Section 8: Fort Hancock to Presidio
Great campsite and good night of sleep. Being close to Fred’s ranch helped with the feeling of security. It was hard to get up as usual but we were finally feeling a sense of progress and were anxious to get back on track. Candelaria here we come!
The road was clear and easy to follow for the first several miles of the day. We left Fred’s property and entered a different tract through an open gate. Fred had told us that we would encounter a couple different landowners and gates but to drop his name if we had any problems. Thanks Fred! Such a relief to not have to stress over trespassing.
As we continued the road transitioned from hard dirt surface to sandy tracks just barely discernible against the surrounding muck. Cow trails crisscrossed everywhere, further confusing our navigation. We walked through what looked like old mining pits, with huge piles of dirt on each side. The road wound through scrub and up and over small mounded hills. This may have once been a road but vehicles haven’t driven here in years. Remote as hell. The mesa that towered to the west no longer obstructed our view of the river bottom and the Rio was back in sight.
From the top of a hill we saw a great white wisp of smoke or steam rising from the ground. A couple cement buildings lay scattered around but it was clear they had been abandoned long ago. We guessed that the white wispy something was steam coming from a thermal hot spot. Sure enough as we turned the corner we came across a deep fast flowing stream in our path. Tenny dropped in a rock to make a path to hop across and the resulting spray mostly landed on Claire. It felt like bath water. Not boiling but definitely hot. How cool! The cows seemed to be drinking from it but we wondered how safe it was for humans.
What kinds of weird organisms can survive in these warm waters?
Shortly after the stream we lost the road. We were on it and what felt like seconds later it was half a mile away on our GPS. We tried to diagonal cross country to rejoin it but were impeded by the many canyons, fencing and cacti in our path. After a frustrating scramble we were back on...something. You could just barely make out the old roadbed underneath the scrub. We combined this path with some free scrambling and fancy Topo deductions to more or less stay on track.
Somewhere in there a military jet dipped low into the mountains ahead of us, leaving a deafening rumble behind. They always appear when we least expect it. It was no less jarring today, a reminder that okay we’re never really in the middle of nowhere on the border.
The sun was out in full force and had us reaching for our water bottles again and again. At least the geology was beautiful. Everything was purple! It’s the minerals. Purple cactus. Purple rocks. Purple rocks around a fire ring. Purple creek bed. Purple sand. Manganese is in the minerals and it infects everything with a purple hue. The plants absorb it, the landscapes are made of it. It’s beautiful! We climbed up to the top of a pass and then back down, the road gaining more consistency and shape as we moved along.
Our bushwhacking had eaten up a big chunk of the day and we started pushing it to try and get to the next water source, a stream just before the town of Candelaria. We were a couple miles away when Tenny realized her cellphone was no longer attached to her solar charger. Ugh. This is an absolute nightmare for a hiker. With only an hour or so of daylight left she dropped her pack, turned around and started running back up the path we had just painstakingly descended. With a headlamp, safety GPS, and flare gun in hand Tenny was ready to get it over with.
And she saw someone. Right at the crest of a high point some rocks shifted above her and it was obvious someone had scrambled out of sight. The sound stopped her immediately but when she couldn’t see anything she continued. After finding the pesky phone laying in the road she doubled back and took a better look at the same spot from the downhill side. There was a man in a black shirt and white cowboy hat. He didn't move but Tenny did. Time to get to back to camp!
Meanwhile, Claire set up camp and settled in to anxiously await Tenny’s return. It was the first time we hadn’t been side by side for safety and neither of us liked it. We had no way to contact each other with no cell service. It sucked. The worst part was not knowing what was going on with the other person and endlessly running through different scenarios of what to do if something were to happen. A large crashing in the bushes sent Claire scrambling for her pepper spray only to turn into nothing when a pair of javelinas wandered out.
Right at dusk Claire heard the sound of approaching footsteps and Tenny came around the corner. Thank god. Tenny had just run over six extra miles and she collapsed exhausted into sleep. But she had found her phone! We will have to make up the extra miles tomorrow but for now we were just grateful to be safely back together. We are almost back at the road with significantly easier hiking.