CDT 2021: Day 28, Mt. Taylor Alternate Junction to Los Indios Spring

If you get confused, listen to the music play

A rock cairn on the Continental Divide Trail

Today was one of those days when I felt one step behind all day long. I was out of sync with where I thought I should be and how I thought I should be feeling.

DateMonday, May 10, 2021
WeatherMostly sunny, with temperatures from the low-40s to mid-70s
Trail ConditionsWell-maintained trail, then gravel and dirt roads
Today's Miles20.2
Trip Miles431.0

That sense of being out of step started first thing in the morning. Zigzag and I often leave camp together, but today, he had a 10-minute head start.

I don't mind walking alone. In fact, I often end up doing that and sometimes do it intentionally. Still, it seemed like that was happening today whether I wanted it or not.

Up and down trail

Just as Zigzag and I surmised yesterday when we looked at the trail ahead and decided to stop when we did, the trail soon began a series of short ups and downs. We had been correct in thinking we wouldn't find a better spot to camp than where we did.

A badly burned part of the forest

We also saw yesterday on the map the forest would soon thin out. Before I reached that section of the trail, I began to see another reason why our decision was a good one. The farther I went, the worse the damage was from the fire that swept through here last year. The trees were much more badly burned.

More than 250 acres were burned last October. The Continental Divide Trail was closed then, and hikers had to reroute around the fire for about a week.

A cattle guard

The burn zone ended after the trail crossed a cattle guard and began following a road.

Sometime after the cattle guard, I began to feel something wasn't right. Like a spidey sense, I began to think I was going the wrong way.

I pulled out my phone and checked the Guthook app, which confirmed I had missed a turn. Fortunately, I had only walked the wrong way for about a tenth of a mile.

An arrow made of sticks points the direction of the trail

After backtracking, I found an arrow made of sticks and a rock cairn. I'm not sure how I missed them. Seeing this made me feel again out of sync with the trail, even though my spidey-sense moment might suggest my sub-conscience was in sync.

At this turn, the trail followed a single-track path for a short distance. It soon connected to a gravel road for another mile before switching to a bumpy dirt road.

The trail stayed on roads of varying conditions for the rest of the day. This was the official route, not an alternate.

A cow tank made from an old tire

When I reached the next water source, Zigzag was preparing to leave. He had just finished filtering his water from the cow tank made from an old tractor tire.

The water quality wasn't good, but no worse than a lot of the water we have found in New Mexico. My filter was beginning to clog again, however, and filtering two liters took me much longer than normal.

Looking back to see Mt. Taylor

After I finished filtering my water and began hiking again, I entered a flat and barren range. I turned around to look behind me and could easily see Mt. Taylor.

The mountain appeared to rise straight up from this wide-open plain. Because I just walked down from the top of it yesterday, I knew the slope was more gradual than what it appeared from here.

Another dirt road

When I caught up to Zigzag again, I was ready to stop for lunch. He had just finished his break and was preparing to leave.

From here, we had 10.4 miles to go to the next water source, Los Indios Spring. We planned to camp near it tonight.

A sign at Cañón del Dado

Back on the road after lunch, I passed a sign with several bullet holes that said I was at Cañón del Dado. Looking around, I thought, "What canyon?" The terrain here was pancake flat.

Then I looked several yards to the left of the sign and saw what barely amounted to a wide ditch. If this was all of the canyon, it would have been laughable. I didn't know until I found the canyon on a map how big it was. This spot by the road was just a tip of a much wider and deeper canyon.

A smoother section of road

By the middle of the afternoon, I was becoming weary of all these roads. They were not what I considered a hiking trail and I was getting bored with them.

The podcasts I had been listening to were no longer a distraction from the monotony. I switched to playing Grateful Dead music on my phone to pick up my mood.

This is not the first time I've done that on a hike. The joyful energy of that music never fails to give me a boost when I need it.

A sign for Los Indios Spring

Finally at 5:15 p.m., I passed a sign that said my destination was 1.5 miles away. This was easily doable, I thought. I assumed the trail ahead would just be more road walking.

Zigzag's bandana tied to a tree

After only walking a half-mile farther, I saw Zigzag's bandana hanging from a tree. This was his signal to me that he turned off the trail here. I didn't see him, his pack, or tent anywhere, however.

I followed a marked side trail that I figured would lead me to the spring. This was the unexpected part of that 1.5 miles from the sign. The Guthook app showed an icon for the spring next to the trail, but I was far from the spring.

Gravity's backpack

The blue-blazed trail took me to a shallow canyon. I thought at first the spring was located at the bottom. I dropped my pack so I wouldn't have to haul it back up after retrieving water.

The trail went down this canyon but then went up the other side with no water in sight.

Looking into a deep canyon

Then I came to another, much deeper canyon. This was where the spring was located, I realized. Seeing this made me glad I left my pack before the other canyon.

Descending a trail into a canyon

The trail took a long descent that included a big switchback. This made the route down much less steep because the canyon was nearly 200 feet deep.

Zigzag was on his way back up as I approached the bottom. He showed me where to find the spring.

Los Indios Spring

Los Indios Spring was similar to Upper American Canyon Spring, where we found water late yesterday. A pipe ran water from the spring into a cow tank. As with the other spring, the water in this tank wasn't pleasant.

The water flowing out of the pipe was clear, though not easy to reach. I had to climb a wobbly board to the top rim of the tank, then step over a barbed wire fence to get to the pipe. This required more balance and agility than I might normally have after a full day of walking under a hot sun.

Still, I somehow managed to get on the other side of the tank, collect four liters of water, and get back without falling into the tank or off the other side.

After my circus trick was done, I still had to return to where Zigzag had hung his bandana, a distance of more than half a mile. This involved climbing out of the canyon and through the smaller canyon, before retrieving my pack, all while carrying an extra eight pounds of water.

I don't often need Vitamin I (ibuprofen) at the end of the day, but I definitely needed it tonight.

This day left me feeling like New Mexico was wearing me down. Was it the dry desert air? The dust and grit? The endless dirt and gravel roads? The crummy water?

I couldn't say for sure. All I knew was I was still two weeks away from reaching Colorado.

There's a good chance I will be listening to a lot more Grateful Dead music in the days to come.

God save the child who rings that bell
It may have one good ring, baby, you can't tell
One watch by night, one watch by day
If you get confused, listen to the music play


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.