A wonderful four days! From flat desert and cactus, to mountain peaks and pine forests, to a canyon and the first natural water source on the trail! I love the CDT, brutality and all!
Day 13: Lordsburg (mile 60) to Windmill Cattle Trough in Engineer Canyon (Mile 74.4)
Today: 14.4 Miles. Camp Elevation: 5780ft.
What a long HOT day! Whew! I have been really enjoying walking through the desert. It’s so different from anything I’ve hiked through before. You just have to be super careful of snakes and managing your water. Most days you have 1 shot at getting water, generally somewhere around every 14 miles, today I camped at and shared a cattle trough with a bunch of cows.
Today was about 12 miles of crossing a long plain, with a hundred thousands PUDS. PUDS is hiker for pointless ups and downs, by the end of the day I had renamed them PFUDS. It was the first day out on my rehabbed shin and this wasn’t helping me to take it easy as I’d planned. I was really happy to be climbing up into Engineer Canyon for the last 2.5 or so miles, until I discovered that the ‘road’ walk was actually soft sand, about the worst surface for a shin splint recovery! Argh! By day’s end I was feeling it again. You’ll see in the pics below a mountain range in the distance, I was headed across that plain and up into a canyon at the far side of it.
It wasn’t windy until the late afternoon so I was able to hike with my umbrella rigged hands free to my pack. Was so thankful for this moving shade and it made my little eco-system about 10 degrees cooler. But boy was it hot. Every so often I’d find a great bit of shade and take up residence there to take my shoes off, rest and cool off a bit.
Trail navigation on the CDT can be a challenge. Getting misplaced multiple times a day is normal on this ‘trail’. There’s a saying that the CDT is a joke hikers play on each other because there isn’t really a trail at all, you get dropped at the border and you’re like “where’s the trail?”. It’s true, it’s not a trail , at least not yet. It’s more of a route to navigate through. Which until today has been fine, who cares if you’re not at the exact location that the map puts the CDT.
Today was a frustrating day for navigation. There were a whole series of cattle fences and so you had to know where the CDT gates were or find a way under the fence, which in most places wasn’t really possible because of the low rung of barbed wire on all the fences, you also don’t want to cross into private property and upset a farmer. I guess there were trail blazes every half mile or so, but I didn’t see a single one of them until about mile 10. So basically I’d get ‘on trail’ at a gate, figure out my bearing to the next waypoint, and try to triangulate a direction based on that, but it was endless miles of flat open terrain and most of it had no distinguishing feature to focus on. It was a constant combination of map, compass and gps to figure out where i was and where the ‘trail’ was. But I had a major coup towards the end of the day when I hit yet another fence while I was ‘off trail’ and 20 feet away was a ditch the fence spanned and I could crawl under it and the rock that was supposed to be anchoring it… by then I was getting really sick of playing the ‘where’s the gate’ game, so I was super excited! There are certain things each day that cause you to talk out loud to the universe, and this was one of them today. I let out a long loud “thank god” as I threw my pack under and crawled through the ditch.
Here’s the thing though, this is the CDT. And you know what, ‘Embracing the Brutality’ is what it’s all about, you have to take in all of the challenges and enjoy working your way through them. And I did! I went to sleep so happy to be back on trail and sleeping in my tent again! Happiness!
Day 14: Windmill in Engineers Canyon (Mile 74.4) to Cattle Trough in Burro Mountains (Mile 89.1)
Today: 14.7 Miles. Camp Elevation: 6200 ft.
What an awesome day! I saw an actual trail, a trail (!!!), today for the first time. The vegetation had changed and it was great to be walking in mountains again. I really love walking in the mountains, the anticipation of what’s over the next ridge, I just love, it’s probably my favorite part of hiking. There were many ‘wow’ moments today as the Lordsburg valley disappeared and a whole new landscape unfolded. It was pretty stormy, so I had my nice camera packed safely inside the dry bag in my pack and most of these pics are from my iphone and not quite as nice. A good plan as I got hailed on hard at one point in the afternoon and was caught in a pretty good lightening storm. I was happy to have my umbrella to hide under while the hail belted down on me! The hail made way to rain and I enjoyed walking the rolling hills and smelling the rain, there’s something about walking in the rain that is invigorating.
Wildlife was abundant. I saw a ton of rabbits, I don’t think I’ve mentioned them yet, there are rabbits the size of small dogs out here. There was even a rabbit that wasn’t hopping away, when I got closer to him I noticed he was a lot smaller than the others and he had a sore leg and couldn’t hop very far or fast, ha, poor thing. I actually looked at him and said “I’m sorry little guy, but I’m in the same boat as you are”. My shin had flared up again, not as badly as last time, it didn’t hurt once I got moving or after stopping, but step out of alignment and boy did it hurt! Anyway, the rabbit and I bonded over our mobility issue, it was great to make a connection with something I could related to because I haven’t seen a human yet on this stretch. At my camp that night there were come coyotes watching me from up on the ridge waiting for me to be done with the cattle trough. Sorry Dave, no rattle snakes for me to take photos of, a disappointment for you and not me! Here’s my buddy:
While I’m on the leg, here’s how you ice your leg without an ice pack:
Full moon tonight and it was like there was a street light on above my tent because it’s a very sheer material. I’m in love with being on this trail!
Day 15: Cattle Trough in Burro Mountains (Mile 89.1) to Deadman’s Canyon (Mile 104.6)
Today: 15.5 Miles. Camp Elevation: 6780 ft.
‘Where’s the trail’ started early today, I walked a full .8 of a mile the wrong way before I stopped to look at my map. I was enjoying the morning walk so much I wasn’t thinking about navigation for a while. NEVER do this on the CDT, you will get ‘misplaced’ quickly. We call these ‘bonus miles’.
The morning started out on really nice trail over rolling hills with great views. It was a little stormy all day again so the pics are mostly with my iphone again. ‘Where’s the trail’ struck again late morning when I was in the hiking zone and not paying attention. There are probably 100000000:1 cows to hikers out here, so if you’re following a trail there’s a good chance it’s actually a cow track and not ‘the trail’. Argh. Bonus miles again. Was a pretty detour though.
Early afternoon there was a wonderful surprise, Trail Angel ‘Apple’ had left snacks and a cooler full of coke and gatorade at a trail-head I passed through! Thanks Apple!!! I drank 2 cokes and ate 2 Honey Buns. I’ve never had a honey bun before, boy, was it good! Trail Angels are wonderfully kind people who just really like to help out CDT hikers.
Afternoon was awesome, climbing up to Jacks Peak and Burro Peak at a little over 8000 ft was great. The views were really vast and green. I’m loving the change in scenery, just a couple of days ago I was still in the Hachita/Bootheel desert where the highest tree was a cactus bush, and today I’m on an 8000ft peak in a pine forest. Love you CDT! I wish I’d got my nice camera out for a few shots, but I wanted to get off the ridge-lines before a lightening storm hit.
The descent was pretty steep and I discovered that down hill wasn’t working so well with my shin problem. As long as my weight was over my feet, and by that i mean me and my pack, then all was great. As soon as I took a step out of alignment, ouch! So I descented 1300 ft singing this little song I made up: “go with the flow, do the Sherpa trot, go with gravity, keep it moving…” and I repeated that all…the…way…down. When it gets tough out there you need to keep your mind focused and positive, making up songs tends to help me get through whatever I’m working through. To explain the Sherpa trot, my wonderful Sherpa friends in Nepal have a way of walking downhill, and it’s called the Sherpa trot. They bend their knees a little and move rapidly downhill with their weight forward so as to minimize impact on the body. Thank you to my Sherpa friends, I think i’d still be descending from Burro Peak without the Sherpa trot in my toolbox!
I had decided to intentionally leave the trail towards the end of the day as there was a water source half way down Deadman Canyon that I wanted to ‘ice’ my leg in and get water from. Aside from Apple’s trail angel beverages, I hadn’t passed any water sources yet today and it was getting late. The Canyon supposedly had a trail and exited onto Tyrone Road a few miles east of where the official trail does. Well, right from the very beginning I headed up a jeep road and totally didn’t even see the trail. I realized after 20 minutes or so that I hadn’t seen the trail yet and Peru had warned me to make sure to be on the trail and not the jeep road. Doh! Off trail from my off-trail, more bonus miles. Ha. Too late in the day to care to back-track I bush-whacked my way cross county to the spring. When I finally made it there I was pushing it for daylight but the spring was dry as a bone. I wandered around for another 20 minutes until I found a little patch of water. It was pretty gross, only about 8 inches deep and half of it with algae and bugs, but great for icing my leg and with my filter and aquamira drops it was drinkable too. My standards for water quality have declined, and from what I understand of the water sources further north in New Mexico they will continue to do so if I want to stay hydrated! I didn’t care at all, I was so happy to see water I let out a yippee and dropped my pack on the nearest flat patch of dirt.
Day 16: Deadman Canyon (Mile 104.6) to Tyrone Road (Mile 107.6)
Today: 3 miles. Town: Silver City!
I woke up to a turkey gobbling. Yes, a turkey. I didn’t see it but it sure sounded like it was having a good time. The night had been really still, but cold. I slept great and woke up to the view of a pine forest floor. It looked and smelt wonderful.
I hung out in my tent a little knowing that today was a ‘nero’. A nero is a ‘near zero’ day, which means that you’re walking a pretty short distance before you get to a town. A ‘zero’ is a day when you don’t hike on the trail. Although a zero on the CDT from what I understand usually involves keeping pretty busy eating, doing laundry, eating, planning maps for the next trail segment, eating, and running errands in town. My leg had been starting to hurt me pretty badly after the long descent yesterday and I’d decided to skip the 16 mile pavement road walk into Silver City and hitch from Tyrone Road instead. So I made a sign to hitch with.
I’ve thrown in a few pics of my morning routine for you too. There’s a pic of my morning foot massage with a mini tennis ball, and as promised last post, one of my current shin, ankle and arch taping job. Also one of how i pack up my camp… basically I throw out my ground sheet and then toss out the entire contents of my tent onto it before packing it in a predetermined way into my pack. While I’m on my tent, I absolutely love this Zpacks Soloplex, now that I’ve figured out how to set it up it only takes me a few minutes to set up and break down, and I think i’ve mentioned that it’s a really sheer material so you can see the moon and bright starts when you’re lying in bed at night. A terrific bundle of cuben fiber for the very small weight of 1 pound (with stakes!).
After packing up camp I started down the trail, I really enjoyed the walk down Deadman Canyon. It wouldn’t have been a morning on the CDT (or my detour from it) without losing the trail at least once, but at least it was a short 10 minute detour. Sometimes the trail just seems to disappear on me. The trail criss-crossed the spring, which was mostly dry, but towards the bottom of the canyon the spring emerged and there was some really great clear water. My first real natural water source on the trail! I sat by it for a while and enjoyed the sunlight and sound of the birds chirping. A beautiful morning.
I arrived at Tyrone Road just as a car came along, I ripped out my sign and pleading smile just in time and the car stopped! Such a nice contrast to my hitch on ‘highway’ 113 south of Lordsburg where I waited over 2 hours for a car to come along!
The lady that gave me the ride works in a thrift store in Silver City and was headed to work. She even drove me right to the hotel i’d sent my resupply package to. So kind. She said she sometimes sees thru-hikers standing at that trail-head and picks them up. She told me about the hiker she picked up recently that smelled so badly her car stank for days afterwards, a few minutes later she asked if I wanted to put the window down, ha ha, I’d heard about how badly thru hikers smell and it was true. I stank! A change of clothes, soap and deodorant doesn’t make the lightweight hiker gear list and i’d been wearing and sweating profusely in the same clothes for 4 days. Your arm pits are the least of your worries, my feet smelled rancid, everything did. Wet wipes once a day doesn’t help a whole lot. I chuckled as I rolled the window down. Sometimes kind trail angels have to ’embrace the brutality’ too! I hope your car doesn’t smell tomorrow, kind lady!
To get by on the CDT you have to rely on the kindness in the human spirit and so far I’ve been the beneficiary of so many acts of kindness. Thank you to everyone out there that supports the CDT hikers, we really couldn’t get by without your help!
I’m headed to a sports medicine doc in Silver today that specializes in bones, joints and sports injuries so I should know more about what’s going on with my leg soon. I hope it’s good news, but the pain i’ve been feeling the past couple of days isn’t good, I feel like i’m right back where I was before I sat for a week in Lordsburg. I’ll let you know how it goes. Send happy leg vibes my way, I think i’m going to need them.
Embrace the Brutality!