Silver City, New Mexico
I left Las Cruces on Saturday morning with a dark, rain heavy thunder cloud hanging over my shoulder. To the south-east the sky was dark and there were the occasional forks of lightning, but to the north-west the sky gradually cleared up, through lighter and lighter cloud cover to, finally, a blue sky. I was glad to be heading in the right direction, even though I expected the storm front to catch up to me pretty quickly and I was resigned to getting rained on. But that never happened and I kept walking in the area just between heavy rain and blue sky. It was comfortable, nice walking weather.
I walked on past chilli plantations and pecan orchards and before long I had left the rainstorm behind me. Mid afternoon I reached Ft Selden state monument in full sunshine and sat down in the shade of the museum to do some writing.
Heading out in the afternoon was warm, even hot but that was not the biggest problem. There seemed to millions of tiny bugs swarming all around me, and they were driving me mad. There is not much to do against them. Use some bug spray (that never seems to work) and just get used to them. But they really do get to me. I’m usually pretty calm and collected but when it comes to small, annoying, biting bugs, all the calm goes out the window. They seemed to worst near the pecan orchards, I’m slowly beginning to dislike pecans…
The road was twisting and turning more now as we made our way along the Rio Grande and through the hills. Around 6 pm I started looking for a suitable camping spot, but there was not much to chose from. Just as I was starting to accept that I might have to camp beside the road again, I spotted an opening in the fence along the road. I turned off and found a great, secluded camping spot in some small trees along a water run off to the Rio Grande. I quickly pitched the tent and crawled inside to get away from the bugs and spent the evening trying to re-read REAMDE, but dozed off pretty quickly. It had been a long day and I was tired.
Sunday morning was slightly overcast but the cloud cover soon burned away and after a breakfast of bananas, oranges and kiwis, I set of towards Hatch.
I reached Hatch around noon and looked for a place to get some lunch. I found a place that advertised “the worlds best hamburgers” and decided to try it. There was a group of motorcycle riders sitting outside and I asked them if the burgers really were great. Yes, they said and then asked if I was the guy they had seen on the news. They proceeded to buy me my lunch and I sat down to what was only an ok burger.
All these places that claim they make the best burgers in the world have obviously not been to the milk bar in Kiama, on the south coast of NSW, Australia. I have so far never tasted a burger that comes any where near a Kiama burger. Wonder if the milk bar is still there? Will have to try to find out once I get to Sydney.
After lunch I continued north-west along road 187. Passed through Salem, then Garfield. There is even a town named Truth or Consequences further up the road. But the names are more interesting than the towns, they are small and anything that might have been open was closed when I passed through on a sunday.
I walked on through the afternoon and into the evening, reaching Arrey around 8 pm. Luckily the convenience store was open and I was able to buy a sandwich and something to drink. It was starting to get dark as I headed out of town and just a few miles down the road I came to the Arrey RV Park. I decided I had walked enough for the day and turned in.
It felt good to use a proper toilet and wash off some road grime even if there was no shower. I rinsed out my clothes, pitched my tent and was ready for a good nights sleep.
Around 1 am I woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Not much, but the drops were big, if infrequent and the sky looked black. I had only pitched my inner tent, not expecting any rain, and had to crawl out to add the outer fly. Only takes a minute so it was not a big hassle and I could crawl back into a totally waterproof tent and fall back to sleep.
Monday morning dawned with just a bit of cloud cover, easing away to a bright, blue sky. I packed up and headed towards Caballo, where I intended to get some breakfast. At the intersection with road 152, I stocked up with enough food for the day, some snacks and had breakfast. Road 152 turns west here and it felt good to be heading in the right direction again. I was warned that there was nothing along the road until Hillsboro, almost 30 km away. It was upwards most of the way as well!
I spent the day counting down the miles and taking a lot of breaks. The road headed up through the hills and the scenery was a relief after all the flat lands I have been walking lately. It was worth the extra effort to push the Mule up a few hills.
When I arrived in Hillsboro around 5 pm, everything was closed. By everything I mean the cafe/general store. It was only open between 8 am to 3 pm. The problem was that I could not continue without restocking on water and food. I had a good 50 km ahead of me with no services at all and I only had about 2 litters of water left. I had nuts and fruit that I could survive on, even if that would get very boring, but I had to get more water. There was a small park in the centre of town where overnight camping was permitted and I decided to spend the night there and have breakfast and restock when the cafe opened the next morning. I climbed the hill on the southern part of town to check if the library was open, but it was closed on mondays, so I sat down on the steps outside and tried to get some writing done before it was time to pitch the tent.
After putting up the tent, I sat down at one of the park benches and continued reading REAMDE. After a while an old VW camper van pulled in and a guy and a dog got out. It turned out to be Bob, a local, who was out walking/driving his old dog. We talked for a while and Bob warned me that the Cafe/store I was planning on getting food and water in tomorrow was really only a cafe, not much of a store. The problem was I needed water to make it over the mountains but Bob very kindly offered to fill up my bottles with some excellent well water from his house. Bob took off and was back in about 30 minutes. It had taken him a while because he also made me a baloney and pickle sandwich, a caesar salad and bought along some chips. Not a bad dinner!
Just as I was about to crawl into the tent for the night, another gentleman came over from across the street. He introduced himself as Jim, Cactus Jim. He just wanted to make sure I had water and also to warn me that if it started raining during the night, the spot I had chosen might get flooded! I moved the tent to a higher spot and crawled in to get some sleep.
Next morning I was up bright and early and waiting for the cafe to open. I had a “monday miner breakfast”, a stack of pancakes topped with 2 eggs and served with butter and syrup. Sounds strange but was just the calorie bomb I need for the coming day. I talked a bit with some locals that had come in for their breakfast, loaded up on snacks and drinks, put on my dorky compression socks and set off up the mountain.
I had a 28 km long uphill stretch leading up to Emory Pass to look forward to. I trundled along at a good pace, made sure to take some breaks and before long I was at the top. The pass is a bit more than 2,500m high, 500m higher than the tallest mountain in both Sweden and Australia and is going to be the highest point of my crossing of the USA.
I rested a short while, enjoyed a muffin I had bought in Hillsboro and was ready to head down the other side.
About 15 km later I found a nice campsite at the Lower Gallinas campground and set up the tent next to a stream of running water. A quick wash and then into the tent as the rain started. I had no problem falling asleep that night.
My next stop was going to be San Lorenzo, about 18 km down the road, to get some more food. As I was heading into town I met Justin who was hitchhiking, on his way from Silver City. I stopped and talked for a while and it turned out that he had done a fair bit of traveling in central and south America. As one of the routes I really want to travel one day is the Pan American highway, I took the chance to ask him a lot of questions. But my stomach was grumbling and I headed of to the restaurant/store, leaving Justin to continue thumbing a ride.
After lunch/breakfast I slowly started west again. I was not planing to reach Silver City that day and took it easy. I stopped at the Manhattan Bar in Hanover for a beer (ok two) and relaxed among the few locals. It felt good just to set there and sort of be included in the conversation without having to say much.
I left Hannover and started looking for a camping site. Before I knew it, I was in Central and there was a sign for a KOA Campground 2 miles ahead. I walked into the KOA as the sun was setting behind the mountains and asked for a tent site. The lady told me it was going to be 33 something dollars for the night. No way was I paying that for a simple tent site but they did not have anything much cheaper. She said that it was because of the 11% tax they have to charge. I didn’t say it but the problem wasn’t the 3 dollars something tax, the problem was the other 30 dollars!
I decided to keep going, it was only 3 miles to Silver City and I would rather pay 50 dollars for a hotel room, at least you get something more tangible for your money. As I returned to the highway the darkness fell completely and then the rain…
I spent another hour walking through a thunderstorm and arrived soaked through at the outskirts of Silver City and found the first cheaper hotel I could find. Another long day and it was wonderful to have my first shower in 5 days and know that I was only going to walk into Silver City tomorrow.
I’m enjoying a caffe late as I write this and have just added up my milage. Only 75 km to go before I have walked 10,000 km on the-walk. Not a bad total, is it. And yet it is not even halfway..
Guess the only thing to do is to keep walking!