I park near a tiny paved road in the remote mesas of this part of New Mexico, find the cairns that mark the Continental Divide Trail here, and start hiking. It soon occurs to me that this is a strange place to take a long hike at the height of the fall aspen season. It’s hot and dry. Only the goatheads and stickers are changing color, and dropping their barbed payloads at the same time. In 2004, Ann and I had to search somewhat desperately for water on this section, and the cairned route the trail now follows had been started but was not complete. Those two factors made it a difficult stretch. Now the cairned trail is complete, easy to follow, and includes Jones spring for water. It’s a route obviously chosen and constructed with great love, providing a tour of all the best views and formations the area has to offer.
I spend the night by a windmill, then return via an alternate route that includes much of the dirt road we hiked in 2004. The sights bring back the intense emotions from that time, and the feeling of exposure in this place that is still quite scorched and shadeless in October. I walk the road miles quickly, taking drinks from my full water bottles at each spot we failed to find water before. For last few miles some clouds roll in and cool me off, dropping rain that never hits the ground. Those last miles seem longer than the rest, the suddenly I am next to the truck, finished.