Trip Journal: Fire Water (2011, Apache Kid Wilderness, New Mexico)

MOS-11-1 “Fire Water” Trip Journal
Written by Heather “Gertie” Cramond

Trip Dates: 8/5-10/2011
Destination: Apache Kid Wilderness Area, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico

Matt “Dances with Trees” Cassidy (Advisor)

Mark “Skele-toe” Zeutzius (Advisor)

Scott “Water Walker” Steiner (Advisor)

Jess Cassidy

Mark “Tall Pack” Yocom

Emily Harrington

Heather “Gertie” Cramond

Ashish “Ashimal” Gheware

Photos from this trip can be seen on the trip’s Gallery Page


Thursday: Show me your gear!
After a 20 minute train ride, I’m chauffeured by Mrs. Cassidy to headquarters and am shown the new shutters (they’re lovely). Despite the cicada buzz, it is eerily quiet without Miranda, who has been shuttled to grandma’s for a bedtime-free weekend of bliss. The still is soon broken, however, as DWT suggests that I show him my gear. This is the first of many times I have to remind DWT that this is a family show, and that such requests should really be transmitted through his wife. Because he is in pack leader mode, I get the stink eye. I also get a much lighter flashlight and sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a knife and some other awesomeness. We make a trip to REI and Target for some last minute items (hurray! Clearance coffee!), call Miranda, and eat the first of many chile-liscious meals. I’m glad DWT is in charge; I’m the only one in the house getting a good night’s sleep tonight.

Friday: The transition to vacation Matt
The three of us pace around the house muttering to ourselves. Should I put my shoes…. where did I put my….I guess I don’t really need. The first thing I say out loud is,“There’s a weird man with gloves looking in the window.” The weird man, of course, turns out to be the cab driver. We load into the car and have a relatively uneventful check-in. Ashimal, another trip newbie, meets us at the gate. We’re all impressed at his lack of carry-on. Once in Albuquerque, we started the Mark shuffle. After loading up Skeletoe’s car, we found Smocum, hereafter known as Tall Pack, and headed to Applebee’s. More salsa. Another shopping trip (oh, yeah, water would be nice), then back to the airport, gather the last two, more salsa. At long last, we load into the car and make the trip to the Cibola Wilderness [Editor’s Note: actually the Apache Kid Wilderness, in the Cibola National Forest] area ready for some wildlife. The wildlife is not impressed by us, except for the baby cows, which Jess suggests seem to be disturbed by the large metal cows containing many hairless cows. After a dusty, bumpy hour or so in Skeletoe’s car, we arrive at Springtime. We set up our three tents, and behold: fire. With the fire comes s’mores, some ugly, some uglier than that; we also got a few ghost stories from Jess. All completely true of course. As we rub our hands in dirt to remove the marshmallow and wander off to water the trees, I realize that the planning is over and the trip has finally started.

Saturday: Which way do these stairs go? They go up.
Well, most of the planning is over. We send Tall Pack and Walks-on-Water back to the fine city of Truth or Consequences to find fuel, or as they put it “get gas.” This joke is used almost as frequently as the jokes about tent poles. The runners have some trouble getting supplies, so we don’t actually hear from them until later in the day. Perhaps they should have prayed to the Chuck Norris statue.

The other seven of us –I’m counting Squiggy, our rubbery scorpion mascot–start the ascent to what will become our base camp. There is some disagreement about the distance, as most of the signage is less interested in our campsite and more interested in San Mateo peak, but all agreed that it was somewhere around 4 miles, and the general direction was up. Breaks are pretty frequent (some for the view, some for breathing), and many, many snacks are consumed. Team Cassidy separates, keeping the newbies (Ashimal, me, and Emily) between them, and Skeletoe helps keep the small herd moving. The trees are frequently watered, and we discover Ashimal’s love for throwing things. While Jess, Emily and I are busy composing a song about our current seat called “Lovely Lady Logs” (What you gonna do with all that junk, all that junk inside your pack?), we are scared to a very brief silence by something bounding off into the trees below. Brief, because once we realized it was an Ashimal, not an animal, we give Ash his new trail name and continue our songwriting.

We hit a spring about a mile away from camp, but it’s dry. No one is surprised by this, as most of us have nearly emptied our reservoirs and some us have some pretty poofy fingers. By this point, our runners have joined us. They’ve also noticed the trail of M&Ms that I’ve left them. It turns out when I throw trail mix at my mouth while walking, I have pretty bad aim. While candy connoisseurs will of course argue that M&Ms are not Reese’s Pieces, the group agreed on Gertie as my new trail name. Because we’re running low on water, Walks-on-Water, Emily, and the Marks head off to Twentyfive Yard Spring, which is supposed to be near where we plan to camp. The rest of us think really hard about setting up. First things first: we bust out the roti bread that Ashimal’s wife Chaitra has made for the trip. It’s difficult to explain the wonder that is roti bread, but just imagine ground peanuts and ghee inside fried bread. The water crew radios back that the spring was farther away than we thought, and we realize that they have not had lunch. DWT heads off in their general direction, roti in hand. He will offer it to them like a marathon water station attendant, but most of them want the bread in their mouths, not thrown over their heads. In the meantime, Ashimal, Jess and I learn just how bad a bunch of supposedly smart people can be with spatial relations. Eventually, the tents go up, sleeping bags are unfurled, and the water team returns triumphant.

At this point, chef and defacto camp mom Jess cooks her first propane meal: there is great rejoicing. The chocolate mousse in a bag for dessert is less of a success, at least in terms of maintaining hygiene. Tall Pack teaches us a card game called May I?”, or if you’re DWT “Oh, mine, that one.” Luckily, Ashimal has brought 3 packs of cards, and my pen is not lost. More rejoicing. Perhaps the most wondrous thing of the evening is how, following Talls Pack’s lead, we make our sleeping pads into recliners of a sort. We’re having so much fun playing cards and are so grateful to have our boots off, that we barely notice the on-again-off-again rain that starts to smear the cards until one by one, we drift off to our tents.

We split into two teams. Jess, Ash and I are all really excited to see the Apache Kid gravesite. DWT is excited to spend a day with his wife. The other four, I believe, head off to Myers Cabin and Vicks Peak. Each group covers somewhere between 8 & 9 miles.

The Apache kid group stops at Twentyfive Yard Spring on the way, because, although Monday will be mostly downhill, we used a bunch of the water to cook last night, and we also all enjoy not dying. It is a little hotter than the day before. Our hike is v shaped: down then up on the way in, and down then up on the way back. We see most of the same critters as we had the day before: some horny-toad-looking lizards who seem to be more pink up in the rockier parts of the trail, and some squirlish fellows. I also see a butterfly that borders on indigo. DWT gives us a little geology lesson on the area (much of the weirdness of the area is volcanic rather than tectonic), and shows us some of the trees that quickly fill in after there’s a fire: aspen, and some type of conifer that I forget, the pinecone of which is activated by fire. When we finally make it to the gravesite, we find a hacked up tree, but not where DWT’s GPS coordinates had said the grave would be. We feel somewhat satisfied that this is it, so we take pictures with a horseshoe nailed to a tree and call it a success. We hit the spring on the way back and realize both that we’ve killed the filter, and that if you put a double-shot of electrolyzing salt into the water, it tastes like pool. Good thing we brought gatorade. We return to the camp, and change into slightly less smelly clothes before another much-appreciated dinner. By this point in the trip, I’ve made short work of most of my allotment of snacks. More spotty rain sends us to bed early after an attempt at round 3 of May I?, and I’m grateful, as my brain has gotten really used to not doing much work.

Monday: I’ve already done one dumb thing with Scott today
Walks-on-Water decides to make coffee on top of the ranger tower at San Mateo Peak, about 3/4 of a mile away from camp. DWT and I are close behind, and soon Ash starts the trek. Yes, there are a number of things wrong with this idea: it was rather windy; the bottom ladder wasn’t secure; some boards were missing. However, it’s important to note that when you mix Starbucks Via with Swiss Miss, you get something that resembles mocha. This is important.

When we return to base camp, more responsible folks have packed up the tents and sleeping bags, and we all get our packs ready to head down after one more group picture. It occurs to us that Squiggy may be dead. I had placed him in the rainfly on Saturday afternoon in the hopes of freaking someone out, but he has not been see since. I consider pouring one out for him, but consider what it took to get the water; Squiggy would rather I was hydrated. And so, we go down. We’re all pretty amazed that we made it up there in the first place and that we don’t see any of the leavers of the large and various types of animal scat that surround Springtime on our return.

We pack our sore, stinky selves into to cars. Tall Pack, Walks-on-Water, Emily and Ashimal head to Albequerque: Tall Pack heads home to see his ladies and take a shower. The other three head to Santa Fe in a rented car “much like your grandmother might drive” so that no one need get up early with Emily and Walks-on-Water. Our carful does useful things like stop at McDonald’s. We find a gas station that sells pop in glass bottles. Unfortunately, those bottles come with extra flies, which ride with us for the rest of the trip to Santa Fe. Also the stock market crashed while we were gone. So there’s that.

We arrived at the hotel, and wonder of wonders, shower. Dinner, not surprisingly, involves more salsa, chips, and guac. Tall Pack, who’s rejoined us for dinner, heads home, and we go to a small theatre to see Cowboys and Aliens, which was filmed in Santa Fe. The movie was, to paraphrase both Jess and The Onion, a “peanut butter and peanut butter sandwich.” At least Ashimal got a nice nap, Walks-on-Water got to play video games, and Daniel Craig, did, as expected, take his shirt off.

Thus ends our adventure as a group.

– Gertie

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