The Exchange

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

“Back in civilization I begin the questioning, what to do with life? What kind of life? In the wilderness this ceases; the questions aren’t answered, they dissolve.” Randy Mortenson

Hey folks, I hope everybody is strapped in for what looks like another bumpy ride, this time up the backbone of America. I began this trek April 17th from the Columbus route due to Sam (a famous octogenarian known for shuttling hikers to the Crazy Cook route in his beat-up Jeep) not showing up. We have since found out he would have had to have made 3 back-and-forth trips to the border that day. I guess I will cut him some slack. So into the higher altitudes and dearth of water of the Columbus route. It is incredible to me of how quickly my body has gone into thru-hike mode this time around. Today is day 24 of my trip and I still have had no blisters, or horrible foot pain that have befallen me the last couple of trails. I attribute this to the sagacious admonition of Young Geezer and his daily foot treatment that he showed me on the PCT. I wash my feet religiously, use my trusty pumice stone and rub in Goldbond callous and cracked heel moisturizer everyday. Steady and I have hiked 405 miles already and are chilling at the Red Lion Motel in Grants NM located on the iconic route 66. We are not taking a zero day yet and haven’t since we started. Today we will be hiking up Mount Taylor in what looks like some thunderstorms. Most of the water has been really dodgy varying from fecal coliform contaminated cow tanks replete with colorful algae and sometimes dead rodents floating in it to cow dung mud holes. Mmmmmm finger licking good! We are just happy to have it. There was a stretch where I carried 6.5 liters of water due to being burned before with unreliable water sources. This season is evidently the third year in a row of drought conditions so that has been our most major concern so far out here.

On day one we got dropped off at the border and were stopped three times by border patrol. Each time as they got close, they simply asked how our hike was going. I guess we weren’t the droids they were looking for. There was also a forecast for 50 to 70 mph winds and so at the conclusion of our 14.3 mile day, Steady exclaimed. “I have sticker pricklys in my shoes, my feet are on fire, my calves hurt, my hips are bruised, I have no water and I am going to camp in a dust storm…wanna come with me on vacation?” Its been great hiking with my girlfriend this trip. Unfortunately she has had some minor blisters and foot pains but with a recent new pair of shoes over-nighted by my mom (thanks Mom!) she should be good to go. Her navigation and route finding skills have been crucial as this trail has already had a large amount of bushwhacking and off trail routes. Some of those have been over and though private property. One day we were following a county road around a ranch when the owner stopped us with his ridiculous looking golf cart contraption. “Why are you guys trespassing on my land?” Luckily, Steady with her soothing vulnerable voice replied, “We didn’t realize this was private sir, we mean no trouble..” He eventually relented and let us walk across but first we had to get his overtaxed diatribe. In fact all of the signs in these parts are humorous to me. One day we went from a generic “No trespassing” series of signs that devolved into “No trespassing, no shed hunting, no hunting, no digging, no hiking” posted by somebody with a first name of Tuffy to signs that read, “No trespassing whatsoever for whatever reason” to finally “If you find anybody trespassing and is convicted there is a 500.00 reward” There were also several signs saying there was video surveillance. I have always had a hard time understanding the need to demarcate the have’s from the have nots. Territorialism is never sexy.

Similar to the charged air and electricity around when a thunderstorm is approaching, my senses have come alive again and have remedied my inanition. Every hair on my body stands straight up to receive the ions breathing me to life. Like my direction, its favorable to have my instincts guided magnetically instead of by arbitrary coffee breaks, work days, and t.v. schedules. I am also enjoying the stillness of my mind and slowing down to 2.5 mph. Its almost like Mother earth takes out her big earthen, index finger and wags it in front of her mouth whispering me to be quiet as If I was in church or the library. Stresses just melt away under the hot New Mexican sun as existential questions go away and are replaced by more relevant ones like, “Where is the next water?” Everyday presents a different challenge and I am happy for them.
This inexorableness. This hazardous, constantly un-defining amorphous vapor. This possibility. This reality. I don’t know how it looks across your office desk but under these coyote serenaded and starry choked skies; it’s the most beautiful thing. -Skeeter

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