I arrived in Cuba, my last resupply stop on the CDT.
With all of the wind last night, I wasn’t surprised that it got cold enough that I needed to put my puffy on again. Even with it on, though, I didn’t sleep all that well, and so even though I wanted to get started early today so I could get to town sooner, rather than later, I didn’t leave camp until almost 9 am. At least, the wind overnight kept my tent and sleeping bag dry.
After just a little bit of climb from my campsite, the rest of the day was straight downhill. That was nice, and generally let me make fairly good time today.
About a mile from my campsite, I passed by an area with fresh snow. I guess, with all the clouds last night, there was some precipitation, and I happened to be on the lucky side of the ridge to not get anything. Someone wrote on the trail “Slowbo Snowbo”; must have been someone who got snowed on last night.
Because it was there, I took a short detour cross-country to summit San Pedro Peaks. The actual summit was a small rocky outcrop in the middle of the otherwise fairly flat grassy alpine meadow, with a few trees.
Rather than retracing my steps back to the trail, I went straight ahead to where the trail would be. I’m not sure that actually saved me any time. It started off nice as I was going through the meadow, but between two stands of trees, the meadow turned into a marsh, and I lost whatever time savings I might have had to trying to keep from soaking my feet.
As I got further from the summit area, the forest got thicker, at least for a little while. Then the trail crossed a meadow with a creek down the middle. The creek was a narrow, but deep channel that cut through the meadow. Fortunately, it was narrow enough that it was easy to step over; I just needed to be careful not to step in the damp, squishy muck on either side of the water channel. One across the creek, the trail followed the creek downstream from just uphill for a few miles, crossing it twice more.
Entering forest, still on almost flat ground, the trail itself became a small creek, with water pooled on and around the trail, occasionally in wide mud pits nearly the entire width of the space between the trees.
The trail continued like that for about a mile, until it finally made more than a token effort to descend out of the mountains, and the water was actually able to drain off the trail.
Well, at least, that’s what I thought in the moment. The trail was still a muddy mess, complete with shin-deep mud pits. I was really not expecting to see Vermont-style mud in New Mexico!
The mud continued for a while after the trail passed the San Gregorio Reservoir, a man-made lake that seemed like it had overflowed its intended boundary, flooding much of the meadow near the trail.
Reaching a dirt road, the trail exited the San Pedro Parks Wilderness, and I followed the road around a small campground. Rejoining a trail that wound around a hill, highly eroded on its western side, I got my first view into the desert south of Cuba. Somewhere, though, I missed a turn, and wound up on an ATV trail that led me to another dirt road. Rather than retracing my steps, I just followed the road for several miles, my maps showing where it reconnected to the CDT further down the mountain. I lucked out a bit with the unexpected dirt roadwalk: it was about a quarter mile shorter than the official trail, though most of the road was dull walking on, as usual.
Around 2:30, I called to reserve a room at Cuban Lodge. It was a bit of an odd call; and the woman that answered the phone didn’t even take my name, just asked me to call back once I got into town.
Distracted by the odd call, I took a wrong turn at an intersection, following a a sign with an arrow pointing uphill. When the road didn’t resume going downhill quickly, I checked my map and realized I was on the wrong roads. I corrected the mistake quickly enough, but that little detour cost me the little distance savings the roadwalk had over the CDT.
The road switchbacked down the mountain, at times quite steeply, in a way that reminded me of the road dropping out of the mountains the day before reaching Steamboat Springs in Colorado.
That did offer a good view towards Cuba. The valley Cuba is in was considerably greener than I would have expected, given I’m going into a desert.
Eventually, I reconnected with the CDT, at a trail intersection with signage that implied the CDT had been rerouted. Not having a map of the new route (and thus, also having no idea of how long it was), I opted to take the route in my maps. I turned down a dirt road heading to Cuba.
The dirt road left the national forest, and then shortly became asphalt. A large snake was lying in the middle of the road sunning itself. Clearly, this road doesn’t get that much traffic.
After several miles of road through desert scrub and a variety of run-down (or outright derelict) buildings, I joined a highway, and continued the roadwalk to Cuba. Passing a dirt road turnoff on the other side of the road, a pickup truck stopped and two people got out, carrying two large bags of dog food. On cue, half a dozen dogs ran up the dirt road to get fed. It was a little disconcerting to think that if the timing hadn’t been just right for dinner to be a distraction, the dogs might have taken an interest in me. There was a comment in the trail guide that a hiker had to call the police to get assistance with dogs that had been blocking the highway; I hoped this meant I wouldn’t have to worry about those dogs the rest of the way into town.
Around Cuba itself, the trail is somewhat circuitous, forming a bit of a horseshoe, with the town’s main road being one of the legs. I think this is a remnant from an older alignment of the CDT, which traveled further north out of town and ran much further north and west of the route I took. My motel was on the south side of town, though, and I wanted to get off the highway as soon as possible (there were a few too many cars passing very fast for my liking). So, I turned off on a side road that took me around the southern outskirts of Cuba, rather than to the north. Since I wanted to go to my room first to relax before getting dinner or doing my resupply, this saved me nearly a mile of hiking.
I did, however, have to deal with two dogs running down the road towards me. Thankfully, they stayed a bit away (though, really, not far enough as I was heading in their direction), but what helped was a long string of cars that caused them to retreat back to their property; by the time the cars had finished passing, I had passed their house and was far enough down the road that they didn’t chase after me.
I reached Cuban Lodge, and called the owner; finding the room key where they’d hid it was a bit of hide-and-seek, but once I found it, I was able to get into my room and relax and get a shower.
After relaxing perhaps a bit too long, I left to do chores. My first stop was the laundromat. I planned to start my clothes in the washer while I went to get dinner, but they were closing in just 15 minutes, so that pushed laundry to tomorrow morning. The town’s food store had closed just as I walked past it, so I opted to get dinner before everything else closed.
Dinner at McDonalds was, well, McDonalds, and I chatted with two southbounders who were getting dinner and repacking their resupply. Now fully dark outside, they planned to night-hike out of town, hoping to get the rest of the roadwalk south of town done tonight.
I split my resupply between the gas station convenience store attached to the McDonalds, and the Family Dollar on the way back to my room. Leaving the Family Dollar, a stray cat sat just outside the doors, begging for food.
Back in my room, I repacked my food. This is the last time I’ll so this hike — which also makes this my very last resupply of my Triple Crown. It’s almost hard to believe it’s almost over now!
The restaurant across the street from my motel and the laundromat both open at 6 am, so the “plan” is to get up around then, eat, do laundry, and get out of town while the sun is still low. (Of course, if you’ve read this far, I’m sure you have a pretty good guess as to how just how unlikely that is to happen.)