It rained a bit overnight, but we all slept comfortably. The sky was a mix when we got up, but it felt like we were going to have some warmer temperatures at least.
We only had three miles of forest road walking before getting to the state line and therefore the end of our hike. The border is understated to say the least, but we still celebrated with hugs and photos. It felt good to have completed the hike successfully for all of us.
After leaving the border, we had almost ten miles to walk before getting to Alma, NM. The dirt road was very smooth and slightly down-sloped, so the walking was quick and easy.
We made it to the Alma Grill in time for lunch and then dessert. Our friends, Purple and Carnivore, came to pick us up as we were finishing our meal. It was great to see them as usual. They generously drove to pick us up and brought us back to their place. We got cleaned up and Purple and Carnivore fed us lots of good food. We are enjoying the indoor comforts as it starts to rain again outside.
This morning we woke up to everything being damp again. Although it had rained a bit overnight, the bigger problem was the moisture in the air or in the ground. The undersides of our tarps were wet and our sleeping quilts were damp. Mace’s tent was wet on the inside and outside. We all got a lot wetter than we did the night before when it rained most of the night. We had thought we were camping in a pretty dry spot, on top of a knoll, but apparently not.
Anyways, we got started on a pretty vague trail that brought us down into another canyon. We spent the rest of the morning walking from one river canyon to the next. We really enjoyed this walking, even though it was very rocky and we were constantly getting our feet wet. The feeling of walking through the canyons is pretty cool…there are so many interesting things to see and always something different around the next bend.
The coolest part of the morning’s canyon walking was going through Little Blue Box. Basically is was a very narrow slot canyon along Little Blue Creek. It was probably only three feet wide in parts, and just super cool. It was totally worth walking through water a lot of the morning to go through this gem of a slot canyon.
Right after the Little Blue Box, we took a long break to set out all of our wet gear to dry in the sun. Thankfully the sun was out and the sky was blue in the morning.
The morning ended with us back onto the flood plains of the Blue River again. When we were walking along the Blue River three days ago, we were walking upstream, but today we were walking downstream. Once we had crossed the river for the final time, we took a break to clean all the sand and dirt out of our shoes that had accumulated during the many morning water crossings.
As we were leaving the Blue River, we could see some dark grey clouds coming in. It seemed like within 15 minutes, the sky was full of ominous-looking clouds and we were starting to hear the thunder. We were starting up a big climb and as we began to feel raindrops, we decided to put up one of our hammock tarps and have our lunch break while it rained. It kept us dry as we ate, but it never rained hard, and instead the wind gusts seemed to be on a mission to rip the tarp in two.
We finally decided to start walking again since the deluge didn’t seem like it was coming. The climb was fairly steep and rocky at times, but the trail we were on turned out to be really great. We did lose the trail twice, but then got ourselves back on track and were able to finally get some miles walked after all our breaks earlier in the day. The weather didn’t seem like it could make up its mind this afternoon. Sometimes it looked like it was clearing, and then more grey clouds would come and we would get more sprinkles.
We finally made it to the forest road we were aiming for and decided to camp near an earthen stock pond where we wanted to get water. It works out well to “gravity filter” the water while we were setting up camp and we’ll probably keep filtering overnight.
We have just a few miles to the New Mexico border, which is the official end of the MRT. Once we get there, we still have almost 10 miles to walk to get to a paved road. We will be heading straight for the Alma Grill, which we have been dreaming of for days now. We are very thankful that our friends, Purple and Carnivore, will be able to pick us up in Alma when we finish tomorrow.
It rained pretty steady overnight. When we first got up and started packing our gear, the rain had stopped. But it was raining lightly again by the time we started down the trail.
The trail for the first part of today was surprisingly in pretty great shape. We just assume that when trails are in wilderness/primitive areas that they are going to be in pretty rough shape. But it looks like folks are out using these trails enough to keep them in good shape.
Even with the good trails, at times we were moving rather slow due to the slippery mud in the trail. Thanks to the rain, we were either getting several pounds of mud stuck to the bottoms of our shoes, or we were sliding all over the trail.
The rain seemed to come and go for most of the morning, and then we got a big dump of rain and hail. Once our legs and arms were wet, it was hard to stay warm, since the temperature was cool today. Luckily it wasn’t windy today, but every time the thunder would crack over our heads, we mentally prepared ourselves for getting dumped on.
By mid afternoon, the low clouds started to burn off and we were able to see the nice views around us as we were walking on a ridge. Around that same time, our nice trails for the day ended. We turned off on a game trail (or bootleg trail, we’re not sure which), which was hard to follow at times. We just started walking down in the direction we knew we were ultimately headed. At times, the area we were walking through seemed like a mine field of cacti. We had to watch our feet really closely so that we wouldn’t end up with needles in our feet.
The rest of the afternoon was spent walking through Auger Canyon. It was a pretty cool narrow canyon. At times, we would have to go up the side walls to avoid walking through deeper pools that spanned the width of the canyon. There was a really interesting variety of rocks and we were always excited to see what was around the next turn.
We decided to look for a campsite when we got to the end of our canyon walking. It was pretty slim pickings as there is mostly just junipers here, and they are not well-spaced. But, we managed to find two hangs without cacti in the middle, and Mace found a reasonable spot for his tent. We stopped for the day a little after 6pm and we were pretty tired. Aside from the rain, today was a great day on the trail.
When we woke up this morning everything felt damp. We had camped near a very small creek, but since it only had a tiny amount of water in it, we didn’t give it much thought. But, it turns out that it kept the air very damp. It didn’t help things that we had only wet socks to put on in our wet shoes. Once we got our wet clothes on, we were ready to start moving to warm ourselves up.
The trail continued down to a reunion with the dastardly Raspberry Creek, but luckily we were only on it for a short, easy bit and then we got onto the flood plains of the Blue River. Just as our feet were starting to dry out, we had several fords of the river (this theme continued to be played out multiple times today).
We weren’t on the flood plains for very long before getting to a dirt road that would bring us into Blue, a tiny village of 35 people, that somehow manages to have a post office.
We walked on the road for about five miles and saw just a few houses. We came to the post office, which appears to be a converted shed on a residential property (the post office even has its own outhouse!). There was even a table with two chairs for us to relax at and organize our stuff.
The two ladies at the post office were really nice and helpful. They were interested to hear about our trip and where we had just come through. They let us charge our phones and leave our garbage which was a huge help.
Mace was excited to get his new shoes today. Comparing his new shoes to his old shoes, the degradation of his old shoes was really remarkable. It was almost like they had been squashed down and were about an inch wider than his new shoes.
As the sky started to look like rain was coming again, we headed back down the road. We walked another four miles down the road and then turned in at a trailhead. We passed a junction for another alternate, which would have had us climbing up to a ridge. Given the grey day, being up on a ridge didn’t sound appealing, so we stuck to the main route.
We headed in about a mile on the trail and made camp early. We have come to enjoy our “on-trail near-os”. This is our third one, where when we resupply in a town but don’t stay in town, we just camp early in the afternoon and enjoy some relaxation time. Today we made camp around 2:30pm, then tried to get all of our stuff dry, read for awhile and took naps. It is a good way to recharge for the next section.
Another really tough day on the trail. It took us 12.5 hours (including a few short breaks) to go 15 miles. Ugh.
When we got up this morning it was surprisingly warm out and the sky was mostly blue, with a few grey clouds. That was probably the warmest we ended up feeling all day.
The trail in the morning was slow going as we made our way down to a paved state highway. The sky seemed to constantly be changing from blue to grey and back again. It got really cold and we all ended up adding on layers to keep warm.
We tried to keep a steady progress, since the miles were coming pretty slowly. The usual culprits of downed trees and old, unclear trails seemed to take up time. By the time we stopped for lunch, we had almost 9 miles in and thought we were on track for doing the 16 miles we planned for today.
We had some nice miles right before and after lunch, but then we got into the Raspberry Creek drainage and things got considerable more challenging. The basic way things went this afternoon was that we would find a bit of trail, follow it, then it would end and we would be searching around for the next bit of trail while still trying to make forward progress. Then we would find another bit of trail and the process would start over and over and over…for hours.
Then, to make the situation even more challenging, the grey skies turned into a thunder storm and we got a downpour of rain for a bit and then several hours of drizzle. Given the cold temperatures of the day already, we were basically three walking popsicles.
The going was very slow through Raspberry Creek, but finally we got to a point where we climbed out of the drainage and got on a different trail. This trail was awesome and the perfect way to end our challenging day. The trail was in great shape and well-marked. And the views we got from the ridge were some of the best we’ve had since the Sedona area. Just fantastic!
We took our first possible campsite after miles of barren hills. It was already 6:45pm and we knew we didn’t have a ton of daylight left. We are all beat and ready to get warmed up in our sleeping bags. We are excited to get into the tiny village of Blue tomorrow. Even though there are no services (other than a post office), Mace will be picking up a new pair of shoes and we sent ourselves some extra Indian dinner packets to eat. Yum!
It feels like the difficulty level of the MRT has really ratcheted up the past few days, and today was no exception. It felt like we were pushing all day, and still only managed to hike 16 miles. The trail before Greer had lulled us into almost a complacency…thinking the trail was quite easy. The past few days have changed that thinking.
It was really cold this morning as we were packing up. We were surprised to see a guy walking on the road we were camped next to (surely he was surprised to see us too), but the most surprising thing was that he was wearing just shorts and a t-shirt! We were bundled up in pants, down jackets, hats, and gloves. We probably looked crazy to him!
We started the morning by heading down into the valley we had thought would be too hard to camp in. There turned out to be places that would be fine for camping, but it would have been even colder camping in the valley. We noticed how much colder it felt as we were walking.
We got to a nice creek, did laundry and had a break. The walking after the break became much more challenging. The trail became increasingly hard to find, there were many downed trees, and it was just slow going. At times, we would just need to stop and scout around for something that could be construed as “trail-like.” We continued to follow the drainage up and eventually, the trail started to get decent as we approached the top of the rim.
On the rim, we had some really nice views out into the distance. It was very windy and cold on top and we ended up with all our layers on again. Our next goal was to walk about three miles along the edge of the rim. It sounded very easy, but the reality was much harder as we tried to follow some semblance of a trail, but with hundreds of downed trees to contend with.
We finally figured our best bet was to just follow a barbed wire fence to the trailhead we were aiming for. Once we decided that, things started to move faster and we made it to the trailhead, where we stopped for lunch.
It was really cold at lunch, with the wind blowing strong. We all ended up with our extra layers on during lunch, and didn’t want to take them off when we started walking.
The next few miles were the only easy ones of the day, as we used several dirt roads to get to another trailhead. As we were walking, we could see the grey clouds that had been accumulating during the morning start to rain in the distance. The wind around us was screaming, and the thunder started to get quite loud very near to us.
The first precipitation we got was a few sprinkles of snowflakes, and then it turned into a deluge of small bits of hail. We stopped to put on our rain gear. Luckily, it stayed too cold for the precipitation to turn into rain, so it just stayed as hail, which bounced off of us and never soaked us.
We started in on a series of trails to take us off of the rim for the final time. The trail started out pretty good, and then things got confusing as the GPS data we use wasn’t really matching up with what we were seeing. It took us some time bushwhacking around to find the trail again.
The trail had a lot of golf ball sized rocks which kept making us slip, as they would roll under our feet. It made the walking slow, as we tried not to slide around too much. Mostly, the trail was decent after that, although we had to bushwhack down a steep slope as we got ourselves too far from a drainage we were supposed to be following.
We eventually stopped for camp just before 6pm. It was starting to sprinkle again and we wanted to get our camp set up before any real rain materialized. Luckily the rain never came, although it is quite cold tonight. Today was probably our coldest day on the trail…we wore an extra layer most of the day to keep warm.
Dealing with all the blow downs has been taking its toll. Mace’s knee has been bothering him quite a bit after the past few days of stepping over or climbing over a seemingly unending amount of downed trees. Because of the damage this area has suffered from a fire about eight years ago, there are so many burned trees, that have just fallen over in heavy winds. Hopefully a night of rest and some ibuprofen will help Mace’s knee be ready for tomorrow.
Today was a day of extremes. It started with very cold temperatures this morning. Our water bottles were iced, and Mace’s shoes and socks were frozen. Needless to say, we all started out bundled up as we headed out.
The walking started out extremely easy on a nice dirt road. We even ran into a hunter driving down the road who had seen us yesterday afternoon and stopped to make sure we were ok. The walk along the road was a steady climb, but so gradual that it was a nice walk.
Later in the morning, we came to an old trail heading down to Fish Creek. The trail was full of blow downs and spiny plants. These scratchy plants were different than what we dealt with yesterday, and were considerably worse. They looked like little saplings, but their branches weren’t very flexible. They had spikes that were as much as 3/4” long and once they got a hold of you, they didn’t want to let go.
Eventually we made it down to the creek and took a break to do laundry and to eat a snack. Then, the plan was to walk along the river before climbing out of the canyon. We tried to keep our feet dry with the river crossings, but eventually after about six crossings, we all had to just walk through the water and accept having wet feet.
The next extreme of the day came when we started to climb out of the canyon. There was no trail…just a direction for us to head – which it turns out seemed to be straight up a very steep hill. It was very tough and slow going as we worked our way up. This area (like much of what we’ve been walking through) has suffered fire damage, so we got lots of charcoal on our hands and clothes, and we were basically climbing up through a thicket of thorny brush. Definitely the most difficult scrambling of the trail so far.
After that ordeal, we were happy to get back on to another sort road for awhile. We stopped for lunch at the height of land. Beardoh has been putting up his hammock most days during lunch, and SweetPea and Mace just rest against their backpacks on the ground. Today we all fell asleep during lunch for awhile…the first time that has happened on this trail.
In the afternoon, we got onto another extremely bad defunct forest road. There were so many downed trees in the first few miles of this road, that the walking was really slow. We easily went over hundreds of downed trees over the course of the day.
We eventually made it to the point where we reconnected with the regular MRT. The bypass we walked was quite long…about 21 miles. As we looked at the map of the coming miles, it looked like we were just headed down a valley and there didn’t seem to be any wider contouring which would indicate flat ground for Mace’s tent. We decided to stop for the day and camp, since we were right near some flat area where people have obviously camped before. That meant that we were stopping for the day at 4:45pm. It seemed pretty early, but we are still ahead on our miles for this section.
We have our hammock tarps up tonight. It has been cloudy and a bit grey at times today. The wind has also been quite strong this afternoon, so we aren’t sure if some kind of system might be coming in.
It seems like we don’t need to even bother setting an alarm anymore…the turkeys do a fine job of waking us up. Although they seem to think we need to be up at 4:30am, which is entirely too early. In addition to hearing turkeys, we have been seeing a lot of hunters (mostly driving their trucks, not walking in the woods) and hearing a fair amount of gunfire.
Today started at another spring near camp. This one was pretty cool in that the spring was designed to fill up several hollowed out chunks of trees, although now none are filled, but the spring still had some flow to it.
Our first trail of the day was pretty rough and filled with a lot of downed trees. The area had been affected by a fire in the past, so most of the trees had fallen, although there are a lot of tiny aspen trees starting to grow in the area. At one point it felt like we were walking through an aspen tunnel.
Then we got a respite from the blow downs and got to walk a nice dirt road for a few miles. After that, we headed down a small valley which contained a small creek. It was a really picturesque area and we really enjoyed the walk. For most of the walking, we were on a raised swath of land and only had to deal with a few blowdowns. However, for the final mile or so of the valley, there wasn’t a trail, and we were just looking for the best route. There were a lot of downed trees, but also a ton of very scratchy plants. They left our legs very scratched up and bloody.
When we came out of the valley, we came right to a picnic table, which we enjoyed for a few minutes even though we had just had a long break a short time earlier. Then, it was back to another several miles on a nice dirt road.
When we got to a trailhead, the MRT presented another alternate…either hike in the Black River Canyon, along (and cross multiple times) the Black River, or take an alternate route which bypassed the canyon, mostly staying on dirt roads. We decided to go for the Black River, with the knowledge that there were two possible bailout points along the way if we felt like the river crossings were too sketchy.
We had about three miles from the beginning to the first bailout point. This included four crossings of the river. The trail alongside the river was often good and me made decent time (although we did lose the trail several times and had to scramble over blowdowns and ramparts to find it again), but when it came to the crossings, it was really slow. The water got noticeably deeper with each ford (the water on the final ford was over SweetPea’s hipbelt), and the current was very strong, but what made the crossings so difficult was the fact that the rocks on the bottom of the river were incredibly slippery. And there was mostly really big rocks, so it was very hard to get any kind of secure foothold. It seemed like it would take us at least five minutes just to cross the 15’ or so of the river.
On the third crossing, Mace lost his footing and went down in the river. Luckily he was able to get his footing quickly, so the only damage done, besides Mace being soaked and cold, was a lost water bottle.
On the fourth crossing, the water was so deep and strong, that it was really difficult to get across. It took us some time and luckily we all made it across safely, but we knew that we wouldn’t be able to handle crossings that were any deeper than that. Our data book mentioned that the fords get deeper as you go along, and knowing we were at our limit at the beginning, we made the decision to leave the river on the first bailout.
It was too bad, but we were glad that we had at least tried it. The Black River seems to be something best tried during summer when the water levels would be much lower.
The bailout route took us to the alternate trail…basically walking on a dirt road. We walked for a few miles and then stopped to camp for the night. We were all pretty exhausted from the day.
It turns out that when Mace took his tumble yesterday, he tweaked his knee. He woke up with pain in his knee, and took some ibuprofen. We just all kept our fingers crossed that it would be ok.
The day started out by coming to a really nice spring less than a half mile from where we were camped. It was flowing pretty well into a trough and the water was great. The trail we took from there wasn’t in great condition and had lots of downed trees across the trail.
We were on and off the railroad trail several times today. It was the same one we took to get close to Greer yesterday. It was nice when we saw the railroad trail coming up on our map, because we can usually make pretty good time on that trail (except after lunch today, when we had a stretch of pretty bad railroad trail with tons of downed trees).
We entered the Mount Baldy Wilderness and soon came to a junction with an alternate route that we could take if we wanted to summit Mount Baldy. We had gotten views of the mountain already and had seen that it was still pretty much covered in snow, so we never really even considered doing the alternate.
Instead, we stayed on the main route, which had its fair share of snow. There was quite a bit of snow in the trail, so it was good that we were on the trail in the morning when the snow was still hard and easier to cross. We had a few posthole situations, but mostly it just had us going a bit slower.
We also had several strong creeks to cross. Mace and Beardoh were able to get over both of them without going in the water, but SweetPea walked through one of the rivers and had very cold feet as a result. In general, it was hard to keep our feet totally dry all day, as we were often walking through meadows that were waterlogged.
It felt like a lot of the day we were walking by roads or trailheads or a big lake where there were many people out fishing. We joked about how many people we saw today, even with this section considered to be one of the more remote sections. Although, looking at the maps, it seems that things will change quite a bit by tomorrow.
We stopped for camp just before 5pm. We were all feeling like it had been a great day on the trail. We really enjoyed the forested trails in the morning and at the end of the day. Mace’s knee is feeling better. While his knee didn’t really like all the blow downs and the walking on snow, it seems to have weathered the day ok. Hopefully it will continue to feel better over the coming days.
It was a good temperature last night, but it really cooled off by morning. We even had ice in our water bottles, so we know it got cold! Hopefully it doesn’t get any colder, as Mace’s 30 degree sleeping bag is challenged with the cold nights. He has had to put on an extra layer to stay warm in his bag.
The day started with a short walk on a two-lane state highway, and then to the beginning of a trail that was constructed on an old railroad bed. We walked along the old railroad bed for about seven miles. It was all through wide meadows with water collected in pools frequently along the side of the trail. The small bits of water on the trail were all frozen and there were several big patches of snow to walk across. We even saw several groups of elk in the meadows.
Shortly after getting off the railroad trail, we left the MRT on a side trail to get into Greer to pick up our resupply boxes. As we started down the trail, Mace stumbled on something in the trail and took a serious tumble. Luckily he was ok, but with the force of his fall some part of his backpack managed to gouge the bark on a tree he nearly body slammed. We took a few minutes to rest, but amazingly Mace didn’t seem to have a scratch on him.
The rest of the walk to town was pretty uneventful. We did notice how much elevation we were losing, and knew it wouldn’t be very fun to climb back out later with six days of food on our backs.
We were trying to get into town early, because our info said that the post office closed at 12:30pm. We managed to get in just after 11:30am, and we were glad that we hadn’t slowed down any morw, because we found out that the post office was actually closing at noon! But the woman at the post office was really nice and it was a good stop. At the PO, Beardoh got a new pair of shoes, so that was exciting!
After the post office, we went to the Rendevous Diner for lunch. It was quite a popular place, and we had a great meal. We all opted for desert, and were so stuffed by the time we left. We knew putting on our heavy packs and walking uphill wasn’t going to be pleasant, but we figured we only had a few miles to go, so we could do it really slowly if we needed to.
We got back up to the MRT and walked another half mile before setting up camp. Just like we did when we left Forest Lakes Estates, we have opted for an afternoon of rest on the trail. We stopped to make camp around 3:30pm. For the rest of the afternoon and evening, we get to read, watch Netflix, or take naps. Pretty perfect.