Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Trip 2016: Everything is Ultra (Part 2, New Mexico)

Continued from Part 1!

After leaving the Great Sand Dunes on Monday afternoon, we headed for the Jemez Falls campground in New Mexico.  We made couscous and roasted vegan hot dogs over the fire and had S'mores for dessert. William ran over 2 miles-- laps around the campground loop. He's still training for The Barkley.

Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

Tuesday morning, Rob got up and ran in the freezing cold at 6am, and then we all headed into Albuquerque.  We spent over 8 hours at the RV dealership, where they attempted to fix 7 of the major things wrong with the RV, and managed to fix only 2.  One of the two things they fixed was the water heater (which it turned out, wasn't actually broken), so that was an asset. The other thing they fixed (a stove burner that wouldn't ignite) stopped working again the next day.  I'm not exactly impressed with Winnebago, or the dealership.  I haven't been part of RV life for long enough to know whether or not this kind of thing is just par for the course, but I am of the mind set that they should just give us a new fucking van, that actually works.

After spending a shitty day at the dealership getting mostly nothing accomplished, we left Albuquerque with very little idea of where to go.  We drove around forever.  I said, look, here's what I want. I want to sleep in a place where I can get up in the morning and run, since I just lost a day of my life at the RV dealership. We ended up right back at the Jemez Falls campground, although we could have arrived in half the time it took us if we'd just headed straight there.

Rob drew me a sketch of the trail he had run that morning and described some of its major features, noting intersections where I could potentially get lost.  Then I got up early on Wednesday and headed out to run.

The first couple of miles were rocky, steep, and slow going for me. I felt terrible-- exhausted and honest to goodness dizzy. I hadn't thought I would need food before or during this run, but I resorted to my emergency Clif bar and ate the whole thing. Gradually, the fogginess surrounding my head lifted.

After I crossed Highway 4, the trail smoothed out a bit on the other side.  I was feeling much happier and went farther up this smooth section than I originally intended.  Finally, I turned around to head back to the campground.

I stayed extra alert to make sure I would not to get lured off trail by any of the numerous, intersecting ATV or cross country ski tracks. Eyes on the prize, trail number 137.

Nonetheless, I found myself descending on a trail I knew I had not gone up.  Shit. How had this happened? I was following the trail blazes and the signs for trail number 137.  I pulled out the Spot tracker (which I almost hadn't even brought with me because I didn't think it was possible to get lost out here), and sure enough, I was going parallel to the trail I had ascended.

I stood there for a minute trying to figure out what to do.  I was probably only a mile away from Highway 4, and I could actually hear cars going by on it every once and a while.  I was moving downhill, which was the right direction.  Did I really need to bushwack through the forest to get back on the real 137? Or go back up and try to find the intersection where I had diverted? I decided to take my chances and keep descending on whatever trail I was on.  Eventually I'd hit the highway, right?

Right.  I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden I was staring at a wooden trail marker that was labeled 137, and my GPS points once again matched the route I'd taken up. Crisis averted. I sighed with relief when I made it to Highway 4, and I decided to run back to the campground on the road.  I didn't want anymore chances of getting lost (I knew there were a couple of tricky intersections on the trail ahead), and my legs and mind were both too fried to deal with the rocks on that section of the trail.  I moved at a pretty good clip on Highway 4, thinking, you know what? Road running is just fine, and I was very relieved when I pulled into the campground and saw Rob and Will again.  Rob said he had also gone off trail (although on the way up) at the same section where I'd had trouble, so at least I didn't feel like such an idiot.

I took a quick, water-conserving, semi-warm shower in the RV, and fixed breakfast and coffee for Will and me (well, the coffee was just for me) while Rob ran. (This trading off of running and childcare is a recurrent theme of the trip, as well as our lives).  Then we headed out for a very long and winding drive west through New Mexico.

Rob had said that a friend of his recommended visiting Chaco Canyon, and I was thrilled to hear that. I definitely wanted to go to Chaco Canyon, but it seemed like the kind of thing I would enjoy and everyone else would grudgingly endure.  This way, I wasn't the one who suggested it, so if we got there and the others were bored, it wasn't my fault. Huzzah!

Chaco Canyon is a very long way from anything, and part of the road at the end should really be labeled "FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE ONLY," yet there we were, driving the RV on it.  Eventually we arrived, got a campsite (be sure to reserve a site though, if you will be there on a weekend), and headed out to see the park. Chaco is the site of an ancient cultural center that flourished around 1,000 years ago.  The people who lived there were the ancestors of many Southwestern Native American groups, such as the Navajo.

We drove and hiked around the park, during the astonishingly terrible late-afternoon heat, visiting the remnants of many buildings where ancient people had once lived.  Will worked diligently on earning his second Junior Ranger badge of the trip.

Rock art. Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

It was hot. This is the desert. Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.

Photo by Rob.
Campsite. Photo by Rob.

The heat and sun really go to us (or at least, it got to me), and we were definitely ready for the evening cool down to arrive.  When we got up the next morning, Will was still exhausted.  We drove from the campground to the Pueblo Alto parking lot, where Rob took off on a run, and I stayed with Will while he crawled back into bed.

Photo by Rob

Photo by Rob

After some more sight seeing in the park, Will completed his booklet and earned his Junior Ranger badge.  Then it was time to go.  I suggested that my run for the day could be on the rugged dirt road out of the park, while Rob and Will drove.  Secretly, I wondered if I would be able to run it faster than they could drive.

Nothing like running in the desert at high noon. Photo by Rob.

Fun fact: this day was actually our 15th wedding anniversary. Photo by Rob.

I managed the run (not quite as fast as the van, but not too far off), although I'd never been so dehydrated in my life.  They don't call this the desert for nothing.

After a quick RV shower along the side of the road, we headed out for the Four Corners, "on the way" to Durango.  It was kind of a long trip and reminded me of Old Faithful in the sense that it is one of those iconic things that you feel like you need to do, but is really kind of meh when you get down to it.  Rob thought it was cool though, and I bought a Christmas ornament and refrigerator magnet from a really nice Navajo lady.

Driving past Shiprock, NM

You pay like 10 bucks to get in and then you stand in line forever with dozens of tourists who have selfie sticks, and when you finally get to the spot, there is a sign that says 3 PHOTO MAXIMUM, and everybody behind you impatiently groans because you take 5 whole seconds, but then when it is their turn they feel entitled to spend 10 whole minutes there.

We needed to keep moving. It was already late in the afternoon on Thursday, and Hardrock 100 started at 6:00 on Friday morning. We were still hours away from Silverton, and we didn't have a clear plan of where we were going to stay. It was time to get this show on the road.

Thanks for reading.

Stay tuned for Part 3!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an anniversary !! runnin down the gravel road followed by your "hunk" and little boy!!! you have filled those 15 years with several BOOKS!! get to writing!!! can't wait to read them!!! What an AMAZING 15 years you have shared!!!congrats!!!! Also so proud of that little guy earning his junior badge!! way to go,WILL!!!! Once again the pictures are beyond magnificent!!! thanks for sharing!!! hope, the issues with Apollo get fixed soon!!! happy trails!! Luv and hugs mama