It was cold this morning, surprisingly so, and I hobbled out of camp ahead of Prana to warm up my body and my ailments. The blisters sting sting sting, and oh my god I’m tired of taking these stunted little steps. I can’t even move fast enough to generate heat. I stop, take a breath, and force myself to take normal strides, slow as they are. I feel like my brain is sitting in a control room, monitoring huge screens of data. Pain there. Was that too much friction over there? Heads up! Watch that spot over there….
At the highway was a water cache with plenty of water, and though I felt somewhat foolish comparing my water load to others’ who assumed it would be there, I was glad I’d carried the water in case it hadn’t been. There were also apples and a banana in the big tub of Little Debbie trail magic, and I plucked out an apple for later. Fruit!
Onward up the hill, all of a sudden I realized my heel blisters were not zinging with each step. Had a corner been turned? It was too early to hope. Maybe they were just numb for now, but I would take what I could get. I opened up to almost my normal stride, able to keep up with Prana for the most part.
The trail was gorgeous single track, and as we were taking a snack and water break, 2 mountain bikes zipped by. A group of very older folks went by, and the last couple of guys are keen to chat. “This is one of our favorite hikes!” they said. “Why did we see so many hikers on the highway?” “It’s tempting for some to take a shorter option,” I said. “A short-cut to Montana?!” they said, and laughed, and added, “there’s soda ahead on the road.”
The trail was indeed great; firm sandy tread, lots of shade everywhere; great views, and a variety of desert plant life. I find Prana waiting under a juniper for lunch, and we dig into pizza-flavored hummus. Arthur from Brazil strolled up, and we reminisced about the Bootheel. He wished aloud for town and a cold drink, we passed on the rumor of soda- he perked up and was gone.
A cooler sat at the trailhead with a congratulatory, supportive note. Across the road we climbed: when I checked the map it showed we were circuitously climbing Burro Peak. The trail was fabulous, winding though boulders and along ridge shoulders. We took a few breaks in wind-cooled shade, and at one large pile of rock stood tall in the frenzied wind, looking out south over New Mexico.
The first ponderosa pine of the trail appeared, which we greeted happily, sniffing its bark for that friendly vanilla scent, and then we ascended into elevation where they were plentiful. At Jack’s Peak a new trail was cut, which instead of following the road to the almost summit, contoured on a narrow catwalk to Jack’s saddle with Burro, and then we were up at 8000 feet.
It wasa magical ponderosa forest up there, giants filtering the sunlight, pine needle carpet muffling sound. Big flat nooks offered great camping, but we were bound for Burro Mountain Homestead and its promise of water.
Down down down through switchbacks and contours of Ferguson Mountain, through pines and cliff rose and live oaks, the trail a beautiful cream colored sand.
At the road to Burro Mountain Homestead, I hit my wall. The blisters had begun their grumbling a while ago, and the leg ached, arch through hamstring. Good timing then.
We thought for a moment with sinking hearts the gate we reach was locked, until we spotted an inviting stile in the fence to the left. Burro Mountain Homestead is not like what I imagined; most of the RVs here appeared to be built in by elaborate roofs and porches- such fabulous porches! Several different people offered welcomes and directions to the office, orchard, and corral. We found our way eventually, and camp host Dave gave us a bit of the history. Robert Ferguson, namesake of the mountain we’d just descended, former Rough Rider and ranch partner of Teddy Roosevelt’s, had moved here to attempt to recover from tuberculosis and built the Lodge and homestead. We were welcome to camp, use charge power, water, shower, do laundry, and relax. All they asked was we sign the guest book and put a pin in the world map where we are from. “You can pitch your tents in the apple orchard, but I’d recommend sleeping in the corral tonight, though,” said Dave, “a black bear and her two cubs were investigating around this morning.”
The corral was actually a huge covered group of picnic tables, with a fireplace in the middle and the rafters strung with party lights, surrounded by a chain fence with a decorative wood fence outside of that.
I went to wash our socks while Prana prepared dinner – lasagna tonight, a favorite – and Arthur arrived, followed by 2 other hikers. 2 more who had been staying while infected blisters healed appeared, and suddenly there are a lot of people. Too many? Should we go? I kind of wanted to, knowing I’ll sleep far better not surrounded by the energy of others, but my feet were smooshed and I didn’t want to carry extra water for cooking in the morning.
We explored the museum, a quaint group of exhibits in the beautifully built original lodge, then set up our tent amongst a herd of deer in the apple orchard and stowed all our smellables indoors of the activity center. Hopefully those bears won’t be snooping tonight.