There’s a desert stretch of the Continental Divide Trail I’d like to map, and we figure it will be a good way to test ourselves and our gear in some hot, waterless terrain. The forecast is for sun and wind, but clouds and occasional rain storms spare us from the heat. Many cactus are beginning to bloom, and a great variety of alien-looking insects are going about their business (which, mercifully, does not seem to be sucking our blood). We camp at Los Indios springs, where a chorus of frogs sing us to sleep and flitting hummingbirds bathe in the morning.
It’s good we chose to test the gear. Our platypus water reservoirs are old and difficult to seal, and Ann’s has a slow leak. We can get by on this trip, but we’ll need to replace them for the Great Basin.
It’s a little late in the season for northbound through-hikers, but we see some fresh tracks the first day and find a hat on the trail with a name and phone number written on the tag. As we leave the spring on Sunday we meet three hikers: Loed, Sawbuck, and T2. It seems they’ve lost time to the difficult navigation in New Mexico. Even with a GPS receiver, they spent eight days on a four-day segment – two without food. I know that eventually gadgets will take some of this adventure out of the New Mexico trail, but it seems the trail still demands a certain amount of skill that it will gladly teach you the hard way. They also say temperatures have regularly exceeded 100°F, and they have the tanned hide to prove it. Despite their difficulties, they have the easygoing nature of seasoned distance hikers. They sit and chat with us twice rather than go for water, laugh about their troubles, rave about the scenery here and the other hikers they’ve met, and talk with anticipation about the trail to come. If we have hard lessons coming our way, I hope we end up smiling like these guys.