CouchtoCDT

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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Section 3: Emory Pass to Doc Campbells

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After 2 days of rest in Silver City, it was time to leave and get back on the trail.  I was happy to get out because I was starting to feel a little too comfortable with my soft bed, unlimited TV and showers whenever I wanted.  I wasn’t on vacation. I was thru hiking, damn it, and it was time to go. During my shopping at Walmart, which is the only place to shop in the last couple of cities, I bought a large piece of cardboard to help us with our hitchhiking. I used the term Sunday had used before but with a twist:  “Hikers to Emory Pass.”  This way people would know that I’m a hiker and not homeless. Also, stating specifically where I’m going might let people know that they won’t have to take me to Florida or something.  A smiley face wouldn’t hurt either…

After deciding to just go right outside of our hotel, we took our spot on the road and started the hitching process.  I took off my hat, cleaned up my shirt, put on a big (but not cheesy) smile on and held the sign. Two and a half hours later, we got a ride by a lady who was only going to the intersection of the road that would take us to Emory Pass.  She wasn’t from New Mexico so she didn’t know if riding in the back of a truck was legal or not, and at that point I didn’t care either, so I hopped in.  I kept a low profile just in case the cops drove by and just laid back and watched the clouds go by as the wind whipped passed me and gripped my hat so it didn’t fly away.  After about 10 minutes, we were at the intersecton saying good bye when another person that had seen us earlier asked us hop into her van.  It was only 10 seconds between hitches, which was fantastic, and gave us hope we might get to the pass soon.  We rode in the van with a woman and her son to the last intersection where any car passing us would be going to Emory Pass.  Surprisingly, it took another two and a half hours to get a ride up to the pass.  During that time, the sun beat down on us with no break.

Hitchin'

Hitchin’

Another hiker came out from the corner of the road toward us and told us he was a CDT hiker who was headed back to Gypsum, CO. Apparently he had no maps and was hiking the CDT with only a road atlas which I thought was crazy!  He got a ride with us and ended up going all the way to Santa Fe with the lady and her kids, who gave us a ride. Once on Emory Pass we hit the trail and hiked the 5 miles to the top of Hillsboro Peak lookout in about 3 hours, due to of the long switchback trail that kept going on forever to the 10,009 ft summit.  At the top was an unmanned fire lookout tower, a cabin for the lookout person and a cabin that was free for all people to enjoy.  We settled into the cabin for a great night of playing cards. It had a small room with bunkbeds, wood stove and a great porch that looked east.  I sat on the porch for a long time, gazing over the open basin below and the distant views that it provided.  That night we had the most amazing time eating and playing poker using rocks as poker chips, by the light of my headlamp.  It was truly a great moment of the trip so far and will not be soon forgotten.  That night the wind howled non-stop, as I lay snug inside the creaking cabin safe from the elements.

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The next morning we headed out, winding around the mountain, up and down several of the saddles that the route traversed.  You could tell that the area was not well maintained, as trails fading into nothing and junctions pointing us in directions we didn’t think a trail could exist.  After a long lunch, we made our way down a newer looking trail, looking for the road we hoped to join up with.  The trail was faint, but was covered with cairns, as if a drunk person had placed them as a joke to the unknowing hiker.  After several hours, we finally reached the road and began our 15 mile hike down into Mimbres.  With no real camping available in Mimbres, we stayed that night 5 miles outside of town, happy to have gotten a signal on my phone where we watched Gilbert Godfried standup comedy, which was a great change of pace.

The following morning we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise of orange, pink and yellow that lit up the mountain and everything around us.  We made the 5 mile walk to town, ready to hit our next trailhead. It was next to the Forest Service building that also held our desperately needed water supply. Half way to the building a truck stopped next to us and asked if we were hikers.  We were easy to spot I guess, looking smelly, beaten and wearing packs… no real place to hide. Steve was a Mimbres local with a seasoned face and a hand-rolled smoke hanging out of his mouth.  We told him we were CDT hikers and started chatting.  He asked if we wanted to go to his house and take a shower and use the internet.  Under normal circumstances I would think twice about this type of situation, but being stinky and thirsty we agreed and made our way to his house, which was only a mile back the way we came.  We showered and chatted with Steve, who had actually built most of the trail in the area.  In his 30 years in the valley he had been everywhere, he said, working with scientist and the forest service.  He was a great guy and I was happy to have met him.  After that, we hit the trail, but not before stopping at the Elk X-ing Cafe to destroy a quick burger.

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Heading up the Allie Canyon trail we saw our first CDT marker at the top. It only took 200 miles to see our first marker!  That same day we met up with the offical route that the Crazy Cook hikers take and were happy to finally had made it to the lower Gila River.  It was like entering an oasis with all the water that we could drink.  Beautiful flowing water that wasn’t a nasty stagnant cow tank. A paradise you just wanted to jump into and never leave.  We stared down into the canyon and were excited to finally make it to the Gila River.

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We walked the next one and a half days on the lower Gila keeping a look out for petroglyphs, dwellings and mountain lions from all the prints that we had seen on the river banks.  This also started the river crossings, which for me was welcomed because of the cool and crisp feeling of cold water on your feet and thighs, at times.  We wound back and forth across the river to banks of drier ground, only to cross again.  Any time our feet started drying it was time to get them wet again.  This is where lots of mesh comes in to play and can make or break your feet.  Why you would wear water proof shoes or anything like that I don’t know. We made a nice camp in the canyon and listened to the first rain that night from 3 am until 7 am, when we crawled out of our tents.  We reached Doc Campbells after just over a day in the canyon and were happy to be there.  It was time for our resupply boxes and hot springs to warm our cold feet and aching bodies.  Next was the Middle fork of the Gila and a whole other story….

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Section 2: Deming to Emory Pass

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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.

Windmillin'

Windmillin’

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.

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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.

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Hulk Hogan the Messiah?

Hulk Hogan the Messiah?

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.

Emory Pass!

Emory Pass!

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!

HIKER TO TOWN

HIKER TO TOWN