Hiking the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Northbound in 2013- sharing my preparation for the hike and my day to day experience while I'm on the trail. Inspiring people to follow their dreams.

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New Mexico Sections 6-10

This is my plan for sections 6-10 which ends in Chama, NM which is my last stop before I start heading into the San Juan section of my hike.  Here’s how I’m planning to hike these sections:

Section 6:  Reserve to Pie Town:  39 Miles

Ley Maps 28-26-Mail Drop

This section of trail is a pretty short section to go before hitting Pie town, and is not known to be that difficult.  There is decent water throughout this section with many solar wells and a couple of spots where local ranchers will let you take water directly from their spiggots.  Pie town is famous mostly for one thing… you guessed it, Pie!  There is very little here other than the two restaurants that serve some of the best pie in the world, according to some hikers.  If the Appalachian Trail (AT) has a “½ gallon challenge,” then I think that Pie Town should have a whole pie challenge.We’ll see if I actually do that when I get there.  A mail drop is pretty much mandatory here because there is no real grocery store in town other than the Top of the World store, which is 3 miles west of town and has a limited resupply selection.  I will be sending to, and staying at, the Toaster House which is a very friendly hostel that accepts packages (UPS only) and has cheap accomodations.  You can also call head to the Grants Visitor Center to see which windmills are operational. However, this is an old note I read from 2008, so I’m not sure whether or not it’s still valid.

Section 7:  Pie town – Grants:  86 miles

Ley Maps:  26-20-Local Resupply

This seems like it will be a very cool section because it takes you through a lot of canyons and Anazasi ruins.  The water supply is spotty in places with some stretches of 20+ miles if the sources you do find are not suitable to drink.  The area is also known for illegal drug activity  – with planes dropping bales of something for pickups waiting to haul it away.  I’m sure they move their smuggling spots around so I’m not too worried, but I might think about camping ‘out of sight’ in this stretch, just in case.  When I hit Grants I will be happy to stop by some wonderful Trail Angels – Hugo and Carole – who run a small B&B.  They are extremely welcoming and will help you with anything you need, especially water caches for the next section.  They used to allow people to stay in their home but as of this year, they are no longer doing it. Apparently an extremely rude hiker trashed the couple online about the accommodations and their help.  They will still help you with everything above, but you can’t sleep at their house anymore.  This just shows that you need to be nice to every person that you meet along the trail.You are just a person with a pack on your back , not some rock star, so don’t expect to get special treatment.  Be thankful for every bit of help you get.

Section 8:  Grants – Cuba:  111 miles

Ley Maps:  20-11- Local Resupply

This section is where you start hitting more mountainous  terrain, with more ups and downs, and an option to summit Mt. Taylor.  Mt. Taylor is just northeast of the town of Grants and is directly on the Ley route vs. the Bear Creek maps which goes around it.  The Navajo People call it Tsoodzil, the turquoise mountain. It is one of four sacred mountains that are part of the cardinal boundaries of the Dinetah, which is the traditional Navajo homeland.  As a big fan of native culture(s) I am definitely planning on hiking to the summit.  These places always have a unique power and feeling to them and knowing the history you can’t help but think of days gone by and the people who had been there before you.  The town of Cuba is said to be a little run down but, has all the things you need.  Thru hikers report having a good experience at Del Prado Motel, as the owner is very hiker friendly.  It has a laundry, comfortable beds and the owner will even loan you her laptop for the night if you want to use the free wifi.  The grocery store is said to be good if you’re not too picky.  You also have the option of staying at Circle A Ranch which is only a little bit past Cuba.  The ranch is hiker friendly and some hikers report this being their favorite hostel along the whole trail.  There is not a resupply there, but they do accept packages and you can use their full kitchen to prepare meals.  If you don’t want to stay in town, this might be a good option at only $60 for one night and $30 a night for two nights.

Section 9:  Cuba – Ghost Ranch:  55 miles

Ley maps 11-7- Mail drop

This section of trail goes through some good canyons with reliable water sources nearby or along the trail.  The real highlight of this section is getting to Ghost Ranch which is a great spot, and not to be missed.  It’s a Presbyterian retreat, but is very hiker friendly with basic amenties like showers, laundry and a cafeteria that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner at a reasonable fee.  They also have a library that is open 24 hours with good wifi and outgoing mail.  They will also hold packages for you at no fee as long as you clearly indicate what your arrival time is and how long they should hold the package for.

Section 10:  Ghost Ranch – Chama:  80 Miles

Ley maps 7-1-Local Resupply w/ equipment mail drop.

If you want to see an  intimidating-looking section of maps, this is the section.  There are more notes on the Ley maps here than anywhere else. Notes such as‘trust your compass’ and ‘pay attention’ are littered throughout.  There are a lot of alternatives you can use here, including some old routes, the new Bear Creek route, or even road walking the entire distance between Ghost Ranch and Chama.  You can take a train from Chama to Cumbres Pass.  There are a lot of forest roads, side roads, bad tread and everything in between for this section. However, I’m positive my navigation skills will be good at this point, so I hope it doesn’t  matter.  In Chama I plan on sending the gear that I will need for the San Juans, since they start shortly north of Chama.  I plan on buying my food locally, but I will have my sister mail me a box I’ll have packed up ahead of time, including warmer clothes, ice axe (if needed), microspikes for my feet and my maps for the next few sections.  I might also do a zero day here to prepare me for one of the parts of the CDT I am really looking forward to (not to mention one of the most physically demanding sections as well).  I don’t think that this year will be as high of a snow year as 2011 was, but low snow still means there is snow on the ground, so I’m sure postholing will be in my future.



Thoughts about Technology on the Trail


cell phone

I don’t like having any technology while on backpacking trips .  I find it to be the complete opposite of why I’m out there. Part of the reason why I go into the woods is to get away from my phone, email and facebook.  However, thru hiking is not backpacking and staying connected is something that most of us want or need to do.

On the 2013 CDT Facebook page, it seems that most people are bringing some form of ‘technology’ on the trail.  They either have a cell phone, iPod, digital camera, GPS or even an iPad.  Do I need these things for my hike?  Am I invalidating the ‘purity’ of my hike by bringing along a cell phone?

My friends know me as the guy who gets mad if you bring your cell phone with you to play games while we were in camp or to listen to music.  Even bringing a GPS is a huge NO for me because as Doug Peacock says, “It’s a privilege to get lost in America today”.  Even hiking with an iPod is a no-no. What if someone was hurt in the area you’re hiking and their screams for help were not heard because you were listening to the Bieb on your iPod instead of helping them from a near-death wildebeest attack.  Would you want that to happen to you?  Technology is a distraction, not an advantage in the wilderness when backpacking.  But, now I’m transitioning to thru hiker, which is a whole different game.

So I must confess to you and the world that I am taking a Cell phone with me on the CDT.  Not only that, but I am bringing a solar charger and a Delorme InReach system that will let me ‘live tweet’ as I hike the CDT.  I will be updating Twitter, Facebook, blogging and sending messages to friends, families and sponsors along the way.  I’m going to fill it with music, podcasts and a dreaded GPS.  I might even end up watching a Fail Compilation of people getting hit in the privates on YouTube at my campsite if Verizon’s network reaches me.  I know, I know, you must be shaking your head and screaming at the screen saying “WHY!?!?  Why do such a thing?”  Well, my answer will be that my job will now be to hike all day, not walk to camp and relax.  Hiking everyday will get exhausting and a I’ll be needing distractions, badly.  Yes, I will love the sounds of the birds chirping, the smell of the water and the rustling of the leaves, but after a while it won’t be this mysterious place anymore, it will be my day to day.

In the office I dream of the birds, water and leaves because it’s the opposite of what I’m doing now. However, when I’m out there, the cell phone and everything that it can provide will be my new way of life.  Weird. Its not that I’ll be missing my desk job but, instead I’ll be missing those things that we all do in the office for some distraction like the YouTube video your friend sent you or the new funny website.

My view on technology for this trip has changed the more I’ve thought about it.  It’s not only a trip for me but, it’s a trip that has involved countless other people including family, friends, coworkers and the great people like you that read my blog.  I want to stay close to you, not far away.  I want to share my experiences whether they be good or bad so you can be there with me.  Technology is what will help me share it.  So please, don’t be mad.  When I come back, I promise to be the same old grumpy backpacker that yells at people for listening to the Beib.

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New Mexico Sections 1-5

Welcome to New Mexico


Wind, sand, heat, scorpions and snakes will greet me as I start the first leg of my CDT adventure in New Mexico.  It’s a beautiful, yet harsh landscape, where water supplies are limited. Here’s how I’m planning my trip for the first 5 sections in New Mexico.

Starting dates/routes:

My start date is Saturday, April 20th.  I will solely be using the Ley Maps and taking the Columbus vs. the Crazy Cook route. My research shows there is better water along the route and it is more scenic as well.  It is also the easiest to reach and since my family is driving me down to Deming, I wanted it to be easily accessible for them as well.  They will not be taking me to the actual border because honestly, I don’t think it’s safe for my sister, mom and nephew to be in that area.  It’s fine for me but, not something that I’m completely comfortable with.

The ride to the border will be with Keith from Deming, NM.  Keith is a long time trail angle from Deming and offers rides to the border for only $25.  He will tell you exactly how to get back to Deming, alert border patrol of your presence and knows the local landscape.

Here is my plan for the first 5 sections out of 10.  I’ve split them up with the help of Yogi’s CDT Handbook and various other resources:

(Mileage is my own estimates; please do your own research as well-this is also in North bound order)

Section 1- Mexican Border to Deming:  68 miles

Ley Maps Columbus 11-7  – Local Resupply

After taking some pictures and walking a couple of feet into Mexico I’ll start heading north.  Now it’s time to stop dreaming, and time to start doing.  My plan is to take it easy in this first section.  I plan on putting in some easy miles and not get too excited. I don’t want to push it too hard, too fast, and risk an injury.  I do not plan on doing anything as I walk through Columbus except maybe pop into a convenience store.

Section 2-  Deming to Emory Pass ( Hwy 152)  69 miles

Ley Maps Columbus 6-3 –  Hitch 40 miles to Silver city- Local Resupply

I plan on leaving a resupply box and Heet at Keith’s to keep things easy and to keep up my early momentum.  This will make for a quick and easy exit out of Deming after staying the night, probably in Keith’s back yard.  Hopefully take a shower and wash some clothes.  Once I’m in Deming I’ll tell my sister to mail my package to Doc Campbell’s because this is a must for resupply.  This gives it plenty of time to arrive and ensure it is waiting for me.

The ‘trail’ out of Deming is a mostly gravel road that hugs private property lines.  I hope to avoid any problems with local ranchers.  I think my biggest problem will be finding reliable water during this section, with most of it coming from cow tanks.  Maybe some nice old lady will let me take water from her faucet, who knows?

Section 3- Emory Pass (Hwy 152) – Hwy 35 (Mimbres): 26 miles

Ley maps Columbus 3-1- Hitch/walk 6 miles to town- Local Resupply

From what I can tell this is an uneventful section, but fun I’m sure.  The town of Mimbres is only a 6 mile walk (or hitchhike) and has a decent resupply from what I have read.  I expect to get creative here with food selection.  But it’s not too far to get to Doc’s where a resupply will be waiting for me.

Section 4-  Hwy 35 (Mimbres) – Doc Campbell’s: 47 miles

Ley Maps NM30j, 36-34 – Mail box to Doc’s- Zero Day

This stretch will start to be a change as we start heading into the Gila’s and getting close to more exciting terrain.  I’m excited for this section because I am a fan of Ancestral Pueblo or Anasazi culture.  I believe that I will start to see some cliff dwellings, rock art and possibly some ancient remains.

Section 5- Doc Campbell’s to Reserve – Gila River Route: 86 miles

Ley Maps 34-28 w/ river route – Hitch 30 miles to Reserve – Local Resupply

Once at Doc Campbell’s, I plan on taking a zero day.  I’m excited to look at the Gila Cliff Dwellings and all the sites in the area.  I will also have a chance to lounge in the hot springs and sleep in a bed if I choose to spend the cash.  Other hikers have stayed at the campground in the area for much cheaper and still have access to the hot springs.  Notes for the area say to bring cash and not to skip the homemade ice cream at Doc’s.  I know I won’t miss that!

When you leave Doc’s you can either take the mountain route or the river route. I am definitely taking the river route.  They say you do about 85 river crossings total, but the scenery and history along the river is unbelievable.  I can’t wait for this section as most say it’s finally like you’re in wilderness after walking on the roads for what seems like forever.