[Cdt-l] Water notes from our NM section hike

Charlie Thorpe charliethorpe at att.net
Sun May 15 11:33:30 CDT 2011

Hello All -

WeI started in Cuba in early April and took off the trail in the Gila NF in early May.  

We became aware of a forest fire (later heard it called the Miller fire) as we were hiking out of the southern Aldo Leopold Wilderness.  We watched the smoke go from a drift of white smoke over a ridge to the north west of us to an explosion of smoke that boiled up like an atom bomb blast (we guessed then that the fire was fairly close to us and had crowned).

The wind was strong and coming from what seemed to be the general direction of the fire, but we assumed that we were out of the direct path of the wind blowing from the fire because we couldn't smell smoke at that point.  We did a lot of head banging where the trail splits in Signboard Saddle (older CDT route goes to the south), but we elected to stay on the "official" route trending to the northwest (seemingly more toward the fire) because we were out of food and we had a resupply stashed where that route crossed FS150 (now NM 61).

We pigged out on our resupply food and bedded down near the road so that we could get fire info from any passing vehicles (noticed two pickups during the night, weren't fast enough to contact either).  We woke up at first light and decided to walk out south on FS 150 because we had started smelling smoke by then and were getting twitchy.  My trail partner is a volunteer firefighter in ID - he felt strongly that it would be bad form for an ID volunteer firefighter to get burned up in a NM forest fire...

We ended up making our way around the Gila Wilderness (FS 150, NM 35, NM 15) as we started getting better info on where the fire actually was (SW of the cliff dwellings) and what the FS expected it to do in the next few days (big winds, pulling in hot shot crews from all over, not sending in the crews until the winds died down, expected the fire to move rapidly as it got into areas not previously burned over, etc.).  Ended up going entirely around the Gila Wilderness to Silver City.

I am guessing that our water observations might be of most use to northbounders this time of year, so I will list them in the reverse order that we actually hiked, starting with the southern Aldo Leopold WA (the last location where we were actually hiking on the official route as marked on the new CDTA maps).  We lost our only pen after Pie Town and were no longer able to make notes on our maps, so the observations given here are the best we both can remember (did not add an observation to the list if we couldn't remember it or if we are still arguing about it...):

Map 30 - Aspen Spring (didn't find water, didn't spend a lot of time looking, spent more time nervously watching smoke)
		14.7 Squeaky Spring (excellent water, apparently was the improved/protected water source for the old lookout tower on Reeds Peak)
		17.9 Small puddles in the creek bed 
		18.3 Reeds Meadow (did not check droplet marking location to the west, found water in elk hoofprints in the lower meadow)
Map 31	23.6 Diamond Spring (didn't hunt for water here, did see a slow seep in a muddy bank along the trail)
Map 32	33.0 Puddles in the creekbed at a few locations (good water, didn't seem to be much there)
Map 33	34.5 Chloride Creek (two small potholes in solid rock where the creekbed narrows into a gorge, heavy wildlife use, good water)
		  3.7  Rain Tank (didn't see it, no rain in recent history so didn't hunt for it, area burned by fire)
Map 34	15.1 No local water - ran into outstanding hospitality from Jack Diamond (owner of the property marked "Kline Ranch" to the east - more about this in another message)
Map 37	Wahoo Tanks (dirt tanks, dry)
Map 39  A little over a mile south of mile 6.5 on the official trail (down doubletrack along fence line) - North Garcia Windmill (****absolutely the BEST water on the CDT in NM - at least 10,000 gallons of good clear water piped into a huge open steel tank from a well that was apparently drilled as an oil well.  Somebody has done a great engineering job allowing wildlife and cattle easy access to the water without allowing them to pollute it.  Saw three different herds of elk, two different herds of antelope, all kinds of song birds, and a fuzzy ton of rabbits during the half hour we were there.  No cows.  Am puzzled why the CDT isn't routed right by it (didn't see any "Posted" signs).   Worth hiking to just to marvel at even if you don't need water in this very dry stretch of trail!*****)
Map 41	21.9  Batton Pond (large dirt tank, plenty of water with plenty of elk wading around in it, should be good for a swim when not freezing temps)
Map 42	Green Tank (large dirt tank, lots of water, didn't need any when we walked down to it, but it looked good for both drinking and swimming)
Map 43  Mesa Redonda Spring/Tank (dirt tank - dry, good water in small spring pond, owner building house w/solar-powered well nearby - more in later message)
Map 44   7.5  Divide Tank (dirt tank - dry)
Map 47	G.C. Tanks (dirt tanks, assume "GC" means "Game Commission" or "Game Control" or some such,  all GC Tanks that we checked were dry)
		Pit Tank (dirt tank - dry)
Map 48	More G.C. Tanks (dirt tanks, all that we checked were dry)
		We did a water stash where the trail crosses NM 12 so we didn't need to hunt for water there, but we noticed a home place north of NM 12 and to the east of the trail that looked like it might be a good chance to yogi water 
Map 50 16.3 Upper Cat Tank (dirt tank, some thick water in bottom, turkey hunters had blinds set up at it)
Map 51 17.5 Lower Cat Tank (dirt tank - had a lot more water than Upper Cat Tank and no turkey hunters)
Map 52	Private tank near road (steel tank, looks like it has well water piped to it from nearby home place, dry when we passed)
Map 54	Toaster House and nearby RV park - free hiker hostel (donations gratefully accepted at both locations), kitchen, showers, hand laundry, etc.)  Everybody in Pie Town knows where it is - it's hard to miss.  Be sure to hug trail angel Nita (owner) when you get there!  Outstanding pie up at the  Pie-O-Neer Cafe just east of the Post Office on US 60 at the top of the hill - bang on the door if the "Closed" sign is up...they are VERY hiker-friendly.
Maps 54-73  We stashed water and one resupply along 117 (preferred cutoff through the York Ranch)...I absolutely hate blacktop roadwalks and have started boycotting them when I have the option (the stretch south of Rabbit Ears Pass in CO was the straw that broke this camel's back...this 117 stretch is a close second).
Map 77	We took an alternate route over Mt. Taylor and found no water anywhere along that route north of the top.  There was plenty of consolidated snow when we got high, so we melted snow for drinking water.
		We were looking for water coming down the SW side of Mt. Taylor and ran into a brand new dirt tank constructed by NM F&W (UTM  13 S 255584 3897382) with plenty of water.
Map 79	26.0  Antelope Tank (dirt tank, plenty of water)
Map 80     6.8  Ranger Tank (dirt tank with water, don't remember how full it was)
Map 82	17.9  Los Indios spring (piped into two steel/cement tanks, excellent water, great camping location for a small army up on plateau just to the west of the spring) Very pleasant spot that is absolutely worth the short off-trail hike to get to it.
Map 83	Barrel spring (in a fit of laziness we decided not to hump water up the steep trail to the mesa top - took us three hours to find Barrel spring, get water, and make our way back to the trail - two steel tanks with good water, but VERY rough bushwhacking even with GPS coordinates).  I would definitely carry water up from Ojo Fria and skip Barrel spring next time around.
		Ojo Fria Tank (steel/cement tank, good water...MUCH better choice than Barrel spring, especially for nobo's who will be sailing downhill to this tank <g>)
Map 85	20.4  Private flowing well (steel tank up on top of knoll, big tire protecting valve box, good water...wind so strong when we were there that it blew my pack off of the tire...)

In general, we found Jerry's water droplet markings on the CDTA maps to be useful for planning and I only recall one that was apparently completely dry (it could easily have been that we just didn't find the water source...we only hunted for a half hour or so).  I am guessing that this was the droplet at 19.4 on Map 31 (grassy area, trail followed right side of creek bed hiking south), but neither of us remember that particular location well enough to be sure.

I hope that these notes will be of use to someone.  We both agree that next time we will carry an extra pen (one to loose, one to write with) so that we can better record our observations on all of the marked water sources on our maps. 

Good hiking!

- Charlie Thorpe and Paul Bucca

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