was a
little surprised that the trail was such a good road, but I didn’t
Because of my water situation, I decided that I would do some night
hiking. I’d use less water if I traveled by night.
Before too long I came across a less-developed dirt road perpendicular
to the road I was on. The trail hugged the hills, and the road I was
walking was not hugging the hills. They were increasingly distant. The
road that crossed my path headed straight for the hills. I broke out
the GPS for the first time and determined, as darkness fell, that I
should take the new road. It would cross the CDT.
What I had not considered when I decided to night hike was that I’d
already put in 20 miles and that the heat of the day had taken my
While keeping an eye out for the CDT, I saw a salt lick and kept on
walking. Then, in the darkness, I saw something else that wasn’t on the
map. I didn’t get my hopes up. As I approached the large tire, I could
see that it was full of water. I could camp. I put my pack down a
short distance from the water, as to not get a bovine trampling, checked
the cow water with my headlamp and drank my remaining water. I set out
my bag among the knee-high creosote, smiled at the big dipper and

A Change of Fates in the Desert, Part I

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Nothing came by in the night that I know of. Cows came to the water in
the morning, but I was in the fenced-off area. They had their sloppy
troughs. The cows and bulls ran into the desert when I finally made my
way to the road.
The road was more of the same: Border Patrol, short plants, wilting
cactus, and water only from windmills. The sun was unrelenting as I
headed north.
Approaching Hachita, I walked past the cemetery, which had old
tombstones and tombstones for babies.
I made it into Hachita just after lunch time. The post office is closed
at lunch, so my timing was good. Hachita’s a town on its way out. A
strong storm could make it a memory. I’ve never been to such an empty
The woman at the PO gave me 3 liters of water. I thought it would be
I went to the desert store. The business was in a barely-habitable
adobe and ran from one exension cord that snaked out the building and
forked between the cash register and the single bare bulb on the
ceiling. They didn’t have plumbing. The woman offered the land out
behind the water tower as the place in town to go to the bathroom.
Hanging out in the back room of the desert store was the woman with dogs
I’d spoken to at the post office, and the other, older woman who’d come
throuh the post office while I was outside soaking in the shade. I think
the older one had just lost her husband. The woman who owned the
business and the two ladies were smoking while visiting with two teenage
boys. The dry wind pulled their cigarette smoke away from the formerly
screened room. I could see the wind behind the eyes of the store owner
and the ratty screen made the rest of the world look soft. I wondered
what was in store for those two young men as I filled the doorway.
I looked at my map (I now have color maps!) with the woman with the
dogs. Through her uncle, she knew the trail. She said it would be
faster to do the road walk to catch the trail then to take the trail,
rather than walking the road all the way to Separ. It seemed to make
sense. Although the roads were deserted, it was still black asfault and
very undesirable. As I walked out of town past a barren trailer park
with one trailer, I thought about getting more water. But when I get
walking, it can be hard to stop. Even when I know that the next water is
far away. Even as I’m figuring out that what I thought would be a road
walk of 2-3 miles will be at least twice that.

A Long, Dry Day

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

I’m camped at an oasis fed by a windmill. The blades spin in the gentle wind, the water pours into the large low tank. The up and down mechanics of the windmill make a rhythmic sound. The water falls about 3 feet into the tank, providing fountain-like comfort.
This is a flying animal oasis. When I arrived, a great horned owl landed on a branch, looked around and took off when it saw me reaching for my camera. Some red-chested birds would flit out over the tank, grabbing evening bug snacks. Then came several night hawks, swooping and diving, showing me their white circles under each wing. The bats arrived, smaller than the night hawks, but mixing nicely.

My day started last night when I awoke. The stars were incredible. I couldn’t believe how full the sky was, like a dream. I put on my glasses and tried to focus my eyes, taking the incomprehensible vastness in with renewed wonder.

I walked over 20 miles today along the road, taking water fairly early. Not a single cloud moved across the sky. I was under the moderate sun, pounding pavement, waving to the vehicle that passed. I took lunch at an abandoned ranch, but passed on the solid green water in a man-made lake that cows stood in. I soaked in the shade of an old-fashioned carport and took pictures of the decay.

The dryness pulled the water from every breath. I sweat in the heat, but kept cool in the gentle breeze.

My water went quickly, and soon I was looking for my next source. Only it wasn’t there. I think I saw where it used to be. I walked on hanging my tongue out like a dog to see what the big deal was. It did nothing for me.
In the distance, I saw a tall clump of trees along the road. Tall in this landscape equals water. I saw, then couldn’t see, a windmill. Had I just had a thirst-induced mirage? Soon the windmill tilted back into the angle that let me see it.
I don’t usually camp near water, but I was pretty exhuasted when I got here, more from the sun than the miles. It should be interesting to see what comes by the water tonight. Something’s barking in the distance, a short bark, bark.
The half moon is overhead and throwing a shadow of the windmill near my head. Very cool.

What are You Fighting For?

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

15 miles from the border, the mid-morning hours are being sliced by military jets. That got me to thinking about our shitty President and his family fued with Sadam Husein. My President is making my life and my country less secure.
I’m interested in learning from what’s going on in South America. Just before I started Bolivia(?)’s President nationalized the gas fields. His primary purpose was to reduce corporate influence in his country.
We (true Americans) need to find a way to reduce corporate influence and bribery in our country. It will take a near-revolution. We’ve gradually shifted toward making the world safe for capitalism .
The pair of expensive jets passes again and Marianne Fairhful sings, ” What are you fighting for?”

This war is poking a hornet nest. Reacting to fundamentalism with fundamentalism is crazy.

Then Morissey sings, “Come Armageddon, come.”

Lead Up and Send Off

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Larry & I went north before heading south. We headed toward Silver City with gallons of water in the car. I know a drought continues in the region and wanted to make sure I had water. I stashed a few, but as we got further south, I saw good news: cows and turning windmills. After checking out the first, I didn’t need to check the others. I stopped caching at some point.

All of this was possible with Yogi’s help. At some point between Kensington & Lordsburg I lost the zip bag that had the maps for my first section. I called Yogi, she emailed them, and I printed B/W copies on the hotel’s printer.
On the road south to Separ, we ran into Chuck Wagon and GI Jane with their dog, who was in good spirits.
Larry dropped me off at the Antelope Wells border crossing at about 1:30. We leap-frogged a couple of times before he took off for points west.
I’m journalling as I’m hiking along NM81, on the lookout for a dirt road that will take me off this hard surface. I’m walking without poles as Beth Gibson sings Wandering Star.