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[CDT-L] [cdt list] water in new mexico

I'm responding to Jim's post about water in New Mexico. 

When Dan and I did the CDT (if this were a movie, our voices would be 
crackling with age and memory) there were lots of places where we got water 
about every 20 - 25 miles. That was just the way it was. 

Our route was a little different in the section under discussion. (Back then, 
there was no official proposed route!). Our route took us from Oso Ridge into 
the "town" of Continental Divide, and then followed dirt roads north from 
there into Navajo lands. We did walk over some lava beds, and around a string 
of exinct little volcanoes (all called Cerro de something or other), but it 
must be very different, because those weren't a big deal -- just hot. So I 
freely admit, I don't know the section under discussion. And this e-mail is 
not intended to express an opinion on specific alternatve routes.

But I did want to address the issue of water. 

I do think, Jim, that it's just unfeasible and not realistic to demand that 
to exist as a trail, there has to be guaranteed water all year at reasonable 
intervals. If that were the standard, there would be no PCT in southern Cal, 
no Arizona Trail, no trails in the Grand Canyon above the river -- need I go 

As you mentioned, most of the trail in this section is used by thru-hikers 
and long-distance section hikers. Those folks can handle 20-mile (plus) days 
-- if it's a 40-mile dry stretch, there only needs to be one reliable water 
source smack in the middle of it to meet thru-hikers' basic needs. I'd give a 
little credit to the person out there building trail if he says there 
are/will be water sources. The fact that national park and agency personnel 
don't know comes as no surprise to me, based on many years of trying to get 
information from such sources. The fact that that info isn't available to the 
public is just typical (unfortunately) -- but I guess that's what we all get 
for hiking a trail before it's in place.  

Also, Jim and Ginny, I know you guys are hiking the PCT this summer -- you're 
going to have some 20 and 30 mile dry stretches there, too, with only 
seasonal water (not even through October -- if you're lucky, through July). 
The difference is, the PCT is more established, there are detailed guidebooks 
and the info hot-line from the PCTA keeps track of water sources so you 
always have at least some current info. But even on the PCT, there's one 
place where if a local guy (Jack Farir) closes shop, there would be no water 
for god-knows- how-many-miles. Is that acceptable -- to depend on one private 
citizen to supply hikers with water? It doesn't make for ideal hiking, but 
that's the desert for you. There's a 25-mile dry stretch with 5000-feet 
elevation gain, exposed, and hot (climbing into San Gabriels). And I don't 
know how southbounders handle the 20+ miles and 7,000+ elevation gain from 
the water fountain near San Gorgonio Pass up into the San Jacintos! I never 
experienced anything like that on the CDT! Does that mean the PCT shouldn't 

I agree that the route should be chosen with the needs of hikers (and, at 
least theoretically, horsemen, although we didn't see any horsepackers in 
N.M.). Of course, the route should not have a political-compromise location. 
And it should stay off paved roads -- Those things should be no-brainers. And 
yes, water is a crucial  consideration. A 40-mile dry stretch is indeed 
unacceptable. I don't see how anyone could argue with that. 

All I'm saying is that I think your criteria are not appropriate for this dry 
land. Is the solution water fountains every five miles with little CDT signs 
on them? I would hope not.  

One of the things I loved about the CDT was the constant adventure of it. 
And I'm sure glad there was no hiker grapevine the year I did it. 

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