Ok so I never got around to finishing “The Last 10 Days” series, and ive already lost alot of memory if it. There was one more experience tho that I really wanted to mention. Wait did i talk about cruces basin yet?? Check – no i didnt. Ok, make that two more experiences to briefly recount.
I took forest road 250 towards Platoro Reservoir, scouting for possible areas for my wilderness solo. I found some nice spots, and the spots I had chosen simply by looking at a topo map – Canon Bonito and Canon Escondito – looked pretty good! theres the south fork trail which runs down near them, but there was an approaching thunderstorm and the start of the trail was quite steep so i only wen t about a half mile before turning back. will have to thoroughly explore that.
i pulled off to a campground and explored it, and got out at one point to check out a trail briefly. a few miles later i got out at a marked view stop, and realized i couldnt find my gps. i checked out the view quickly, where there were mass amounts of initials carved into trees. at first it disgusted me but then it became fascinating, as i thought about this being our cultures version of petroglyphs, and one in particular was beautifully done (see the picture). I retraced back to the campground and searched for my gps but couldnt find it. i searched the truck again and of course.. there it was.
a ways up i branched off onto FR 150 or 105, cant remember precisely. it went over a one lane bridge to what a appeared to be a small fishing ranch resort, but soon headed up switchbacks into the south san juan wilderness area. there was one good trailhead i saw going up, but there were several trailers and cars there.. i dismissed it for being too popular. still worth a hike tho sometime.
I kept going up, and the air temperature kept dropping. I drove by a calf lying on the side of the road. At first I thought nothing of it, but then something made me stop and reverse back to check on it. I almost wished I hadnt. I checked around but there were no other cattle in sight. It’s breathing was labored, wheezing, its whole body heaving with each breath. I walked around behind it looking for injuries, it rolled its head along the ground trying to keep an eye on me but unable to lift it.
There was a yellow tag on its ear – #27
As I was considering trying to lift it into the back of the truck to get it somewhere for help, a ranger drove up with a guy decked out in hunter camo. The ranger speculated that the calf had been hit by a car and then rolled into the ditch beside the road. The camo guy kept muttering “He aint gonna make it through the night.” I was hopeful that the ranger would take care of it. I was about to ask if we could kill it.. put it out of its misery. But the ranger said he would radio it in and find out who it belonged to so they could take care of it. I felt like it wasnt enough still but I trusted it to him, nothing else I could do.
So I kept up my drive, and a ways up at about 11,000 ft there was a gravel pulloff and a trailhead across the road. I think it was marked 78. No name, just that. It was stunningly beautiful. The air was so fresh and pure, there were several pristine streams running down the slope. Aspens and pines abounded, and the forest floor was covered with various wildflowers and plants, many of which im sure are edible. I felt like I was home, that this is where I should do my solo. Except its so high elevation, it would really suck in winter. But I need to at least camp there sometime for a few weeks. At LEAST.
I spent a short time hiking around in there, loving every second and wishing I could just stay there. I had to sort of scold myself like I was a child and make myself go back to my car before it started getting too late. There was still so much left to explore! I had no idea where this road would take me, and what other cool things I might find.
So I set off up the road again, and at about 12,500 feet, I saw a turnoff for tobacco lake on a decrepit sign. I was intrigued and followed it. The road became rough stone and gravel, then slowly into a dirt road, and progressively got worse. Soon there were pits of mud and deep ruts in the road, along with large rocks. This was definitely more of a jeep road than a single-overweight-woman-in-an-explorer-by-herself road. My anxiety crept up but so did my curiosity.
adventures, afterall, make great memories, and I wanted to show myself I could face my fears (not stupidly of course) and do it all by myself. I could live and experience and see things that my brother hadn’t and I could be proud of myself as an individual.
after a ways there was the trailhead, and i poked around a little but decided to keep following the road. it got really bad and i had to stop and get out and walk. apparently people run sheep herds up here. it started drizzling but i kept looking around and hiking in. there were large trees burned to a crisp, evidently a wild fire. later i learned that this is actually the trailhead to reach conejos peak, a relatively easy climb from this spot at 13,000 ft.
on the way back my gps failed me as it often does, and told me to go the absolute wrong way, then 20 miles later told me to make a u-turn. dur.
i was hoping not to go back the same way i came. i didnt want to see the calf. i felt quite anxious as i approached the spot, and felt tears welling in my eyes, thinking of how it was suffering. i just kept hoping someone had come and gotten it, or at the least, it was dead and no longer in pain. to my dismay, it was still there. but as i drove past slowly, my first thought was that it was dead. it was covered in flies so thick you could barely see its hide. it didnt seem to move, its eyes were dull and glazed, empty. i was about to take a picture, but then its ears twitched, about all the energy it had left to try and stave off the hordes of flies. i felt sick and despite my desire to take a picture – the most poignant photographs show raw, real emotion or suffering – i just couldnt do it. i felt so horrible for it and just wanted to keep going. there was nothing i could do and i felt so helpless and guilty that i was even thinking of taking a photograph while it lay there in such torment. i wish i had done it, it would have been such a great photograph. but i just couldnt, and drove home wiping away tears and thinking of the nightmares i would have that night. Calf #27, i thought about staying the night with you, with a tarp over you and shooing away the flies and petting you to help you pass peacefully. i know i didnt do it, and im sorry. but i hope my thoughts and care for you reached you and made it somehow easier in the last hours of your life.