Monday, March 14, 2016

Chain of Craters, Day 2

Trails are like friends you’ve just met.  It takes a while to figure out their quirks, discover their strengths.  Getting along can be instantaneous, or it can take a little effort before you fall for them in a friend-crush sort of way.  
Ants build more mounds to add to the chain of craters along the CDT.
The CDT has a tough reputation.  The unofficial motto is “embrace the brutality."  Its definitely got it’s quirks in this section at least, but they grew on me by our second day, once I adjusted my expectations about some things:

This is not a trail.  
It’s a route.  When you are not roadwalking, there is no tread, no defined path.  It’s walking over tussicks, stumbling over rocks, squishing through mud, and slogging in sand.  It is never smooth.  No one passes the exactly same place.  Unlike the cow paths which are clearly defined and heavily traveled.  On the Arizona Trail, it was easy to get lost by veering down a cow path, since they looked like the trail.  But not here—if you find yourself on smooth trail, that’s a sure indication you went astray.

This is not on the trail.
Since a route fosters a sense of freedom, why not wander a bit?  Go where the terrain and your own inclination take you. 
Scramble up Cerro Lobo (8345 feet) and imagine how lava shot up out of the cinder cone and breached one side of the crater.
Rocks along the rim.
This is not a gate.
There are these things Guthook’s Guide calls “gates.” These are not gates.  Gates are things that open so you can pass through. Not so here.  
Jan is skeptical about this "gate" which is really just a fence we have to climb over.
Here, gates here are obstacle courses with pointy pokey wire that are too tall to climb over gracefully, too low to crawl under, and too well-built to dance the limbo under. 
Piles of unstable rock to precariously balance on while trying not to gorge your crotch with barbed wire.
Long legs help here.
At one point we found a piece of wire that we though could have once been attached to a helper stick, which Farwalker showed us how to use on the Arizona Trail. Do other CDT hikers carry collapsable titanium pole vault sticks to get over the gates?
Are we suppose to use this barbed wire loop to catapult ourselves over?
This is good water.
Water— a glorious sight after the previous cattle tank turned out to be dry.  We had no trouble adjusting our expectations about water at least, we didn't even double treat it.
Half full!
At the second water source of the day, there was more water… and more fresh cowpies.

As I was filling up my water bottles with cow-slobber water from their tank, the cows started staring at me.  

“Jan, come quick, they are moving closer,” I shouted.  (Those of you that have hiked with me know that I’m scared of cows, and they all know this.) Thank goodness Jan came to my rescue.
Filling our bottles before the cows return.
The roadwalking
Roadwalking hurts, but at least miles are cranked out quickly.  The forecast of 30% chance of rain/ snow/ thunderstorms had us worried.  Jan’s car was parked on a “hazardous if wet” dirt road.  
Racing the storm clouds.
The tree report for Chain of Craters
Good trees here— ponderosa, alligator juniper, one seed juniper, and pinyon pine. Oh how I love sleeping in these trees.  
Gorgeous trees- tall and regal, spreading and gnarled- they all thrive out here in the lava.
This was a great section for a weekend backpack trip- scenic, very quiet, and fascinating geology.  Allow extra time to stage the cars at either end.

More Information

Started at Cerro Negro (CDT mile 482.8) and at the CR 42 trailhead near Cerro Brillante (CDT mile 469.7), then we roadwalked along CR 42 back to Jan’s car at Hole In the Wall for a 22ish mile day.

The water report for this section was last updated in April of 2015.  Just like last year on the Arizona Trail, Jan and I wonder why previous hikers fail to update the water reports.  Please do your part and contribute to the hiking community by updating the water reports as you hike through (email updates to
Some sort of mustard?  Edit: it's candytuft!


  1. Glad I'm not the only one scared of cows. (Being charged by a bull once doesn't help this fear).

    1. Oh I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only one too!!!

  2. You always write the best posts. Love your humor!

    1. Aww thanks Jan! Loved laughing out there with ya!

  3. When I was about 10, my cousin and I were chased down by 3-4 of my grandpa's dairy cows. The cows were feeling extra frisky because they had been eating leftover sweet corn instead of their usual diet of hay and grass and we were down in their field retrieving a tarp that had blown off my parent's garden. The faster we ran, the faster they chased us, so by the time we reached the fence, we were both screaming! So I can sympathize with your fear of cows! Love the blog!!

    1. Oh my, what a memorable story! Thanks for sharing, Bob. I'm glad I'm not alone in this one. Cows do seem to get spirited on occasion.