“You actually hiking up in that canyon?” asked the local incredulously as we walked, backpacks fully loaded, past the house bordering the edge of McKnight Canyon in Mimbres. “About 30 cop cars just came through. They’re looking for a body.”
The first thing that crossed my mind was that there was some crazy murderer up in the hills killing hikers. Afterall, on my first long thru-hike on the AT in 2008, I was going through Pearisburg, VA right when a murdered convicted in 1981 for killing hikers had just been released from prison and had gone back to the trail to shoot two more people. Was it really so outrageous for another murderer to be out on the CDT?
As we hiked on up the canyon on the dirt road(as it snowed on us, of course), cop car after cop car passed us in either direction. After at least 20 cars stopped, someone let us know that a son had shot his dad while out hunting and the cops were looking for the body. Phew, kind of. Except the police were blocking any traffic–including foot traffic–up the canyon.
We kept hiking 10 miles into the canyon until the cops made it clear there was no way to hike around the police blockade–even cross country. We asked when they expected the blockade to be lifted, but the cop told us even if we camped and waited to be let through, it could take days. Giving up, we asked the cop for a ride back to Julie’s store in San Lorenzo. We were pretty stoked to ride in the cage of the cop car (it seems to be one of those experiences every thru-hiker gets sooner or later)!
We stayed with Pete again in San Lorenzo and started a boring roadwalk to Deming the next day. We didn’t want to detour 2 miles to camp in City of Rocks State Park and had almost no water until passing a rest stop on Highway 180. It was a pretty horrendous roadwalk made slightly better by getting to see Pete as he drove by on his way home, a javellina corpse, and a fruit stand (unfortunately, there was nothing for sale but organic apple butter, which I would have LOVED to carry out, but my shoulders hurt too much to add on the extra weight). We ran into Keith, the trail angel in Deming, as he was pulling out of a parking lot we were walking past.
I really wanted to do that Emory Pass trail–especially since we had taken almost 2 hours to drive in the snow up the windy, narrow, guardrail-less road up the pass cache water. At least it leaves me something new to look forward to should I ever do the CDT again…