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.


Leave a comment

Butte to Helena

P1010769

I arrived in Butte with a good spirit, having just joined my new group of hikers who allowed me to join them on the trail for however long I wanted to.  I was excited to be with a new group, to have some new experiences and learn from these 3 other hikers that were on their way to achieving their triple crown (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail & Continental Divide Trail).

We spent a couple of days resting in the cramped confines of a two queen bed hotel room for the 5 of us, 1 of them being a old friend of my new group from Oregon who was in the neighborhood.  We ate Chinese food, enjoyed the local brewery and I saw my first and only movie on the trail on Labor Day.  I was grossly disappointed with the movie but at least the movie theatre experience made me feel a apart of society again, that I was once again capable of doing normal things.  We spotted a Labor Day picnic at a community park hosted by the local electrical and pipe fitters union where there was free hotdogs and soda to be had and being cheap hikers we were obligated to stop by and consume our 3 hotdogs and 4 bags of chips like any true American.

P1010711

After a couple of days of leisure we started back on the trail right where we had stopped.  I was only about a mile outside of Whitehall but my other companions were about 4 miles behind me.  A farmers market that offered up fresh local produce and cookies that I was happy to buy and enjoy immediately distracted me.  My companions passed me after finding a too comfortable tree to enjoy my new food.  Walking the roads several people stopped to ask what we were doing and I gave them my regular response.  Most said that’s great but a few said that’s crazy.

P1010764

That day was all about road walking, going under the bridge of highway 90 as the cars and trucks zipped by at high speeds and then entering the local forest area on the east side of Butte.  Walking the gravel roads of forest areas is a big part of a CDT hike and they can be methodical and boring.  I was lucky enough to be recommended a new podcast ‘Things you should know’ and was enjoying learning about how ejector seats work, universal health care and diving bells.  Podcasts are a great way to make the miles just slip away.  That night we slept in a typical car camping spot while our friend from Oregon met up with us and brought pizza and beer.  The next morning we rose with a purpose but not the usual one.  It was Sunday and that meant that the newest episode of Breaking Bad was on AMC and we did not want to miss it. It would be a 17-mile day and we had to be done by 5 to get back to a hotel room that had AMC and watch our show that night.  We all walked with a purpose that day even if it was for a T.V show.

You hike for different reasons every day

You hike for different reasons every day

After we all injected or should I say snorted our Breaking Bad fix we were off again, entering the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National forest.  We had 71 miles to go to get to Helena and we were back on the official CDT after taking the Big Sky Variant due to time restraints and fires.   We made it up Champions Pass and through some pretty normal hiking that had good water sources, easy to follow trail signs, big open views and old mining towns long ago abandoned.  Excitingly as we sat next to the trail one day for lunch 2 old friends happened to turn the corner and walk right into us.  We hadn’t seen them in several weeks and it was great to be back with them.  Immediately we started talking about which sections had sucked, what town was cool and what goodies we had decided to carry.  We had ourselves a little party at camp that night and it was great to be amongst friends.  I knew that night was one to be cherished and remembered as only a night like that can be.

P1010747

We all hiked at different speeds so it was a constant game of leapfrog as you went.  One person would stop for a break as the other person kept going until you started up again and caught back up to them.  Each person was in their own worlds, listening to their music, books, podcasts or the sound of their own feet.  The trail would take you up high to gorgeous views and then surround you in woods that looked like no one had hiked them in a long time.  You’re brought back to reality when you pass huge power lines as they buzz with electricity and make eerie sounds as the wind passes around them.

P1010743

P1010799

P1010752

After only 3 days we covered the 71 miles to McDonald Pass, which was our highway to hitch into Helena.  The view before you hit the highway was a vast expanse of forest and a large open valley to the east where Helena waited for us.  It was a gorgeous view and one that I will remember.  I arrived at the pass, second only to Bonelady, who was drying out her sleeping bag from last nights rain waiting for us to arrive.  I had chatted up some nice tourist at the ‘lookout’ but that did not lead to a ride into town.  It’s all about chatting up the people you can actually talk to to get a ride because that is much easier then putting out your thumb and hoping for the best.  Eventually 5 out of 6 of us were at the pass and a nice guy pulled over and immediately asked if we were CDT hikers.  We said yes and he mentioned how we were going to be the 15th hikers he was taking into town.  We had great trail magic with someone who knew what we were all about.   We piled into his truck leaving one person behind to catch his own ride.  Now this isn’t considered rude mind you.  We had waited for as long as we could and you can’t jeopardize a ride that can take 5 hikers to town.  If we had let this ride slip away we wouldn’t have been considered nice but idiots.  So we drove off heading into Helena for a day of rest and the fried chicken I had been dreaming about for the past several days.

HIKER TO TOWN

HIKER TO TOWN


2 Comments

Apps for Thru Hiking

apps

I brought a phone with me on my thru hike, yes a phone, and in the end I was very happy I did.  Some say that a phone takes away from your experience, which it can, but if used correctly as a tool, it can enhance your hiking experience, not hinder.  I used it to stay in touch with family and friends, check the weather ahead, listen to audio books, read books, get intel on the trail ahead, listen to music, take pictures and video, transfer photos, listen to podcasts and keep a audio journal.  Apps helped to enrich my experience on the trail.

OverDrive Media Consule:  Do you have a library card?  If yes, then you can use this great app to connect to your local libraries digital collection of ebooks & audio books.  After you’ve downloaded the app, you enter in your library card number and start searching your libraries collection.  You can scroll through hundreds if not thousands of titles to download to your phone in several formats that are available whenever you want. I listened to a total of 19 audio books on my thru hike.  It was a great way to use the time I had to learn about things I normally wouldn’t read about or catch up on all the things I wanted to learn about.  Starting and stopping your progress was easy and you can borrow the title for 14 days to listen/read your selection.   You can also put holds on titles that aren’t currently available and get an email notification when it’s ready for you to download.

Smart Voice Recorder:  After hiking 25 miles the last thing I wanted to do was type a diary entry on my phone.  I started out using a word program but after losing several entries due to crashes I gave up and downloaded this app.  Being able to simply push a button and record my thought and feelings without having to stumble through typing was great.  You have so much emotion on the trail that listening to your tone, mood and feelings afterwards brings you back.  I also recorded random thoughts and great reminders to do that day, next town stop or just stupid random thoughts.  The recordings are crisp, void of any dead noise and easy to transfer from my phone to computer.  No more worrying about spelling or my fat fingers messing something up.

Spotify:  Music, music, and music!!!  I listened to a ton of music on my hike.  Everything from Rage Against the Machine, Rolling Stones, Wutang Clan, B.B King, Elvis and everything in between.  For only $10 a month for the Premium subscription, you can download as many titles to your phone as it can handle.  I enjoyed listening to music before but wasn’t able to listen to a lot of it that was unknown to me.  I had the opportunity to listen to bands and artist I never heard of by following the ‘recommendations’ tab and other music by similar artists.  I’m now a fan of blue grass, classical and techno.  The sound of the birds and trees are great but when you need to get moving nothings better then putting on my headphones and listening to Gogol Bordello’s – Trans-Continental Hustle to get you moving!

iPP Podcast:  Podcasts are a great way to keep up with all the things that you love.  This app was easy to download and subscribing to podcasts was even easier.  All of your subscriptions are easy to track and new episodes are downloaded when you get back into cell reception.  You can store them for however long you like or can delete them once you’ve listened to it.  The podcasts I listened to most were:  Tara Brach (Dharma Talks & Guided Meditations) NPR Fresh Air, This American Life, The Truth, The Moth, TedTalks, Brewing TV and Stuff you should know.

Facebook:  I’m not a huge fan of Facebook but was an invaluable tool while on the trail.  The CDT thru hikers had a Facebook page, CDT 2013, that helped us keep everyone informed on trail conditions, best/cheap places to eat and sleep and to find out where your friends were.  Is the trail rerouted in the Winds?  Is the fire still raging out of control in southern Colorado?  What’s the best burger joint in Grants?  Facebook had it all.  Also, eventually you will get lonely on the trail so keeping up with friends and family back home and sharing your experience with them helps make your trip even more special.

P.S ( I had a Android phone but many of the above apps are available on the iPhone as well)

Do you bring electronic devices with you when you hike?  Which ones and why?


2 Comments

Section 6: Grants to Cuba

Summit of Mt. Taylor

Summit of Mt. Taylor

I lay in bed with the TV flickering on a random daytime show that makes no sense nor do I care who the actual baby daddy is.  This is the zero day that I had in Grants, it didn’t involve moving because of my aching foot that was tender to each step that I had taken.  The rest of the group had left that morning but I knew that an extra day would give my foot the rest it needed to make it to Cuba, which was the next destination for my next segment.

Grants is small towns that once use to be a booming city for Uranium mining and use to have one of the biggest and most productive Uranium mines in the country.  As the local shuttle drive told me high school kids were dropping out of school to go work the mines for the average starting salary of $80,000 per year, creating a huge void in the school system.  Once the government stopped buying the Uranium, the mine laid off 4,000 people overnight, starting a mass exodus out of the town.  Grant has since recovered but you can still see the boarded up shops of the downtown but you can still feel the local pride by its banners and its people.

After resting in the hotel room, doing some shopping at Wal-Mart and getting a resupply box ready to be shipped to Ghost Ranch it was time to leave.  My foot was feeling a little better but I was ready to keep moving.  I’ve learned the longer I stay in town the more comfortable I get and the more my head starts spinning with ideas.  I called the local shuttle to give me a ride to the post office and then to the Mumm’s who are local trail angels and were holding a new bladder system I had ordered from REI.  I was tired of always taking my pack off to drink water so wanted to try this new hydration system.  The Mumm’s are great people who leave out water caches at the start of the Malapais, entering the final canyon towards grants and one final one on the last stretch up Mt. Taylor.  They are wonderful people with a big heart and I was happy to meet them and give them a much-needed donation.

Hugo & Carole Mumm

Hugo & Carole Mumm

I got to the trailhead for the next segment and began the long hike to the base of Mt. Taylor, hiking about 10 miles that day to the water cache left by the Mumm’s.  I like staying next to caches as you can drink all you want and then camel up in the morning for the next day.  This was my first section alone since the border and I was actually happy to be hiking alone for this part.  I was able to hike at my own pace, my own schedule and gave me some time to think about the journey so far.

P1010098

I hiked up the 11,301 ft summit of Mt. Taylor, a leftover ridge from a volcano that had exploded many millions of years ago, now making it the high point of the CDT in New Mexico.  I was so happy to be gaining some elevation and the straight up trail and eventual switchbacks brought me back to this realization.  I summited Mt. Taylor in the morning with the sun rising over the huge horizon that laid before me.   To the south were the mountains I had walked through to reach Grants and to the west were the open plains of the desert landscape that hid Arizona not far away.  To the east and north you could see the next ridges and plateaus that would be my home for the next couple of days as I hiked on top of expanding Mesa’s.  I spent a little bit of time on top before making the descent down the mountain, following forest roads to my next water source, American Spring.  This was one of the nicest springs I had seen so far and was happy to get the water out of the pipe that was surrounded by great meadow full of grass and glorious shade.  What a change from the low-lying desert areas that had been my home for so long.  I ate a nice leisurely lunch there before continuing my trip down the mountain.  That day I hiked 27 miles making camp in a patch of tree’s after getting a burst of energy from Skrillz on my newly downloaded Spotify app.  Yes, some say technology is wrong in the woods but music is a great companion after a long day, especially Bob Marley.

Collared Lizard

The next day brought a boring road walk that seemed to never end.  It finally did at my next water source, Los Indios Spring.  This is the point where I’ve made one of my most stupidest mistakes of the CDT so far and taught me to read and then reread my map notes 10 times before making my next move.  The sign read Los Indios spring .5 miles so I thought that it was that far past the gate I had to walk through and down the 200ft canyon as noted on the maps.  I walked the .5 miles past the gate but, still no turn off or canyon.  I still saw foot prints so I kept walking, thinking the makers of the signs had made a mistake and I decided to keep on going.  I ended up stupidly walking about 3 miles before deciding to reread my maps and take the point of view of the southbound hiker and reading that at the gate you would go .5 miles down the canyon to the spring.  So this meant I had to walk the 3 miles back, go the .5 miles down the 200 ft canyon to get the water.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked so pissed off before in my life.  I walked back, got to the spring and threw down my pack in anger.  I knew I had made a mistake and being out of water for the last hour made me even more mad.  Why did I make this mistake?  What was I thinking? All of these things ran through my head to learn from the mistake I had just made and to not do it again but I knew that I would.

P1010119

After coming down off the high plateau and the breath taking view it provided it was back down to the desert floor where the fear of rattle snakes, heat and water resurfaced.  It was miserable.  That section of trail was miserable for me.

Back in the Mars like landscape

Back in the Mars like landscape

It was hot, the landscape was Mars like and it had no appeal for me.  It was only about 20 miles worth but it put me in such a bad mood that I found myself walking faster and harder then ever before.  After finally being in the tree’s and seeing green beautiful grass it was hard to right away switch back to the desert style hiking I had been enduring for weeks.

Beautiful View from the top of the Mesa

Beautiful View from the top of the Mesa

The last 20 miles before Cuba was a gorgeous change from the previous miles in the ugly desert because you spent so much time high on the plateaus that surround the area with wonderful rock formations, wonderful expanding views and cairned trail that was easy to follow.  It reminded me of hiking Utah which is one of my most sacred places to hike in the world.  I happily followed the cairned route up and down the mesa skirting the edge and then back to the middle again with my shoes filled with sand.  My shoes were dying and I couldn’t wait to get my nice new pair once I got to Cuba, saying good bye to these after 530 miles of hard walking.

My New Balance Leadville 100's lasted a long time over tough terrain

My New Balance Leadville 100’s lasted a long time over tough terrain

I walked into Cuba at 9 pm that night on Memorial Day, road walking the last 4 miles in the dimming light of the day as people drove home from parties and celebrations.  I was happy to get to town and plop down on the bed knowing that another section was done and a good rest was coming my way.  I lay on the floor of the shower with the water hitting my tired and bruised body knowing that this section was now done and that I was eating away at my eventual end of New Mexico.


8 Comments

Thru hiking with Crohn’s

crohn's

Living with Crohn’s disease isn’t easy but, trying to hike 3,000 miles from Mexico to Canada doesn’t make it any easier.  I’ve lived with stomach pain since a very young age and it stopped me from doing all the normal things that kids and young people do.  Now as an adult, it’s even more difficult with work, social life and private life that’s affected by this disease and really, there is nothing we can do about it.  Regardless, I have decided to live my dream and hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and bring Crohn’s with me.   Right now I’m in Ghost Ranch, NM, 580 miles from the Mexican border I started at 40 days ago.  These 580 miles have been a challenge for me because there is no place to hide from the pains that have been affecting me everyday with cramping, diarrhea and constant nausea.  Its hard enough trying to walk 20-25 miles a day with a 20 lb pack on, following “trail” that isn’t really there makes it even harder to keep your cool and keep going.  Luckily, you can ‘go’ where every you want but stopping several times a day doesn’t help you keep your pace and get the miles you need to make it to the next town.

I can go where ever I want

I can go where ever I want

Hiking 20-25 miles a day and thru-hiking in general requires that you eat 3,000-5,000 calories a day which makes you eat a lot of processed, disgusting manufactured food that has these high calories per ounce which is very important.  At home I can control my pains with a strict diet but out here I’m happy to eat a banana or apple every 5 days. This has been the biggest problem for me; getting the calories I need without causing me so much pain that I can’t get out of my sleeping bag in the morning.  Food is always on your mind as you stare at the “trail” ahead but, you know the pain that comes with it.  I try to buy whole grains or gluten free foods when I can but, Walmart, which seems to be the only grocery store in New Mexico, has a section that is smaller then the respect Crohn’s & Colitis patients get.
The trail has been wonderful as well.  The beautiful orange, red, purple and pink sunsets have brought me to tears that I can even be out here to enjoy this gorgeous landscape.  The smell of the plants, the wind in my face and the ever changing landscapes have given me a reason for my pain.  As I hike I am always looking around at the views, the little lizards that run across the trail and the birds with their great calls.  I’m always worried about 6 types of rattle snakes
that live in these areas and can say that unfortunately I have seen two already.  I’m not against snakes, they have their purpose but, for a Chron’s sufferer its pretty easy to scare the crap out of me.  One was a long, scary looking black tipped rattle snake I almost stepped on in the Gila River valley and another young one on the way into Grants, that was sunning itself on the warm road.  Both got into their coiled positions with their rattles rattling loudly, heads poised to
strike and muscles tight ready to leap the 3/4 of their body length to inject me with their venom.  I stayed far away from them letting them know I had NO intentions of causing them harm and that I would wait all day for them to get off the trail.  Even then I wait and proceed with caution just in case this is some new technique to bite me just for fun.

snake
I can’t imagine not being out here and I know that making it this far is a privilege that many other suffers can’t do.  When I get down on myself and the pain is to much, I think of all the other people who couldn’t be out here, who can’t make this type of journey.  I walk for you.  I walk to help find a cure for this disease and think that this pilgrimage is a blessing that I hope will inspire and change peoples minds about the what is possible for us.

If you wish to make a donation to fund research and awareness for Crohn’s and Colitis you can donate on my page:  http://www.stayclassy.org/fundraise?fcid=241603


8 Comments

Section 4: Doc Campbells to Pie Town

About to Rock the Gila's

About to Rock the Gila’s

Being at Doc Campbell’s was a great milestone of my trip as I knew that if I made it there that I was making good progress to make it across New Mexico and my eventual goal of Canada.  At Docs I got my resupply box that my sister had prepared for me with little surprises of good chocolates and notes from home that were welcomed motivation to keep going.  Knowing that people back home are supportive of my hike really keeps me going and the positive encouragement helps you stay connected to home.  After staying the night in the campgrounds to soak in the local hot springs which loosened my aching muscles we did the road walk up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor center and took the time to check out the site.  You can’t walk this far and just pass up a piece of local history that is only an extra 2 mile road walk away.  The dwellings were amazing, snuggled up on the rock facing south with the light hitting the interior of the caves.  The Mogollon’s are ancestors of the ancient Puebloen people of the southwest were in this area over 700 years ago. The caves at Gila are considered to be everything from ceremonial sites, permanent dwellings to only seasonal residence.  The caves are amazing and you can feel the history when your inside with the petroglyphs, the dark ceiling from the fires and the intricate construction of the homes that once stood there.  This is our American heritage and being there and walking in the same area that they once considered sacred was an honor.  After visiting the dwellings I took a alternate route towards the Middle Fork of the Gila River, coming out of a slot canyon to its wonderful high walls and its beautiful flowing river.  The river is amazing and I couldn’t wait to start getting my feet wet with its endless river crossings.

Cliff dwelling

hand print

After repacking my backpack just in case I fell in while making a crossing I put my sleeping bag, clothes and electronics in protective cases and just a plain old garbage bag.  I started the winding trail through the Gila, crossing from dry trail to dry trail, crossing the river with different depths where only my feet got wet to water up to my waist.  Having your feet and legs constantly wet was a nice change from the hot and sandy desert.  Dealing with wet feet all day brought new challenges of loose skin on my feet, more rocks in my shoes and trying to dry my socks and feet at night to prevent even more blisters.  I only got 1 new blister because of the Gila which was good for me.
Gila pic 1
gila pic 2
I slowed down my pace through the Gila’s as it was one of the places I was really looking forward to during my CDT trip. During one of these day dreaming episodes I was abruptly stopped in my tracks by a loud rattling sound.  Oh crap, I had almost just stepped on a black tipped rattle snake!  As soon as I heard the rattle I stopped, looked down and ran back really quick.  I hate snakes.  I don’t like them and honestly would have been happy as hell if I didn’t see one the entire time I was in New Mexico.  After running away, I made my way back a little closer to see the coiled up body of a huge rattle snake with its head sprung back, tongue out tasting the air and ready to strike.  I moved in closer to get some pictures and every time I did it rattled louder and louder.  If you’ve never heard a rattle snake before, trust me, you will know one is around because it is loud.  Cowboys and others in the southwest call them the “gentleman of the desert’ because of these rattles.  After about 15 minutes of picture taking, me checking my shorts and stepping back the snake slithered into the rocks below but not before giving me one last rattle to let me know who was in charge out here.  I gave it another 10 minutes before I ran across the trail where it had been, hoping it wouldn’t jump out and bite me.  I was glad that experience happened without me being bit and me not needing to change my shorts.
Holy Sh*t!!

Holy Sh*t!!

The rest of the Gila went great with its high cliff walls, winding river and beautiful cool temperatures and all the water I could drink.  In all I did 147 river crossings before hitting the end of the trail and getting back into the open valley’s ahead.
After the Gila’s we entered into the open plains again and towards higher mountains that rises above the valley floor, following new CDT trail and forest roads towards the highway that takes you to Reserve.  The water situation was tougher in this section because we had to take water from springs that were surrounded with cow pies and other nasty stuff making me miss the Gila even more then I already was.  Passing through burn area that had used blazes like you see on the AT for trail markers made it very difficult to navigate through.  The blazes were chopped into the tree but, of course this was burned as well and blended with the rest of the tree.  Losing the trail here was easy to do and took me extra time to make it through the section down to the highway.  Once down at the highway I made a failed attempt to hitch to Reserve to surrender to my craving for town food.  After 3 hrs of attempting to get a ride, I gave up and slept in the tree’s eating my sad rice and tuna dinner versus the big steak I had been envisioning for days.
burned trees
The next morning I got up and headed into the Apache Forest on my way to Pie town and the famed Toaster house I had heard so much about.  I had been following the Ley route the entire way but, heard the official route was new and nice so I decided to go that way.  After about 3 hours of constant winding around the hills I got frustrated  and bushwacked back to Ley’s route and continued from there.  The official route is nice, don’t get me wrong but thru hikers don’t want to take the scenic route, we just want to get there already.  So after summiting Mangas Mountain and coming back down the other side I made a push to make it into Pie town before the Cafe would close.  That morning I decided to hike the 30.5 miles to the Toaster House, which would be my longest day of hiking ever.  The trail was good and the roads were easy to follow but the road just kept going on and on and on with no end in site.  After making my last left turn and knowing I only 5 more miles to go I made the final push in the dark to make it to the Toaster house at 9:30 pm.  I was greeted by 2 CDT bikers and a fridge full of Tostinos pizzas which I ate 2 of, drank about a gallon of water and crashed in one of the beds.  The Toaster house is an amazing place and Nita is a wonderful women who leaves it open for all weary travelers to enjoy.  The pie is amazing, the people are colorful and welcoming.  The Toaster house is truly like a CDT hall of fame and I only wished the walls could talk….
toaster house


12 Comments

Section 1: Border to Deming

P1000198

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!


4 Comments

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.