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[cdt-l] CDT "talking journal"

While hiking the CDT in New Mexico this spring I carried along a small,
digital voice recorder in lieu of journal paper. Into this device, usually
once each evening, I described the sights and sounds of the trail, my
thoughts hopes and fears as I traveled through it solo, and sometimes even
the practical stuff - routefinding information, location of water, and such.
This dictation approach to journal-keeping was strictly an experiment - a
way of saving time by using the mouth and not the hand, a means of saying
more than I would otherwise write, a method of bringing home the memories in
a more immediate, unfiltered sort of way... perhaps.

What I discovered is that a certain part of me still attempted to play the
part, to be the actor, reading the line into the microphone just like the
writer waiting for the perfect prose. As alone as I was out there, a part of
me expected an audience each night, if not that night then maybe some night,
somewhere. Slowly, though, I became more comfortable with my digital
intruder; I learned to use the auto-pause feature, allowing myself to
ruminate for a moment or two free of the self-conscious mental stutterings.
Finally, the little bastard became my best friend, in whom I could confide,
implicitly, no matter the subject. I had let down my guard and had let the
experience roll...

Before all of that, though, there was Day 2 of the journey, which I've
transcribed below, verbatim - literary warts and all.

The hike took me from the Mexican border to Cuba in just under a month, and
there are as many journal entries currently sitting on compact disc,
awaiting transcription and/or possible upload as .wav files to a website.
Four hours and fifteen minutes worth of idle chatter!

Photos of the hike can be viewed at
http://community.webshots.com/user/blisterfree (click on either of the 2 CDT
albums, the first includes extensive captions alongside). I hope to expand
these albums, and to figure out a course of action with the journal entries,
following my upcoming thru-hike of the AT, which begins this Saturday.

Catch everyone again in November.


- blisterfree

Entry for Thursday, April 17. Approx 13 miles traveled, evening's camp at
the base of the Florida Mountains, east side, perhaps .5 mile S of the spur
trail that heads off to Blue Water Well.

A very challenging, interesting, beautiful day spent traversing the rugged,
parched Florida Mountains. Began in the foothills, at the base of the
Florida Mtns on the SW side where I had camped. The first few miles were
very gradually uphill from base, into the canyons on the south side of the
Florida Mountains.

As I approached the mountain range I had my doubts as to the appropriateness
of the route described in the CDTS guide. It didn't really look plausible;
it certainly didn't seem like the easiest way into the mountains. And so I
considered my options, and decided to go through, starting in a different
canyon a little ways to the west, approximately one canyon over. This was
trackless, as would have been the CDTS route. It turned out to be very
challenging. What I thought was South Peak - my first destination - was in
fact a false summit, and as I made my way up very eroded, rocky,
cactus-strewn slopes, very steeply - very friable terrain - I made my way
around false summit after false summit.

At the first saddle, after the first false summit, I found a shady spot to
rest and at the same time happened to see something moving on the next
hillside over. This turned out to be - via binoculars I could tell - the
ibex, which I had hoped to see and a big reason why I had gone through this
mountain range in the first place. There were approximately 14 of these
animals: deer colored fur or hair, and unmistable long, curved horns or
antlers. They probably had seen me first and were making their way up the
slope, straight up to the top of what turned out to be another false summit
of South Peak. They made very soft - at least from my perspective at a half
mile away - gutteral noises, perhaps signal calls to each other. They were
traveling single file. Very sure-footed animals, larger than I was
expecting, and the color of their coats was different than I was expecting
as well. In any case they made their way up the slope very quickly, and
within a few minutes were out of sight. But if I hadn't gone this warped,
convoluted route that was not per the guidebook, then I probably wouldn't
have seen them, because these were the only ibex I saw the entire way and I
don't think they would have been visible from the other route.

Finally after about three false summits I made my way to the intersection
with the "official" route and rested there beneath the shade of a juniper
for about an hour, taking in the wonderful views all around. I'm still
nursing my sunburn, so it's good to stay out of the sun as much as possible,
and today I ended up wearing long pants all day as well as my long-sleeved
white shirt and an OR hat with cape around back. This was a little bit
warmer than otherwise, but well worth it for the protection.

>From there it was downhill, much easier at first than the terrain that I had
been on. But it was not clear to me from there exactly what the best route
would be, and I ended up making mistake after mistake with respect to the
correct path, the path of least resistance. Came across a small, manmade
pipe, which had been cemented into the canyon base as I was following along
the ravine bottom. There was a little trickle of water beneath that, so I
marked it with GPS for future reference. That was the only sign of man I had
seen in the mountain range up to this point.

Then I traversed over to another gap which the guidebook describes, and
successfully reached that gap. I wasn't clear how to get down from that gap
the easiest way into Copper Kettle Canyon, and chose the south facing slope
rather than a north facing slope, and that was my mistake. My advise for
anyone coming through these mountains would be to stick with the north-ish
facing slopes as much as possible, as these seem to have fewer cactus, more
grass, and less friable rock. And so it's easier to walk on steep terrain,
angling slabbing terrain on these slopes than it is on the others.

Made my way down to a defunct cattle operation high up in Copper Kettle
Canyon, which was just an empty tank and some barbed wire fencing. But from
there I picked up a good gravel road, which the guidebook describes, and
took that down about a mile, where it intersects another, better road. I
think at that point, to continue along with the guidebook route, I should
have veered off and made a contour over to another gap which would have led
me into the final gully leading out of the mountains. But instead I
continued on this better gravel road - a jeep road - down to a windmill that
was visible. The windmill itself, as it turned out, was not functioning but
there was a solar panel set up, which was rigged just beside the windmill,
and it was generating water through a PVC pipe into a large, rock-mortared
tank which was about 6 feet high. This was just full of water - pretty good
water, a few dead bugs on the surface but good quality. I was able to get
water out of the pipe itself, at least while the sun was still up. And so I
took water from that, and stopped to make dinner there.

While I was making dinner, these gusts of wind would continually come up
every few minutes, and just reek havoc. It would go from absolute calm to
these 40-50 mile per hour wind gusts. I was trying to protect myself as much
as possible behind this cistern, but was only minimally successful. The crux
of the wind problem came when I was eating, having finished cooking but with
the stove still simmering. And the stove blew over, the windscreen went
flying, the stove itself turned upside down, flipped over and starting
lighting things on fire. I put my foot over the stove as a reflex action to
try to put the fire out, but of course that's not going to work with
alcohol. Luckily I didn't crush the stove with my foot, and fortunately it
was just about to go out on its own anyway. And so it did, and I was able to
recover everything, but things that were not pinned down were liable to go
flying during that particular episode.

I made a rehydrated spaghetti dinner. Didn't make it right, didn't add
enough water, didn't let it cook at high enough temperature, and it was kind
of glue-like. But I put it down, and at that point I went back to get more
water. By now the hose was no longer producing because the sun had left the
canyon, so I had to scramble up the cistern and dip my water bladder in
there. Got some water there, listened to the mourning doves by the several
dozen flying all around and landing in a nearby horse trough.

Packed up around 7 pm or so, got out of there, continued south along the
road a little ways, and then I veered over toward what was not the correct
gap leading out of the mountain range, but it was I think an easier way to
go - at least a more obvious way. And it was fairly level, easy travel to
this minor gap. From there, I veered around and downhill into another
ravine. Got out to the point where I got very close to an outlier, minor
foothill sort of thing, and went NE out of the ravine, x-country to
intersect the jeep road that goes around the east side of the Florida
Mountains. I finally picked that up just about dusk and traveled north on
that with the Three Little Hills, as they're called, straight ahead, knowing
that when I reached those hills Blue Water Well would be on my left. I had
enough water already to make camp, so I didn't quite get that far, and
instead veered off on the east side of the road and made a windy camp.

Very wind all night, very difficult to get to sleep; I don't think I went to
sleep until 3am, and even then it was intermittent. Got up at 7 this
morning, on the 18th, and the wind, of course, died down as soon as it's no
longer feasible to sleep because the sun is burning in my eyes. But in any
case, we're going to try to push on to Deming, I think tonight, if possible.
It's 23 miles, but anything in the 17 to 23 mile range is fairly urbanized,
as it looks, so it wouldn't make for good camping. I think getting into town
is the most prudent thing to do. We shall see.

One other note: the wildflowers in the Florida Mountains are plentiful - too
many to name. Mexican poppies and plenty of other stuff that I don't even
want to get into now, because I can't name most of them. I'm not taking
[wildflower] photos yet - too focused on other things, taking photos of just
the backdrop, the mountains and such. But hopefully the wildflower display
will continue and I'll be able to capture some vignettes in the coming days.