I’m finally in Boulder, CO mapping the CDT. It’s really quite nice to be sitting in front of a computer for a week. A snip of the behind the scenes workings of Backpacker Magazine has been educational. Quality work, I say.
I’ve been thinking about hiking clothing a good bit recently. I’ve got a ton of it. And so much of it is worn out. The stuff I wore on the PCT is ruined. The sleeves on the tshirt ripped off, the shorts are extremely faded and the elastic is shot. My CDT clothing is ruined. I’m tempted to repair the pants. They’ve got rips on the lower legs, and the seams on the crotch and the butt are busted open. The shirt is permanently brown and the sleeves have shrunk to the point that they barely cover my wrists.
Another pair of pants has patched holes in the butt. Another has a six inch rip in the leg. Another, my softshells, have three busted zippers (including the crotch), a half a dozen burn holes and another six inch rip. They’re so busted and stained that they DEFINITELY need to be trashed.
I could use some new hiking clothing. One thing that I now for sure is that it won’t be made of wool. Wool baselayers and t-shirts are extremely nice. They’re so comfortable. They wick well. And they do well in a wide range of temperatures. It’s much more expensive than synthetic and in my experience lasts only a third as long. My wool products have consistently torn faster than any of the products I’ve mentioned above.
I’ve been to the Escalante region many times. Last week, my friend Becca and I squeezed in another set of trips before winter snows started. She lives up there now. Just getting off a long stint as an itinerant truck dweller and hiker, she’s settled onto a really cool farm. It’s her first step towards the good life in a straw bale house in that beautiful country.
We didn’t backpack. We packed for it, but didn’t. The lure of the farm house was pretty great. I say we packed for it, but that’s often a faulty process. Both of us hike so often, that packing for trips is overly casual. So we often make casual mistakes. A forgotten compass, botched directions to the trailhead, forgetting the powdered milk, etc.. This time, she forgot the stove. Not a big deal as we cooked on wood fires instead. There isn’t much wood in canyon country, so our fires were tiny. One night we cooked dinner on a single stick. On the day that we *really* were going to backpack, we spent too much of the morning dayhiking instead. Regardless, we did four day hikes. Just existing out there is reward enough. We’re lucky.
We car camped at Dance Hall Rocks, on the Hole in the Rock Road. We drove to the end of this famous road, and walked down the famous hole. We hiked along random red rocks, to rare springs, in notable canyons, beneath large arches, ruin sites and rock panels.
I lost over a hundred posts on my old blog. I don’t think that I’m ever going to get them back. Luckily, many of them were simply links to youtube videos that I’ve uploaded.
Instead of posting those all again, I direct you to my youtube page.
Below is my most popular video. I think that people watch it because it comes up when they search for “ultralight gear”. I still use mostly the same stuff, though not those exact same models. I’ve got my gear pretty dialed in, and whenever I stray from that formula, I realize that I’m making a mistake.
Here is my most popular video:
Lordsburg. It’s dumpy.
Lordsburg, where I settled into two hotel rooms before realizing that they were unacceptably filty, bug infested, and broken. Lordsburg, where there really wasn’t anything going on. Lordsburg, where the dump of a chinese restaurant, turned out to be delicious. We’d hemmed and hawed about even going in. We *knew* it’d be bad. It was only $4.50 and the food sat under heat lamps that didn’t even look strong. But the friendly, straight from the east, via the west coast, family cooked up a delicious portion. Wanted something in the buffet? They probably didn’t have enough under the lamp to serve you, but they’d cook it up for you fresh in three mintues. It was awesome. We ate there twice.
Hiked on. Again, the red route. It was pretty much just following posts from here on to the border. They were pretty newly placed. They were pretty easy to follow. Later we saw a sign stating that they were placed every twenty yards. It was more like every 100 yards in the begining. And then it turned to every 1/4 mile, and then in some sad places, every 1/2 mile. It should be obivious that you can’t see one post from the other when they’re a quarter of a mile away. It was somewhat frustrating. Again, no footprints. No faint foot path. In one section, not even any information from the guy who makes the maps. No one who had hiked it had reported back anything about it. We were the ones to find the water sources and report to the mapmaker their quality and location. It was good hiking. I was happy to be doing that route instead of the commonly done road walking. I like the offical route to Crazy Cook.
It flet like snake habitat, but I saw only one tiny snake. It felt like “illegal” habitat, but I saw only one set of sneaker prints heading northbound away from the border. I did find an abandonded poncho and someone’s water jug that’d been painted black. They do that so they’re not carrying a big white object as they move through the night.
We had numerous encounters with border patrol. First, two guys on horse back who’d been following us for a while. Then helicopters. Three of them. Not sure if they were really out flying for us, but i’d like to think that the fighter jet that buzzed our heads was dispatched in our direction. Also, four guys in body armor on ATVs. And a guy in a truck. Each time, they’d been dispatched specifically to intercept us. They weren’t out there just wandering around. They knew we were there, and they came looking to see who we were. Each time: “Will you state your citizenship?”, “Can I see the bottom of your shoes?” Once: “If you like walking so much, you should come work for us.” hmm….
And then we were done. I walked from Canada to Mexico. I finished the CDT! It was good. Like chocolate ice cream. I had fun. I’m a little sad. Lost and I are parting ways and that’s a bummer. She’s been a great friend over the months and a killer hiking companion.
We got a ride away from Crazy Cook with Sam Hughes. Fugitive was there too, we met up with him on the last morning. Sam is a nice guy. The dirt road to Crazy Cook really is pretty bad. You can drive a stock, 4×4 pickup down it, but be prepared to damage your truck. It costs the three of us $160 total to be picked up at the border and driven to Deming. You could easily do more damage than that to your truck. I’d hire Sam. He dropped us off at Walmart.
The guy in front of me was buying a shirt. He bragged to the cashier that he was famous. “A nobel peace prize nominee”, “a motivational speaker”, “going to hollywood to make a movie”, “and author”. I held back a laugh, feeling sure that he was blowing smoke. Then he asked me if my chocolate cream pie was my favorite flavor. (It’s not). Then he bought it for me. Who the heck does that? What’s his story? Some famous dude isn’t bragging to the walmart clerk in Deming while shopping for clothing. And why buy my pie? I’m just some grungy dude. To top his tales, I said: “I just walked from Canada to Mexico.” It was true. It was all true. Turns out that the guy was http://www.bryantmcgill.com He’s what he said he was. And he bought me a pie. He’s also the guy that a podcast that I listened made fun of a while ago. From his website, he looks like the epitome of cheese. And he bought me a pie. It was a great finish to the trail.
I am now done with the CDT. Stayed with trail angel El Coyote last night. On a bus to El Paso in two hours. Then tomorrow, flying to Utah. It’s my birthday the next day. Then a day to unpack and repack. And then my next trip. I don’t quite do re-rentry. I backpack full time. Tuesday is work. Work = backpacking. I’m looking forward to being back.
Life continues and the trail stays within.
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.