"What's the Matter?!"

In at Grans, NM -- just west of Albuquerque.

Looks rather ideal, until you look inside the cattle trough itself.

Eskimos are said to have some eighteen hundred different words for snow.... I am beginning to feel the same about varieties of sand and road. Thus far, I've hiked upwards of 400 miles of the Continental Divide Trail and I'd estimate that only 30 - 40 miles of it has been actual trail. Which, was to be expected of the CDT, especially of New Mexico, but nevertheless, it can become trying.

The majority of the "trail" has been one form or another of road walks. Anything from jeep track to paved highway. And, some of these roads can be very pleasant, typically the ones that motorized vehicles have long forsaken, while others can be long stretches of monotony and solo shredding asphalt.

Aside from road walks, cross country sections are abound. These sections of "trail" are actually sections of not-trail. No trail, no road, and no path exists, sometimes marked with trail markers, other times without. Typically they fall into two categories. First we have large desert basin traverses, in which the best strategy is typically to pick your end destination (usually east or west of a specific mountain) and just head towards it. At some point you will typically pick up your desired road as you approach said destination. Second we have the easier to navigate but often slow and difficult sections wherein the not-"trail" follows a geographical feature, such as a wash, river, or canyon.

Least commonly the Continental Divide Trail presents us with actual trail. However, it's been all too easy to get excited about being on trail before realizing that the trail actually just comes to an abrupt stop in the middle of nowhere leaving you to self navigate your way to the next landmark.

Then, as a final point of confusion (can there be such a thing?), nobody whatsoever knows or agrees upon what or where the Continental Divide Trail actually is or where it should be. I carry maps created by Jonathan Ley that show his recommended route as well as a variety of side routes, I carry a gps and data program on my phone that uses gps information from Jerry Brown, which also shows a variety of alternate routes, and additionally the "trail" is occasionally marked with CDT trail markers. In many instances all three of these trails are actually different trails and do not match up as you would expect them to. Having a tendency to ignore maps and other such things and simply hike with my gut I'm reluctantly learning to actually check my navigational resources in order to prevent hiking extra and unnecessary miles.

The Continental Divide Trail has a way of throwing some added difficulty and mental hardship at me each and every day. Whether it's getting lost (usually minor and relatively easy to correct, but nearly every single day), the mental fatigue of walking on a paved road for hours, the constant roar of the wind, or everybody's favorite, the eternal water struggles.

Water the the CDT in New Mexico comes primarily from sources created and used by cattle. Cow ponds, water tanks, wind driven wells, and solar wells are the ticket to survival. It doesn't sound so bad, except until you see them. Your map may list, "solar well, had water 2012, 2008" and you therefor assume it is working. Let's say it is (which it isn't often). But upon approaching you may find that this solar well feeds directly into a large trough from the bottom, as opposed to having a spout positioned above the trough which drips from trough, through the air, and then into the general reservoir of water.

What's the matter?

Sometimes it's best not to ask, because often, it's bovine fecal matter.

But, water is water, and it's better to throw some bleach into it, drink up, and carry on, than risk certain dehydration and potential heat exhaustion. In bleach we trust.

Regardless, between getting lost, miscalculating distances, and "failed" water sources I have ran out of water on multiple occasions, having to either backtrack, side track, or simply push onward in hopes of the next source. My health hasn't suffered due to dehydration, but I have been forced to skip dinner on a few occasions in order to conserve water.

Enough whining.

I do love the Southwest. Lots of land. Spacious. Room to stretch the legs. Big skies. Red rock. Canyons. No rain (thus far). Small towns.

Oh! And there are some good people out here hiking this year! I saw nearly nobody for the first two hundred miles of my trek (which, is a great way to start a hike of this magnitude, in my mind), but I have since caught up to a relatively large group. Smiles, Mismatch, Spatula, Inspector Gadget, Pounce, Helicopter, and Tibetan (all of PCT '12) are around, as well as the Brits (Christ, Nick, and Faye) and Uncle Gary. It is nice to have some company.

I sure am glad to be hiking the Continental Divide.