The Jornada del Muerto Beckons

Posted on March 31, 2008 by

New adventures for Susan Reynolds

This blog is new. I’m a little nervous, after all this is my first time blogging. I feel the need to “catch you up to date” on what’s about to happen, as this blog is coming to life as my preparations for a major walk are just about complete. If there’s a single underlying purpose (at least for the next month) to this blog, it will be to carry the tales as my walk unfolds. Here’s a little background:

My home has been in New Mexico for the last 16 years. This is the second time I’ve lived here, and the longest time I’ve lived anywhere. The basic geography is familiar to me: Albuquerque is 3 hours drive north; Las Cruces 75 miles south; and it takes a long time to get to places like Farmington, Taos, and Raton.

For the last six years I’ve walked countless miles on the two main roads that allow access to the village of Hillsboro. Somewhere along the way I’ve come to accept that knowing a place well requires discovering it on foot. New Mexico is a pretty big state, one that takes a lot of walking to get to know.

A week from today, I’m going to grow familiar with some 330 miles of it. My walk will begin with the infamous Jornada del Muerto (the Journey of the Dead) and end with my arrival in Santa Fe. Some of you have followed early reports on how this walk came to be. So, up front, my apologies if you’re already familiar with the story. If you’re not – read on.

I love wildernesses. When I hiked the West Highland Way, I crossed a moor that’s considered the last great wilderness of the U.K. Last summer Lapland, Sweden gave me challenge when I backpacked alone in the Arctic Circle. It is reported to be the last great wilderness of western Europe. The hike was full of adventures large and small, but it was also a time for quiet thought. Inspiration comes from many unexpected places, but it was there in the Arctic that I became intrigued with designing a lengthy walk for myself in New Mexico.

It’s taken months of driving, map-reading, and researching to choose my route. I love the hills where I live and train. Right away there’ll be the challenge of many flat miles. The “path” I’ve chosen echoes the ancient trade route of the Camino Real. It’ll take me straight through the Jornada del Muerto – a large geographic area known for the many hardships it’s presented travelers for over 400 years. It’s desolate and beautiful. I plan on surviving it. To that end, my husband will be driving a support vehicle. In a way, our truck will be our “carreta.”

I don’t want to give too much away up front. The idea is that you come back from time to time to follow my progress. There may even be photos of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. My planning has been extensive. I’m now antsy to begin and feeling a bit anti-social as I prepare to leave the clutter that plagues us in the age of so much technology. So what have I done but create a blog.

When I was in the Arctic I sent reports home to a local newspaper. This happened only a few times as most of my days there were without internet or electricity. Things won’t be significanly different in the back desert of New Mexico. I’m hoping to post a few more times before I leave, and again three or four times from along the way.

For now, my head is full of a mix of details: how to pack the truck, what food to take, where to re-supply, don’t forget the sunscreen. You get the idea. I hope you’ll be back to see how the final frenzied days of planning go and to wish me “bon voyage.”