Left Silver City on a road walk. I continue to not be a fan of road
walking. Sure, sometimes it’s nice to have easy going miles on a
quite, unused jeep road. You can walk side by side. You can switch
sides when to walk on smoother tread. You can shut your mind off and
just walk. But highway walking? That sucks. We did a bunch of it. Ten
miles? Then turned off to the right on a good quality dirt road for
another bunch of miles. It was the start of our own adventure.
No other southbounders (and I bet, few northbounders) hiked the way we
hiked. That’s a little strange because the only radical thing that we
did was to stay on the official trail. We hiked the “Red Route”. No
one else did. Turned off the highway, onto that dirt road, at a huge
mine site. Kind of cool seeing the oversized earth moving equipment
moving around the site looking like tiny toys.
Camped that night up at Mud Spring, in a mountain range that I’ve
already forgotten the name of. Besides having to drink directly from a
cattle trough that had no inflow, it wasn’t a bad site. Then, a little
after midnight, calamity struck. Lost and I bolted upright with a
sizeable FIRE burning right next to us. FIRE! Holy hell! Within a half
a second of waking up, it grabbed Lost’s burning pack to pull it
farther to safety. Regretably, I hadn’t seen that her pack was already
aflames. The FIRE! panic switched to pain and greater fear. I burned
my hand! Water! Sure enough, grabbing a burning pack isn’t a good
idea. I now had melted plastic all over my hand. SHIT. I could prolong
the writing of this, simply because I’m a fan of myself. And being
badly burned is an important event in my eyes…. But… Well… I
peeled off all the plastic. It was mostly superficial. I had partial
thickness burns on two of my fingers, and a number of burn blisters.
It took a vicodin and some time to ease the pain enough to go to sleep
again. Lost, lost a lot of important and expensive stuff in the fire.
The entire bottom of her pack burned, as did her iPod, camera, cell
phone, some food, and various odds and ends. Not good at all.
Remarkably, she fashioned a fix for her pack and we could continue the
thruhike without interuption. We guess that she’d lit some duff on
fire hours before while cooking. It smoldered for hours, then burst
into flames when the wind picked up later in the night.
That’s definitely the big story of the section. On other topics? The
mountain range with Jack’s Peak was small, but quite nice. It was
novel hiking trail that was mostly well built and always well signed.
It was novel hiking trail that had seen no footprints for months. We
left the mountains and did some desert walking. We drank out of
another cattle trough. Two in a row. That one had a solar well near
by, but those don’t work when you’re there only in the dark hours. We
learned to hate grass seeds. More bothersome than cactus spines, these
tiny grass seeds would go right through our shoes, into our socks and
into our feet. Their needly quality called for immediate stopping. It
was so sharp and painful that we had to remove them instantly. It was
at it’s worst just north of Lordsburg, but continued for dozens of
miles south of there as well.
This section has been both full and fullfilling. It’s intimidating to start this journal entry, I feel like I’ve done so much since Pie Town.
I’ll start with the beginning. It was a road walk out of Pie Town. Lost, Stretch and I made decent time along the mostly flat, little used dirt road. The weather was good. We passed an animal sanctuary that had a water cache and a request not to linger. Their dogs mostly roam free, and had a tendency to follow hikers. A headache and a problem they say. A truck passing by stopped to chat. The friendly guy lives out in the middle of no place significant. He told me an interesting story about how one of his newer neighbors was recently arrested. Turns out the man had bought his property with the proceeds of a major Las Vegas gold and silver robbery. He was in the process of building his new off the grid lifestyle when the law tracked him down. The new owners of the place have erected a sign calling it “Robber’s Roost”. That afternoon thunder clouds bloomed, banged and flashed as we walked past some pyramid shapped peaks.
Second day and third.. I hardly remember. It wasn’t a very remarkable section. We walked on roads, we walked on trails. I got us beer and soda from some drunk hunters. That was nice. Lost let out a scream in camp one night. She’s a pretty quite girl so it wasn’t a significant scream. But a minute later Stretch and I definitely heard her shout “A dog’s running towards you!” It was dark, I expected something that’d be growling and biting. She turned out to be one of the friendliest dogs I’ve met in a long time. Sure, she’d been rolling in cow poo, probably eating it too, but man what a wonderful dog! She sat in our laps. She obeyed our requests without hesitation. She didn’t beg for our dinner. And come bed time, she followed us and slept right by my head. In the morning, we had high hopes of keeping her. Planned to hitch to the nearest town and buy dog food, print “Lost Dog” posters and Lost would have a new dog. But first, Lost went searching for the owner, a dim prospect considering we weren’t anyplace. But sure enough, after an hour and a half she came back dogless and sad having found the owner.
The next night, we stopped a little early. The forecast was for 70% chance of thunderstorms and we were facing dark black clouds right before a substantial treeless section. I called for a stop at the last of the trees. It was early. But keeping with our current theme, we weren’t worried about making miles. So we stopped and played cards. (I’m killing Lost at Gin Rummy.) Had to search for another campsite as it started to sprinkle. The first one had the remains of at least two gutted and skinned Elk. Thanks for leaving them directly in camp, assholes. It’s so nice to have the luxury of doing low mileage days. We’d stopped early, and we’d stopped just before it started snowing. Snow. hmmmmmm….
Dry, but cold, we packed up early the next morning. It hadn’t snowed a lot. That walk across the long grasslands towards T-Bar Canyon was absolutely stunning. It didn’t warm up for a few hours. Walking through the frozen, snow dusted grass, sun rising, fog lingering, it was one of the most beautiful bits of the trail. We were thankful that the weather had stopped us. For that and because just as it started to warm, we headed down into the Gila River. 70+ crossings? I believe it.
We hiked along the Gila for fifty miles I believe. It was a highlight of the entire trail. The river was never too deep. Above the knees at the most. The forest was mature, diverse and welcoming. The hot springs sublime. The cliffs! Thousand foot cliffs. Lots of wildlife. Other friendly backpackers.
We hit the Cliff Dwellings. I bought a book. 1491. I’m enthralled by it. We sat at Dog Campbell’s Country Store. The owner is a pretty high strung dude, and I thought the ice cream to be only so-so. But the camping at the hot springs down by the river was sublime. We hiked the Lower Gila as well. Saw two rattle snakes. Walking behind Lost, I jumped and scampered. We’d both just walked three inches away from a rattle snake. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, sitting at lunch, another rattler slithered right up to us and then got angy with *us*. Poison Oak along the trail and higher stream crossings combined for a little bit of tension filled walking.
Left the Gila. Again, a highlight. Then headed up and away, finally leaving the beautiful river. Walked through some nice forests. Split off from the CDTS/Columbus Route. We’ve chosen to take the “official” CDTA/Government approved route to the finish at Crazy Cook. Most other hikers this year are going the other way. It was interesting that as soon as we chose the official trail, it pretty well disappeared. It was really nice walking. Lots of cactus and yucca. But seriously. What happened to the trail? I spent some time building some miles of cairns for future hikers.
Camped at the end of public land before Silver City last night. Ordered pizza to be delivered to our campsite.
Saw a lot of wildlife as I said. Lots of Elk, tons of deer, two bears, three snakes, a skunk,…
We’ve got a really relaxed schedule. Plenty of time for cards, reading, sleeping while it’s still cold and being lazy in town. Some hikers rush towards the finish of the long trails, ready to be done. Not us.
I’m loving Silver City.. Friendliest people. Lamb burger at a cool, hidden cafe. Single cup drip coffee at another cool shop. On to the co-op for my resupply. I could live here.
I’m in Pie Town at the Toaster House. This awesome reality is
eclipsing the past few days. But first, the past.
It’s been a nearly continuous road walk since the malpais. A little on
the highway brought us to a large arch. From there we scurried
crosscountry up a mesa to walk a little up high. Good views of what I
think must be the largest lava field that I’ve ever seen. Looks like
pretty old flows though as there are trees dispersed throughout. After
passing a couple getting it on hot and heavy at the picnic area, we
hit the highway for some more ipod listening and road walking.
We swung by a solar well that was working when we heard that it
wasn’t, then hit dirt for the rest of the section. I ate my bagels,
cream cheese and veggies at our first ever windmill source. It hadn’t
occurred to me that I’d have to wait a little for it to be windy
before the windmill would pump water. Not a big deal that day because
a gust came along quickly, but some days there is no wind for hours.
Later, we scurried up another mesa to a little known ruin site. It was
so awesome! They’d built their community in an easily defensible
perch. Lots of walls, storage areas and pottery shards were left
around. Really great!
Night hiking was the order of the night. We’ve got to do what we’ve
got to do! Road walking ain’t so bad at night. Plus it set us up for a
doable distance the next day into Pie Town the next day.
I can’t say that it felt good to throw a thirty five mile day, but we
did it.In the morning, a full 27 miles out, we hit the road that we’d
be on the rest of the day. I don’t remember if I laughed, cried or
just whined at the sight of the road stretching ahead of us. But I do
remember the distinct lack of excitement about it.
Ain’t much to report about a full day of walking on a high standard
road. No breaks except lunch. A few people stopped to offer us rides.
One, after it got dark, asked if we were hunting. “No, we’re hiking
the Continental Divide Trail.” He gave us a thoroughly confused and
bewildered look, said “ummm, ok…” and gunned his engine away. Pretty
The definite highlight of the day was stopping at a ranch house to get
water. I was expecting to just use the rancher’s spigot. Instead, I
got a full trail angel encounter with John and Anzie Thomas. What
great people! They love meeting the hikers that stop at their house
for water. They showed me around their cool antiques. And they showed
me the CDTS newsletter that I’d never seen before. Funny because my
name was in it!
Pulled into the Toaster House after dark and met up with Stretch.
Nita’s old house, is free and open to long distance hikers and bikers.
It’s homey, stocked with food and has everything one needs. Truly a
home for us hikers. What a special place. I haven’t yet met the owner
but am already touched by her generosity and love. It reminds me of
various old hippy houses that I’ve been in in northern california.
It’s a true community house for this long distance community that
stretches over thousands of miles, many states, and many years. Really
it feels like home for this vagabond group of world hikers. So
I’ve drank a bunch of coffee, done laundry, read High Country News,
visited with the chickens, given a water report to Mr. Ley, and am
just waiting for the Pie-O-Neer to open so I can gorge on some famous
I love Pie Town!
Two nights out of grants and we are at the second water cache just
after the malpais. Thanks trail angels!
Feeling a little haggard this evening. Likely cause is only drinking a
liter since lunch and hiking without break. We kept booking it because
the going was slow across the lava fields. In terms of trail tread, El
Malpais was easily the roughest section of the CDT. Cool but we’re
looking forward to some of the road walking coming up. Knowing how
much I dislike roads we’re planning on getting off of it a few times.
We hear that there is a three hundred room ruin complex tomorrow!
On a frustrating note, Lost is carrying a six moon designs pack that
is a total piece of junk! Today her shoulder strap ripped off for the
third time! Add to that the countless holes in the pack, and the fact
that I’ve seen similar problems with other smd packs, I’d never buy
one of their packs. Earlier today before the strap broke, she jokingly
asked if I’d walk behind her the rest of the way incase anything fell
through the holes.
On the plus side we are both carrying tons of food. My pack is full of
I’m in Grants, at the library, where you have to “read” seven pages
about the rules before you can get on the computer. We’re buying
tickets. Tickets home. Oh no, oh gosh. I’ll be flying to Las Vegas a
day before my birthday, then work three days later. Good thing that
“re-entry” is backpacking for me. Lost and I plan to finish November
4th at Crazy Cook. Then to El Paso, TX on the 5th and a flight out on
The past section was a little bit of a mixed bag. The first miles out
of Cuba were downright lame. It takes a lot to put me in a grumpy mood
while hiking. But that roadwalk on a paved road, sucked. Once on dirt
however, the hiking was great. Espcially after refilling water at a
nice spring. It was desert walking, true desert, not like the typical
High Desert forest that the rest of the state has been. We walked a
few dozen miles of newly caired trail. The first section was along the
top of a mesa, the second section wove along the bottom of mesas.
Really great walking. Especially the walking along the bottom of the
mesas. It was miles and miles of interesting rock formations. Lots of
spries, badlands and toadstools.
Then we climbed a major mesa and continued on barely used caired
routes to a LOOONG dirt road. After a climb to Mt. Taylor, we filled
up at a water cache and tried to night hike. We were again on new
trail. And this section simply disappeared after a few miles. Or we
got lost. We’re not sure. But we were following cairns and blazes with
no tread, then nada. No more blazes, no more cairns. Aint’ the CDT
On to more road walking and a later than hoped for arrival yesterday
into Grants. Just as we sat down for dinner, we got a call from
Stretch inviting us to dine with the Grants trail angels. Oh man was
that great! Thanks so much Hugo and Carole! Definitely a highlight of
the trip. We really enjoyed the conversation about hiking, the
generous portions of dinner and ice cream and the whole experience.
They’re so fantastic that they are driving out and leaving water
caches in multiple locations for all of us parched hikers. Future
CDTers are likely going to rank Grants way higher on their favorite
town lists thanks to these two.
In other news…
I’ve got new socks.
I’ve got a full pack of food.
No magazines this leg, I’ve practically been spending too much time reading.
I just wrote a big post and lost it all. Curse you new smartphone!
But still, I love it.
The hiking is grand. Northern New Mexico is forest. Rich wildlife,
some red cliffs, fall colors, meadows, creeks… Sky Islands as they’re
called. When I pull myself off the couch, we’ll be hiking into the
real desert. Hikers in front of us have sent back water reports. It’s
a parched landscape.
I’m at Circle A Ranch. It’s a beautiful old building. I’m sunk into a
comfortable couch, cup of coffee in hand, antiques for ambience. I
feel like I’m out of my price range but it’s dirt cheap. We bought a
ton of groceries and are eating ourselves silly.
Even though we have well over fine hundred miles left, we’re thinking
about the end. I really want to finish at Crazy Cook. Turns out that
Sam Hughes is charing $100 per trip, not per person. Not a bad deal.
Hiking is relaxed now that we’re out of the high country. I spend time
reading magazines, playing cards, and can afford to be inefficient.
Stretch, a hiker who I crossed yellowstone with has caught up. She
might be joining us. I count 17 southbound hikers this year.
Time to go make omelettes, hash browns, coffee and bacon…food for
eight will feed three.
I’ve done it. I’ve walked the US segment of the Rockies. I’m in the
desert. It’s fantastic.
In Lake City, Pagosa Springs, and Chama we wanted to zero, and didn’t.
Walk while it’s blue out. Get out of these mountains. The trail
register at the Chama post office showed me that many southbounders
arrive in Chama around the second week of October. We were early and
that was good. Their stories of feet of snow didn’t sound fun. We were
in a section where Yogi (the handbook queen) talked of road walks
around the high country. Every section had a highway. “You might not
like it but…” But, what? It’s beautiful! Blue skies, perfect temps.
New Mexico has been a drastic change. I’d been expecting a
continuation of the mountains. Sure, we’re in the mountains, but
they’re not “really” mountains. Not after weeks of above treeline
exposure. Cruising along at 10,000ft we’re in forests and meadows.
There are big Ponderosa Pines, beautiful Aspens changing colors, oaks
and many other types. There is FAR more wildlife. We even saw some
bear prints, likely the first time since Montana. And there are cows,
I’d heard of all of the beer cans that litter the roads. It’s true
that Bud Light is the drink of choice of a-holes who litter. We spent
some time picking up cans. I hope that other thruhikers do that too.
If each of us picked up cans for a miles a section, we’ll have this
trail mostly cleaned up in fifteen years or so. If we don’t do it,
it’ll never be cleaned. The CDTA needn’t focus resources on the task
and we know that the hunters, ranchers, campers, drunks and forest
service won’t do it. It’s up to us. I think it’s possible. Lost and I
picked up about 30 cans in 20 minutes. Most of them are old, many well
over a decade old. They’re not being discarded faster than thruhikers
can pick them up. Join in on the great New Mexican Hiker Trash Pickup!
Lost is over a computer; she’s catching up on a month and a half of
missed journals. Day by day. “Where did we camp on September 19th?”
Ghost Ranch has a “no key” policy. The library and the computer room
are open and free, all day and night. Camping is free too for
thruhikers. And with all you can eat meals, I’m more than a happy guy.
Very much looking forward to an even more relaxed hike than I’ve been
having. I’ve fully resisted feeling pressured. Sure, I’m still hiking
25 miles a day. Most days. But I’m also reading magazines, waking up
“late”, stopping “early”, taking too long at breaks, playing cards,
soaking it in. And now that the mountains are mostly gone, and the
weather is good, I’ll be zeroing more, and fooling around more. Lost
figured the schedule today at breakfast. She brings maps and planning
stuff to most town meals, it’s a funny habit. Word is, we might finish
Sooo… Drinking cow water. Hit the beginning of the desert. In high
spirits. Behind most people. Lightning has made a re-appearance, but
so far no problems.