Day 40: Walking Along Desert’s Door
Sunday, April 29, 2018 9:56 pm
Location: Maxwell Trail Camp (493.0 miles)

The morning at Casa de Luna started out with another great treat: pancakes for breakfast. (And also, coffee, for those who drink it.)

After I had my fill of pancakes, I was ready to head back to the trail around 8. The complicating factor there was that I got drawn into a conversation with J Dub and Loner (the driver). J Dub was recounting some of his cases at the police agency in Florida he worked at. (Or rather, is on vacation from, until his retirement next week.)

When that (truly fascinating) conversation wrapped up, Loner gave Camel and me a ride to the trailhead, and I set off down the trail around 9 am. The day started off with a two mile, somewhat steep uphill through generally green mountains, before taking a much less steep path downhill almost to the same elevation I started at.)

I took a break at the bottom of the hill, just before the start of the next one. It was a dry floodplain, with a fair amount of debris strewn around, but still a good location for a break: there was some shade provided by a few small trees and the hillside. There, I met Saunter, who evidentially has a good sense of humor. He found the top part of an orange-striped barrier like one might use to close a restroom, and set it up across the trail as if to mark the trail closed. (While I was there, one other thru-hiker and two day-hikers passed the makeshift “trail closure”, but they didn’t say anything about it.

A mile and a half uphill later, I reached a spring, which, assisted by the top of a soda bottle, was flowing very well and was easy to get water from. I wasn’t expecting such a readily available water source on the trail today, and my original plan for water involved going to a campsite more than half a mile off-trail, so I decided to stop at the spring and eat dinner there. This would allow more flexibility in campsite choices in the evening.

Once the finished climbing and reached the ridge, it followed the mountains generally to the west. For the rest of the day, any view to the north showed one more ridge of mountains between the trail and the desert floor beyond. For the most part, it was relatively cool today, which made for some very pleasant hiking.

With having dinner at the spring, and filling up my hydration bladder and main water bottle, I felt that I had enough water to be able to make it to tomorrow’s campsite (with a spring of its own) without needing additional water. This made stopping a little short at a campsite (with a poor-quality water source I didn’t want to use) much more attractive than going to where I originally planned (which would have required a half-mile jaunt off-trail tonight, and another half-mile trek back to the trail in the morning). So, although I was stopping about half a mile short, it would save me over a mile of hiking today and tomorrow.

It was getting a little late in the evening by the time I made it to the Maxwell Trail Camp, and it had gotten noticeably colder from earlier in the day. The wind had also increased — you could easily hear it howling above the (actual, forested) treetops — but the campsite I picked was relatively protected from the wind on two sides, so I didn’t have much of a problem setting up my tent. That section of trail was in an actual treed forest, so apart from being a nice part to hike, it was much more wind-sheltered that it might otherwise have been.

Later, while I was in my tent, I thought I saw someone’s headlamp in the distance, and figured I’d have company in camp. Quite a while later, when the “headlamp” was in largely the same position, I realized that it was actually the moon, and the motion I thought I saw just the branches in front of the moon swaying.

Tomorrow: A hike to Horse Trail Camp, to set up for an easy day into Hikertown.