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 1: Border to Deming

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Well, I’m finally here.  I’ve made it back to Deming after completing the first 56 mile section of the CDT.  Its been an amazing experience already and am happy that I’m out on the trail doing it.  I’m no longer dreaming, I’m doing.

My arrival into Deming was good because I had my family with me to wish me well for the trail and it was great to have everyone here.  At 8 am, Saturday April 20th, I was picked up by local trail angel Keith to take me down to the border.  He’s been helping hikers like me for many years and is great resource not just to get to the trail but for rides around town and to stash water for you as well.  On our way down, he showed me important intersections and introduced me to some of the people who I could take water from when I got there.  I encountered a great collection of local people with big smiles, great stories and colorful personalities.

Me and the trail angel.

Me and the trail angel.

On the border

On the border

After a 30 min drive we finally arrived on the border.  It’s not what you would expect from all that you hear on the news about it.  It’s pretty much a couple of buildings, a big long fence and streams of cars coming and going.  Keith talked to the border patrol to let us walk up to the international line to get some of the traditional pictures of me standing next to it and the plaque that all hikers want to get their picture next to. I wanted to take more pictures, but I was told that they will confiscate your camera if they think you are taking pictures of the government buildings and I certainly didn’t want that to happen to my new camera.  After some more pictures, I said goodbye to Keith and started walking.  I have to admit, as soon as I started walking I started to cry.  I was overcome with joy that I had set a goal for myself to hike the CDT and here I was actually doing it.  It was a powerful feeling to be doing something that I had sacrificed so much to be able to do.  It’s an amazing feeling that I hope everyone might get to experience in their life, and I know that I will never forget it for as long as I live.

The long road...

The long road…

The first 56 miles is walking mostly on 4×4 roads back to Deming.  First was the town of Columbus, which looks like an old abandoned mining town that has no reason to be there.  Oddly, there are a bunch of people driving around in really nice trucks but houses are ugly, so it makes you wonder what kind of business they are in…. just sayin’. I passed by a older lady in Columbus who was watering a couple of trees and she waved over to me and said ” I hope your having a great day” and I stopped and waved back at her and said “Yes, I’m having a great day”.  She looked so happy and I was happy for her.  About 1 mile outside of Columbus I walked up to a border patrol car that was out looking for a pair of illegals who had walked around the border fence.  According to the border patrolman there aren’t that many illegals crossing in this area because the land is very harsh south of here; you mostly get illegal drug activity.  I told them I hadn’t seen anyone.  Honestly, had I run into them I would have probably just helped them any way I could, and wished them well on their journey.  Being an immigrant myself, I can’t talk bad about someone else trying to make a better life for themselves in a new country.

On my first day I walked about 15 miles total, following a fence and then a 4×4 road to my first water cache that was not easy to find.  Since I decided to not use GPS on this trip, I didn’t have a waypoint to plug in, only a dot I had made with my pencil indicating the general area of the water cache.  I was happy to find it 30 mins before sundown where I made camp to get out of the 40 mph winds that had been hitting me all day.  The sun, wind and sand takes a toll on your body that you don’t realize until you’re out here.

Morning, April 22nd

Morning, April 22nd

Day 2 brought a gorgeous sunrise that made me feel ready to tackle my first full day on the CDT.  I packed up quickly eating my typical 2 Clif Bars for breakfast, as I walked the 3 miles to Willie’s house where I could get water.  Willie was an old Vietnam Vet who has been helping hikers for many years, giving them as much water as they need.  After chatting with him for a few minutes and taking just over a gallon of water I started the 10 mile cross country walk to the back side of the Florida Mountains.  I was certain I would see plenty of rattle snakes during this section, but I didn’t see any, which was fine with me because I hate snakes. I’ll be happy if I don’t run into any this entire trip.

Moooo.

Moooo.

Nasty.

Nasty.

My only water source out here is the water provided by the wind mills that are for the cows.  So most of the water sources I found either smelled of cow poo or were swarming with bees.  I know that I have to drink out of these disgusting troughs but I can be a little picky when I know there are more options ahead.  To treat this water I have both Aqua Mira and a Sawyer filter system and this is the only way I’m drinking any of this water.  I finally found some good water towards the end of my day and decided to stay the night there because my right knee had started hurting pretty badly.  My knees had never hurt before on hikes so I didn’t want to push it and hurt myself early on this trip.  I setup camp and watched the sun set over the vast horizon with its stream of reds, oranges and pink.  For a place that has very little, it shows off a lot.

On my third day I was happy to be heading towards Deming and getting out of the wind.  I had only about 18 miles to go to get to town and 3/4th of that was road walking which doesn’t take much time.  I walked through the Florida gap to another trail angel that let me take water from their hose which was much better than the water I had gotten from the tank the day before.  After tanking up there and taking about 2 liters with me I made the final road walk back to Deming.  I’ve decided to take a zero day (no hiking) at the American Inn Motel which is only $39 a night to let my very sore knee rest.  I have had to make changes to my plan after hearing that the resupply in Mimbres is no longer there, forcing me to do a 8 day carry to Doc Campbells versus the 3 days I had planned for.  I’ll head to the local Walmart and get some food for this next long carry.

All things considered, I feel great and am excited to finally be out here walking the CDT.  I’m already enjoying my time on the trail and am looking forward to putting in even more miles.  I have to stay focused on staying hydrated and injury-free so I can make it to the end.  Now I’m off to get some good local Mexican food, because it can’t get any more authentic than this! 🙂

Welcome to New Mexico!

Welcome to New Mexico!

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Thoughts about Technology on the Trail

 

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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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Royal Rumble: New Gear vs. Old Gear

I held in my hand a $210 quilt that has the latest and greatest technology inside of it, like piles of 850 goose down-filled baffles with silky 10d nylon.  At my feet is a new sleep pad that was designed with body mapping technology to cradle me as I sleep.  These are the kinds of things you read about and see when you start buying gear for your thru hike or outdoor adventure.

I’m like most people – ok maybe not most – but I have a lot of gear that is old, but has served me well for many years.  They are my ‘go-to’ items such as my Golite quilt, Big Agnes one-man tent and closed cell foam pad that has seen better days.  We each have those pieces of gear that have been with us forever, like an old friend. I know I can depend on them because they will not let me down.  These pieces of gear are iconic in our minds, so it’s hard to start thinking about buying new gear for my CDT trip.  I almost feel like I’m cheating on my old gear just by thinking about this new and exciting gear I want to buy.  Recently, I had the opportunity to buy some gear at great prices, so I pulled the trigger and got a couple of new things, despite what I imagined as nasty looks from my old gear.

Nemo Siren 30 quilt:  This quilt is the newest technology in quilt manufacturing and the first run for a company called Nemo Equipment.  It’s rated at 30 degrees, weighs 18 oz, 6’ long, 10d nylon on the outside and filled with 850 fill down. If you’ve never used a quilt, think of a sleeping bag with the bottom cut out.  I’ve been sleeping in quilts exclusively for 5 years and absolutely love them.  By using a quilt you save weight because there is no zipper and no hood.  I toss and turn during the night and this quilt is wide enough to prevent drafts from coming in and is a great piece to just throw over you as you hang out in camp.

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Klymit Inertia X-lite:  This is a ¾ length pad that is the worlds lightest, most compact and technically advanced sleeping pad on the market today.  It blows up in about 3 breaths and is pretty comfortable.  It rolls up smaller then a banana and weighs only 6.1 oz.  This will be new for me, since I’ve traditionally used a ¾ length closed cell foam pad for several years, using my pack as the portion that protects my legs from the ground.  I’ve never been a huge fan of inflatable pads because, in my eyes, it’s a ‘moving part’, which means it has features that could go wrong.  It could pop, it could leak or some valve could break off.  I purchased it because if I’m going to be sleeping on the ground for 5 months, I should get something that is comfortable. And I have to say, when I laid on it, it was very comfortable.

XLite3

Rab Xenon Jacket:  Weighing only 12 oz in size Large, this jacket is a synthetic power house featuring super lightweight synthetic fill that will stay warm even when wet.  I picked this as my ‘go-to’ garment for early morning hiking in cold weather and in case of light rain in the cold.  It comes with a full-length zipper, 2 zipped pockets and a chest pocket, which is essential, in my eyes, for storing items you will need quickly and won’t have to worry about slipping out of your pocket.  I wore it recently, while walking a dog in a snowfall. It kept we warm and dry with only a cotton tee shirt underneath in 32-degree weather, for over an hour.

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