A bum knee isn’t something to stop you from hiking, so I took off from the American Inn hotel after taking a day off to rest the knee. I started out with a new knee brace from Walmart and enough food to make it through the next section. The first 6 miles was a road walk through town towards an old non-working windmill outside of town, following the highway that had brought me into town. I was still in high spirits, despite my aching knee, which I figure is just part of the experience.
The weather was hot walking out of Deming. I’ve learned that road-walking on the highway is not only fun from the steaming heat rising from the asphalt as it hits you in the face, but that most people don’t drive, they stare at their phones as they text, which is scary. I was happy to leave the highway and start weaving through the residential streets north of Deming. After about 7 miles I was outside of town and heading toward the broken windmill that was my first landmark on the map. Once I found that, I was on my way to Spider Windmill. It had good water, but was also surrounded by the typical mounds of horse manure and whatnot. The water was greenish with floaties, which I’ve become used to. Its amazing how quickly you become used to something that normally you would look at and say, “I would never touch that.”
Leaving Spider Windmill I headed northwest to a non-functioning windmill and gate. The map did not have rose on it so it was difficult to orienteer, but I took my best guess and started walking. I thought it was odd to be going cross-country when the maps said there was a road, but I’m learning that in New Mexico, a “road” often isn’t really anything more than an obscure line in the dirt. Admittedly, I got completely misplaced after about 2 miles, seeing no tracks or foot prints from the group of hikers who had left 2 days before me. I was being hard on myself because at home I’d stare and stare at the maps. I thought I’d have a better idea of what to expect, but staring at them in the comfort of my home is completely different than actually being here. I decided to sit down, drink some water, calm myself down and figure out where I was and where I needed to be going. After about 15 minutes, I stood up high on a fence and spotted a shiny object about 3 miles to the west of me. I was convinced it had to be the non-functioning windmill and decided to go for it. After an hour I reached it and the “heavy gate” that was supposed to be there. Although I was relieved, I can say it was the lowest point of the trip so far. I consider myself a good navigator, so getting lost 10 miles outside of town was disheartening. It’s a real blow to your ego to get lost in a place you thought you had researched thoroughly. I started feeling as though, if I had gotten lost here, how am I going to handle being in the middle of nowhere? During my little pity party I saw 3 people walking toward the tank and figured they were other CDT hikers. Immediately my mood changed and I was relieved when they finally got to the tank and I met Alarick, Abbey and Daniel, who were CDT hikers as well. They sat down with me in the shade behind the tank and we started sharing stories of the trail. They were needing new shoes already and they shared some of their high and low points. I have to admit it was great to be around other hikers and to hear they had been having trouble as well. Swallowing my pride, I asked if I could hike with them and I was grateful when they said yes. So now I was part of pack of CDT hikers and was very happy about it. We hiked together for a few more hours to the nicest windmill so far. There was good water and actual shade from a real tree, not just a big bush.
Over the next couple of days we hiked together, leaning on each other for navigation, sharing food and having good laughs. We got misplaced the next morning, requiring us to go cross-country to get back on the actual trail. Alarick and Abby had been suffering from severe blisters that looked horribly painful to walk on. They were determined to keep going, though. They’re both strong hikers who definitely have a no-quit attitude. Being from Seattle, they had done plenty of hiking and had decided to do the trail as a challenge, just as I had. Daniel was from Austria and was on the CDT because he was debating between this trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and flipped a coin, which landed him here with me. I was grateful to have the company.
Over the next couple of days we hiked from windmill to windmill, fighting the brutal New Mexico wind, full of sand that whips you in the face each and every moment of the day. There is no escaping this wind… It is relentless. I don’t know how the people or the cows who live here handle it. We met a local rancher with a weathered face. He was nice enough to inform (and scare the crap out of ) me by saying this area is home to 6 different types of rattlesnakes, of which the rancher explained, “If you get bit by one of thems Mojave rattlesnakes you might as well bend over and kiss your ass good bye, because there ain’ts no anti-venom for them.” Having already been hyper-aware of rattlesnakes, I was now even more worried about them. According to the rancher, during this time of year they hang out in the afternoon, hiding behind rocks and biting people as they walk by. Great.
Over the next couple of days we traveled from the desert to the hills which had trees and shade for us to hide under. We passed an abandoned house that looked like one day the owners just picked up and left. There were shoes, clothes, dishes and piles of National Enquirers laying around. Its was a creepy place for us to take our afternoon siesta, but it was shaded and provided us with some good laughs thanks to the tabloids, which told of aliens, bat boy and how JFK is still alive. The next day we got deeper into the hills and met with another hiker named Sunday who joined our group, as well. It was fun hiking in a pack and hearing his stories from the thru hike of the PCT he completed last year. We got misplaced again, which left us with a fun bushwack over two mountains and down several sketchy sections to get back to the trail. Once back on the trail we headed toward our last water source, which was a spring that was 200 meters from a trail junction. Well, that water was barely there, leaving the 5 of us only 1 liter of water each to make it the 7 miles to Emory Pass. That night, tired and dehydrated, I dreamt of showers, pools and ice cold classes of water. I’ve never dreamt of water before and got a taste of what it feels like to be severely dehydrated, wanting nothing more then to chug a bottle of water.
The next morning we reached Emory pass at 10 am. We held a sign reading NEED WATER, which fortunately worked because a kind person gave us half a gallon, which we split between the 5 of us. Now it was time to get a hitch. Alarick, Abby & Daniel held a sign that read HIKER TO TOWN, which got them a ride after about an hour of trying, leaving me and Sunday to get the next one. We got a ride an hour later with a nice couple on their way back to Arizona. They were a wonderful couple who drove us all the way to the Motel 6 where I stayed for the next two days resting my swollen right ankle. I’ll be going back to Emory Pass tomorrow to start the next leg of this journey though Mimbres and on to Doc Campbell’s at the foot of the Gila River, which I’m very excited for. So far I have been humbled by this experience and can’t wait to keep going because I’m loving the experience and want more!