Day 20: The Grim Seeper

5/7

It was warm last night, and the sky was already light when the alarm went off. Time to move it 15 minutes earlier.

We cooked oatmeal on the trail after a three mile warm up, and little did we know that would be the high point of the day. It powered us through another three miles to the vague turn off area for Adobe Spring, which was a mile, mile and a half, -ish, off trail, somewhere down there.

We caught what we hoped was the right drainage down, and it felt like it took awhile. I was so thirsty, I couldn’t wait to find water and drink several liters in a go. I pictured a delicious seep surrounded by flowers, assuming this must be the Adobe Springs the cafe in Silver City was named after, and therefore Eponym-worthy. Bedrock appeared as we descended, finally, because the dry sand was surely not going to hold a pool. A few of the correct-shaped pour-overs weren’t even damp, and I started to worry- what if there was no water? There had never not been water, but what if this was the first time? 20 dry miles back or 20 dry miles onward.

The ravine we were searching joined another, and just below the confluence two tiny puddles of water glinted, each three or four gallons, maybe, and the color of over-steeped iced tea. We searched downstream another half mile, but found only an elk skull at a dryfall that used to hold water at its base, and a massive animal bed nested into a pile of freshly nipped pine branches. I guess that’s our water, then.

It was a pain-staking process to dip it out, prefilter it through a doubled bandana, and then run it through the gravity filter, which quickly clogged. “Is this really a spring?” pondered Prana. “It seems more like a puddle. I can’t imagine if there is a seep here that it refills very quickly.” It took two hours to filter two gallons. The last gallon we carried dirty to filter in camp – the bedrock down there was an oven in the sun, and I wasn’t sure we weren’t dehydrating faster than we could filter.

Finally back on the trail, the whole logistic had consumed three hours, precious hiking time we’d now have to make up. I plugged in my headphones for an audiobook and got to work.

The woods were pretty, no doubt, a variety of pines and firs and juniper and cliff rose and live and gamble oaks, and I found a rhythm to climb very slowly but steadily and make up a bit of speed on the flats. The climbs were surprisingly steep, especially for how small the tops were- some of the steepest climbs yet. From the tops were views of a big, golden desert, fringed on several sides by dark trees spilling down the mountain foothills. Yikes: we would have to cross that at some point.

The miles came hard for unknown reasons, and we only managed another twelve. We dropped into a beautiful canyon, its floor thickly padded with oak leaves, its walls full of shallow caves. Strangely, we climbed from this to the tawny desert, which I had assumed was the lowest thing around, and we struggled steeply up into a now galing wind. Just before committing to the unprotected flats, we found a small stand of juniper that created a perfect wind break. “We can at least cook dinner here,” said Prana, even though we both knew this was camp. A giant pot of noodles, another hour long filtering session of the last gallon- which, insult to injury, tasted awful- while we massaged our aching feet, and we unrolled the sleeping bag right where we were.

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