Mexico to Lordsburg

Day 0: LA to Lordsburg

April 25

13 hours is far too long to spend on a train, but for eighty dollars it’s what Kevin and I did to get to Lordsburg, the base camp of the CDT. Boarded in LA at 11pm in a small cabin with an eclectic group of passengers, no one getting off at Lordsburg except us. Fell asleep to the lights of suburbia outside Pomona and woke up to a beautiful desert sunrise in Arizona. It was surprisingly green through the Sonoran desert, but as we entered New Mexico the cottonwood trees and saguaro cacti fell away to reveal a sea of brown sand and red rock. Home for the next month or so. Passed through tiny town after tiny town and then it was our stop.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

Hot dry air hit as soon as we stepped off the train. Not a whole lot going on in here, the town is mostly a dying railroad stop with boarded up windows in at least half of it’s main street buildings. We had six hours before our shuttle pickup, so Kevin and I walked a mile down the main drag to get lunch at Ramona’s and try some of New Mexico’s famous green chile. I missed proper Mexican food. No air conditioning...it’s gonna take some getting used to the heat again, my butt left sweat stains on the leather chair. Kind of wish I had brought pants, my legs are a shocking white and starting to turn an irritated red from the sun.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

We still had hours to kill before our shuttle ride and decided to visit the Lordsburg & Hidalgo County museum, housed in an old gym-type building. The curator, Dean, was both enthusiastic and knowledgeable about all things Lordsburg, which resulted in a few long-winded tangents about the towns more exciting historical moments. (Highlights included the time Charles Lindbergh stopped by promoting air-mail, and the four year run of a POW camp at the end of WWII hosting German and Italian inmates.) There was also a cowboy “hall of fame” that included a cowhide marked with the brands of ranchers that had contributed to the museum. “I guarantee” said Dean, after a side story on a side story about Sandra Day O’Connor sending a signed letter when her father was inducted to the hall, “that all these ranchers still use the same family brand. You’ll probably meet one or two of em in town.”

FullSizeRender.jpg
FullSizeRender.jpg

We wandered out of the museum and towards Lordsburgs main drag. Not a lot happening here, just a stop along the train tracks with many buildings burnt out or boarded up. But the McDonald’s was as clean and modern as any and we met up with our PCT buddy Jake, who’s starting the trail with us. Jake had already met another hiker, Penguin, from Seattle. Penguin had hiked the PCT in 2014 and the Colorado trail last year, which we will follow later on when done with New Mexico. As tends to happen when you put hikers together, we immediately fell to talking gear. A rancher named Ed came over to talk to us and Kevin showed him the picture of the brands we had seen at the museum. Ed looked at it for a minute and pointed out his own.

At 6, our shuttle ride, Dion, arrived for our partway to the border ride to the tiny near-ghost town of Hachita, where the community center was being lent to him to house hikers for the season. Dion is a triple crown hiker that hiked the three big trails with his son, who holds the distinction of being the youngest triple crowner at age 9.

IMAGE.JPG

The Hachita Community center was a surprisingly cavernous old cement building with cots set up along the walls and a little kitchenette tucked away in the back corner. Our other shuttle member was from Connecticut, named Hemlock. Dion handed us all king cans of Bud and we took the sunset tour of Hachita on foot. It was a fraction of the size of Lordsburg, not much to see other than a couple of jackrabbits watching us through the scrub of creosote bushes and a beautiful old stone church with shattered windows.

IMAGE.JPG

Back at the community center, we had dinner and met another hiker from Sweden that was resting up after blowing out his knee on day 3. Both he and Hemlock hiked the PCT in 2017, but I was nearly a month behind both of them and we never crossed paths. Everyone was in bed early for 5am wakeup tomorrow to finish the drive to the border.

Starting to get a nervous excitement setting up to sleep in my cot, tomorrow it’s time for another summer on a new trail!

IMG_9462.JPG

Day 1: Mexico (0.0) to Windmill (22.1)

April 26 // 22.1 miles

Woken by Paul Simon blasting through Dion’s speakers, apparently it’s the Crazy Cook tradition to wake hikers at 5:30 to the “ah wah ah wah” of Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes. Here we gooooooo.

Packed up my bag feeling really nervous for the first time, it’s always fun to talk about a thru hike with friends and family beforehand, but it’s a whole other thing to realize how big of an undertaking I’ve committed to, months and months of type 2 fun with sub-par hygiene, endless physical pushing in sometimes miserable conditions and worst of all, the boredom of doing the same thing day after day after day, no matter how much the scenery changes. I can’t quite explain what I love about thru-hiking, it’s certainly not the hiking itself, but I think more so the freedom of having to take care of only your most basic needs and working towards a clear goal that is relatively easy to achieve as long as you just keep on moving. Getting to eat whatever I want and still lose weight also helps.

By 6:15 we were stocked on water and loading up Dion’s Jeep for the two hour ride from Hachita to the Mexican border. As the sun started to rise, the mountains ahead were bathed in pink, and jack rabbits scurried in front of the truck. Dion pointed out the landmarks, dirt roads we would cross, the Big and Little Hatchet mountain ranges we’d shadow, Pyramid Peak that we would circle around to get back to Lordsburg, the trailer we would pass belonging to an old hunter that controlled local mountain lion populations. There was some silence after the last statement while we all waited for someone to ask the inevitable question, but we didn’t have to. “Oh yeah” Dion said cheerfully, “There are tons around here.”

IMAGE.JPG

The dirt path was brutal on the Jeep and we didn’t progress very quickly, dipping through huge potholes and around boulders in the middle of the road. Gave me lots of time to observe the beautiful but hostile landscape, every plant had spikes and there was nothing growing higher than a few feet above the ground. “So where’s the shade?” Hemlock asked, to which Dion told us that there were 7 trees total in the first 100 miles and to take full advantage of them when we could. Yikes.

We popped out of the truck to check out the Crazy cook marker, for which Dion’s shuttle company is named. It’s a stone slab for the grave of Frank Evans, who was part of a team surveying the Mexican border in the early 1900’s and got into an argument with the group’s cook, who killed him with an axe.

IMAGE.JPG

Just around the corner was the stone terminus monument I’ve seen in so many pictures, marking the southern end of the trail and the Mexican/American border. The border itself was barely even a barbed wire fence, we crossed back and forth easily. (Can I admit that? Is it legal?) Dion explained that this is the least manned section of border in the country, since it’s expected that anyone here would just die before they get very far crossing the desert. The thing we are about to do.

Your 2019 dream team

Your 2019 dream team

Kevin goes to Mexico

Kevin goes to Mexico

Got a few obligatory photos at the terminus, it’s twin is 3100 miles north of here near Waterton on the Canadian border. Time to start my annual migration back home and took my first steps on the CDT. I’m using my old Circuit pack which felt way heavier loaded down with extra water and probably too much gear, I always start over-prepared before remembering how much it sucks to carry a heavy pack. My shoulders and hips will be complaining tomorrow. We’re in what’s called the bootheel of New Mexico, a little rectangular section that dips down below the rest of the state and is mostly south of Mexico, and it has a reputation as being one of the worst sections on the CDT in terms of scenery and brutality. Hoping to make it through and back to Lordsburg in four days tops, but we will see what my out of shape butt will manage.

IMAGE.JPG

It was supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far and it was already heating up by nine. The CDT also adds the extra challenge of cross-country navigating, a lot of the trail hasn’t been developed yet, so there was often no footpath and the route is only marked by the odd signpost with the trail’s dark blue crest. This has its ups and downs, it lets us choose our own path across the landscape, which feels really weird after the PCT’s strict do-not-step-off-and-trample-vegetation-beside-trail rule. There’s not much to trample here and the only vegetation would probably stick through my shoe and stab into my soles anyway. Downside is I have to stay focused, can’t do my zone out and cruise mode like on defined trail. It also means that if you don’t choose the right path you wade through the bushes and every single plant out here is designed to tear up anything that gets too close. An hour in, I already had an impressive assortment of scratches across the legs. Probably should’ve worn pants. SORRY MOM I KNOW YOU TOLD ME THAT. 

The other new challenge presented by the desert cross-country were the washes, dried out riverbeds that flood during the rainy season. We followed along them for miles today, and the soft sand bottoms made every step slower and more tiring than a normal step in hard-packed dirt. Waded my way along with sand pouring into my shoes, which is sure to cause blisters, and wondering why I didn’t bother to work out pre-trail this year. I’m very noticeably out of shape since being off for eight months and it makes hiking far less fun. It doesn’t help that we kick things off with an 84 mile food carry and have to haul enough water to get to each cache, todays first water was 14 miles in. The only saving grace is that this whole section is flat as a pancake, if I had to climb right now I would probably die.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

I found Jake and Kevin setting up to take our first break under a bush that offered some shade, but we had barely sat down when we got swarmed by a few wasps that were bigger than my thumb. What the heck New Mexico what sort of welcoming party?? Packed up quick in case the wasps had friends on the way and carried on in search of another shady spot for lunch.

IMAGE.JPG

At mile 14, we got to the first of four water caches maintained by the CDT coalition so that we don’t die out here basically. There were gallons of water stored in a metal box along with some hand sanitizer, sunscreen and a trail log book to track hikers coming through. Filled up enough to get through the remainder of the day and dry camping tonight, plus a few more miles tomorrow to the next cache. Water is heavy (2.2 pounds per litre) and it sucks we have to carry so much at the start of trail, but out here I’m erring on the side of caution and carrying extra as an insurance policy. It was so hot and I had the beginnings of heat rash across both legs. I haven’t stepped outside in six months and my body seemed confused as to why we were suddenly doing all this physical activity in actual sunlight. Fortunately there was a tree close to the cache and we spread out underneath it, trying to get as much shade as possible under the wide spaced branches. I barely brushed up on some type of plant that stuck me with a dozen tiny brambles that had to be pulled out of my leg skin and then shaken off of my hands. “What” said Jake as he poured a small sand river out of his shoes, “have we done?”

IMAGE.JPG

After the cache, we chose to walk the dirt road for a few miles to avoid the scratchy plants covering the hillside until the next cache. I was really struggling after our break, feet unaccustomed to so much strain and back unhappy with so much weight. The beginnings of blisters were forming on the heels and balls of my feet and I was walking awkwardly trying to avoid putting pressure on the hot spots. Spotted a small, sad bush way off the road and beelined it there for a last short break with Jake and Kevin. A border patrol truck ambled by slowly to check us out, we’ve seen at least a half dozen of them parked alongside the dirt roads.

Limped myself along the last three miles, checking Guthook (GPS app) every tenth of a mile to see how far I was from camp. I finally saw Jake and Kevin sit down at a junction to a small wooden windmill and nearly cried when I stopped since I was so happy to not be walking anymore. Kevin made a small detour to the windmill to check out the cow-tank water there, but there was no way I was taking another step today. Our camp is kind of just a sand pit covered in cow tracks just off the road, hopefully we don’t get trampled in our sleep. 

Lay down as soon as I had my tent on the ground with sleeping bag on top. I can’t even imagine going through the effort of setting up a tent so we kick things off with a night of cowboy camping. After I was down, it took a good half hour before I was able to make myself move even a tiny bit, it just felt so good to stop hiking. Finally struggled up to make dinner, I brought my very favourite meal of dehydrated noodles and chicken to pep myself up after day one and it worked, although I never fully stood up again that night.

IMAGE.JPG

Jake and Kevin had no appetites as tends to happen both in heat and at the start of a thru hike, which I’ve fortunately never had a problem with. I was trying to get them to eat at least a little, especially Jake who was feeling nauseous. At camp he drank two litres of water straight, and then promptly threw them back up again, can’t drink water without electrolytes to go with it or you literally poison yourself. Day one tore me up pretty good and I’m beginning to think that the CDT’s catchphrase “Embrace the Brutality” is more than just a fun saying. Only five more months to go!

Day 2: Windmill (22.1) to Water Cache 2 (45.4)

April 27 // 23.3 miles

I woke up only once last night, Jake and Kevin were whispering about the beautiful view of the Milky Way. Scanned it real quick, very nice, but I had sleeping to do. 

IMG_0287.JPG

I felt much better in the morning than I did yesterday but I’m definitely going to have to suffer through a few blisters before my feet get back into their crusted hiker shell. It was a quick three miles along the road to water cache number two and I tested out my new breakfast of oatmeal mixed with dehydrated berries, granola, and coconut powder. It’s delicious (kind of tastes like cereal) and incredibly high in calories. I also made sure to apply extra sunscreen to the creases behind my knees, it was the one place I missed yesterday and they’re an angry, stinging red this morning.

IMAGE.JPG

After leaving the cache it was back to trail-less cross country walking. Early wake up was worth it for the cool morning air before the sun was up. The jackrabbits were out, their ears are as big as the rest of their body combined. They scamper by so quickly it’s sometimes just a blur in the corner of my eye and it’s impossible to get a picture of them before they’re off zigzagging away through the bushes. As it got hotter, there was no sign of animal life except for us dumb, arrogant humans, everything else knows better than to be out in the sun. 70 degrees by 8, 80 degrees by 9. I had the sunburned part of my legs well covered in layers of sunscreen but it still stung when the sun hit. Blisters were in the sharp pain stage of new skin being torn and I had to stop every few miles to pour out the sand that got into my shoes.

Flat terrain again today, but crossed through the deep sand washes again and again, constant little up and downs. Felt like a desert garden out here, full of plants with satisfying names beginning to bloom-ocatillo, prickly pear, cholla, hedgehog. For the most part they can be avoided but sometimes I had no choice but to brush through patches of bushes and earned new scratches each time, every single plant out here is armed with spikes or brambles.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

I’ve been overkilling the water carries but it’s better than the alternative, I’ve managed to stay well hydrated and haven’t had to ration water at all. Downside is I have to stop and pee every hour but not like there’s anyone out here. Even with my water consumption on high it was hot hot hot and there was even a small climb up and around a rocky hillside. From the top I saw one, lone tree about a mile off and prayed the trail went near it. Thankfully it did and I found Kevin and Jake lying in the blessed shade.

Made lunch of dehydrated beans mixed with Fritos and dried kale (buy my cookbook). We weighed the pros and cons of staying in the shade to wait out the afternoon heat or making a mad dash three miles to a cow pond that had both water and shade. The “mad dash” was actually more of a slow hobble along the faded footpath trying to avoid exerting any extra energy and keeping weight off the worst of the blisters.

IMAGE.JPG

I could see the metal windmill a half mile away and thankfully it was very worth the push forward in the heat. Our own little scummy-pond oasis surrounded by cow turd. It was perfect. A metal trough next to the pond had fresh(?) water spilling out, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected after being filtered and juiced up with some peach crystal light powder. A huge swarm of bees covered the pipe but they were busy with drinking and buzzed out of the way when I went to collect a couple bottles. Under a low tree behind the pond there was plenty of shade and it was the best stop so far on trail, poop-water and all. Jake and Kevin seemed a little delirious with the heat and sat with wet bandanas hanging over their faces. A cow ventured over a small rise but stopped dead when it noticed us, stopping in place. Kevin narrated for the cow in his best Shrek accent “WhAT aRe you DOOing in mah SWAMP?!” but the cow was not amused and just kept staring.

IMG_9467.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg

After a couple hours we got some company other than the staring cow, Penguin, who we met at the Lordsburg McDonald’s, and Warren, a hiker from the UK. Penguin has been the only other woman I’ve met so far hiking the trail (only person I’ve met so far other than Hemlock) and it was nice to chat with not-Kevin-or-Jake. Warren’s accent is extra British and says “me” instead of “my” and fun phrases like ‘ice-lolly’ that make talking to him a treat. He’s also part of the very small minority that’s chosen the CDT as their first of the triple-crown long distance thru hikes, the other two being the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest trail. This trail is so much more logistically and physically challenging, almost everyone begins their long distance hiking career on one of the easier of the three and so on the CDT, it seems we add a question to the usual “name, where you from” which is “have you done any other trails?”

Around five, it was starting to cool off and I was ready to get going through the last six miles to the third water cache. I don’t know if it was the long rest or what but I finally seemed to hit my stride and remember how to hike. Cruising through the hills finally feeling at least not-bad for the first time. Was motoring along so fast I almost stepped on a small rattlesnake and while I was dodging around it in a wide circle a second snake put off a loud alarm that had me scrambling back on instinct before even acknowledging the sound. The second little snake was aggressive and kept moving towards me even while I was backing away. Freaky.

At the end of the day I came down around the last snake infested hill towards the road with the water cache. I was ready to be done walking despite my late afternoon energy burst and heard someone yelling an off-key rendition of 4 Non-Blondes “what’s going on”, which only could mean one thing: there was our last-year trail buddy Eli with a rental car and coolers full of sodas, beers and boxes of pizza. He’s starting the trail himself in a few days and made a detour to provide our first trail magic of the year. What a fantastic end to the day.

IMAGE.JPG

Ate piece after piece of pizza, Eli had brought four extra-large boxes in anticipation of seeing tons of hikers, but no one else showed up tonight since Penguin and Warren weren’t planning to make it here and we’ve seen no one else. We caught up for a bit but I’m so sleepy it’s hard right now to write and talk to the others. We’re cowboy camped next to the road (border patrol has been scanning us every half hour) and tomorrow will have to do a bigger day, hopefully will retain some of the good hiking energy.

Day 3: Water Cache 2 (45.4) to Solar Mill (70.4)

April 28 // 25 miles

I could tell that today was not going to be my day when I woke up to what I thought was a flood of snot but was actually blood pouring out of my nose. I’ve joined the boys in falling victim to the New Mexico nosebleeds, Kevin and Jake have each had two already. Sacrificed my orange bandana and tried not to get any drops on my new sleeping bag. The sun was just starting to peek up over the horizon, and Kevin, woken by my rustling, decided it was time to get going. Grabbed a couple of breakfast pizza slices and said goodbye to Eli, fighting the urge to ask for an air conditioned ride back to town and book the first flight home.

Worst morning start so far, the blisters on the balls of my feet made every step painful. I know this is a rite of passage for thru hiking and that they’ll callous up soon but man there is nothing more miserable than walking on blisters and knowing it’s only going to get worse the more miles you do. 

over, under or through the middle?

over, under or through the middle?

Around eleven, I was overheated and grumpy and still miles from our first stop of the day at water cache #3. My nose decided that it was a great time to start gushing blood again (out of both nostrils-didn’t know that could happen) and it was not my best moment hobbling down the trail with my bandana pressed to my face. A few barbed wire fences had to be rolled under and it was a definite “what the actual heck am I doing out here” moment. The blood didn’t stop until I arrived at the metal water cache box and my bandana looked like it had been used to clean up a murder scene. New Mexico, why?

IMG_9503.JPG

I refilled my bottles with the hot water stored in the cache box, I don’t think this section would be possible without the four caches strategically placed by the CDT coalition. I’d been hoping for a little shade but the metal box was in the middle of nowhere and scalding to touch in the mid day sun. I found Jake and Kevin crammed into the tiniest square of shade under a roadside info sign along a deserted highway. I climbed up to the road to see if there was any sign of better shade ahead but of course there was nothing in sight. I had kind of thought Dion was exaggerating the seven trees in 100 miles thing but it appears to be the case. The guys repositioned so I could sardine into the tiny patch of shade, which grew smaller as the sun shifted across the sky. Made a sad tuna wrap lunch but didn’t have much of an appetite in the heat.

IMAGE.JPG
FullSizeRender.jpg
Jake suffers from yet another New Mexico nosebleed

Jake suffers from yet another New Mexico nosebleed

The next water was twelve miles away and we were losing our shade patch by the minute, so despite it being high noon, we trudged on across the desert with a plan to stop at the next shaded place as soon as possible. The wind was strong which cooled things off a little bit but the flat ground was still shimmering in the heat. Cross country travel again, and I noticed the smell of cow getting stronger and stronger. Nearly walked right into a half-rotted cow corpse, just hide stretched across bone, and the smell hit full on, had to cover up my nose and mouth and run around it. It’s already pretty decomposed, I guess the cows don’t always fare as well out here as I thought they did. Past the dead cow there was a herd of living ones, they made loud cow noises (definitely not mooing...it sounded like a garbage disposal when a spoon gets stuck in it) as I approached cautiously.

IMAGE.JPG
IMG_9464.JPG

Past the cow pen was...nothing. No plants grew, not even the stick shrubs or stubby grass that have been in even the most barren sections of desert so far. Just flat, baked dirt for miles across the valley where the mountains rose up in the distance. They only movement was from tall funnels of dust getting whipped across the ground by wind. After a mile or so of this nothing, I could turn in every direction and not see a single shred of plant anywhere. No wonder they test missiles out here, there is absolutely nothing to kill. New Mexico, why?

IMAGE.JPG
looking forward

looking forward

looking back

looking back

Plodded on through the great nothing until the cacti and grass slowly started reappearing. I could see the shade of one, lonely Juniper tree ahead and knew the boys would be there. Sure enough, there they were and I stopped for a shade-lunch break hours later than I had planned.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

After the tree it was more cross country, often through large patches of knee-high, dry grass. This was disconcerting since 1. Any sort of venomous creature could be lurking out of sight and 2. The rustle of the grass in the wind sounded just like a rattlesnake. I kept stopping in fear to make sure it was grass noise and not snake noise and overall didn’t make speedy progress.

IMAGE.JPG
IMAGE.JPG

Feeling like butt after 23 miles, and had fallen into the bad habit of checking Guthook literally every minute to see the miles tick down by a tenth. Kevin sent a text that the water where we had planned to stop was really bad and that he and Jake were going to push on another mile to a solar mill that pumped fresh water from the ground. A mile is nothing, barely twenty minutes, but in my blistered and aching state it seemed almost unbearable on top of the mile I already had to get done. I checked the tractor tires and trough full of water where we had planned to camp and sure enough, full of algae and smelled off. Hobbled sadly past where I thought my GPS countdown ended and restarted it back at 1.2 miles....1.1 miles...still 1.1 miles....1 mile.

IMAGE.JPG

Kevin knew I was not having a great day with my hamburger feet and was waiting at the mill for a hug and some filtered good water for me to drink. Despite being on BLM land, the rancher who owned the mill seemed very protective and had circled the water access in layers of barbed wire. We passed our bottles through to Jake, who had managed to squirm around to the tank. He filled them one at a time and passed them back until we had plenty for camp and tomorrow morning’s miles.

Camp was in a wash nearby, with soft white sand and even a tree to really shake things up. Cowboy camped where we could fit between the large boulders studding the wash. I’m wiped out after 25 miles, my body isn’t ready for that kind of mileage yet, but we’ve set ourselves up for a shorter hike into town tomorrow, where the McDonald’s and a shower are waiting.

IMG_9505.JPG

Day 4: Solar Mill (70.4) to Lordsburg (85.1)

April 29 // 14.7 miles

Not a great sleep, I was stuffed up all night from yesterday nosebleeds but too scared to blow it out in case I incurred a brand new one. Kevin was similarly plugged and between both of our sniffling and rustling about I was up every hour or so. But it doesn’t really matter because it is my very first TOWN DAY, walking into Lordsburg with only 15 miles to cover.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Forced myself to have breakfast before starting, I’m not falling into my usual trap of not eating on town days, all it does is turn me into a mega bitch and make the miles feel slower. Beautiful sunrise when we woke up, and my blisters felt better after a night of being dried out in the desert air. Packed up and hit the trail feeling better than I have in days. Townie’s back and going to town heckyeah.

IMAGE.JPG
IMG_9507.JPG

Straight out of camp we hiked up to pass through a little notch in the hills and then it was a straight shot towards Pyramid mountain, which I’ve been looking at for two days now across the desert floor. Almost ten miles were along a dirt road meandering around the mountain past herds of black cows with little calves. When I got close the calves were ushered into the middle of the cow pack while the moms watched me protectively. All in all a very nice morning and I listened to my western soundtrack music pretending I was a cowboy that had maybe just lost my horse or something. Imagination makes the miles go by much faster.

IMG_9508.JPG
Ed’s cows

Ed’s cows

I had good cell service and called mom and dad to let them know I was alive etc. Mom was between meetings in Texas, just one state over and I felt sad knowing she was so close yet so far. Dad had more time for chatting and I got distracted and wandered past the turnoff I was supposed to take. I noticed my mistake pretty early and started backtracking, when a truck came driving up the dirt road towing a mule in a trailer. It was Ed, the rancher that we had met in Lordsburg before starting the trail and who’s land I was currently trespassing on. It’s a small world out here. He stopped beside me. “Do you know you’re not on the trail?” He asked. We chatted for a bit, he was coming up to check on the calves before heading back to town for his usual treat of an ice cream cone at McDonald’s. He told me that many hikers had made the same mistake I had in continuing past the turnoff and one even got lost for two days in the hills behind. He’s one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, I’d been worried that the truck driver would be a pissed rancher since I was technically trespassing on private land. Before he drove off he gave me an orange from a bag he carries for when he runs into hikers and said to say hi to my two buddies “the real forward-talking one and the young man with all the hair”. Picked back up with dad who had patiently been waiting over the phone wondering if his kid was about to get abducted by a desert nut and backtracked myself to the wire gate I missed earlier on the CDT.

IMAGE.JPG

The trail nearing town got less and less scenic, crossing dozens of dirt Jeep tracks, the ground was covered with shattered glass and bullet holes marked many of the metal CDT signposts. One last rattlesnake gave a half hearted warning as it meandered slowly under a bush, bringing the total to six this section...more than all of last summer combined. After not stopping all morning, my feet were really complaining in addition to the blisters, 15 miles of nonstop flat pounding is not something they’re yet accustomed to and it results in an ache that radiates all the way up my legs. But it was less than an hour of hiking left until my first CDT town stop and I could even see the Golden Arches hovering above the buildings of Lordsburg, promising a burger and soda if I could just push on through.

The footpath emptied out onto a highway leading towards town and I was nearly running with impatience for food and to just finally stop walking. Every driver that passed waved to me and two pulled over to ask if I needed a lift the last mile through town. Tempting, but I had come this far, figured I may as well finish things properly. At the McDonald’s, Kevin and Jake had a table covered in the remnants of what looked like a massive meal, and a wide bubble of space since hikers smell so much worse when you take us out of the wild and put us back into a closed, air conditioned building. Kevin was face down on the table top and Jake sunburned, with the exhausted hundred-yard stare. But the bootheel of New Mexico is behind us! I heard a local explaining to someone passing through town what we were doing. “They’re definitely their own kind of crazy” she said, which made me smile. Checked my reflection in the bathroom for the first time in four days, there was no mirror but I used the shiny Dyson hand drier. The result was a distorted picture of a dirty, red-faced girl with greasy hair sticking out every which way. I missed her.

Washed up as best I could in the sink, ordered a burger and fries and demolished them in minutes. As I was finishing, in walked the friendly rancher Ed again, back from his morning of checking on the cows. He told us about the calves that had been born this year, and the problems other ranchers had with mountain lions dragging off the newborns. While he was chatting with Jake, I got to talking with another guy that overheard our conversation and was curious about the CDT. He was on his own adventure, biking from Florida to San Diego. A different brand of crazy but crazy all the same.

IMAGE.JPG

After eating and checking up on the real world through my phone, walked a few blocks to the Econolodge where I’d reserved a room in advance, a good thing since it’s been solidly booked with hikers flowing in and out of town. Our room wasn’t ready so I sat out front with Kevin who got such a monumental nosebleed the drips solidified into a flow and covered his entire face in blood, prompting a trucker taking a rest break to come over and ask if he was alright. This desert air is rough on our poor northern nasal canals. While Kevin was busy trying to stem some of the flow, I talked to the trucker who was from Texas, driving a couple of cars across the country for a trans-am race in California. Meeting just the most interesting people in this tiny, nothing town.

IMAGE.JPG

Finally our room was ready and we hauled up to get cleaned off. Got the hiker rate (translation: don’t give them the good white towels) and it was dirt cheap but the room had every thing we needed. Shower and beds. Got back into the usual routine of town chores: plug in the electronics, get the laundry going, quick trip to the store for something green to eat.

When it was my turn, sat down on the floor of the shower washing out the blisters and soles of my feet until the water stopped running black. I figured I should rinse my blood bandana instead of sending it to the laundry in case the hotel staff thought I killed someone, and the amount of red that came out in the water told me I had made the right call.

After being clean I had no intention of getting back out of bed for the evening and Kevin and Jake were nice enough to bring me a box of nuggets from their second McDonald’s trip. Heading back out tomorrow, good to be back out here embracing the suck.