Day 4: Choose Your Own Adventure Through The Cow Pastures
Thursday, April 28, 2022 9:42 pm
Location: Animas Road Water Cache (77.7 miles)

I set a 5 am alarm with the hopes of getting started before sunrise. I very nearly succeeded, leaving the same minute as sunrise. It was nice and cool out, which was great for getting moving quickly.

About half an hour after I started, I passed a sign erected on the trail that said “Trail Angel Ahead”. Shortly ahead, a small dome with white tarp draped over it stood erected next to the trail. While there wasn’t actually anyone here, there still was trail magic: a chest with ice-cold soda. It was still early in the day and still a little cool out, but I was happy to take advantage of the easy calories and cool drink.

The trail this morning was a winding path to the northwest through light desert scrub and a large open plain. It was also a bit rockier than it had been, though nothing that was problematic.

What was problematic (or at least, significantly frustrating), though, was the large number of barbwire fences I had to cross today as the trail cut through cow pastures. According to the guide, there were supposed to be gates of some sort. Instead, nearly all the crossings required either crawling under or climbing over, which generally required finding a weak point in the fence and pushing it over. This was not always easy to do.

Endless Cow Fields
Endless Cow Fields

The other annoying thing today is that trail signage was a little lopsided; there were lots of signs in areas that were generally fairly clear, and a lack of signs in areas that really needed them. Thanks to all the cow paths in the pastures the trail crossed, it was often hard to tell where the trail actually was. I felt like I spent more time off trail this morning than actually on-trail. Fortunately, being relatively flat wide open space, once I realized I was off-trail, it was pretty easy to figure out where the trail was heading, and head more-or-less in that direction to eventually pick up the trail without backtracking.

By late morning, the cow pastures were becoming interspersed with more hilly terrain as the trail got closer to the mountains ahead, the most prominent of which is Pyramid Peak, named because it resembles a giant pyramid.

It was also becoming hotter, and with almost nothing in the way of shade for most of the morning, the hills were slowly sapping my energy, and I was starting to become desperate for shade — any shade whatsoever — to stop and take a break.

I finally found a place to sit down that barely qualified. As I was sitting down, a hiker, Izzy, came up from behind. We had a brief conversation, and they mentioned there were probably much better shade trees up ahead, but I was tired enough that I knew I couldn’t push on further without a break.

I took a 45 minute break, in the barely-shade, and the food and water (naturally) rejuvenated me. However, I also discovered that one of my foldable water bottles had sprung a pinhole leak, and had been leaking water onto my electronics bag at the top of my pack. Thankfully, it wasn’t a lot of water that leaked out, and I transferred the water to my other bottle so it wouldn’t be a problem for now. I’ll have to patch the bag when I get to Lordsburg tomorrow, and possibly replace it later.

About an hour after my break, I found a nice shade tree just off the trail that would have been perfect for a break (but just too far away). An hour after that, I passed Izzy under a huge shade tree of their own, and after another half hour, I stopped for another break under a tree that provided enough shade to stretch out and be comfortable.

Even though today isn’t the longest day I’ve done, it’s felt the hardest so far. I’m really looking forward to town tomorrow to be able to relax. Inside.

Almost immediately after my break, the trail turned and started to wind its way around Pyramid Peak, the tallest in the area. I’d originally wanted to go off-trail to summit it, but that idea before the trail didn’t take into consideration the reality of hiking up a mountain with no discernible trail in hot weather with limited water and a heavy pack. I’d pretty much discounted it from happening this morning, and actually hiking near it made it clear that it was never going to happen outside of a dedicated trip just for that peak.

Pyramid Peak
Pyramid Peak

Not even five minutes past my tree, I passed Marte resting under a tree of her own. For the last three hours. I kind of envied her that. I could probably have done the same if I’d started earlier.

She also slipped yesterday, and had her knee bandaged up from where she scraped it. (At evening camp, I learned that Border Patrol had provided her the bandage, and given her supplies to allow her to take care of it until she reached town.)

Winding its way around Pyramid Peak, the trail went past a cattle ranch that had a facility of some sort right next to the trail. The trail also went through a gate on its property. A few cows behind the gate looked on as I struggled with getting the gate closed. (It was a wooden fence held together with a few barbed wires, and secured to the rest of the fence by its outermost pole fitting through a wire loop at ground level and some kind of rubber engine belt at the top. Everything was set up to just barely fit, so as to hold it together firmly, but that meant it was really hard for one person to leverage the pole through both loops.) Once I got it closed; my hands were filthy with black rubber dust.

The trail continued through cow pasture for most of the rest of the day. Occasional glimpses of the desert to the west showed dust being swept up into the air from the desert floor.

I passed through one last gate and followed (presumably) a property like straight down the mountain, the trail practically hugging a barbwire fence.

Barbwire Trail
Barbwire TrailThe trail closely follows a barbwire fence.

I reached the last water cache before Lordsburg at 4:30, the first person here. I got some water to drink, reserved a room at the EconoLodge, and set up my tent. Then I hid from the sun as best I could by sitting in the shadow of the water cache box. (It would have been nice to lie down in my tent, but under direct sunlight, tents are like ovens.)

I’d been slightly worried about getting a campsite, since I was expecting a lot of people to show up, so I wound up waiting around at the water cache for well over an hour before the next person showed up. I could have waited in the shade longer, but, there was (effectively unlimited) water at the cache, and none anywhere else.

Gradually, everyone else I expected to show up did. First Marte (now with a trail name, Bumblebee), and Izzy, then Rattler, the group of six (Diva, Director, Olive Oil, Crazy Burrito, Catch-up, and Lauren), and the Czech couple, Petr and Katka.

The rest of the evening was largely uneventful. We all ate dinner, and then retreated to sleep. (Most people are cowboy camping, rather than using tents. I choose to use a tent to keep a wall between the desert bugs and me.)