CDT: The Finish!

10/26: 2.1 mi (2.1 – 0.0)

Our last sunrise of the CDT. Still best part of the day

As our son wouldn’t arrive till after 9 am, there was no reason to NOT sleep in. Only problem was that it’s hard to do when you are excited about the finish. With only 2.1 miles to go, we needed to time our finish so that our son and his fiancé could meet us at the southern terminus. So, we actually walked NOBO on the trail for a couple 10ths of a mile to give ourselves a stealthy view of any vehicles headed to the monument. While there, we laid in the dirt and reminisced.

Once our son passed, we set off like horses to the barn.

With exactly 2 more miles to go, in unison, we yelled…”2 MORE MILES!”

We, of course, thought our last miles would be fairly straight forward and easy. Ha! Why would we ever think that would be the case with the CDT?

The CDT actually weaved through some of the densest brush and pokey plants we had been through thus far.

“I think it’s this way”

With the CDT signs still oriented for NOBO thru-hikers, finding the signs became ever more difficult. It took us an hour to go ONE MILE!

Last SOBO CDT sign EVER!

Eventually there was one mile to go, and then, thankfully, every other CDT sign became oriented for us SOBOs. By then, the metal palapa next to the border fence and the southern terminus monument were in view. We whooped and howled like banshees.

As we walked under the metal palapa, we were greeted and congratulated by a unique young man who had been camped there for several days and was “waiting” for a “ship” to land. What are the chances that an actual “crazy” person would meet us at the monument at Crazy Cook Corner, in addition to our son and his fiancé?

Broad smiles filled our faces as Paul and I finished together and touched the monument. Jan finished right behind us.

In no time we dropped our packs and chugged congratulatory beverages.

A mix of emotions raced through our beings. It was surreal at best. We were done. We, had completed the second of the triad of the triple crown of hiking. A trail we never thought we would ever attempt, let alone complete. This brutal trail had come to a finish. We had survived! For Jan, this was an especially emotional moment. He had completed the CDT, his first thru-hike ever, and honored his three fallen brothers in arms.

With all said and done, we of course were also tired, excited and ravenously hungry! We practically inhaled the Subway sandwiches that our son had brought. After each of us spent some personal time at/with the monument, and after an emotional group hug, we clamored into our son’s truck. It was time to head for home.

Jan had arranged for a flight out of Phoenix, Az for the following day. Thus, on our way back to So Cal, we would drop Jan at a hotel near the airport, but not without a stop at Sonic for a final calorie dense shake. By the time we arrived at Jan’s hotel, we had regretted the shake… once again. We couldn’t help but laugh. Our parting, however, was such sweet sorrow.

A journey of a lifetime, shared because of a singular post on Facebook whilst looking for a “hitch” on a permit for Glacier National Park. An enduring friendship/kinship was the post’s result. What are the chances?

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CDT: Lordsburg to the border…almost

10/22:  23.5 mi (85.9. – 62.4)

With a giant cup of coffee from Circle K we made our way out of Lordsburg. Today would be the hundred and third day we’ve been on trail since leaving the Canadian Border, at Chief Mountain. Our route takes through a neighborhood where everybody seemed to have a guard dog.

While it’s not really that early in the morning, in some way I kind of feel bad for the dogs setting off the alarm for those who are not “morning people”. The air was crisp but comfortable. The sun was rising on our left shoulder, while the moon, still mostly full,  hovered over the top of our right shoulder.

As we passed the last home, and later a now defunct cement factory that made railroad ties, (evidenced by the abandoned stacks and piles), the pavement ended.

In truth this was our last paved road walk, to which Jan and I exclaimed, “Best road walk Ever!” Packed with 4 days full food and a liter of water, we had 6 miles to the first water cache. And so began our last 84 miles of the CDT.

We hit the first cache. It felt monumental. Four more to go, we said, and continued on, carin to carin. For this final section, our carins were not piles of rocks, or even the brown fiberglass bender board with a sticker. These were 12×12 white fiberglass placards with giant CDT stickers…on one side, bolted to the top of a 6ft tall metal bar. These were some serious signs. Only problem, they were oriented for the NOBOs. A blue and white sticker on a 6ft stick rising against a background of green and brown shrubbery stands out quite well.

A white square on a stick…with the same background, not so much. We were not surprised by that, considering similar signage ushered you into Lordsburg. They at least, had the courtesy of flipping every other sign to face SOBOs.

We took our lunch in the shade of a verde tree. We had easily crushed 10 miles and were only trying to do about 20 miles a day. (Namely, because we weren’t being picked up till the 26th.) Even though it wasn’t that hot, it was a nice little break in the shade. We also enjoyed a nice little breeze, and thusly makes walking under the bright sun, not so tough.

We passed a water tank that was 3/4 of the way full. To fetch water required climbing a rickety ladder lashed to the tank. Once there, you used a bucket on a line in which to retrieve fresh water.  Jan declared the water pretty clear, but even so, one should filter…to be safe. We however, were set with water, and knew of another tank along the way.

The trail continued along a dry and dusty dirt road. In the distance, little mountain peaks pop up, accentuating how desolate and flat the terrain we are currently walking is.

Flowering cactus added a bit of color along the way. Before we started the state of New Mexico, this is how we pictured 80% of it being. Oh, how wrong we were. We are so glad we were wrong about what New Mexico was going to be like.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent playing the “find the carin” game. It helped with the monotony of the landscape, and became a team effort.

We played this game until we reached the 100km mark for Jan. This meant he had 100km left to the border, while we had 62.5miles to go. Crazy to think how close we are to completing this monstrous endeavor.

Just after we hit the 100km mark, we started to look for the “perfect” camp spot. It didn’t take long to find a sandy shoal. A refuge from all things pokey.

As we dined, we were treated to a panorama of colorful brilliance as the sun set beyond the horizon. No rain fly for us, as the chance of rain was zilch.

After the sun set, it was the moon’s turn to wow us. Like a giant pumpkin in the sky, the moon eased its way above the distant mountains. It would track from the foot of our tent over and behind us for the remainder of the evening, and into morning.

10/23: 19.7 mi (62.4 – 42.7)

We walked into the sunrise this morning which added a significant degree of difficulty locating the current signs. The brilliance of the sun obscured any ability to see the signs.

We had to rely on faint tread and smashed grass footprints, and watch for the blue ball on the redline of our Guthook (or rather Far out) app, to make our way. The air was surprisingly crisp. I should have worn my gloves but the tread was easy. So, walking with my hands in my puffy’s pocket was not a tripping hazard.

Once again the boys jumped out way ahead, eager to put down those miles that we don’t really need to make, considering we’re so close and we have four days to get to the border.

This left me way behind, but within a silhouetted eyesight of them. It’s as close to doing this trail by myself as I can get…not that I would want to do this trail solo.

Hide the carin from the SOBOs was the game of the day. The landscape was rugged and dry. Pokey plants and rocks were abundant.

We took a quick morning break at the 2nd water cache, and as luck would have it, another hiker appeared as we were packing up to leave. Poor Jan, this now left him with only three more days for him to have a day without seeing any other hikers (we don’t count).

As the sun rose higher in the sky, a more defined foot trail started to emerge. This led to more hiking and less dodging of pokey plants. The signs were still faced the wrong way for SOBOs, but we’d gotten the hang of searching for plain white squares…on sticks.

Somehow our once “flat” terrain became not so flat. The trail wove up and over saddles and alongside a hillside. We joked as we crested each saddle, “last New Mexico climb”. It was a near constant joke.

Lunch found us just below a saddle, wedged under juniper “trees” for shade.

We came across a scantily filled water tank. Green moss and gooey cow snot “decorated” the tire tank. While we didn’t really need water, we collected and filtered some from a cistern nearby whose lid was loosely bolted closed.

Hwy 9

Our final water cache of the day, put us at the Hwy 9 cache. It was 5pm, and we had another hour of daylight to walk.

We “cameled” up there and continued another couple miles.

When we reached the portion of the trail that follows a sandy wash, we set up camp. Had there been any inkling, or forecast of rain, for this or the “upstream” area, we wouldn’t have camped there. Our sunset was amazing. Two more nights!

10/24: 20.5 mi (42.7 – 22.5)

As we sat inside our tent, finishing our coffee, we could see the piercing glow of headlights approaching. It could only mean one thing. SOBOs on the march! The first pair dropped down into the wash and made the left down the sandy lane, quickly disappearing out of sight. Another one, not more than 5 minutes later, appeared and stepped into the wash. “You’re too late for coffee, should have been here earlier”, Paul yelled out to the bearded hiker (who happened to be Darwin, of Darwin on the Trail). The hiker somewhat bewildered, chuckled at the voice that came from the darkness, and continued on. Now almost fully packed up, yet another SOBO hikers dropped into the wash and made their way down the soft and sandy trail. We wouldn’t see any trace of these four until the next day.

Today was unexpectedly filled with more climbs with varied terrain. This trail is unrelenting. It rarely gives you a moments rest. There’s always something that requires your attentiveness.

The views for the day, however, were remarkable. And yet, the trail with its constantly changing tread and vicious pokey plants, reminded you that the CDT isn’t finished with you yet.

Besides the red sand of Mars, and the gauntlet of pokey plants between the line of CDT signs, we found a curiosity. A mule deer trotted away from us, parallel the trail some 50yds away. How does a mammal such as that survive out here without water? We hadn’t seen a cow all day, and that’s saying something.

Looks inviting

A giant rust red water tank, complete with a “swimming hole”, provided our answer…that is how it survives.

If the “swimming hole” had not been rimmed with cow shit and the color of Mountain Dew, we may have been tempted to go for a swim.

By 3:30 we reached the water cache at Hwy 81. Crazy to think that we are making such miles in the heat of the day. At the cache, we rested and cameled up for another 3 miles or so. For some reason or another, maybe because the day was not “challenging” enough, it was decided that a bushwhack was in order.

In an attempt to cut off 3/10ths of a mile, and ironically, to “avoid” the prescribed bushwhack between the CDT trail marker signs, we (Jan and Paul) blazed our own “trail”. Personally, I still think Jan was hoping to come across a rattlesnake.

When we reached a dirt road, we decided to take the “advice” in the comments section of Guthook (FarOut) and continue on the dirt road. The road, of course, had challenging tread, at times, but no “where’s the carin” hunt.

Just past a windmill and road junction, we made camp. A tarantula followed Jan to his tent site.

10/25: 20.4 mi (22.5 – 2.1)

From our campsite, we continued on the tattered road, for 8 miles, till we reached our 5th and final water cache.

As we were not to particularly in a hurry, and it was only 9:30, we watered up and lounged for a bit. Ray from the EconoLodge stopped by to check the cache on his way to pick up some hikers. We assumed it was the ones who had passed our camp early in the morning the day before. He confirmed that we could walk the road all the way to the monument, and that along said dirt road was a solar windmill with water.

Other side of those mountains 4 miles away is the “redline”

While I would have preferred to walk the rest of the “redline” to the monument, the thought of “needlessly” climbing a mountain to get on the other side to only walk parallel to the road we were on, seemed silly. Thus, dirt road walk it was. Just prior to reaching the solar windmill, Ray passed us again with his “cargo”. We knew, and had met three of the four passengers (Darwin, Bopit and Punisher). They looked worked and relieved to be done. Bebop and Punisher had earlier told us that they had planned on hiking an entire calendar year, so I asked them if they were headed to the Arizona Trail (AZT), like they had planned. “Hell No!”, was their reply. “We’re headed home. We’ve had enough. This trail was brutal”. Not gonna lie, but for them to declare this trail brutal, and for us to have completed said trail as well, made us feel pretty good…for old farts.

By the time we arrived at the solar wind mill (and tank), the day was heating up (100 ). Here, we ate our lunch, napped and waited out the heat of the day for nearly 3hours.

Umbrellas were necessary

The remaining walk of 14 miles, to CDT mile 2.1 was mindless and painful. Painful, because it was still very hot and my feet and shins had begun to complain…loudly. This is where mind over matter, and years of pushing one’s self through brutal workouts “cash-in” their value. I’ve been in this place before, on thru-hikes and in workouts. This was not something new, just annoying.

We camped at CDT mile 2.1, by a decaying adobe structure and decrepit wind mill. Tomorrow we walk the “redline” to the finish.

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CDT: Silver City to Lordsburg

10/20: 26 mi (Hwy 90 road walk to Lordsburg)

It was hard summoning the strength to leave Silver City and the comfort of the Triple Crown Hostel, but leave we must. Home was yearning, and once again, we, like many other SOBOs opted for the 41-mile road walk to Lordsburg. Our thought, also, was that it was straight forward, and if we carried enough water, we could make it to where the trail crosses the highway for water and to camp. What we ended up doing was calling to have “Mama Bear” from the EconoLodge to see if Ray (her husband) could pick us up at where the CDT and Hwy 90 cross. What we didn’t realize, or ask, was the price for this pickup and drop-off the next morning. Turns out that it was way more expensive than we ever imagined. In hindsight, we should have watered up at mile 15 into the road walk at the Ridge Park RV park and walked to within at least 5 miles of the next reliable water source on the CDT (Engineer’s Windmill / mile 2876.9), as reports had it that the Juniper Springs Tank was empty. This would have made it a 30-34 mile day (but only a 15 mile water carry from the RV park). Totally doable under the days’ conditions.

For a highway walk, it was relatively easy and devoid of major traffic. In fact, there was very little traffic at all. This made for an “enjoyable” zombie walk accented by audio heroin, in the form of music and pod casts. The shoulder was wide and as usual was littered with Bud Light cans. It was however, not flat! Who’d of thunk that this section would continue to be rolling hills with lengthy climbs?! New Mexico you are sneaky and definitely unpredictable. Even so, you have retained the title of our favorite state. We even got some trail magic from “Solo” who is a trail angel searching for CDT hikers to provide trail magic. She normally sets up near Burro Mountain, but had heard that most (if not all) of the SOBO CDT’ers were skipping the “redline” and walking Hwy 90. She showered us with fresh fruit, sodas and snacks. We were so grateful for this unexpected magic.

Eventually Ray picked us up and transported us to the EconoLodge. We had a bit of a miscommunication about the price of the ride, and his availability of taking us back to our pick-up point tomorrow. This has led to a change of plans.

10/21: 19 mi slack pack

We never ended up getting a ride back up to mile 2868.8, where the CDT and Hwy 90 cross, but we did make up the 19 miles. In fact, we slack packed those miles for the day and walked from the EconoLodge and onto the CDT for a roundtrip of 19 miles.

We did so in NOBO fashion, walking out of Lordsburg as if we had started from the Southern Terminus. But first we had to find where the CDT left Hwy 90 and entered the desert landscape.

This required a careful slither under a barbwire fence. No wonder people just walk the highway!

With no footsteps to follow, and trail marker stuffed into a “tree”, we oriented ourselves via the redline on our Guthook (FarOut) app and took a compass heading. Let the games begin!

Now find the next one!

This “outing” would prove to be highly beneficial, in that it would give us significant practice in route finding via CDT “signage”. The signs, which are few and far between tend to get lost in the muted terrain. Finding a 1ftx1ft sign on a 6ft narrow pole in this desert landscape was a challenge. Our binos once again proved to be invaluable. This also gave Jan another chance to find a rattlesnake.

We walked out 10 miles on the CDT redline, and then cut over to hwy 90 for our return to Lordsburg. It was getting hot and our water supply was getting low.

I love the entrance and the circular driveway

Upon our return to the bustling town of Lordsburg, we completed our resupply for the remaining leg of this amazing journey. There is not much to choose from in Lordsburg, but it is sufficient for our needs.

A liquor store for cold beers. Several grocery style stores to choose from. A McDonalds for chocolate shakes. Pizza. Mexican food. And, Kranberry’s Family Restaurant, across the street from the EconoLodge serves pretty good food for a reasonable price.

Lordsburg was founded in 1880 as a railway town, like most new towns of the west in that era. It severed the Southern Pacific Railroad route. The railroad is still an integral part of this town. Of note, this town houses and boast of the first airport in New Mexico (1938), and was a stop on Charles Lindbergh’s transcontinental Spirit of Saint Louis air tour in 1927. During WWII, Lordsburg was the site of an Army operated Japanese Internment camp (housing over 1500 Japanese) and a POW camp for captured German and Italian soldiers.

With a withering population of under 2,000 people, Lordsburg was once the largest gas-food-lodging stops between Arizona and Texas. It also was one of the only cities that welcomed (did not discriminate against) people of color at their motels, during the mid-20th century. Sadly, its once thriving 21 motels, 20 cafe and 31 service stations has withered to 12 motels, 8 “cafes”, and 4 fuel/service stations. Faster and more fuel-efficient vehicles led to this current economic decline.

Nearby is the Gold-mining ghost town of Shakespeare. It listed as a National Historic Site. It is privately owned, but operates tours. With regret, we did not have the opportunity to check this place out. We had places to go, and a defined window of time.

Case in point, our son would pick us up in 5 days at the Southern Terminus monument located at *”Crazy Cook Corner”.

*Crazy Cook Corner is so named for an incident that occurred near what is now the Southern Terminus of the Continental Divide Trail. It is here that a chuck wagon cook, lost his shit and killed a cowboy by the name of Frank Evan, with an axe on May 1, 1907.

Having our son pick us up at the monument would literally save us $120/each, as this is/was the going rate for a ride to/from the monument. The price also includes water supplied at the caches. A year and a half prior, we had paid for this service through the CDTC, but when COVID happened, “donated” the money to the CDTC rather than have them process a refund. Thus, we feel comfortable using the water supplied in the caches, if needed.

And so begins our last leg on this fantastic and brutiful adventure.

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CDT: Silver City – Two Zeros

10/18: 13 mi

The morning of the 18th, I could barely walk, so I sat out the 13-mile remaining road walk to heal. Paul, Jan and Turbo Jesus (who was at the hostel, along with Chewy) completed that walk in less than 3 hours. According to Paul, they all practically ran it. Silly boys. During that time, I did find a coffee place (Javalina Coffee House), that served the best “dirty chai” I have ever had.

Javalina Coffee House

It was literally a 2-minute walk from the Hostel.

Silver City, especially the Historic Downtown area is a wonderfully walkable place.

Installations of art in the form of painted murals and tile mosaics can be found mounted, intertwined and/or integrated into/onto the exterior walls of buildings, fences and homes. It felt like a treasure hunt of sorts, as I made my way to the sporting goods store. Upon arrival at the Morning Star Sports store, I traded in my worn out Darn Tough socks. As a practice, they will graciously be your “advocate” with regard to Darn Tough’s “Lifetime Warranty”, and accept and replace your “un-hikeable” Darn Tough socks with new ones, from their store. You don’t really realize how bad your socks were until you put on a new pair. Other than that, Epsom salt soak, arnica oil, Advil and chocolate milk was the day’s protocol for healing. Beer and Burger (and salad) helped also. I also was able to catch up (a bit) on this blog, especially loading pictures. I mostly stayed off my feet…and ate. I can’t believe how hungry I still am. We (I) did hobble over to the Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery for dinner and beverages. After that, the pain in my foot/shin became even more muted.

10/19: “Chores miles”

The 19th was a full zero, that of course included chores. Laundry and resupply shopping was in order, as well as a much-needed haircut for Paul. (My hair, although mostly under a hat like Paul’s could wait till I got home.) One of the many benefits of staying at the Triple Crown Hostel is that Brandon (for a paltry fee of $5) will do your laundry for you. You throw your dirties in a laundry basket, which he provides, and it miraculously returns clean and odor free!

The vibe of this hostel is so inviting and “chill”, that it’s easy to see how and why people return to stay when they are in the area, and/or have a hard time leaving. For example, one of the thru-hikers who had completed the CDT had been at the hostel for well over a week and was trying to figure out what to do next. Other past thru-hikers return to visit. In fact, there is a gathering this evening in the courtyard. Music, pizza and beverages to follow. It is definitely a vortex…but a good one.

We, however, must leave first thing tomorrow morning, and begin our road walk to Lordsburg…after a stop at the Javalina Coffee House, of course! Our completion date has been set. Our son will meet us at the Southern Terminus the morning of October 26th. Seven more days! Incredible! It feels like a lifetime ago we started this trail.

8 days into the CDT. Now 8 days left!
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CDT: Doc’s to Silver City

10/17: 28 mi (37.9 Gila Alt – Silver City)

Because of the continuing chill (often below 30°F temps), we elected to not rejoin the Gila Alternate, but to road walk the 41 miles to Silver City, via Hwy 15. For SOBO CDT’ers this is relatively common.

By now, we are itching for home, and with less than 200 miles to finish, more “direct” routes to the border, and the finish of this brutiful trail, tend to be employed. We were no exception. It would, for the most part, be a “dry” walk, but we were assured to be supplied with water later in the day by the exiting Boy Scouts.

This road walk would not be without its challenges, as it would require two 2,000-foot climbs for the first part of the morning. The CDT, no matter what, requires its “pound of flesh”.

So, with the morning light beginning to grow, and dressed in compression socks (to hopefully mitigate potential shin/foot pain) and several layers (for warmth), we set off. As it was an early Sunday morning, the road was without traffic. This allowed us to walk briskly and casually across the two lanes without worry for several hours.

One thing that we have found rather interesting is the amount of litter on the side of the road, during our New Mexico road walks. Even more interesting, is that the litter is almost exclusively that of Bud Light beer cans and bottles. Paper and wrappers are relatively non-existent; however, beer cans/bottles of the Bud Light variety are abundant. This has led us to believe that maybe in addition to the warning labels imploring one to “drink responsibly”, there must be an exhortation to propel ones empty Bud Light container onto the side of New Mexican roadways. We stopped to examine one of the cans and found no such instruction.

By the time the Boy Scout parents caught up to us, we had completed well over 15 miles, and it wasn’t even noon. Traffic was still non-existent, and the weather was cooperating with us and staying fairly cool. We visited with them once again, as we consumed the burritos and other remaining food they had. We filled our water bottles and chugged down a Gatorade (or two). Soon it was time for us all to get going. We bid them farewell and got back to the business of walking. Traffic was beginning to pick up, but it wasn’t a worry.

Rather than walk the entire 41 miles with full packs, we had read that Brendon, the hostel owner/operator of the Triple Crown Hostel will give rides to hikers from the hostel in order to “slack pack” the last 20 miles of this road walk. By the time were within a mile or so of the Cherry Creek Campground, my foot/shins were screaming. Cherry Creek became the destination, but the thought of maybe slack packing the remaining miles was still a thought. So, we put out our thumbs, on the off chance that we could get a ride all the way into Silver City. If successful, we’d spend the night inside, after having consumed beer and fresh food. And, if Brendon was willing, get a ride and slack pack the remaining miles the following morning.

Success! A gal, who was returning from hiking a portion of the Gila with friends, picked us up. She gave us a ride into Silver City and dropped us at The Triple Crown Hostel. The magic of this trail seems to be limitless and perfectly timed!

When we arrived at the Triple Crown Hostel we settled in immediately. Brendon had two rooms available, and we (us/Jan) booked ourselves for three nights. We were lucky that he had availability. Timing is everything. We would have booked our stay earlier, but we weren’t sure when we’d arrive, or how long we wanted to stay. Three nights felt right, and necessary. Jan took the “studio” room, while we took the single room with a queen bed.

The Triple Crown Hostel is a wonderful facility. A separate kitchen served our “side” of the compound, that included two separate rooms, and the “studio”. Another kitchen area served another room, and bunk area, as well as a common area in which to lounge and watch TV. There is a massive back patio area, wherein tents can be erected, if necessary to accommodate “crowds”, and/or to just enjoy and gather outside without having to sit in the dirt. The Hostel is located centrally to the Historic downtown area of Silver City. It is within easy walking (or bike riding) distance to any and everything a hiker would need. Groceries. Brewery. Outfitters. This place has the potential to become a vortex. We will have to be careful.

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CDT: Best Zero Ever!

10/15: 2mi

Without a doubt, our stay at Doc Campbell’s Post has been our best Zero of the trail (and 5th). Even though we slept on the floor, on our air mats and in our sleeping bags, it was one of the best night’s sleeps (Save our stay at Clifford’s in Breckenridge). We were warm, had immediate access to a rest room and no noise whatsoever.

As we were the only three hikers at Doc’s, we virtually had the run of the place. Good WiFi and a picnic table to ourselves, we looked at “news”, updated blog/video posts, drank coffee and ate till it was time to go back into the store for more food. It was the most relaxed we have been able to be in a long time. Nowhere to go or be for the day, and no pressure. No chores!

Our only goal was to make sure we had a sufficient resupply to make it to Silver City, and a long soak in the Gila Hot Springs…a mile away.

Homemade ice cream was our main course of “nourishment” for the day. I think Jan ate 4 or 5 pints. Doc Campbell’s makes a killing on their ice cream! Especially on a weekend.

After a leisurely “breakfast” and “lunch”, business/visitation at Doc’s got really busy. Not wanting to bogart the picnic table, for those who also wanted to enjoy homemade ice cream in the sun, it was time for a soak.

With camp towels in hand, we wandered down to the Gila Hot Springs. It was an easy/relaxing mile that led you back toward the river and the Gila Hot Springs Campground, where they have three separate pools in which to soak, for a fee. CDT hikers get a great discount ($7) for two hours of complete and marvelous “pruning”. The water was clean, and the pools were refreshingly hot and therapeutic. The only way it could have been better, if there was beer…or maybe even ice cream.

Sufficiently relaxed and pruned, we walked back to Doc’s. Once there, we noticed that it had become “over-run” by Boy Scouts. These Scouts (El Paso Troop #4) had just returned from a 50-mile hike of the Gila River. They were using the shower room to shower and clean-up for their return “party”/ new badge ceremony. One of the troop parents/leaders discovered that we were CDT thru-hikers and asked us to talk with the boys. We gladly obliged them.

They had many questions, but the best was from one boy. He asked Paul, “How do I get calves like that?”, referring to Paul’s “Popeye-esc” calves. “Walk a lot”, was Paul’s reply. When the Scout Master discovered we were CDT hikers, he asked us if we were interested in further talking with the boys and their families, and witnessing their badge ceremony. It also would include a steak dinner. Steak dinner?! How could we refuse?! He particularly wanted us to talk to the boys about resiliency and how important it was to get/stay outside and explore. Even if there was no dinner involved, we still would have accepted the offer. These young men, who ranged in age from 11-17 were some of the politest and well-mannered youngsters we have ever come across. Their troop leader and parents are definitely doing a great job raising these young men. There IS hope for humanity!

Just as the sun set over the ridgeline, one of the parents picked us up and drove us to their campsite. The boys were all sharply dressed in their dress uniforms and wore them with pride. They and their parents greeted us with enthusiasm. The parents were specifically enthralled, as they had never met or even really talked to/with people our age that have done long thru-hikes, let alone the CDT. For some, it gave them “hope” if not inspiration to take on a challenge such as this.

Prior to dinner, they all stood in formation, at attention, and recited their Scout oath. It was pretty cool to witness. Dinner was served buffet style, and once everyone had been fully satiated, it was time for the campfire activities. This included robust camp songs, a skit, and then our presentations. Paul, Jan and I each gave a presentation covering different topics. Following our presentations, was the presentation of new golden kerchiefs, to the boys who had completed their 1st 50-mile hike. Their parents got to present/put on the kerchiefs for their son. It was a proud moment for the boys and their parents. We would have stayed longer to talk with the parents further, but it was waaay past “hiker midnight” and we were definitely lagging. Besides, we had to get up early and start our trek to Silver City before the day started to get warm. Before we left, they offered to supply us with water, and breakfast burritos on “trail”, on their drive home in the late morning. Yes, and Yes!, was our reply.

Even so, we talked at length with the parents who gave us a lift back to Doc’s. They thoroughly enjoyed our presentations and were glad they and their kids got to meet us. We told them that we also thoroughly enjoyed the evening, as it was great to meet such fine young men and such a dedicated Scout Master as 81-year-old, Sam Snoddy, who has “created” over 175 Eagle Scouts since 1986.

As they parents drove off, we unanimously exclaimed, “Best Zero Ever!”

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CDT: Reserve to Doc Campbell’s (Gila Alternate)

10/12: 17.9 mi (2608.8 – 2626.7)

A gloriously warm night’s sleep was had by all. From the comfort of our motel room, we could hear the roar of the wind and were grateful for my dad’s foresight.

We drove back into “down-town” Reserve to have a hot breakfast and to complete our resupply shopping. Once completed, we returned to our motel room and packed up. I think we were stalling, as the air temperature was bitter cold and the wind was still gusting.

With rain jackets on to cut the brisk wind, we finally set out. The day was to be filled with my favorite type of hiking…uphill. Hence, I started in a really good mood…NOT. It did not help that it was bitter cold. In fact, we got rained on. Snowed on. Partially “sunned” on. And, “gusted” upon by bone chilling wind. I can’t remember being this cold, in a long time. Stopping to rest was futile as it only served to allow the cold to “catch up”, and your extremities to become numb again.

Much of the trail weaved through ponderosa pines and scrub oak, along fence lines and through tall golden grass that more often than not, hide the trail from our view. In many places, the redline of the Guthook app did not follow the only viable path. Hence, we took the trodden path, rather than stomp out a “non-existent” redline.

Water was, for the most part, non-existent. This necessitated a heavy water, as we were not confident that we would be able to collect water before a reliable spring the following day. However, we were able to collect water at a seep/spring that once you dug a bit of a hole in the gravely sand you could collect cool, clear water.

This enabled us to walk a bit further, and camp in a flat section away from moisture and out of the wind…hopefully. It was supposed to get down to 21 for the night. By 7:30 pm you could see your breath. Tonight, we will wear EVERYTHING!

10/13: 22.7 mi (2226.7 – 2631.1/ 105 – 86.7 Gila River Alternate)

It was definitely COLD last night. A later start to the morning was required, and a pace as brisk as the morning air was required to retain warmth. The good part, was that the wind had ceased, the day would warm, and we would eventually drop lower in elevation.

This carin on our climb was definitely representative of our morning

But, not without stomping upon ice crusted vegetation and climbing 1800 ft up to 9650 ft. After that, we could head downand to the start of the Gila River Alternate.

Whether one is to continue on the “pink line” (aka Gila River Alternate) or the “redline” (CDT designated route) you had to water up at the Dutchman Spring. For us, this was along the way.  From here we would have a 27 mile carry before being able to access ANY additional water. As it was mostly a road walk, audio “heroine” and zombie walk were employed to pass the time and the miles.

As we were marching out our final miles for the day, I pulled on the right shoulder strap to adjust my shoulder strap and pack, and it broke. Not like how the previous packs’ strap(s) broke (from the material becoming worn) but the plastic “ching-gasa”…technical term, snapped in two. This rendered the shoulder strap useless. A hasty search for a campsite ensued. Some type of McGyver fix would have to be employed to be able to continue on in the morning, and I don’t think that a needle and thread will be the fix.

10/14: 22.2 mi (86.7 – 64.5 Gila Alternate)

Numerous configurations were tried to reattach my packs’ shoulder strap. One finally worked. It involved the employment of two small carabineers that I had in my pack. One was taken from the throw bag to hang my food bag, and the other for dangling my pee rag (to dry/air out) from my pack. As I use the Kula Cloth, and they have a snapping loop, the carabineers was really not necessary…just a convenience for “quick release”. And, Wa-La, back in action. This also meant no more having to adjust the pack strap. In all reality, it now fit perfectly. (When I finish the trail, I will be mailing my pack(s) to Osprey to be repaired or replaced. They have a Lifetime guarantee)

With the morning road walks it is easy to miss a turn. And, that we did. 2 miles of unnecessary road walking, made for four additional miles. Unless, of course, we bushwhack.

Oh yes, we bushwhacked alright. Over hill and dale. Through crunchy grass that bore into one’s socks and hid ankle busting holes and uneven terrain. I doubt that it saved any miles or effort for that matter, but it did lead us over pristine terrain and in view of a herd of elk. TOTALLY worth it!…in the end.

We would drop into the Gila River drainage and after descending from Snow Lake, we would begin the counting of crossings that we would make of the Gila River Alternate to Doc Campbell’s. As we dropped down into the river bed after Snow Lake, Jan got his rattle snake “wish”. Although it was “hidden” in the grass next to the trail, he could see it and hear its fierce rattling.

While at the Toaster House, Jan and I got the brilliant idea to take a pair of “water shoes” from the wall-o-shoes. The idea was to keep our actual hiking shoes dry and maybe help them last to the end of the trail. In theory, this worked. Just before we began, what was to be 53 water crossings for the day, we put on those shoes, and stomped it out.

The shoes however, did not save us from the cold, or the pokey plants that left stickers imbedded in our socks, shorts and shirts. It also didn’t save me from being scratched by poison oak. A rash began almost immediately. Of note, crossing #30 was hip to waist deep, thanks to some over-achieving beavers in the area.

By the time we got to crossing #53, the sun had set enough to dim the canyon lighting, and to drop the temperature significantly. It wasn’t until crossing #53, though, that we found an acceptable place to camp. Because we were in a narrow canyon, this was going to be the case every evening, and every morning would require a late(r) start to be able to navigate the river crossing safely in appropriate daylight and “warmth”. There was supposed to be two more days of this. An alternative plan was hatched, just in case the morning was unbearable and not worth repeating again, and again.

10/15: 17.5 mi (64.5 – 62.9 Gila Alternate / 3mi “green route” / 12.9 – mile 40.9 Gila Alternate)

As we expected, the canyon temperatures plummeted overnight. While this would have been a relief for the NOBOs, it was just damn uncomfortable for us SOBOs. Ice crystals coated the inside of our tent’s fly, and our sleeping bags were wet. No amount of coffee or HoneyBuns could warm us sufficiently, especially knowing what awaited us.

Frozen solid like wood planks

As it was, we had to wait for the sun to rise, so that we could safely navigate the river crossings, and avoid slipping on ice crusted rocks. In order to thaw out our shoes and make them malleable enough to put on, we had to dunk them in the icy cold river.

All vegetation was frosted and crunched under our frozen feet as we trudged along like “extras” from the Walking Dead. In-between river crossings, many of which were now thigh deep, thorny bushes that reached into the trail tugged on our clothes and exposed skin. Within 1.6 miles we had made 19 river crossings. The last one being more of a silty muddy bog variety. And with that, we were done. We had had enough of the frigid water and frozen shoes. We were so cold that, shivering was near useless. 42.1 miles of this was enough. We got the picture, now it was time to get warm and dry. But, not without one more crossing that left us wet up to our waists. In total, we had crossed the Gila River 72 times, all of it unpleasant. Fall is NOT the time to do this…and enjoy it. If we were NOBO in mid May or early June this might have been refreshing. Late October was just painful. My feet were so numb, it was like walking on stiltz. Plan “B” was enacted. We would cut out at mile 62.9 and take the 3 mile “green” alternate up to the Gila River High Route Alternate.

After 3 mi we reached the High Route and traded out our wet shoes for dry socks and shoes…and a snack.

Once at the High Route we continued till it ended at a road near the TJ corral. As we descended to the road, we spied a pack of javelinas (small hairy pigs) file across the bridge below, and passed a troop of heavily laden kids on their way for an “enjoyable” weekend. These kids were the “outward bound” variety that obviously were not inspired to backpack. Who wouldn’t, with those massive packs and an obvious assortment of unnecessary gear. We felt sorry for them, and wondered what they had done to be “sentenced” to what looked to be a miserable experience. If you wanted to turn kids off to backpacking or the outdoors, this would have been a perfect example of how to do it.

By the time we reached the road that would lead to Doc Campbell’s Post (5 miles away), we had only a couple of sips of water left. We looked in earnest for a water spigot by the horse corral, to no avail. We did, however, yogi some Gatorade from the Ranger that was going off-duty…and a ride from the visitor center volunteers (once they changed out of their uniforms and retrieved their personal vehicle).

When we arrived at Doc Campbell’s we were met by Jan (who marched ahead because he was nearly out of food) and Turbo Jesus, who were happy to see us. Jan had snacks and a couple of soda waiting for arrival. He also secured the shower room for us to spend the night, and he took the laundry room. Turbo Jesus elected to cowboy camp, as he had planned to leave early the next morning. This meant no tent and a warm place to wake up in!

Tomorrow we take a much needed zero. I do believe hot springs and copious amounts of food will be on the agenda.

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CDT: Pie Town to Reserve

10/10: 19 mi (39.8 – 20.8 Pie Town Alt…”original” CDT route)

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to sleep in but that’s what we did at the Toaster House. We slept in till 7:00 a.m. and had breakfast with my father at the Pie Town RV Campground.  Breakfast consisted of breakfast burritos with fresh smoked salmon. What a treat. Funny thing is while we were eating breakfast it started to snow. Not lightly, but pretty heavily for nearly two hours. It was weird watching light fluffy flakes pile up on the ground outside. For a short time, 2 inches of snow coated the ground. Not enough to halt our egress this morning from Pie Town though. Fully satisfied, we exited my father’s camper to pack up and reorganize our resupply. By the time we had finished packing, almost all traces of snow had disappeared.

We had to reorganize our resupply, as my dad was going to meet us at Highway 12 in three days. This meant that we really didn’t have to carry that much food. 2 and 1/2 days worth, to be exact, as opposed to five. The rest of the stuff that we sent to Pie Town for resupply we boxed up and gave to my dad. When we meet him where the trail crosses highway 12, he will take is into Reserve to complete the resupply and bring us back to the trail. That meant when he meets us in two and a half days we get to have fresh food again, which is an absolute treat. I’m glad that my dad was able to meet us and be a part of this trail. He’s quite the adventurer himself and I guess I kind of take after him in that way.

The route out of Pie Town is just a simple road. The hardest part of this mostly graded dirt road walk was trying not to trip and fall. There’s nothing to trip and/or fall over, but the changing wind direction made it somewhat annoying and hard to get in a rhythm for the required “zombie” walk.

Halfway to Villa Ranch, we encountered two hikers walking toward us (Pete’s Dragon and Bags). They had left Pie Town the day before, and after waking up to snow, decided to turn back. Temperatures were supposed to get down into the 20’s this next week at night, and they wanted NO part of that. They were going to hitch to Silver City, walk to the border and then hitch back to Silver City to walk the Gila NOBO. They figured that the “cold spell” would have passed by then.

We were amazed at the pace we were walking. This meant that by 4:00pm we’d arrive at the Villa Ranch, where, rather than spend the night there, as planned, we would water up, take a break and continue probably till 6:00 p.m. More miles we can get on the day the better. That will translate to the more time we’ll have to relax when we meet up with my dad on Highway 12.

The trail “provides”

While we were taking a break at the Villa Ranch, we realized we made a math error. Somehow we had added 20 miles onto this part of the road walk. Villa Ranch was at mile 26. This meant we had 26 miles left to go before we intersected with hwy 12. We sent a quick message to my dad via the Garmin to let him know that we were going to be actually a day earlier. And, considering the fact that my dad is the kind of guy that turns on his phone only when he needs it, I doubled down and sent one to his wife Jill knowing that she for sure would get the message and then talk to him. With that, we ate more food out of our food bags. No need to carry three days of food when you only need two. That also meant less food to buy in Reserve when we go in for the resupply.

We walked all the way to the water faucet, which is an odd thing to find on a dirt road…and camped. According to our map we had 20.3 miles to go till we hit Highway12. It should be an easy walk tomorrow, with a little bit of uphill to the fire lookout at Mangas Mountain, and then downhill the rest of the way.

10/11: 23.8 mi (20.8 – Hwy 12)

35° this morning and ice crystals on the inside of our fly. We could see our breath. It was hard getting up and going but we had 20.8 mi to do today, including Mangas Mountain with an 1,800 elevation gain to 9,600 feet. So, with headlights on we marched up the dirt road. I don’t know how it happened between the three of us, but collectively we missed the turn and had to backtrack a mile and a half, making it a total of three bonus miles. Last night I looked at all the icons…well, most of the icons. I guess this specific turn off Chavez canyon road didn’t register with me, or I didn’t click on that icon. Had I done that maybe we wouldn’t have done these three extra bonus miles.

We actually were walking the wrong way when I took this sunrise shot

As the morning brightened, we could see that quite a few of the cow ponds have ice on their edges. I’m surprised that our water bottles didn’t freeze. We also noticed with the increasing daylight that there were footprints in the mud back tracking just like we had to. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that missed this turn. So much for an easy 20-mile day. We inadvertently added three additional miles and we hadn’t even started on time.

After either four (or six miles) we arrived at the Mangas Mountain fire lookout. The wind was howling and it was bone chilling cold, but the views were amazing

We stayed there in the hot sun and dried out our tents and sleeping bags as we ate our fill…because we could. As we had great cell coverage, and my dad had his phone on, I was able to get ahold of my dad and confirm that we would be by Highway 12 at around 4:00 p.m. .

I climbed the stairs of the lookout hoping to catch a view of where we had come from. While access to it’s interior was locked, I still was able to marvel at the terrain we had covered.

Prior to leaving Pie Town, we had confirmed with Trail Angel Jetta, that she had placed a cache of water near Valle Tio Vences campground.

As the campground came into view, we were happy to see the cache. We enjoyed lunch at the campground, then continued on our way.

I got to say, it’s still astonishing to see ponderosa forests and mountains in this part of New Mexico. We still can’t get over how much this topography changes.

Eventually the road turned to crap with mud and deep ruts from the massive deluge they received recently. We could see sticky footprints from the day’s previous hikers who got caught in the rain, snow and mud. Eventually we made it to Highway 12 and my dad’s truck.

Best day Ever!

We were met with thirst quenching beer. He also surprised us with getting rooms for us at the Mountaineer Motel for the night, so we didn’t have to worry about setting up our tent in cold weather. The wind was supposed to howl furiously and the temperature was supposed to drop into the teens that evening… and it did.

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CDT: Grants to Pie Town

10/7: 10.6 mi (2452.8 – 2463.4, ride to Mile 19 of Cebello Alt)

Grants is not really a hitchable town. Residents and people traveling don’t seem too keen on picking up CDT hikers, even if we are all cleaned up. Maybe it’s because it has three prisons within its city borders. The redline route out of Grants follows the “old” Route 66, and is a fairly busy roadway out of town… all the way to where it intersects with Highway 117. Being the creative route finders, we (Jan mostly) found, or rather created a route using Google maps that went along the east side of Highway 40. We walked along the road that led behind the town’s Walmart Super Center and found an underpass that took us under the busy highway as opposed to playing “frogger”. From there, we squirmed under two barbed-wire fences and then over another barbed-wire fence to an old road that was listed on Google maps.(Nothing was posted to indicate this was private or non-tresspassable land.

This allowed us to parallel Hwy 40 via a faint dirt road all the way to Hwy 117. This made for easy walking. Best part, we didn’t have to worry about traffic. The tread was fairly easy. The route was mildly scenic and it wasn’t particularly hot.

When we reached highway 117 we actually went left rather than the prescribed right turn. This was because we heeded the clarion call of a foot long Subway sandwich, and ice cream at the gas station a half mile away. We also thought we might be able to catch a hitch to the BLM Ranger Station a few miles down the 117, where there was running water, and continue from there.

We got the sandwich (and ice cream) but a ride from there was not in the cards. The dangerous road walk could not be avoided. What made this particular road walk dangerous, was the lack of a defined shoulder to safely and comfortably walk, even against traffic. It was a particularly busy time of the day (noon-ish), and it was hot. This made stepping off the road into dirt and pokey plants that hide rattlesnakes a grim reality. Headphones and day dreaming was not going to be an option to tamper this arduous section of the CDT.

At about six miles into our road walk to the BLM Ranger station for water, we actually got a hitch from a guy named Phil. He picked us up and let us ride in the back of his pickup truck, all the way to the BLM Ranger station. He told us that he regularly gives CDT hikers rides, as he thinks this road is way too dangerous. He offered to take us all the way to the Pie Town turn-off. We graciously declined, but countered that we’d gladly accept a ride to the Narrows picnic area. “No problem”, was his reply.

He waited patiently for us while we quickly filled up our smart water bottles with very chlorinated water, that was better than no water at all. The BLM Ranger station had been our intended destination for the day, but getting further down Hwy 117 without having to worry about traffic, was even better.

We clamored back into the bed of Phil’s truck, giggling with delight at our great fortune. One would not think so, but sitting in the bed of the truck allowed us to gaze, at length, at the passing scenery.

We took in the countryside in its entirety and marveled at the massive multi-colored stone walls that reached skyward. This was really cool. I couldn’t help but feel like a “ranch dog” looking from side to side in awe and excitement.

Ventana Arch

We passed the Ventana Arch and were soon at the Narrows Day Use area. Phil, once again offered to take us further, but we declined. We had already tempted fate enough with this ride. The CDT has a way of making those miles up to you in some way or another.

What made this place especially inviting was the covered picnic tables (aka hiker-trash “couches”) and the pristine pit toilets. Better yet, Guthook (FarOut) had this particular place listed as a campsite. It was a more than perfect place to spend the eveing. While there, we checked out the Narrows trail that traversed atop a stone cliff and mesa to the Ventana Arch a couple miles away. We explored it for two reasons: One, because we had time, and two, just in case we had to find another place to camp. In truth, the trail wasn’t anything different than we’ve been walking on for the past couple days.

Because we had eaten a giant breakfast at Denny’s before we left for the morning, and had then scarfed down foot long sandwiches from Subway, we weren’t really that hungry. We knew however, that we had to reduce at least some of the pack weight out of our food bags. Before bedding down for the night, we did our best to choke down some food. With no moon, it proved to be an inky dark night. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, type of dark. The plus side, was that the stars above us shown so brightly that the milky way was a twinkling white swath above us. At some point in the middle of the night, I rolled over and stretched. When I did that, something went “zing” in my neck and shoulder. The pain was excruciating. Shit. It was more than obvious to me that the CDT was paying us “back” for our extended ride. Damnit, we know better yet we still keep trying our luck. Hopefully it will be better by morning. We’ll see what 800mg of Advil and a muscle relaxant does for it. I fell back to sleep tentatively and afraid to move.

10/8: 27 mi (mile 19 of Cebella Alt to TLC Ranch/Pie Town Alt)

I awoke to feeling no better. The CDT was exacting its “pound of flesh” for daring to avoid its road walk. I could scarcely move my head without searing pain. Donning a pack didn’t help, but it also didn’t make it any worse. So, walk on we would. I swallowed another round of 800 mg of Advil, hoping it would allow me not to be in such searing pain from time to time. As we left fairly early in the morning, we had the remainder of the Hwy 117 road walk to ourselves.

The crisp morning air made for a brisk road walk, but not brisk in the terms of pace. We brazenly walked down the middle of paved road in defiance of common sense and traffic laws everywhere.

It was a fairly simple and serene road walk. Beautiful country that extended to the horizon surrounded us. Our goal for the day was to get to TLC Ranch, a mere 27 miles away. Jan had read that the TLC Ranch was known to serve dinner to hikers around 6pm. I was not confident I could make those miles in that timeframe, nor were there notes on Guthook that indicated they had recently served any SOBOS. But, food IS a great motivator…at least it is especially for Jan. Even so, this was going to be a tough one, especially if the pain in my neck did not diminish.

As the boys walk quite faster than I, and unless the muscles around my neck and shoulders loosen up, this is going to be a long day…on so many levels.

Morning light morphed into full sunshine and a dusty dry walk once we turned off Hwy 117 and onto Pie Town Road.

This monochromatic scenery was not without magic however. I mean ACTUAL magic in the form of TRAIL MAGIC!

Here’s how it went:

We met a former CDT hiker (“Snowball”) who had hiked the CDT some 30 years ago, when it was even more brutal. We felt it was a privilege to talk with him. He and his son supplied us with cold bottles of water. Then, while parked on the side of the road, two guys in a truck stopped to talk to us about the CDT. They gave us oranges. Still further down the road, a car passed us and then pulled over. A couple who had been hiking the PCT and had been “kicked off” due to the fires, were on a “trail angel mission”, and offered us beer and snacks! But wait, there’s more. At the cemetery, trail angels had left bottles of water. AND, just before we got to the TLC Ranch, another couple traveling in a truck gave us a plate of “special” homemade trail-mix fudge. I secretly hoped that the fudge contained some THC. Sadly no THC. They were “special” because it had been made with us hikers in mind.

Miraculously, we (I) made it to the TLC Ranch just before 6pm. Sadly, no dinner was to be found at the TLC Ranch, only water and a table to eat our packed meals. I got a well-earned fist-bump and congratulations for my most miles hoofed whilst on the CDT from Jan. (Who, btw, can regularly knock out that kind of mileage with “ease”.) Truth be told, we would have had to walk that far anyways, as there was no place to camp alongside the road without climbing over fences and trespassing on private land. This is what makes the TLC Ranch a hiker’s oasis. It is a hiker-friendly ranch that provides water, electricity and places to camp. It also has a quite unique composting toilet for use.

When we got to the TLC Ranch there was a roof covered and partially enclosed patio area where we were able to dine like “respectable” humans and sit at a table with actual chairs.

Needless to say, falling asleep was not that difficult.

10/9: 15 mi (TLC Ranch – Pie Town)

I got to say we’re constantly surprised with the terrain here in New Mexico, with this portion of New Mexico being no exception. Again, I think we expected it to be flat and super “deserty”. It was for a bit, but then evolved into rolling hills, covered in pinion pines and obviously filled with noisy elk. Nearly every ranch sign or homestead we passed had an elk incorporated into their signs, and, we could hear them bugling throughout the night, and well into the morning as we were packing up.

The walk to Pie Town was tedious in the terms of the wind. It was full on, in our face. All we could do was lean into it, and keep going. Pie was in our future, and so was my dad who was going to meet us there and feed us salmon. As the person who we had paid to deliver our resupply package from Grants to Pie Town had not passed us on the road, we were not confident it would arrive before we did. (We had failed to compile a package and send it from Cuba, hence we shopped in Grants. Two sets of Trail Angels offered to do a relay…for less than the cost of overnight mailing through the post office. Only problem was that they got their exchange site confused, hence the delay in the delivery.)

And then, eventually there was a mile countdown. Three miles to Pie Town. Two miles to Pie Town…which was uphill. Then, one mile. Had there not been signs counting down the mileage, and signs telling you you were in Pie Town, I dare say we would have walked on by.

Pie Town, for all its hype was definitely not what we expected, but then most of the things we’ve come across and/or walked through never amounted to what we expected. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s an interesting thing. Pie Town is probably closer to the interesting. We didn’t expect the terrain. We didn’t expect the town to be so small. We did expect there to be delicious pie!

Within the town is a place called the Toaster House. It is a hostel of sorts, and is interesting, if not special, in its own right.

Nita and I

It’s owner, Nita has essentially, donated her home to the CDT thru-hiker and thru-biker community. While she no longer lives in the house, she lives nearby and frequently visits the house and the hiker trash it serves. I will say that it is perfectly placed along the CDT, especially for SOBOs. For us, it gives us a reprieve from the coming weather.

A wall of “discarded” shoes

For the NOBOs, it’s probably one of the first opportunities to change out shoes, get a good resupply, and of course… pie. I’d have to say that the decor of the toaster house hasn’t changed since Nita basically left it for CDT hikers to use on their travels.

It is eclectic and it’s interior and kind of makes you smile when you walk through it. It’s a nice reprieve from the trail. Not to mention, it’s kind of like walking back in time. You could spend hours looking at all the CD collections, as well as the photos, letters and postcards that people have sent and/or posted on the walls.

On the exterior and perimeter of the house, toasters that hang from every fence post, wire and trellis, hence its name. During our stay, we were treated to a jam session of music from the locals and Jefferson who was one of the caretakers that lives at the Toaster House. We were entertained for about two and a half hours out on its cluttered deck listening to every form of “Oldies, but Goodies” (at least for my era), and some bluegrass. It was pleasant to just relax on the deck and listen to live music.

Eventually, we met up with my dad. He would have been there sooner, but the town was so small that he drove through it without thinking. Because we could, we ate pie first and then after a shower, joined him for a home cooked meal in his camper at the RV “park” next door to the Toaster House. We shared trail stories and assorted other adventures, and ate till we were pleasantly and uncomfortably full. A good evening was had by all. With hiker midnight approaching, it was time for a good sleep. We would return in the morning for coffee and a hot breakfast.

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CDT: Cuba to Grants

10/3: 22 mi (2357.6 – 2379.6)

With the day expected to be fairly warm and without shade, we got up fairly early. While it was still dark, we ate our breakfast with our headlamps’ red light illuminating our Jumbo HoneyBun and coffee. Our tent and bags were somewhat damp, and we were equally surprised by the condensation that accumulated on our tent’s fly. We assumed it had to do with the dampness of the sand from the several days of record-breaking precipitation.

With headlights glowing we made our down-hill from the mesa in semi-darkness. This required careful footing as we made our way down the loose and crumbly sandstone trail.

The walking today was fairly straightforward. New Mexico had now transformed into what we had “expected” for most of the state. There was no mistaking that we were in a desert landscape. Most of the day was spent over flat terrain and dirt roads. Paul and Jan had “jetted” ahead, as they are infinitely faster at the walking thing, and frankly unconsciously competitive (a guy “thing”). While Jan has to see and/or experience a western rattlesnake, I on the other hand saw two along my solitary road walk.

Gopher snake

While one of the snakes turned out to be just a gopher snake, the other was in-fact a rattler, albeit a small one. The little bugger even tried to strike at me when I tried to take its picture.

Zoom in to see him winding up to strike

Even with an evidentiary picture, Jan still refused to believe rattlesnakes “exist”. He likens them to Sasquatch, and the Lochness Monster, as he has yet to see one for himself.

Jones Canyon Spring

With the exception of the spring and trough pictured above, all other water “opportunities” along our route were in less than desirable watering holes/ponds. This led to a heavy water carry and disciplined hydration for most of the day. And , while we do our best to NOT rely on caches, we were hoping that the historically maintained cache at mile 2376.4 (SOBO) was partially, if not fully stocked. Or, it was back to the pea soup green “pond”, a mile or so behind us. Thus, had Hue and Krystal Trajejo elected to forego updating the water cache they regularly maintain to celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary, we would have been severely shit out of luck, and enormously thirsty!

Krystal and Hue refilling the cache

Just as we arrived to the empty cache, and we’re pondering our options, Hue, Krystal and three of their kids arrived to save the day. Krystal told me that they have been maintaining this cache since 2015. It started out as mostly for the NOBO hikers. But, since the number of SOBOs has increased, they have expanded their restocking window.

We spent well over an hour talking with Hue and Krystal. They told us that it was a treat for them to get to talk with actual thru-hikers, especially SOBOs. More often than not, they arrive to refill the cache and no one is there. They are remarkable people and true Angels in every sense of the word. They have hosted hikers at their home, and even allowed them use of their vehicle to run errands. Most endearing though, is that they have welcomed into their home, and cared for over 65 “Foster kids”, adopting (I believe) 6 of them. What wonderful people. And to insert taking the time to refill the water cache on their wedding anniversary, was for us, an absolute blessing.

With full bladders and water bottles, we continued down the trail. We walked until the light started to dim and a great campsite with soft flat ground, and NO pokey plants, appeared before us. We would have been silly to have continued on.

Our sunset was amazing, as was the day. New Mexico, we still find you endearing.

10/4: 25.2 mi (2379.6 – 2403.8)

Today the terrain changed up once again.

Down from our campsite we descended and over and across “classic” desert landscape we traversed, until we came to a silty river that required crossing.

The river edges and its bottom were comprised of silty slick mud that immediately caked upon our shoes as we approached the water’s edge. Before crossing, we removed our shoes so as not to lose them in the muck, and to keep them as “clean” as we could. The water was icy cold and felt good on our heat swollen (and worn out) feet. It took us quite a while to clean the muddy residue from our feet before we continued on to a water source that was not so silty.

We lunched at a spring that had cool, clear water, and used the cattle corral gates for “shade”. After lunch, we had yet another climb out of desert terrain and back up into a high alpine forest.

As we climbed, we would peer back periodically and marvel at where we had come from and the breath of terrain we had covered.

The evening found us camped on a road spur with 23 miles to the next reliable water source.

10/5: 26 mi (2403.8 – 2428.5 + “bonus mile”)

Not gonna lie. I got a horrible night sleep. I was definitely over-tired from the previous day. My shins were complaining, and calves were cramping. Over-night the temperature dropped dramatically, and required us to zip our bags together to retain heat. Getting up and out of the tent during the wee hours of the night to pee found our fly somewhat crusted with ice crystals.

Still, we got up at our prearranged time of 0430 am and at 0530am were back on trail, walking in the dark…shivering. Because we had 23 miles till the next water, and because of how horribly worked I was, we needed to get an early start to avoid as much of the heat of the day as we could.

We made 10 miles by 9am, and 15 miles by noon. In between that time we met Cathie and Josh’s daughter, “Happy Dance”. Being quite younger and obviously faster hikers than us (me), they had no trouble catching up to us. We had a brief conversation and leap frogged each other for a good portion of the day.

When they say not to rely on water caches, they are absolutely right. We are however, supremely grateful when we do come across them. Today, not a water cache that had been “labeled” as “current” in Guthook (FarOut) was correct. Hence, why one should never count on them. Not a single cache was to be found. Never to fear, trail magic appeared. As the boys had “sprinted” ahead of me once more, I had the absolute fortune of being the recipient of trail magic. A hunter heading back to his campsite pulled up behind me in his truck. He asked if I was okay, and if I needed anything. Water? Snack? Yes to both, was my reply. Triumphant in my good fortune, I continued on making sure I did not miss my turn-off from the road and back onto single track, as the redline dictated. When I reached our prearranged lunch spot, the boys were nowhere to be found. WTF? Surely, they wouldn’t have continued on without me?! I searched for their footprints. None to be found. I could only assume that they missed the turn. I would have messaged them via the Garmin, but our InReach was still attached to the back of Paul’s pack. So, I settled down to wait. No use going any further, and if worse came to worse, I would head to the elk hunter’s camp that I had passed and ask for help, or at least more water and hopefully a hot meal.

With a plan solidly in my head, I heard a shout and then a whistle. They boys were walking briskly, if not running, in my direction. “Where were you? How long have you been here?”, they asked excitedly. ‘Um, remember, I was way behind you guys that’s why I was surprised when you weren’t here’, I responded. I explained how they had quickly disappeared from my sight, and how I decided that I would just go to our predetermined lunch spot at my own pace, and that they were just going to have to wait. They explained how they had become worried, when they got to the highway and then realized that they had missed a turn. They didn’t know whether to “divide and conquer” or backtrack fully to where they missed the turn. Luckily, they had run into the same hunter that supplied me with trail magic, and he told them where and when he had last seen me. They, however got a beer, while I only got water and a couple snacks. Go figure. Reunited, we ate our lunch and spread out our gear, yard sale fashion, to dry.

It was 4 pm by the time we made it to the spring. The one that had been 23 miles away this morning. But not before having to do a “surprise” climb, that for some reason, we had not noticed on our maps. With another bout of predicted and severe weather approaching, we watered up and opted out of climbing Mt. Taylor (11,307 ft).

We drank until we couldn’t drink anymore and then filled our bottles. All the while, dark and foreboding clouds formed overhead and the temperature rapidly began to dip. We found a convoluted route that would skip the climb and more importantly, keep us at a lower elevation and out of the coming freezing rain, if not the snow. If successful, we would walk into Grants by noon the next day.

We, in fact were pining for Grants, as we were supremely hungry. We all agreed that we had done a poor job of packing enough snacks and remarked how hard it was each night NOT to consume the entire contents of our respective food bags.

Our convoluted route dropped us onto another forest road, where we eventually found a place to camp, just as the rain started to fall.

10/6: 18.2 mi

Up and early once again. The ground was wetted out, and so were our tents for the most part. I had rained hard ALL night, and had been extremely cold. Even Jan complained about how bitter cold it had been. Collectively, we were thankful for our decision to get to lower elevation. There was no mistaking that it had most likely snowed above us, it was that cold. In the early morning dark, we set off.

Headlamps leading the way. The wrong way actually! In our haste to get going, we failed to orient ourselves properly in the dark and proceeded to “back track” nearly 2 miles. Shit! Three’s a charm, they say. Once properly oriented and actually much warmer, having the now 4 mile “warm up” completed, we were on our way to Grants.

It was a road walk, but not a brutal one. I think the fact we were headed to town and more importantly town food, that any achiness was shoved aside from our brains. Along the way we passed a campground, where we stopped and ate the remaining contents of our food bags and drank what was left of our coffee.

We also passed a prison with signs warning drivers to not pick up hitchhikers, so hitching the remaining mile into Cuba was not even a consideration. Along the route, finding an appropriate place to pee became a bit of a challenge for me and my “old lady” bladder. Because of the lingering issues of COVID, public and business restrooms are most closed, so before I wet my shorts, I had to find a discreet place to relieve myself. It was quite comical.

Into Grants, proper. We gorged on Mexican food, and bought a mountain of snacks and chocolate milk at the Smith’s Market as we waited for the town’s free shuttle to pick us up and take us to our rooms at the Super 8.

While I would have liked to have taken a zero, I was over-ruled by the boys. We’ll zero at Pie Town was the response.

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