17 mi ::
276 mi ::
Cloudy, warm, lots of thunder, sprinkles
We’re back on the forest road early. It’s nice, easy to follow, with fairly gentle ups and downs through Juniper and Ponderosa-covered hills. We pass up water in a muddy cow pond, since there’s supposed to be more water ahead. Near another pond a Forest Service truck stops and two guys ask if we have enough water. We say yes, as long as there is water at the Valle Tio Venca campground a mile ahead. They say yes, we can filter water from a tank there.
When we get there, we see two tanks, both dry. I follow a pipe uphill to the spring, but that’s also dry. We have 1/3-liter of water left between us. We could retreat to the last pond, but we decide instead to make for the next one in about 6 miles. This means we’ll do the 1500-ft climb up Mangas Mountain on the few swallows of water we have left.
The road goes over a cattle guard near the top, but doesn’t go all the way up. We’re very hot and thirsty when we arrive there. There’s a lookout tower on top. I grab the camera and hike up to check it out. Just in case, I take my water bag too.
Op top there’s a truck, a little cabin, and a square, windowed structure on stilts. A sign says visitors are welcome. I start up the metal staircase, wind whining around me. At the top a trap door opens, and I am beckoned inside by Ben.
Ben answers every question I come up with. I yell out a window for Ann, and she comes up too. Ben keeps a log of CDT hikers that visit. I scan over those this year – Roni was here, as well as the couple – Bob and Jane – two days ahead of us. In addition to answering our questions, Ben offers us the water we are eager for. On my way out he shows me a postcard I missed with some water information from a previous hiker, and tells me if we get confused on the roads below to follow the telephone lines.
We take a gallon of water, which gives us a happy lunch and two liters to take with us. After descending the mountain, we filter some more water for dinner from a cow pond, but none for drinking.
After dinner we follow some CDT trail markers away from the telephone lines, because it seems clear which way we’re supposed to go. Everything looks fine, and we’re still energized at dusk. Then our road, which had a Forest Service sign and number a couple of miles back, runs smack into a gate with a NO TRESPASSING sign on it. This confuses and frustrates us. We backtrack the two miles to the Forest Service sign, looking for trail markers. None. We go back further, to the last markers we saw, but they offer no clue. Finally we go back to the telephone lines, follow them a bit, then find a place to sleep. We’re down to about a liter of water again. The next source of water is a few miles beyond the point where we turned back. We’re not sure yet how we’ll get there.