Catron County, New Mexico has about 400 miles of paved road, and we're planning to walk every mile of it ... eventually ...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Six mile Sunday on 60

Sunday was the first time in all this walking that I was alone on the road. My ride dropped me off at the state line, then went on into Springerville, AZ, to get gas and a newspaper. Until he came back almost an hour later, I was by myself. It was great. In fact, I almost never get any alone time any more, so it was downright exhilarating.

With the six miles from the state line to mile post 6 completed, I've only got about another 21 miles to go. I thought I'd be getting pretty psyched in anticipation of finishing, but it hasn't happened yet. I've sort of lost track of why I started this in the first place.

Looking west into Arizona.

Looking east at the start of Highway 60.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Highway 36 is Done!

Today was not a good day to forget to bring the camera - I could have taken a lovely picture of the Cibola County Line sign, and the scenery was nice, with lots of lovely features like mountains off in the distance. But I was excited and bleary-eyed when I left the house this a.m. and left it behind.

I had two fellow walkers today, and we ended up talking about food quite a bit - recipes, and things we'd eaten as children, things we'd had recently, and things we'd served or been served. Mundane, perhaps, but it passed the time and we were done walking before I knew it.

We celebrated with coffee and pie at a place in Quemado, which is where the conversation took a more interesting turn. Quemado seems to be a hotbed of conservative politics, and so perhaps it was not the right place to be overheard making unkind jokes about the president's colonoscopy (do you think they'll find his brain up there?) or expressing alarm and dismay that the vice president will officially be in charge of our nation while the president is under the influence of the anesthesia.

What is it about walking that loosens my tongue like the third glass of wine? You don't have to get me drunk to learn my secrets - just take me on a ten mile walk, and I'll tell you everything.

Today's actual mileage was something in the neighborhood of 5 and 1/2 miles - enough to make me opinionated, but not enough to really get me in trouble with the leather-clad senior-citizen biker patriots at the table next to me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chipping away at highway 60

Another 6 miles today, in good company. Not a lot to look at, as you can tell by photo. About 32 miles left to call this project done. Clock's ticking.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Highway 59

I'm going to have to write about this briefly and succinctly, as it is almost midnight and I have to get up before dark in the morning to hit the road again. We made the trip down to Highway 59 yesterday. Just getting there involved driving east for an hour or so to the Very Large Array (in Socorro county) and turning south on 52, which is only paved for the first four miles, for another hour or so's drive to the town of Winston (in Sierra county), where we made a pitstop before backtracking to the start of 59.

59 starts in Sierra county, runs into Catron county for a short stretch, runs back into Sierra county for a good way, and then heads back into Catron, where it ends at Beaverhead. There aren't any county line signs, so I just sort of guessed and started walking at mile marker 4. It was already later in the day than I've been walking lately, so it was hotter walking than usual. I only walked for a mile or so, while my ride went ahead to scout out the road and then came back and trailed me. Then we drove some more, and when it seemed like we were in Catron county again I got out and walked some more. I'm sure I didn't walk every inch of the Catron part of the road, but it was enough to satisfy me.

I quit walking where the pavement ends at Beaverhead, and we realized that Wall Lake was only 8 miles of unpaved road to the south. Not knowing when or if we'd make it to such a remote area again, we decided to check it out. The road was a litle hairy - narrow, steep and winding, and eight miles took about half an hour, but it was so worth it. Wall Lake isn't big, but we had it completely to ourselves. In the rock face that overlooks the lake there's a ruin that resembles the ones found at the Gila Cliff Dwelling, and we climbed around and explored and took a million photos before heading back to Beaverhead.

We had originally planned to go back home the way we came, taking 59 back out to 52 and 52 back up to the VLA, but we were feeling adventurous, so we headed north out of Beaverhead on a dirt track - barely a road at all, more like a cowpath - and somewhere around O Bar O Canyon (as near as I can tell) the dirt track split into what people around here call a turkey track, where the road turned into three roads. We took a guess, and picked the one that looked like it would run north, and quite a bit later we came out to Bursum Road and then to Highway 12.

By the time we got home everyone was just about wore out from jouncing around on the dirt road on the rocks and the ruts for hours, but we saw some incredible country, and hardly another living soul the whole time. I have to admit I was disappointed not to see much wildlife - just a pair of deer and a few hawks, and later some elk and antelope. I wouldn't have minded getting a glimpse of a wolf, as there are reportedly two small packs of wolves that hunt out there. Also, about 20 or so miles south of Wall Lake a camper was bitten on the ass by a bear, through his tent, only a few days ago. I wouldn't care to be bitten on the ass by some crazy bear, but I wouldn't have minded seeing a bear, from a distance.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Seven more miles

Today's walk could have been a bit miserable: it was hot and muggy from the start, with the sun in our eyes and no breeze, too many long steep hills, and not much at all to look at. But it wasn't a bit miserable, in fact it was very pleasant, because my walking partner today was such a pleasure to walk with.

I don't know whether pushing myself with these long hot walks up long steep hills is causing massive release of endorphins, or whether the universe is actually showering me with love lately. Whatever it is, I feel very loved and happy. Walking rocks!

Here is a picture of part of the Sawtooth Mountain range, which you can see north of Highway 60 between Pie Town and Datil.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Just a short one today

Today's walk was only a disappointing 1.57 miles, done in 35 minutes at the leisurely pace of 2.7 miles per hour. We covered the paved part of 601, which runs up to Fence Lake, and everything we saw looked ancient.

This looks like a dug-out house.

Possibly an old seeder.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


We covered a lot of ground today, through a landscape that was as beautiful as it was empty - no trees, houses, windmills.... A little more than seven miles in a little over two hours, from about the 19 mile marker to about the 12 mile marker on highway 60. There was a small amount of giddiness, and then long periods of quiet determination. Ethel came and picked us up again - what would we do without her?

Monday, July 09, 2007


Latest is in pink: seven or so miles on 7/8/07, started about 7 am, finished around 9:30.


Now I have some idea how a sheep feels when at the mercy of a diligent Border Collie. I started my walk at the 75 mile marker on Highway 60, near Datil, and headed west. My S.O. was drafted into helping out this time, since I had nobody to walk with me, which was very sweet of him - he trailed me in his truck most of the way and never let me out of his sight. I got about 7 more miles done, and only encountered one very small rattlesnake this time.

The terrain around Datil is a lot different from where we've been walking around Quemado - hilly instead of flat, with interesting formations of sedimentary rock, and tall trees instead of the scrubby little trees that you see on the high mesas.

Rattlesnake of the day.

Look at his little buttons - aren't they cute?

Friday, July 06, 2007


My very lovely friend Ethel mentioned that rattlesnakes are numerous around Quemado these days, and suggested that we keep an eye out for them. When we didn't see any west of town, though, we sort of stopped being vigilant.

So we were just strolling along the road headed east out of Quemado, taking in the balmy morning, when we heard the *buzz* of a rattle and realized that we had just walked past one. Naturally, our first instinct was to run out into traffic - fortunately there weren't any cars on the road - and by the time we had turned around to look, it had slithered off into the weeds. My daughter got a good look at its wedge-shaped head, but I didn't see much of it. I think it was fairly small.

Normally when I walk with my kids I walk on the side closest to traffic, because if any of us is going to get picked off I'd rather it be me. Then again, I don't want one of my kids to get bitten by a rattlesnake either, so we changed places so that I was closest to the grassy edge, and walked on. A mile or so later I had forgotten, of course, to be on the look-out, and walked past another rattlesnake. This one was a bit feistier than the other. It was louder, for one thing, and kept the rattle going while it coiled and reared up - its head was about knee-height - and stayed there vibrating with hostility.

The first one didn't spook me too much, but this one really got the adrenalin going - for another two miles we were very jumpy, and startled at every little sound. I must have passed within a foot or so of it, and never noticed it until it rattled. After that, we walked slowly and carefully, jumping out onto the road every time a cricket chirped or a lizard ran by. Good thing there weren't too many cars.

GPS batteries were low, and the silly thing kept turning itself off, so walking stats for today are approximate: ~5.75 fresh miles covered in about two hours, with a few long rests on the long steep hill between mile marker 39 and mile marker 40. I forgot the camera in the car, but I took a few pictures after the walk, before we drove home.

Old farm machinery.

Sign below the silhouettes says "LAST CHANCE PIZZA".

The lettering on the fin says "The AEROMOTOR Co, CHICAGO"

Windmill on wooden tower.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kindness of Strangers

Today, perhaps because we really were out in the middle of nowhere and I wasn't carrying my camera, no fewer than six cars stopped to try to give us a ride. One guy in a big black truck pulled over on the opposite shoulder, rolled his window down and said "You can't be out here walking for your health!" A woman in a camper, probably thought we were turning down her offer of help because we couldn't see into her vehicle and didn't trust her not to have an accomplice in the back - she asked if we were really sure several times, and said "It's okay, it's just me and my kids in here!" Another car didn't stop when they first passed us, but saw our car parked four miles down the road and turned around and drove back the four miles to check. Nice people out here.

I didn't bother with the camera because there was nothing to take pictures of but the horizon and the hot empty highway. No birds calling to each other today, just a chorus of crickets and the occasional sound of a vehicle. Two roadkills. A spot where someone had the sudden inspiration to empty half a party's worth of empty beer cans and bottles by the side of the road, but we didn't have a bag to collect them in, so we left them there.

Poor planning had us walking uphill most of the way, but I was really pleased at how quickly I'm getting back into stride.

Fresh miles: 5.5
Time in motion: 1:46
Moving average: 3.1 mph

At one point, we were averaging 3.2 mph, according to the gps gizmo! Uphill! In the heat! And I'm not even knackered!

We've got a little under 19 miles left to the Arizona border, and I've discovered that 601 to Fence Lake is actually paved for 1.6 or so miles, so 3 or 4 trips more ought to cover everything west of Quemado.