5/20 I woke up at about 5 40 like normal, but this morning i had a mountain to look forward to. Something that I forget about when I hike in the desert is the enjoyment I have of climbing mountains. I have a few tricks that I use while walking on long, flat roads that tend to drift my mind and make me wonder if I really do like this out here. But this morning as I climbed 11,300 mt Taylor I savored every breathless step as I watched the desert floor grow larger and larger. About a quarter mile from the summit I ran into Bearclaw who I hiked in Canyonlands with a few weeks before the CDT. It was awesome seeing her and knowing that she Is doing so well having just been forced off trail due to injury. She was also with "guy on a buffalo" who pulled out an entire Walmart pie that we shared at the summit, "nom nom" who actually "nom nom-ed" multiple times while eating the pie, and Grim, who was especially excited about his titanium spoon with an anodized tip that made for easy cleaning. We descended down on small patches of ice and continued downward. We all stuck together as we approached the long, flat road walk that would lead us all to Cuba. After a couple miles we ran into Scalawag who actually just looks like Corey from boy meets world and Old Skool who I had eaten at Pizza Hut with the previous day. Old Skool is about 65, so he naturally tends to repeat himself about gear he is going to need or not need or mileage he can no longer do because of his age. It was about 3 when we left from this break and I decided to go ahead to be able to get into camp at a reasonable time. Some of them had the loose goal of doing 16 more, which was also about my goal. These final 16 miles were especially monotonous and the only thing that kept me going was hearing about George Mallory via audiobook and my recently downloaded podcast "serial." I will say, these nothing road walks can get to my head. It's a lot of walking without a whole lot of action.
5/21 I awoke to the same road walk that I figured would haunt me the rest of the 50 miles into Cuba. A few hours went by and it continued the same. Shrubbery tree things and a flat dirt road. I took a glance at my maps and saw that I would be dropping down from a large Mesa so I hoped that something would change. I eased my way to the rim of the Mesa and finally saw what I pictured New Mexico would had to offer-- desert for miles with sandy canyons and eroded buttresses and pyramid peaks. It looked like a mini Grand Canyon. This couldn't have come at a better time. I ran the switchbacks down and got water from a spring that guzzled water out from the wet sandy ground. The wind really started to pick up as I crossed the desert floor and some clouds rolled in that began to sprinkle. I was pretty stressed for the next few miles when I began to realize that if the wind continued as it was going there would be no way to set up my tarp, and if I did set up my tarp I would just get splashed from every angle. Luckily, the rain only came and went in small waves. This made for some amazing views of the pyramid shaped mountains that lie in the distances as I wove my way through another thin Mesa. There were delicate eroded pinnacles around every corner that actually would have fallen over if I would have pushed on them. The day came close to and end and the best part of the whole section became my place to camp. It was called the "Cerros Colorados" (colored hills) and that's exactly what they were-- a bundle of red sandy peaks sitting atop a desert Mesa with greens and even purples mixed in. I climbed up to them and picked out the best spot on the side of the cliff. "I'm a rich man" I thought as the sun went down over my tarp and the remnants of a quickly moving storm moved through. That storm actually came back to haunt me at about 10 30 pm. The same fierce winds picked up, threatening to pull my tarp right out of the ground and the rain blew water up from my feet to my waist. I put a trash bag over my feet to cover up and luckily the storm subsided after about 45 min.
5/22 The morning continued to open up more of the Cerros Colorados Mesa area. I couldn't believe that what I was walking on was BLM land and not a national park. It truly was some of the best hiking I had done. Up one Mesa, down the canyon and up the next. After a while it ended and the trail turned into clay before it hit the road that took me into Cuba. Cuba was a small town that had a few restaurants, unfortunately the pizza place didn't open til 4 so I went to the McDonalds that had a convenient outlet to charge my batteries. I only needed to hike out about 10 miles so I took my time. On the way out I ran into a couple that I had met on the PCT-- M80, his wife (don't remember her trail name) and their dog Willow. We caught up for a bit then walked down the trail together. They are pretty awesome, last year they did the AT and PCT and now were on the CDT. They were good company so I stayed with them. We chatted about alligators on the Florida trail and about how they are one of the very, very few that are sticking to the official CDT route which will end up being around 3000 miles. After a bit, I went ahead and hiked up a canyon and camped on some damp ground.