15 mi ::
449 mi ::
The sun rises behind some high clouds, making for a cold morning. We walk around to stay warm while we eat breakfast early to avoid carrying the water.
The high clouds persist, making for nice walking. We’re having lunch at Ned’s Tank, the biggest cattle pond yet, when two guys pull up in a BLM truck. Ted, the talkative one, explains that they volunteer to come and clean the place up. We remark that we’ve noticed all the fenced parking areas, elaborate signs, and cleaner roadsides – in contrast to the Forest Service roads and trails we’ve spent so much time hiking. He says that neither agency has any money, but that BLM makes better use of volunteers. He doesn’t explain where the brand new truck, gas, and dozens of signs come from, but that’s okay. He tells us some good horror stories about other hikers, and a cattle pond that was polluted when 8 cattle got stuck in it. They were so thirsty they ate mud from the bottom, got sick and mired, died, and were covered with water in the next rain. This makes us feel better about hiking extra miles to avoid having to get water from these ‘tanks’. He also makes fun of New Mexico ranchers, “They live in town and come out here every few months to see if there are any cattle left.” On a more positive note, he tells us we’ll find good water in five miles at Ojo Frio. We say goodbye and head down the road, descending Mesa Chivata at last.
Ted finds us later taking another break by the road. He looks at us strangely, “You’re almost at the spring, you know. It’s not 200 yards over there.” He thinks we’re rubes. We have misinterpreted a landmark though, and we don’t get it all straight until we’re at the spring. We’re thankful that Ted didn’t let us go past it.
Next we leave the roads to follow cairns through low mesas and arroyos. Ann is taking a turn at navigating and I almost get her all mixed up, but she figures it out. We cross Arroyo Chico, a strange sandy, salty place with lots of clay banks eroded in wild shapes, bushes with deep red bark, and flowers. We see prickly pear blooms in colors from green to yellow to pink. There are also lots of flies, so we walk a ways more before camping.