Sitting in my tent the raging wind seems even stronger, and a new problem rears its head. The sand is so fine it works under the outer flysheet, and even through the insect netting. As I look around inside, a fine, red powder has coated my equipment. My sleeping bag, mat, and everything else, including me, are covered.
A raging thunderstorm last night was a surprise – even in the New Mexico desert there’s rain, but we didn’t expect it.
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The temperature plummeted in the morning, and for most of the day, despite intermittent sunshine, I wore a long-sleeve top, wind shell, leggings and a hat. It was a pleasant change to the searing heat Hojo and I had experienced for the first three days, and made for pleasant hiking.
I’ve had one minor gear casualty and a major one already. I didn’t bring my silver spoon that I found on the PCT in 2010 for fear of losing it, so a trusty titanium favourite made the cut. Unfortunately I managed to lose it somewhere so had to resort to using my knife. Adding insult to injury, this snapped in half so now I am reduced to eating my dinner with my fingers. The major failure was my sleeping mat. It is filled with insulation to protect me against the cold ground at night. However, last night, I woke to a hissing sound and insulation poking out of the mat.
We made the town of Lordsburg after five days and eighty-five miles. Averaging around sixteen miles per day, this was our plan to break ourselves in and avoid blisters. So far it’s working. This daily distance will continue for two weeks, at the end of which we will begin to hike twenty miles each day, pushing beyond twenty-five as often as possible.
The day after we arrived in Lordsburg the heavens opened and our world is not dry and dusty, but cold and wet – the last conditions I expected in one of the driest places on Earth. Tomorrow the rain should stop, and we expect cooler temperatures.
However cruel and unforgiving New Mexico may appear, this landscape is beautiful in its own unique way. The remoteness hits me. In every direction the land stretches to the horizon, offering no signs of civilisation. I try in vain to catch the environment out by spotting a road, building, or a sign of habitation. Occasionally I do but, usually, the only concession is a dirt road stretching away from nowhere and disappearing off into nothing.
Mountain ranges appear two days before I reach them, teasing as if I’ll never arrive. Thankfully, the trail weaves a fine thread through a small pass, or skirts around the big stuff. I have more than enough time to climb a lot of major ranges, and I relish the opportunity. For now though, breaking my body in gently, I admit to a small sigh of relief at the minor ascents and descents.