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Salida to Twin Lakes – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Salida to Twin Lakes Overview

The hike from Salida to Twin Lakes was tough, but a good one. Lots of great views from numerous passes and high ridges. 

Sunday June 24th – CDT Day 65

Finished packing my food this morning before leaving the hostel around 9am. Last shower for at least 3 days, and if not at Twin Lakes, then a solid week. It’s about 150 miles to Breckenridge, but will resupply at the general store in twin lakes halfway at about 75 miles.

I grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s, a distant runner up choice to the Patio Pancake Place, which had a long wait. I was walking over to Chucks liquor store for a ride up to the pass when he drove by and picked me up. Off we go.

Reached monarch pass and started hiking at 10:45am. Not too bad a start.

The trail passes through monarch Mountain Ski Resort. Kind of cool to walk up under the ski lifts in the summer. I saw several people hiking in the area, all day hikers or weekenders it looked like.

It was really windy going up the exposed Ridge through the ski resort and beyond. Probably 50 to 60 mile an hour winds. I put my wind jacket on and the extra space inside the hood kept flapping in the wind. This was really loud and quite annoying! Wind gusts from the side make tripping over rocks common. Hiking in to the wind and climbing uphill was tough.

Really nice views all along the climb to the first pass. Being in these constant winds was wearing me out. After cresting the pass, I planned on stopping for first lunch as soon as I could descend low enough and out of the wind. What a relief.

Against my wishes, the trail drops down into a Valley at around 10,400′. This means a big climb is coming soon. I passed by the boss lake reservoir, and found a small exposed vertical mine on a hillside above.

As the trail starts climbing up again, it follows a dirt road. This is the beginning of an 1800 ft climb. There was a sign on a tree for the Lost Wonder hut ahead. I passed two abandoned cabins, and assumed these were it. However, just up the road was a modern cabin and it happens to be occupied by a youth group. That makes more sense.

Some Trail runners passed me, scouting this section of trail for an upcoming race. I chugged along and made it to the top of the pass closer to 7:30pm.

I passed two separate campsites that were occupied, but I couldn’t tell if they were CDT hikers or whom they were. I filtered water in a small stream near the trailhead that was at the bottom of this valley. Even though it was about 8:45 pm, I didn’t want to camp here. Anything low in the valley is going to be colder and have more condensation. So I hiked another 15 minutes and found a flat spot along an old railroad grade just after 9pm.

The wicked winds died down and the stars are out bright. Another great night to cowboy camp!

Miles – 20
Total Miles – 1063 (start 1087, end 1107)
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – none

Monday June 25th – CDT Day 66

Woke up at 7:30. A guy named Aaron walked by as I was getting out of my bag, CDT NOBO as well. Didn’t start hiking until 8:30. That’s what happens when you hike late, you get up late.

Followed the “alpine tunnel” railroad for a few miles, which was easy walking. Higher up the valley, I left the railroad grade and hiked tail the rest of the way up the basin to the pass. This was about 1200 feet of elevation gain total from this morning’s campsite.

I took first lunch after descending to the tree line. I continued on down hill on some switchbacks until I reached the stream in the valley. I filtered water here then moved on… And bumped into a Colorado trail hiker taking lunch next to another branch of the stream just 50 yards away. People just lurking in the bushes.

Next is a long climb uphill, about 1800 feet. Great views as I climbed higher.


More awesome views when I dropped down into the next basin. The trail skirts the high basin through talus fields and a couple of snow patches.

Even better views over the next pass. I dropped down to the stream below, where I saw Kyle and Seth. We met in the hostel in Salida a few days earlier. They’d hiked all the way from the east coast through the southern states and now heading north on the CDT. I stopped here to eat lunch with them.

After lunch we continued on together. I succumbed to the idea that today was not going to be a big mile day, only planning on another 6 miles or so. After that, there’s nowhere to camp for another 5 miles as the trail stays high along the crest of the mountains.

It was nice hiking with company. It made the rest of the afternoon go by much easier. Excellent views the rest of the day. Stunning, really.

Early evening, we came across a mountain biker wearing a rainbow colored tutu. He does it for the laughs, and we sure got one.

Got to camp around 6:45pm, super early for me. But it was really nice. Nice campsite, good company and a welcome change from the normal solo grind. But it kinda sucked only covering 18 miles today.

Later at we were filtering out water at the stream, another hiker named Becky showed up. She was looking for a place to camp, and since there weren’t many other sites around we offered to share ours. Accepted.

It was a really nice night, great colors in the sky behind the mountains. We ate dinner together and hung out until the nearly full moon was the only light left. Another great day on the CDT.

Miles – 18
Total Miles – 1081 (start 1107, end 1125)
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmot, pica

Tuesday June 26th – CDT Day 67

In the middle of the night, I felt something tugging on or running against my quilt. It looked to be a mouse, and it ran away as I reacted to it.

Got up at 7am, first one of the group. Said my goodbyes and headed off at 8:15. Would love to hike more with these guys, or any company really, but everyone has their own pace. I’m hoping to cover miles today.

It’s a 500ft climb to a pass first thing after leaving camp. Not too bad a climb.

The next few miles of trail stays high, like it did in the san Juans. Great views, awesome hiking. Even crossed a couple of slopes still covered in snow.

I could see construction crews working on the road when I reached cottonwood pass. It’s closed, no hitch into Buena Vista possible. I’m headed to twin lakes anyways.

After cottonwood pass I entered the collegiate peaks wilderness. Pretty sweet views! And downhill for quite a while.


At the bottom of my descent I reached Texas creek. Other than the Gila, This was only the second time on the CDT where I had to actually ford a river. I put on my sandals and crossed. No problem. Just Under knee deep at the deepest.

A couple more miles slightly downhill along Texas creek. There were some beaver lodges in the ponds but I didn’t see any beavers.

Now the trail starts climbing again. I’m going for 1600ft tonight, leaving 1200ft of steep climbing up to lake Ann pass for the morning. It’s a nice forest hike with several stream Crossings.

I filtered water and ate around 6:30pm along a stream. Tons of mosquitoes, very annoying! I had to put on my zip on pant legs and cover up.

I knocked out another couple miles before finding a spot to camp a Quarter mile north of the trail junction to lake Ann pass. Mosquitoes were insane here too. Covered up immediately with the pant legs again, and my hooded fleece. I eventually set up the tent for to the bugs, although I’m sure they’d die down later. Just don’t want to deal with them anymore.

Great sunset. Two big climbs tomorrow and about 20 miles to twin lakes.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 1104 (start 1125, end 1148)
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – marmot, pica

Wednesday June 27th – CDT Day 68

Today I hope to reach the small town of Twin Lakes. While in Salida, I sent ahead a package with some food to the general store. This will supplement the likely poor food selection there. It closes at 6pm, and I have two big passes to climb along with about 20 miles.

The climb up to lake Ann pass wasn’t that bad. Switchbacks, not crazy steep.

From Lake Ann pass lies some of the finest views of the section. However, I was now faced with a steep ice cornice on the descent. Steps were kicked into the ice, angling down towards the switchbacks. Parts were near vertical. Some steps were icy, so I did my best to kick my own steps as needed. Not a death drop, but you wouldn’t want to fall here.

As I finished with the cornice, a group of hikers approached from the switchbacks below. One of the guys was celebrating his 80th birthday with an 80 mile hike. This guy looked amazing, like a really fit 60 year old. Perfect example of staying active throughout life. He should be everyone’s role model!

Constant beautiful views the whole way down to lake Ann. Then the trail drops below tree line, following a steep river Gorge.

The trail continues to head down hill along south fork clear creek until it reaches the silver basin trail. It skirts the hillsides above the creek offering nice views when not in the forest.

The trail eventually heads uphill again towards Mt hope pass. And it does so very steeply. 2500′ elevation gain in 2.4 miles. Definitely the longest stretch of steep trail so far on the CDT. It was hot as hell today too, in the upper 90s down by clear creek.

I passed a girl named Kid and her two dogs on the way up, taking a break from the brutal climb, in the heat of the day. I did the same shortly after. There was no way I was going to make it to the general store before they close, so I decided not to push too hard.

Farther up trail I met a guy named Lot taking a break by a stream. After the stream, the climb lessened in severity. Still a tough climb, but not the keel over and die type like the beginning was. And great views.

At the top I chatted with Kid a while before heading down. Great views before doing below tree line.

I took the trail towards Willis Gulch, instead of following it down to the Bermuda triangle trail. I believe the Ley maps say to do this then cross the marshy area around twin lakes. Sounds easier just to go towards Willis gulch… And it was. There was a bridge over the river here at a popular trail head.

Dark clouds and rain in the distance, but scattered. I stopped to filter water from the river and washed up a bit. A woman pulled up in an SUV and asked about if this was the right spot to pick up her husband. Her husband ended up being Lot, the guy I met going up hope pass just a few hours earlier. Lot arrived shortly after, and offered to give me a ride into town. Sounds good, since I didn’t have anywhere in mind to camp.

After a 2 or 3 mile ride into town, we passed the general store. There were several hikers gathered outside here, even at 8:30pm when I arrived. Sprinkler, Earl Grey, cookie monster, and inspector gadget (CDT 2014). I still had time to order some food at the Twin Lakes Inn. Expensive, but beggars can’t be choosers. I ended up getting a room here too, as the illure of a bed, shower and sink laundry were too great.

Nice room, great shower, comfy bed. I’m out!

Miles – 21
Total Miles – 1125 (start 1148, end 1169)
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – marmot

Like what you see?

Lake City to Salida – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Lake City to Salida Overview


The first section of trail out of Spring Creek Pass was very scenic and similar to the last stretch south of the pass. After San Luis Peak, the trail drops down and the high mountain scenery fades away. Low valleys, dirt roads, forest. Lots of climbing and no views to show for it. After about 70 miles of this, the trail finally climbs high again and hikers are rewarded with distant views once again. This too comes at a cost… dodge the mountain bikers. After about 150 miles of the CDT sharing trail with the Colorado trail, I saw my first, and 100th, bikers. Watch out for these guys, they’ll run you over!

Sunday June 17th – CDT Day 58

Got up when I felt like it, around 8am. Bad weather still loomed, and so did many of us hikers. I ate breakfast at the Chillin place next door and took my time.

Easy and I left the hostel late morning to hitch back up to spring creek pass. Almost immediately we had someone stop, but was only going a few miles up the road. Another person stopped and we took a shorter hitch to the outside edge of town at cinnamon pass. Along the way, he stopped and picked up sprinkler, who had been trying to hitch for 1.5 hours. sprinkler had seen a black bear run across the road earlier though. Cool!

After being dropped off at cinnamon pass, we immediately got another ride out to our destination at spring creek pass.

We reached the pass and started hiking around noon thirty. Dark clouds and rain drops were prevalent. The trail climbs up about 1500ft onto a mesa. This was a bitch right out of town with a heavy pack.

Now I walked on snow mesa, completely exposed. Low visibility due to the dark and fast moving clouds. Rain drops on and off. Fortunately, no thunder and Lightning.

To protect my stuff from the rain, I used a trash compactor bag as a pack liner, as well as a pack cover for the outside. First time really wearing my train jacket all trail. It was cool out, but I still didn’t want to wear rain pants. I just hiked in shorts as I’ve done this entire hike.

Walked the mesa for a few miles and then some ups and downs. Constant low clouds made for a cool hike but it was now cold and wet.

After 9+ miles I saw sprinkler and easy setting up camp next to two other tents. The trail climbs high right after this so there’s little chance of another good site like this. It was cold and my feet were soaking wet, so I too decided to make this camp home for the night. Turns out it’s mark and John, whom I hadn’t seen since Doc Campbell’s.

This evening there was a large group of big horn sheep just above camp. With my zoom lens I was able to get some shots, but nothing too good. Also saw them sparring, bashing heads together. That was pretty awesome.

We’re all hoping for good weather tomorrow so we can cover some miles. At least this should have helped the Colorado wildfires.

Miles – 10.3
Total Miles – 944.2 
Rain – yes
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – big horn sheep, marmot.

Monday June 18th – CDT Day 59

I woke up to the Sun on my tent this morning, a very welcome feeling. It was a bit breezy and cooler but hey, no rain!

Started hiking at 8. There were a couple bigger climbs this morning and then it was all downhill. I also had the option to bag San Luis peak, a 14 ER. However, I have plans to meet my buddy in Salida on Friday, and would like to get there Thursday, Early enough to do a couple of chores as well. So today, I hope to cover as many miles as possible and take advantage of the very long downhill section.

The first climb was a tough one. Very steep and first thing in the morning.

The second climb was tough too, but I started finding some very clear crystals along the trail. If it’s not some super pure form of quartz then I don’t know what it is. Grabbed a few of these to add to the collection.

Next I passed the intersection for the Creed cut off. Apparently a lot of people had to take this when the san Juans were closed. Glad I made it through.

After another climb I crested a pass. Here I could see San Luis peak. No snow on top. The trail stays high along the edges of the basin and makes its way to a saddle below San Luis peak.

I decided against climbing San Luis peak for a few reasons. I had already done a lot of climbing today and wasn’t in the mood for any more, and I wanted to cover more miles.


Now it was all downhill for most of the rest of the day. It’s a 15 plus mile stretch of no climbing, so I should be able to do this and more today, even though it’s already almost 1pm.

While hiking down the valley below San Luis peak I stumbled upon Dixie. We ended up hiking together for a while. Then we stumbled upon Easy, and we all took a break together.

The three of us hiked together after our break for a while until we reached a stream. I stayed behind to filter a couple liters.

Next was the La Garita wilderness. Here the trail follows a river and runs through a valley. Scenic, and a nice change of pace.

Eventually caught up with Easy again and we hiked together for about an hour and a half. He stopped to make camp where the trail started climbing up a dirt road, ending the 15 mi downhill section. However, I wanted to cover a few more miles and so I kept going.

Much of the rest of the evening was along a dirt road. I hiked until around 8:45pm, finding camp in the tree line alongside a huge open field. I cowboy camped tonight.

Hiked 31 miles today, which was 29.1 guthook miles. Gotta put it a few more big days to make my Thursday afternoon schedule.

Miles – 31.1
Total Miles – 975.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – none

Tuesday June 19th – CDT Day 60

Woke up with the Sun shining on me around 6:15. Beautiful morning.

This morning’s hike follows a dirt road for several miles as it passes through the same very large Valley I entered last night. Easy hiking, but nothing super scenic.

Then the trail heads up pill and into a small Valley with a little stream. However, the were a ton of cows in the area and the water looked dirty. Also it wasn’t very deep, so I skipped this water source.

The trail heads up Hill along a dirt road. Not much to see here. I’m getting really thirsty now, running on about one liter all day. It’s now late morning and I’m about 12 miles in today.

Made it to the next water source after 1pm. Earl Grey was here as well. 16 miles so far today. It’s also been awhile since I’ve been this dehydrated. I drank over 2 liters of water and filtered two more to get me to the next source.

The trail crosses a paved highway and then follows Lujan creek rd uphill. Nothing much going on here, just a 1500ft climb with little to see.

The CDT leaves the road and becomes trail only for the rest of the day. It’s also the beginning of several miles of ups and downs along a series of wooded hill tops. Boring! And tiring.

Late this afternoon I hit the 1000 mile mark on the CDT. Woo-hoo! About one third of the way done now.

I made camp on a saddle just north of middle baldy. Lots of mosquitoes out here. Those bastards.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1003.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – elk

Wednesday June 20th – CDT Day 61

Today’s hike continued where yesterday’s left off… Boring ups and downs along a ridge with no views. Lots of rocks to trip over and to hurt my feet. Lots of mosquitoes.

A couple of nice meadows along the way filled with colorful flowers and dandelions. 

Today was dry as well, one stream early afternoon. So I was thirsty all morning. Filtered my water and continued heading downhill when I should have made a turn uphill here. Went about 1.5 miles out of the way before realizing it, so about an hour lost here.

Heading up hill now, more ups and downs with little views. A few clearings in the trees offered some of the first distant views in a while. There were a couple of dirt bikes on trail here, pretty sure that’s not allowed.

After a steep climb up to Marshall pass, there were some better views along the ridge. A couple more miles to a snowmobile cabin now, where I’ll stay tonight.

When I reached the cabin, Easy was already there. I liked the rustic feel of the peeve, and preferred it over the yurt I stayed in before lake city. There was a marmot outside chewing on the cabin or something, making lots of noise.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 1031.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cabin
Animals – deer

Thursday June 21st – CDT Day 62

Slept great in the cabin. The outhouse was nice, no need to dig a hole this morning.

After leaving the cabin, there was lots of interesting rocks along the trail. Big flakes of mica and even solid rocks of it. Picked up a few samples for the collection.

After a 900ft climb, the tail reaches an exposed ridge. Finally, distant views again! Man the last 70 miles were rather boring.

There’s tons of mountain bikers on trail now. The CDT had been paralleling the Colorado trail for around 150 miles and today was the first time I had seen a biker. And there are about 100 of them today! One group of 4 were came flying around a blind corner on a mountainside and I had to dive out of the way. They didn’t slow down at all. People like this give bikers a bad name. Nice tights, bro… Haha.

Made it to monarch pass a little after noon. It took me an hour to get a hitch. Chuck, a local trail angel, was dropping off some hikers at the pass and picked me up on his way back down to Salida. He offered to take me, Easy and a few other hikers rafting on the Arkansas River that evening. Hell yeah!

Checked in at the simple lodge hostel, showered then went out for pizza with Earl Grey. Smashed a whole pizza then back to the hostel.

Left the hostel around 5 when Chuck picked us up then headed down to the river. He had 3 rafts, the kind you’d use on a commercial rafting trip. In fact, we had an actual guide on our raft, who pretty much took care of everything. I only had to contribute a few paddle strokes all night in between drinking beer. Great sunset and an awesome experience!

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 1043.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – cabin
Animals – deer

Friday June 22nd – CDT Day 63 (zero day)

Went to last with sprinkler and back to the hostel for laundry. Finally, the was a long wait.

I was excited to meet up with my friend Ryan today but unfortunately he has been sick and won’t be able to make it. Damn, that goes plans to prospect on mt antero today. At least we should be able to hang out when I get to Breckenridge.

Went to Safeway and picked up Italian sausage for dinner. Will cook back at the hostel with a couple other guys.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1043.3
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Saturday June 23rd – CDT Day 64 (zero day)

Another zero day today. I’ve been having such a great time in town that I’ve been slacking on my log and need to finish that this morning so I can mail out my bounce box before the post office closes. This is becoming a common occurrence. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 1043.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Like what you see?

Pagosa Springs to Lake City – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Pagosa Springs to Lake City Overview

Between Pagosa Springs and Lake City, the CDT passes through the San Juan mountains and the Weminuche wilderness, Colorado’s largest. It’s a tough section with rugged mountains, alpine lakes, lots of high trail and beautiful scenery. It’s much longer than the last section, but fortunately the trail was a bit dier and less snow which allowed for slightly easier travel. But still, very challenging!

Saturday June 9th – CDT Day 50

I had a couple of bananas and some banana bread at the motel continental breakfast. Then sprinkler and I went out for a real breakfast. We ate at the junction restaurant at the end of town. Pancakes and sausage, last hot meal for up to 7 days.

Sprinkler was taking other zero today so he went back to the hotel. Being at the end of town and across the street from the gas station, it seemed like a good place to start looking for a hitch up to the pass. I had a cardboard sign that said “wolf creek pass”. I got a ride after about 15 minutes from a fisherman heading up that way

After being dropped off, I joined Quiet (another hiker) in a conversation with a couple of motorcyclists at the pass. After about 20 minutes, I started hiking. It was roughly 10am.

The trail climbs for a while after leaving Wolf Creek pass. That is to be expected, it’s a pass after all. But damn, was it tiring with a pack of food and water.

I bumped into to hikers named Casper and button. As we were talking, a guy came down the trail southbound and mentioned that he just saw a bear about a mile down the trail.

The more I hiked today, the more the views improved. Only a couple of snow patches to cross as the trail reached the end of a Valley with a nice Lake. Trail climbs steeply above it to the top of a ridge. This was one of two big climbs today.

Now on the ridge, I felt like I was back on Trail between Chama and Pagosa Springs. Big views and felt like the top of the world. Forest fire smoke from the 416 fire in Durango could be seen on the horizon to the west.

I did my best to keep hiking although I was pretty distracted by the scenery. More ups and downs along Ridge lines, small passes and generally staying high.

I saw two more hikers, turtle and mangus. Stopped here for second lunch around 5pm. All have another 7.5 miles to go and another big climb ahead.

The trail goes downhill for a bit and then start the climb. Steady at first, sleeper later. Excellent views the rest of the evening. The trail is heading west, right into the sunset. The way the Ridgeline was illuminated by the Sun was magical.

As the trail started climbing up the switch backs, I was getting really tired. Only a few more miles. At the top, more incredible views. This is what I envisioned before hiking the CDT. Really awesome and words can’t describe it.

The trail dropped down a little bit before ascending the final High Point of the day. Cold and windy now with the sun setting behind the first fire smoke.

With the climbing done for today, all this left is to descent into a valley towards a stream, the first water source in a while. This will make a good place to camp.

I found a place to camp near the stream after 8:30pm. Long day, but I got my miles in. I’m hoping to trail remains snow free and relatively dry as it was today for the rest of the hike to Lake City. If not, it’s going to be rough and slow going like the last stretch.

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 855.5
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – marmot

Sunday June 10th – CDT Day 51

Woke up at 7am. Filtered water from the stream and took off.

Much of the morning and early afternoon was fairly boring trail. Lots of small ups and downs along hillside with little view of anything. There were some nice moments but just not as constant as other sections of trail. 

Sometime mid afternoon, the trail climbed up a Ridgeline and the views improved. About time. I ran into Mangus a couple times, and played leapfrog the rest of the day.

Smoke from the 416 fire in Durango was pretty thick now. I couldn’t even see it this morning, and now it has engulfed the sky and filled the valleys.

I must have forgotten to turn my GPS back on after first lunch, because the next time I went to turn it off it was already off. I have guthooks app miles I can use, I’ll just add another mile or two to that total since the app usually underestimates the total miles.

Next the trail traverses a hillside through a large basin.

Later in the afternoon I reached knife edge, a pointy ridge. The Ridge itself was not a challenge, but the steep slopes following it were more difficult. Had there been more snow, I would have used my micro spikes. There were a couple of snow patches on steep slopes that I was able to cross with no snow gear, not even trekking poles.

After the knife edge, I had another climb up over a Ridge. I stepped on some mud that looked fairly dry and sturdy, but it ended up being ankle deep. I got a bunch of mud inside my shoe, too. I was able to keep my feet dry the rest of the day up until this point.

I had another hour or so until I got to a pass below the final climb for today. I had planned on hiking to Squaw Creek, but it was another 3 miles and it was already 7. I certainly could have done it, I did something similar last night, but I was really hungry and exhausted. I decided to camp just below the pass near a small pond.

The miles here in Colorado are so much harder than New Mexico. I could hike all day and New Mexico and never feel this tired, even on a 30 mile day. Here, I have to really bust my ass to get 20 miles. Today I hiked 18.7 miles according to guthook, which would probably be 19.5 – 20 on my GPS.

Miles – 18.7
Total Miles – 871.2
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots

Monday June 11th – CDT Day 52

Woke up at 6am to a 28°morning. My 20° quilt kept me toasty.

After leaving camp I finished the climb I intend on doing last night. I made a good call not pushing on because there were few campsites in the area I was hoping to camp when I passed by this morning.

Today had a lot of big climbs. It started with a 1100 ft descent to Squaw Creek. Then it was a 1700 ft climb.

Good views along much of the climb. I stopped for first lunch here along a creek. Actually, I had four lunches today. I’ve been hiking in 3 hours blocks, but today I decided to try 2 hour blocks, eating and drinking water each break.

Lots of willow bushes along the trail today. Just had me cursing quite a bit as they cut up my legs. I also went through a gauntlet of mosquitoes along a small Lake, possibly the thickest swarm I’ve ever encountered.

I took another break at the top of the pass. Oh man these climbs are getting to me. I leaned up against my backpack and admired the beautiful view, and wished I could stay here longer.

The trail climbs a little bit higher after leaving the pass. After reaching at High Point trail curves around a hillside and a view of a whole new landscape opens up. Lightly snow capped peaks lined the horizon. It’s a shame the forest fire smoke obscured the view, because it was stunning.

Now the trail drops down to 10400 ft over the next few miles. This is the lowest the trail will get on this entire stretch from Pagosa Springs to Lake city.

At first the trail stays high on a bit of a plateau with good distant views. Then it drops down to a meadow, where I stopped for another food break.

After leaving the meadow, there’s a short climb up a hill and then the trail followers a river Gorge downhill. There was a huge log jam along the river, looks like the product of an avalanche.

The River then dumps into a huge Meadow. The forest fire smoke created a thick haze that filled the valley and obscured sight of the mountains beyond. However, a distinct notch in the Ridgeline could be seen even from the other side of the meadow. It first I thought this was the pass I would be hiking to, but I would later find out the trail doesn’t actually go through this notch, but close to it.

I took another break at the end of the meadow before the trail starts to climb. Mangus was here too. We were both dreading the 2200 ft ascent that awaits us. Filtered water for tonight as well.

The hike up to the next pass wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating, but still very tiring. I think the extra breaks I took today helped.

I thought about camping before the pass, but I was feeling good enough to go over it and shoot for a saddle about a mile after. I’m glad I did because I was able to cover a couple more miles and after cresting the pass it was so beautiful. It was around 7pm now, which has been probably my favorite time of the day to hike. Even though I’d prefer to be in camp already!

Coming down from the pass, it was another mile or so to the saddle. I found a pretty decent campsite here, and decided to cowboy camp again.

Hiking through the mountains is such hard work. It still surprises me that I’m able to get up in the morning and do it all over again every day.

A few other things… I’ve yet to set any sign of bear in Colorado, but saw bear crap almost daily in New Mexico. I’ve only taken one ibuprofen so far and it was in town, not even in trail. That must be some thru hiker record. Many hikers call it vitamin I. OK quit rambling and get some sleep!

Miles – 24.6
Total Miles – 898.8
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots

Tuesday June 12th – CDT Day 53

I was hiking by 6:55 this morning. I hiked about a quarter mile so I could get into the sunlight to eat my breakfast. Really hoping to put in some miles today.

Great views all day long, best of the hike so far. It started almost immediately after leaving camp. The trail goes through a large basin. Heading around a blind corner near the top I stumbled upon a bull elk. Antlers are starting to grow more this time of year.

At the top of the Pass, I could see Ute lake below. Lots of beautiful Mountains forming the backdrop. Good start to the day.

After passing Ute lake I filtered water from a small stream, ate and rinsed yesterday’s socks.

Next was the first of 4 big climbs today. Felt good on this one. Beautiful view from the top, didn’t think it could get much better but it does.


The view from the second pass was incredible. It was reminiscent of the wind River range. Closer to Nebo Creek, there was some interesting looking upheaval in one of the mountains. Going down Nebo Creek there was a lot of wading through willow bushes and wet ground.

The third pass was named Hunchback pass. I’ve hiked in this area of the San Juans in 2013, and came down Hunchback pass from the opposite direction. When we came down the pass last time, visibility was almost zero due to extreme fog and drizzling rain. I was looking forward to seeing what I missed last time but honestly, it wasn’t super spectacular. At least going up. Going down the pass towards bear town trailhead was beautiful though!

Before the 4th and final big climb of the day, I filtered 3L water from a stream. Then I began the arduous trek uphill. The first bit was steep. I can handle a steady up Hill Climb all day but past a certain angle it just kills me. And it was definitely past that angle.

I reached the top of the pass but not the climb. Now the tail is on a high, rolling, open mountaintop. Would be hard to describe without the pictures. It’s pretty barren, and really wet. I had been able to avoid wet feet all day but not anymore. There were just too many large wet fields to cross, and eventually I ended up just trudging through the water. Ugh, I hate wet feet.

The forest fire smoke was really thick and once again obscured what would have been some Pretty cool views. Still had a couple more miles to go but was getting worn out. I stopped for dinner a little before 7.

The rest of the evening was very scenic. I found a place to camp in a narrow Valley that had an awesome view of the sunset. Going to cowboy camp again. Saw a couple of elk this evening from camp.

I hiked for 13 hours today to cover 20.1 miles according to the guthook app. Did I mention how hard Colorado is? Holy crap. In New Mexico I could hike all day long and almost never get winded. I feel like half my day in Colorado I just want to keel over and die due to all the climbing. I was never very good at cardio and certainly don’t enjoy it. I’m wondering how long it will take for this to get easier.

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 921.5
Rain – no
Sleep – cowboy camp
Animals – marmots, elk

Wednesday June 13th – CDT Day 54

It was 22° when I woke up this morning. Since my shoes got wet only two hours before sunset, I had to put them in a plastic bag and warm them in my sleeping bag. It gets annoying having them in my sleeping bag the entire night, so I typically bring them in the bag an hour or two before I get up. They don’t get dry but at least they are warm when I put them on. Waiting for the Sun to hit my location before I get out of my sleeping bag.

Lots more climbing ahead today. The trail will reach its highest point at over 13000 ft, and several Peaks just below.

The day started with a small climb. More great mountain views.

The trail passes through stony pass. There’s a little traveled dirt road here to hitch to Silverton, or just walk the 10 miles to town. Some hikers resupplied here, but it’s another 35 miles to spring creek pass where I plan on hitching into Lake City. Moving on.

The trail follows a dirt road for about a quarter mile before splitting of as trail again. First road walk in Colorado, albeit a short one. This begins a climb out of a new valley. This valley had an empty feel to it. Hard to describe. The climb wasn’t too hard and soon enough I was at the top of the pass.

New pass, new views. Impressive scenery. Clouds building. Stopped at a small pond to filter water and eat.

More ups and downs, more clouds. One mountain had some interesting rocks that slowed me down, just as the skies were darkening to their breaking point. I heard an incredible roaring sound, then got hit with a 60 mph wind gust out of nowhere. Snow flakes followed, flying horizontally. I put on my rain jacket and put away the camera gear for a while.

I hiked for a while under the threat of rain but in the end I never got wet. The forest fire smoke was thick now and made it tough to tell if there were rain clouds overhead or not.

Passed a couple of lakes before another climb. It was steeper at first then leveled out to an easy pace the rest of the way up. I was listening to music and felt great at this moment, definitely thinking about town tomorrow now.

After cresting the pass it was a long decent into this valley. Massive views, this valley just felt enormous. The smoke was probably thicker here than anywhere else yet.

Filtered water again here at a steam, last water for a long time. Then the trail climbs up to an area with some dirt roads and a trailhead. I stopped here for food before pushing on.

It was 6pm now, and I began a 1000ft climb up a very steep dirt road. At the top of this climb is the highest point in the Colorado trail, which is also the CDT right now, at 13,271ft. Up here will be 20 miles for the day, but there will be few places to camp. And windy! Fortunately, I just discovered a yurt along the trail, but it’s another 8 miles from here. It’s going to take a herculean effort to reach that yurt before nightfall.

The steep road whooped my ass the whole way up. At the top was a super barren landscape, yet the highest on trail so far.

Now it was time to haul ass. I fast-walked everywhere that wasn’t steep uphill, and jogged on the downhill sections. I began to get tunnel vision, intensely concentrated on reaching that yurt before dark. This was the fastest pace I’ve maintained so far on the CDT.

Even with the smoke, there were some beautiful views along occasional Ridgelines. Coming down from one, I saw an elk.

I made it to the yurt aid 8:30pm, with little light to spare. I was completely exhausted, just spent from the day’s effort. I climbed a ladder to reach the platform the yurt sits on and saw turtle, yoda, and peppers. Inside was Baylor and crash, who were hiking the Colorado trail, already sleeping.

Ate dinner and slept on the floor inside the yurt. Didn’t want to use my inflatable air mattress on the metal wire bunk beds. Whew, long day! Not something I want to replicate any time soon.

Miles – 28.1
Total Miles – 949.6
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – yurt
Animals – marmots, elk

Thursday June 14th – CDT Day 55

I was the last to leave the yurt this morning at 8:30am. With only 8.5 miles to spring creek pass, there was no hurry for me.

Today’s hike was not that scenic. Large open areas, huge hills that had several false horizons as they were climbed and few mountain views.

Later, the trail drops down into forest land and eventually hits a door road. This road is followed all the way down to the pass, a paved highway. It took about 3 hours of hiking to get here.

As soon as I reached the road, two hikers were coming down to the pass, southbound. Before I had a chance to put my thumb out for a hitch, they offered a ride into Lake City. Absolutely!

It turns out that Mary and Clee, my ride into town, were related to Liminal, another hiker I’d met in Silver City. Small world! They have been following along the trail and assisting with rides and resupply. In fact, they knew many of the same hikers I met along the trail.

Mary and Clee were kind enough to take me out to lunch in town after I checked in at the ravens rest hostel. I had an awesome burger at the cannibal grill, probably the best yet on trail.

It turns out both Mary and Clee work for the fish and wildlife service, which spawned some interesting conversations. Clee had been stocking a lake with fish by plane some time ago, and when they looked back to see where the fish landed, he saw a man bailing water and fish out of his rowboat! Such a great story!

After a greatly appreciated ride from the pass and hot meal, I picked up my bounce box from the post office and settled in at the hostel. There were about 10 hikers here today.

Did laundry, started backing up photos, GoPro video and GPS tracks. Then sprinkler, earl gray and I went to Poker Alice for dinner. I got a 16″ meat lovers pizza, and had plenty to take with me for later.

Not much else was accomplished this evening. Some R and R was just what I needed after a tough hike in the san Juans.

Miles – 8.9
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – hostel
Animals – deer

Friday June 15th – CDT Day 56 (zero day)

It felt great to sleep in a bed, even if it was a bunk bed. We went out to the bakery for breakfast… Good stuff. On the way back, We hit the county store to resupply for the next section to Salida.

Spent the rest of the day backing up photos and video, processing them and began updating my blog.

Everyone left the hostel and it was just Sprinkler and I. Weird for it to be so empty after being nearly full the day before, but I suppose this is what happens when the San Juans are closed due to fire.

Remnants of hurricane Bud are coming tomrrow, brining heavy rain all day, so I think I will take another zero. Also, I had plans to meet up with a friend in Salida, and having my zero day fall on a Friday would work better for my buddy than Thursday, so the extra zero here in Lake City isn’t really a problem.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits

Saturday June 16th – CDT Day 57 (zero day)

Ate breakfast at the Chillin place next door. Grey skies, looks like rain already. Trying to finish my blog updates and everything I need with my bounce box so I can send it back today before 1pm. Buuuttt… that didn’t happen!

Ate lunch at the Cannibal Grill with Easy and Sprinkler. They left and as I continued to plug away on my laptop. Then, Forrest and Sequoia walked in! I thought they were far ahead of me, but they had taken some time off in Silverton. 

I should get back on trail tomorrow. Just gotta figure out how to get my bounce box sent out on Monday now in my absence. Ah, trail logistics.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 958.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits

Like what you see?

Chama to Pagosa Springs – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Chama to Pagosa Springs Overview

This section has been the most difficult of the hike thusfar. More snow, highest elevation, most climbing, wettest, muddiest and all-around toughest hiking yet. But also, the most beautiful and impressive mountain scenery so far. Welcome to Colorado, snow and high mountains. Climb high, stay high! And that’s exactly what the trail does here. It follows the highest possible route without dropping down into valleys. That’s the spirit of the CDT, and this section is trial by fire. 

Monday June 4th – CDT Day 45

At breakfast at the Chama grill, then got a ride to the post office from Ralph, a local Trail angel. Set my bounce box to Lake City, sent home some gear, and returned the backpack I bought.

We squeezed 7 people I believe into Ralph’s pickup truck for the ride up to cumbress pass. We arrived at the pass around 9am and I started hiking shortly after. Not bad, more of an early start then I was expecting.

The trail start climbing immediately north of the pass. It was a good hike with increasingly good scenery. Before long the sound of the highway faded and only the sounds of nature remained.

The trail reaches a ridge that overlooks a valley below. Snow capped peaks can be seen in the distance. Woohoo, finally in the high mountains!

The trail continues to climb along the side of a mountain. Eventually it reaches a pass, the first real Mountain pass of the trip. Seems like a good place to stop for first lunch. I hate the remainder of a triple cheeseburger I had for lunch yesterday. I actually ordered two triple cheeseburger combo meals, trying my best to fatten up while in town.

After lunch, the trail continues to climb a long a Ridgeline. At this point it’s really starting to look like the CDT I was expecting. It felt really good to finally be here.

The trail continues to climb to today’s High Point at around 12200 ft. This is the highest point on trail to date. Once again, awesome views. My pace slowed for a while here as I took pictures and video.

Next the trail trends downhill slightly. It’s amazing that at this elevation there are such large open Meadows.


Next the trail passes dipping lakes. The first Lake was pretty scenic, with rocky cliff alongside the water. I stopped to filter water and eat second lunch.

The trail passes the other dipping Lakes and then begins an 800 ft climb. Around this point the trail became much more difficult. Patches of snow, lot of melt water making it nearly impossible to avoid getting my feet wet. This continued for the rest of the evening.

Now I’m traversing a shelf above a cirque. More snow here and very wet. I saw a Ptarmigan, marmots and pikas while hiking here. First of all three so far on the CDT.

I reached Trail Lake around 7:30, my goal for the day. I camped on a hill before the lake, no view of it. This was 22 miles by my GPS in roughly 20 miles on the guthook app.

I’m pretty tired today, going to blame this on the additional elevation. It’s 12000 ft here at Camp. Last week I did two 30 mi days back to back at 10,000 ft, but in my experience I don’t feel the effects of elevation until around 12000 feet. The next two hundred plus miles are going to be above 11 thousand feet, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Alright, bedtime. Time to try out my new 20 degree quilt.

Miles – 22
Total Miles – 777 
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – marmots, pika, Ptarmigan

Tuesday June 5th – CDT Day 46

Woke up with the sun on my tent a little after 6. Calm night, I was expecting it to be more windy up high up here and exposed. Got up in the middle of the night to pee and damn, the stars and milky way were bright!

After leaving camp, the trail climbs above trail lake. Someone else had camped here the night before, which I could see from my campsite.

Above trail lake is a pass at 12,320ft. Great view. It’s Rocky and wet.

I descend a little and cross a large snow field, then skirt the side of a hillside for a while.

The trail then passes through a large meadow. It’s really wet here too, lots of streams and ponds from the snow melt. 

Is been slow going today. Partly because of how beautiful it is, and also the terrain. Early season obstacles like snow, fields of water and mud make progress a real chore. There are few sections where I can cover ground quickly.

I had first lunch at blue lake. What an original name. Time to filter water too. Ugh I should be farther along today.

After lunch, I postholed through some patches of snow along blue lake. Fun stuff. Then the trail climbs above the lake and a small pond.

More scenic ponds, hillsides and valleys. Everywhere I went it was beautiful. There wasn’t a boring section of trail all day.

Next I had a big climb. I traversed a mountainside with a great view of the valley below, containing the Navajo River.

The climb continues up a ridge, with snow now becoming more plentiful. Patches of snow and large areas of water force reroutes, as has been the case all day. The switchbacks can get annoying, and since they’re often lost in the snow I’ve just been going straight uphill.

The trail reaches 12100ft and there’s an awesome view of a new set of mountains. Lots of snow up here.

Now the trail drops downhill along a huge slab of snow. Fortunately I can walk around it. I go straight downhill again, avoiding the intermittent switchbacks where I can. It’s wet and muddy if it’s not snow. Really stunning backdrop though! The pictures don’t do it justice. This is the valley containing the middle fork conejos river.

This area was beautiful, but also very tough going. Numerous snow fields to cross. I was postholing in the snow, and getting soaked walking through anywhere that wasn’t snow. It was also really Rocky again, making all non snow travel slow. I got my ass kicked hiking through here.

Before I could leave the worst of the snow behind, I had to cross a river, or cross the snow bridge over it. There were footprint over it all I followed suit. Success. Just as well, falling in would bad news.

I worked my way around a trail along the hillside of the valley, crossing many more streams and postholing through snow patches. Lots of mud too, deeper than you’d think.

I took second lunch at upper reaches of the valley. Man, I am really whooped now. Still almost 8 more guthook miles till I hit my 20. That’s not happening. I let my feet air out for the first time today. Good thing, they were wet, wrinkled and tender.

After lunch, another climb of about 900ft in 1.2 miles. Great views of the snowy mountainside I just traversed on the other side of the valley.

A new landscape reveals itself as I reached the pass. I worked my way across a shelf before going over another small pass.

Incredible scenery as I descend the pass. It’s really steep going down. After a while, the terrain really starts to fight back. Lots of steep snow to traverse, postholing in many places now since it’s early evening. There was also lots of mud, causing me to slip again. I was getting really tired and frustrated.

I made camp around 7pm. I found a spot high in the valley of the north fork conejos River. Another person is camped nearby, can’t see who.

Man I am tired. Today was beautiful but very hard. The terrain was an absolute nightmare. Type 2 fun all the way.

Miles – 19.6
Total Miles – 796.6
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – marmots, Ptarmigan

Wednesday June 6th – CDT Day 47

Once again, the Sun shining in my tent woke me up. A beautiful morning in the cirque. Today will be an adventure.

Sprinkler had camped nearby last night, as well as DG (delayed gratification) which I would later find out. All left camp before me.

After leaving camp, I crossed a small stream running under snow, one of many today. These are crossed by walking over a snow bridge. You never know if it will hold. The snow pack and the severity of the potential fall into the stream below varied greatly.

I hiked around a a hillside, wading through thick bushes. Otherwise, the trail was pretty manageable for the first couple miles.

It’s a steady climb to the top of a pass, one of many today. The trail stays high and encounters a lot of snow. For now, no postholing.

Next the trail skirts a steep hillside above Adams Fork Conejos River Valley. Had to cross several really steep slopes of snow. Did someone say death drop? Awesome views though.

This was a long valley, the only one of the day really. Near where the trail drops down and crosses the Adams Fork canejos river, there’s a huge amount of snow remaining alongside a section of River. Maybe 30 or 40 ft high. I crossed up stream.

I caught up with Sprinkler above the river  crossing. Nice hike up the rest of the Valley. I stopped for first lunch near the top.

Finished the climb up out of the valley. The trail had a pretty different feel the rest of the day now, it just stays high.

After the trail turns to the north Face of Summit peak, there was a massive snow field to cross. Fairly steep and a long way down. Amongst the most snow I’ve seen on Trail yet. At the end of the snow field is a partially frozen Blue Lake.

From here to Trail climbs up another Ridgeline leading to the Crux of today’s hike, the segment between Chama and Pagosa Springs, and the entire see CDT thus far. There’s and extremely deep slope of snow. The kind where you can’t see over the edge. Beyonce and frito head just turned away and decided to head back and look for a way down the valley. Sprinkler and DG were both here trying to figure out what to do. DG climbed the hill above looking for a way around, but no go. It’s either cross this super sketchy slope or turn around and spend basically the rest of the day working around it somehow by dropping down into the valley.

Sprinkler had full fledged crampons, and tackled it first. He disappeared over a line of sight edge as I was putting on my micro spikes. DG was just behind him. Everyone was tense. Sprinkler made it across, and DG went ahead of me. He had an ice axe, but no spikes or crampons. There’s a break in the snow halfway through, DG made it. Now my turn.This was the first time I used my Micro spikes, and although the snow was slushy, I appreciated the extra grip over my trail runners alone.

Once we all made it across, it was a good feeling. That was the steepest slope of snow I’ve ever crossed. We carried on, all at a somewhat similar pace now.

The trail then does some ups and downs through high alpine fields, Ridgelines and passes. Sprinkler, DG and I stopped to eat second lunch around 4pm. We all agreed on trying to reach Elwood pass at the very least tonight, and hopefully a few more miles. It was another 4.4 miles, according to guthook.

We made good progress through this next section. Some decent sections of trail that allowed for fast passage, finally. Occasional patches of snow, some big some small. Lots more mud and flooded fields. But still somehow faster than earlier today.

Once down at Elwood pass, we realized there wasn’t much here. I filtered water and ate dinner. Sprinkler one on first so he could get to camp and cook dinner there. DG took the road that paralled the ridge I’m going to take. With all the clouds today, he didn’t want to be up on that Ridgeline in case it got Windy. Very valid point, but I’m going to roll the dice.

I enjoyed the walk up on the Ridgeline. I saw three Elk in a field tonight, and another later on. I made it 2.8 miles past Elwood pass before finding a campsite around 8pm.

Beautiful sunset, but just be on the trees. No Clear view, bummer.

Today was a good day. 14.8 miles to wolf Creek past tomorrow, my ticket into Pagosa Springs. Really looking forward to that!

Miles – 20.5
Total Miles – 817.1
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Thursday June 7th – CDT Day 48

Up at 6:15am, hiking by 7. Cool and a little windy, Grey skies still.

This morning was a nice hike. The CDT stays high upon a Ridgeline. Mountains to the west had some snow.

Lack of water would be an issue today. There was no water since a couple miles past Elwood pass. I had 1.5L for the day, and already dehydrated a little this morning.

Saw a couple of deer in an opening along the Ridgeline. Haven’t seen many deer so far on the CDT, mostly elk.

The trail was completely different today. None of the big snow fields, snow capped peaks or wet trail of yesterday. Ok, a few wet spots, but my feet were dry all day. Even though the elevation was similar to the snow covered mountains of the last two days, the trail resembled a lower elevation ecosystem. This allowed for faster miles today.

The trail was skirting a steep mountainside when I found and interesting rock. A milky turquoise looking blob encased by a sedimentary conglomerate. I used another rock to break off the sedimentary part. I broke open the turquoise blob and exposed a crystal center. A geode! Cool find.

The trail follows many ridgelines today and generally is heading down to a low point just below 11k feet at silver pass. I ate first lunch here. Only lunch, actually. Going to do the last 8 miles to wolf creek pass in one go. Here I’ll hitch onto Pagosa springs to resupply.

After lunch, the trail climbs most of the rest of the day. Lots of downed trees in the forest sections. Lots. And the detours around them can be a pain… Over, under, around and any which way.

The trail passes above a water reservoir, then climbs a ridge that follows the border of the wolf creek ski area. Really windy, but also really great views all the way up and around Alberta peak.

I made it to wolf creek pass at 2pm. There was a state trooper at the pass checking semi trucks for something. I Googled the legalities of hitchhiking in Colorado and determined I was good in this instance. 150ft away from the trooper, I stuck my thumb out. A woman named Nancy stopped had just dropped off a hiker coming from Pagosa, and picked me up on her way back. Perfect, only took a few minutes.

In town, I got a motel room at the pinewood inn. I showered up then DG stopped by. We ate lunch at Kip’s cantina. Triple bacon cheese burger and chips… No problem. Sprinkler showed up and joined us. Turns out he’s staying two rooms down at the pinewood.

I had a double bed room at the motel, and DG split the room with me for the night. Later, sprinkler joined us for dinner and beers at the riff raff brewery. Good times.

Will do town stuff tomorrow… Laundry, food resupply, post office and packages, etc.

Miles – 15.7
Total Miles – 832.8 
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – elk, deer, marmot

Friday June 8th – CDT Day 49 (zero day)

The Continental breakfast selection at the motel was sparse, so I headed out on search of a real breakfast establishment. The Rose had a line out the door, so I went to the peak Cafe instead.

Got a lot done today, at least it felt that way. Had to make a couple calls to get a few things sorted back in the real world, hit up some local shops for a few things to send back to friends and family at home, went to the grocery store for food resupply to Lake City, and hit the post office. Had to mail back some Darn Tough socks for warranty, but they held up pretty well… the whole state of New Mexico basically.

Later I ate dinner with sprinkler and Alan at the Malt Shop. The 1lb “challenger” burger was no challenge at all.

Went back to the motel and finished packing my food. Hoping to do the next section in 6 days, but bringing food for 7

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 832.8
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – deer

Like what you see?

Ghost Ranch to Chama – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Ghost Ranch to Chama Overview


This section of trail takes you to the border of Colorad0. After leaving Ghost Ranch, the terrain quickly transitions into mesa, hills, meadows, and ridges running high above valleys below. Water is suddenly abundant. Relatively, of course. The trails stays high, near 10k feet for much of this section, with a high at 11k. Lots of Elk. With every mile passed, it’s looking less like New Mexico and more like Colorado. 

Sunday May 27th – CDT Day 37

Woke up around 6:30am to that same jackass playing the drum from the night before. Only this time, it was a single hit on the drum once every few seconds. At least this got me up for breakfast.

At the dining hall, it was bagels, hard boiled eggs, mixed fruit, packaged muffins and grits or something. A lot like a continental breakfast at a motel.

Hung out on the porch of the welcome center the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. I charged my phone, used wifi to do some internet things and ate food. Hikers came and went. I’ll be leaving later too, hoping the heat will die down a little.

I normally fluctuate between 32 and 34 size waist at home. The convertible pants I’m hiking in are size 32 waist, and they’ve been falling off for weeks now. This also means the hipbelt on my size large osprey exos 58 backpack cannot be tightened any more. The hipbelt is built in to the pack, not removable. I’ll need to buy the same pack in medium. I spent a while shopping online to find the best price for this discontinued item. Discontinued meaning, this is the 2017 model, replaced with the 2018 model. The new model has the hip belt pockets romoved. No deal (in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice).

I left ghost ranch around 4pm. New shoes now after exactly 650 miles. The Brooks Cascadia 12s are really working well for me, few blisters and no real foot issues.

The trail leaves the ranch via the box canyon trail, and there are spectacular views all around. A good way to end the desert landscape, as I believe it now transitions into more high mountains from here on out.

The Box Canyon Trail follows a small stream as it travels through the canyon. It’s a nice little desert oasis.

There’s an off shoot Canyon where the trail climbs out, very sleepy I might add. After this, the trail just keeps climbing and climbing. No more canyon, and back to the high desert. It’s hot and there’s some steeper climbs. At least they’re short-ish.

After the majority of the climbing is done, the trail joins a road and that is to be followed. This leads to dead end tank, which looked like a pretty good water source, despite being a cow pond, and yeso tank a little farther. Yeso was as nasty as it comes! I have a little over 2L left, I can make that last till late morning tomorrow when I get to the next good water source, maybe 7 miles more.

I found camp around 7:45pm. It’s along a dirt road, and had been used by car campers. It was the skeletons tied to the trees that caught my eye… Old animal bones tied up with barbed wire, boots, beer cans. Weird but funny. Some ambitious hiker should take this to the next level… skeleton wind chimes.

A beautiful sunset played out just beyond the trees. Looking forward to many more of these in Colorado!

Miles – 9.4
Total Miles – 659.8
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Monday May 28th – CDT Day 38

Started hiking around 8am, which has been my usual lately. Then hike til 8pm-ish. Hiking around 12 hours a day now.

The morning starts with a climb. First up a dirt road, then the trail splits off and climbs higher along the Ridgeline. Lots of elevation gain throughout the day. I had LTE for the first couple hours, then no more.

About 8 miles past last night’s camp and right before the junction with the main CDT, I reached Harris bear spring. I took my water from the pipe feeding the lower Trough. I ate first lunch while filtering water.

Now done with the ghost ranch alternate route, the landscape looks like the San Pedro parks wilderness area, but with more distant views. Large rolling Hills and open Meadows, patches of pine and Aspen trees. And of course, cows grazing here and there.

I found a couple more pieces of obsidian this morning. Then I found in Arrowhead made out of obsidian. Pretty cool, never found an artifact like that before.

The trail is still climbing. Lots of downed trees in the 2 mile stretch before upper canjilon lake. Saw an elk in this area.

The trail continues to climb up along canjilon creek. Some small patch of snow still exist along the creek and in tickets of trees. I stopped to filter water again early evening. Carrying 3L.

Above canjilon creek is a large open park. I saw about 5 more elk and a coyote as I passed through. I was considering camping here based on the map, but now here in person, I don’t see anywhere and want to camp.

I pushed on over the high point for today, 10,433ft. I was looking for campsites at this point but being picky. I do this to myself looking for the perfect campsite. However, I must say it’s a great technique for getting in extra miles in the evening. I didn’t stop until about 8:30 pm. Wanted to get in a lot of miles over the next couple days so I don’t get into town so late on Thursday, making it a lighter day.

Full moon and coyotes howling. Off to bed.

Miles – 29.7
Total Miles – 689.5
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk, coyote

Tuesday May 29th – CDT Day 39

I slept pretty decent last night, rested up for another big day.

This mornings hike was much like yesterday. Ups and downs, forest, occasional view of a field.

Mid morning, I passed sequoia. Unfortunately camel had to bail yesterday due to sickness. He was able to hitch to Chama from the upper canjilon lake area. If it hadn’t been memorial day, there probably wouldn’t have been anyone up there.

This mornings water source was the Rio Vallecitos. Nice flowing creek with knee deep water, some pools with trout. Ate first lunch here as well.

More forest, small fields. I kept busy by looking at the ground for rocks. Every day I have a couple to add to the collection. I have at least a pound of rocks on me now, haha. I’ll send them and the others in my bounce box home when I get to Chama.

Late afternoon I passed hopewell lake and hwy 64. Man made Lake, but still very scenic.

After hwy 64, the trail passes through a couple of meadows, and starts climbing up hill. It’s on a dirt road for quite a while.

This evening I passed Cracker. I hadn’t seen him since Doc Campbell’s! Glad to see he’s still on trail and doing well. We chatted for a while and sequoia showed up as well. We all wanted to get in another mile or two tonight, and I was the first to leave as I intended on 4 more.

Nice hike this evening. Some more rolling Hills and larger fields. I saw two elk along the tree line just before dark.

Around 8:15 pm I found camp in the tree line at the top of a saddle. A 30 mile day, whew. Feet are tired at the end of the day but in the morning I’m good to go.

Wow, so I was laying in my tent writing in my journal when I got buzzed by two planes! Didn’t get a chance to poke my head out and get a glimpse, but they were super low and very loud. Pretty cool!

Miles – 30.6
Total Miles – 720.1
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Wednesday May 30th – CDT Day 40

Woke up to scattered clouds, which has not been typical of New Mexico. Lots of mosquitoes too, just like last night.

Not long after leaving camp, I saw 2 elk. I’ve lost track how many I’ve seen total now.

A few more miles of forest and meadows, and the trail reaches a ravine with a small stream. I followed it to the valley floor and pulled 3L, ate some food. Nice little place to stop.

Next, the trail climbs very steeply up to a ridge above the Rio San Antonio. As the trail begins heading northwest, the Valley really opens up. Great view, definitely starting to resemble Colorado now.

Back into the forest, I was getting attacked by mosquitoes. I have no bug spray, didn’t think I’d need it this soon. Black flies are out too. Instead free been using Adobe of my Dr Bronners magic soap. It’s peppermint scented, which I believe keeps bugs away. It definitely seems to work.

Next I passed through the lagunitas lakes area. It’s a bunch of smaller lakes and ponds on this shelf, with a few campgrounds alongside. There were actually several people out here. A guy driving his truck up to one of the campgrounds slowed down as he passed and waved his fist, in a “I know you’re hiking the CDT, kick some ass” fashion. I did the same, and laughed a little.

The trail then climbs a ridge and skirts the side of the steep slopes. Big views. I can get used to this.

Then the trail drops back down into the forest for a good while. The way the light shines through the trees is calming. I still haven’t mastered forest photos though.

After the forest the trail winds up high above a valley again. The east fork Rio Brazos flows here. Snow can be senn on the mountains to the north, although much less than in years past. It’s a low snow year in Colorado.

Storm clouds are Brewing all around, but I’ve avoided rain all day so far. Typical weather for Colorado in the summer, and I’m only about 12 miles from the border now.

The trail then drops down to a saddle where a forest road weeds. It’s a scenic overlook, and a trailhead for the Cruces Basin wilderness. I sat on a log here and ate second lunch. Nobody drove by. I don’t think there are any trails in this wilderness, so I’m pretty sure nobody visit it. Like most of New Mexico. The only non-CDT hikers I saw in the entire state we’re in the Gila, between little bear Canyon and Jordan Hot Springs. It just feels like us CDT hikers have the entire state to ourselves.

After traversing a rocky Ridgeline for a while, it’s downhill towards a stream. My next water source, and hopeful campsite location.

The skies were looking pretty dark all around now. I made it to the stream around 6pm and found a nice campsite alongside it. I set up my tent first in case it rained, but it never did. This was the earliest I’ve gotten to camp in a long time, I can’t remember anything earlier actually.

I soaked my feet in the steam, which was ice cold. Filtered water, cleaned up, ate and relaxed next to the sound of flowing water. As I sat up from dinner, I scared off an elk that was hanging out about 100ft behind my tent.

This is my last night in New Mexico. Hard to believe! I’ll save the reflections for tomorrow. I’m off to bed.

Miles – 23.2
Total Miles – 743.3
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Thursday May 31st – CDT Day 41

Last night was cold. One pair of socks were frozen, the other I brought in the tent, but were still wet this morning. Not used to this after so long in the desert. I just packed up all my things as quick as possible so I could get moving and generate some heat.

Saw 2 more elk this morning as I broke down camp. Walked Through the large clearing just below camp and from there the trail starts climbing again. Not all that much to see this morning really. Dirt roads, forests with a lot of downed trees to step over. This morning was really all about reaching the Border of Colorado as soon as possible, so I had more time in Chama.

I made it to the underwhelming state line around 11am. It’s just a barbed wire fence along a hillside, with a sign saying entering Rio Grande National Forest. Still, a big milestone. I’ve hiked 750 miles through New Mexico to get here!

After crossing the barbed wire fence and walking a few yards to the Treeline, I was presented with a big sweeping view of Colorado. Below I could see Highway 17 and cumbres pass, now only 3 miles away. There’s a train that runs up and down cumbres pass that had just left as well, with a big black plume of smoke giving away its location.

When I reached cumbres pass, I began the arduous task of hitchhiking. There wasn’t a whole lot of traffic, but in reality I was lucky with maybe the 7th or so car stopping for me. All in all it took maybe 20 minutes.

Hitchhiking is a new experience for me, and I’ve always heard you meet a lot of interesting characters in the process. This was definitely the case! Really interesting guy, works 54 days a year preparing taxes on the east coast and then drives around the country having fun for the rest of the year.

After being dropped off at the Y Motel, I walked to the post office to retrieve my bounce box. It didn’t reach the motel, the post office just held it in general delivery. Huh. At least I got it.

It was an hour walk to the post office and back, and since I don’t only eaten breakfast and a light snack I was pretty damn hungry at this point. I stopped in to the High Country Restaurant for lunch. Good food and great service!

Back at the hotel, I had a wicked food coma and a bit of a headache. I rested for a while before starting to backup all my pictures and GoPro video onto my laptop. Then I went to hang out with some other hikers in another room, and headed up to the Chama Grill for dinner.

Miles – 12
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – elk

Friday June 1st – CDT Day 42 (zero day)

Walked up to the RV park across the street and did laundry this morning. Ate breakfast at the Chama Grill. 

Spent much of the afternoon working on my blog and some online logistics. My backpack never arrived, and the tracking number showed it still had not left Georgia. I called the company I purchased it from and they said they shipped it on the 29th. It’s in the post office’s hands now.

I bought my food for the stretch to Pagosa Springs from the store across the street, and picked up a DiGiorno pizza for dinner. My room at the motel has an oven, so why not? Later I hung out with Bugs, Shawn, Katie & Becca. We played this game when the dice are pigs and the way the pigs lay after rolled determines how many points you get. And drank whiskey. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Saturday June 2nd – CDT Day 43 (zero day)

This morning I woke up and worked on my blog for a while. 

Ralph, a local trail angel, was giving hikers rides to Cumbress Pass, and gave a few of us rides to the post office on his way. I decided to check and see if my package was at the post office, even though the tracking number said it hasn’t arrived yet from Albuquerque, its last stop at 3am. Sure enough, they had it! 

It was now around 11am. There’s no way I could get back on trail today as planned, since I still had so much to do. Most importantly, mail back my old backpack, 40 degree sleeping bag, etc. Post office closes at noon today, so I’ll have to wait until 8am Monday. It sucks that I am being pushed back 2 extra days, but on the other hand, there is supposed to be a big storm tomorrow, so I’ll avoid being caught out in that. Also, 2 more days for snow to melt in the mountains, making for easier passage. 

Ralph picked us up on his way back down from Cumbress Pass, and took us back to the motel. I reluctantly paid for two more nights.

I walked up to the barber shop to get a haircut, but it was closed. Oh well, maybe in Pagosa Springs. 

Early evening, I was hanging out on the motel patio with Sprinkler. A couple of non-CDT hikers were hanging out in a room nearby, on a fishing trip. They offered us some beer which we gladly accepted. 

With our livers primed, Sprinkler and I headed up to the saloon across the street for beers and dinner. Good food, good times.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Sunday June 3rd – CDT Day 44

Woke up today to dark clouds and rain, just as forecasted. I ate breakfast at Finas Diner with Music then came back to my motel room to get ready for tomorrow.

I started fooling around with my new backpack, moving over straps and little customizations added in the past. I noticed the hip belt wasn’t really any smaller than my old backpack, and checked the tag… LARGE! Wtf, I ordered a medium to replace my old large! Ugh, they sent me the wrong size.

I contacted the company I bought it from, Going Gear in Smyrna, GA. Even though they were closed today, I was lucky and got ahold of someone there who was able to send me an RMA label. I had the motel print it out for me and I’ll return it tomorrow morning on my way out of town. But, I wasted two full days sitting around waiting on this package. Had to pay for two more days of hotel, food, etc. More importantly, it set me back two full days. The bright side is, I avoided a major storm and had two more days for snow to melt out in the high mountains. 

I spent the rest of the day getting my food together and other little chores. Ready to get out of town and hit the trail again. 

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 755.5
Rain – yes
Sleep – hotel
Animals – none

Like what you see?

Cuba to Ghost Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Cuba to Ghost Ranch Overview

After leaving Cuba, the trail heads up a dirt road into the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. This is the first time you really feel like you’re getting close to Colorado, with alpine meadows and “parks”. However, it’s short lived. Before long it’s back down into the desert again. Here, the trail crosses the Rio Chama and approaches Ghost Ranch. Most CDT hikers take the Ghost Ranch alternate route, but you can skip it by staying high on a mesa above this area. Ghost Ranch offers some beautiful scenery and is a great way to end your desert experience in New Mexico.

Thursday May 24th – CDT Day 34

Packed up and ready to hit the trail. Rebels roost has a scale on the front porch for weighing backpacks, and mine weighed in at 22lbs without food and water. 38lbs with food and 3L of water.

I stopped at Priscillianos again for breakfast. I was stuffed, and ready for the big climb up to San Pedro Parks. Started hiking around 9:30am.

The first few miles are along Los Pinos Rd. After passing all the homes, the pavement ends and becomes a dirt road. Steady climb all morning to the Los Pinos trailhead.

The landscape was a lot greener here than anywhere else in New Mexico so far. The was actual soil, not sand, providing a more “Colorado look” to it. Pine tree forests, a small creek and green grass. A pleasant change!

The trail climbs 2000ft in 3 miles. Not super steep, and the hike up wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.

After the big climb for the day, the landscape turns into rolling hills, open grassy meadows and pine forests. These are the San Pedro “parks”. Nice hiking through here. I saw my first patches of snow on the CDT here, albeit very small.

I noticed a lot of interesting rocks in this area. Not sure what they are, but some red, yellow /orange and amber colored stones that I haven’t seen before. Snagged a couple to take with.

The San Pedro peaks were marked on my map at 10, 600ft which is the high point of this wilderness area. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a big view from the “summit”, just a little higher than the surrounding meadows and trees.

North of the high point, the trail is riddled with downed trees. Still, I made good time through here.

I found camp along the trail in a small meadow. It was around 7:30 now, pretty early to be camping for me, lately. While settling up my tent, about 5 elk came crashing through the forest and through the edge of the field. Shortly after, a hiker named Charlie passed through, trying to get in a few more miles tonight.

Back to the desert later tomorrow. Once last stretch of desert to ghost ranch, then it’s mountains for a while.

Miles – 23
Total Miles – 612.6
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – elk

Friday May 25th – CDT Day 35

Heard some elk (assuming) again walking around near the edge of the meadow in the middle of the night. Around 6:30am, a couple of cows wandered into the meadow, and began to graze about 30ft from my tent.

Not long after leaving camp, I had to crap. Normally I wouldn’t write about this, but this is funny. I couldn’t find soft ground to dig a hole, then noticed a soft patch of dirt around an old tree stump. A ton of Ants started stirring as I dug my hole, apparently tight into the middle of an ant hill. Well, I gotta go now so, here’s a gift for the queen! Haha.

The trail continues downhill for a while. Occasional breaks in the trees provide decent views. I saw a couple of deer in the woods, first deer in quite a while.

I stopped at a small stream to filter water. Backflushed my water filter for only the second time since I started the CDT, and wow, what a difference. Filtering speed increased massively.

The next section of trail was an easy walk through some open pine forests. Not much to see really. I did spot another couple of deer as the landscape began to transition back to desert rather than the high alpine forests of the day prior.

After crossing hwy 96, views of mesa Alta were quick to impress. The steep rock faces were an array of colors unlike anything I’d seen on trail yet.

It was about a 1000ft climb up the top of the mesa. I knocked out a good portion of it before stopping for first lunch. Two guys passed going southbound, hiking a section of the CDT from hope wells to Cuba. I got to thinking, other than the Gila, I don’t think I’ve seen any other hikers yet who weren’t thru hiking the CDT or a section of it.

After lunch, I resumed my l climb. It was much harder after the break and really dragged on. In all fairness, it was much steeper here and it was getting really hot. Still, I was disappointed in my slow pace.

Once on top of the mesa, I hiked over to Fuentes spring. Good water here conning from a pipe feeding a trough. Then, it was another steep climb over a ridge.

Now it’s mostly downhill for the rest of the day. The trail dumps into a dirt road which I followed for a while. Then a trail splits of the road and heads downhill again, through the Rio Chama wilderness.

Lots of switchbacks heading down into canada gurule. Apparently canada means canyon in Spanish. It has that squiggly line over the n which I don’t know how to type, never had to haha. Once I reached the creek, I stopped for second lunch.

Awesome hike through canada gurule. Small stream, but very lush and scenic little canyon. Lots of great camping along the stream, but like always, I’m not ready to camp when I find a good campsite.

When the canyon opens up, there’s incredible views of colorful cliffs everywhere in the distance. I can tell this is going to be a special place. Just a few more miles to the Rio Chama.

Once at the bridge over the Rio Chama, I was immediately grateful for it. This was a serious river, not something a sane person would get in and Ford. First such river along the CDT.

Now it’s a road walk to ghost ranch. However it’s a very scenic road walk along the Rio chama, and it’s beautiful. The setting sun illuminated the river valley with a magical feel. I was not expecting this area to be as impressive at it was!

I turned the corner on the road and came across Sally and Linda at the entrance to a camping area. This was a drive in camping area, but not a designated pay campground. They asked if I was hiking the CDT, and when I said yes they offered to let me camp with them for the night. Sounds good, I’m tired!

I set up my tent among about 12 others in the area and joined their large group (20+). They were very welcoming and generous, offering water, beer and food. I happily accepted a couple of gourmet burgers, stuffed with green Chile. Yum!

Sally gave me a root that keeps snakes away, I forget the name. I couldn’t help but laugh when she said it also attracts bears!

No campfire due to the stage II fire restrictions, but a good night nonetheless. They had been camping here for many years, and will be rafting down to river tomorrow. 

Miles – 25.6
Total Miles – 638.2
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – deer

Saturday May 26th – CDT Day 36

Knowing today was a short day, I didn’t rush in the morning. I seldom do. Never was a morning person, probably never will be. It was overcast, and would be all day long.

Nobody I recognized from the night before was up and about in camp, so I left without saying goodbye. Later while road walking, Sally and Linda drove by and I could thank them again for the hospitality.

The road walk along the Rio Chama was very scenic. Sucks it was a road though, with lots of memorial day weekend traffic.

After a few miles, the road veers away from the river, but still excellent scenery. I found several interesting stones along the way. My rock collection is growing! I’m a dork, I know. Gotta do something while staring at the ground all day.

I missed a turn and had a slightly longer road walk along hwy 84, a fairly busy paved highway. No biggie. I then came across the turn for ghost ranch, which goes through an abandoned building on the guthook app. Something like a conservation center and nature walk. Hmm, abandoned building, just like back home in Detroit. I think I’ll take lunch here. Also, had 4G LTE.

After leaving conservation center thing, it’s a crawl under a barbed wire fence then following a footpath into the desert. The steep and colorful mesas provide a stunning backdrop. Later this footpath merges with the actual CDT alternate that apparently was just a couple hundred feet beyond the abandoned building. Ah well, cool lunch spot anyways.

The trail is kinda hard to follow through this section. I ended up just hiking cross country here for a while. I could see a bunch of buildings of in the distance so I just headed that way. Eventually the network of dirt roads led to the ghost ranch welcome center. Out on front on the porch was about 8 other hikers I recognized and a few more I didn’t.

I paid for a tent site, and tickets dinner & breakfast. Then I grabbed an ice cream cookie and a powerade from the snack shop, and returned to tung porch. Many of the hikers started clearing out. A haze could be seen building in the distance. I could later smell it, the distinct smell of forest fire smoke.

I set up my tent, showered and did half my laundry. Should have just done it all then but was rushing to get to dinner. It’s cafeteria style, and I heard they ran out of food last night!

As it turns out, the dining hall was dead this evening. I believe there was a wedding last night. I ate with a couple hikers outside. Very peaceful here.

I picked up my resupply box from the welcome center after dinner. Alright, new shoes! And of course, a bunch of food. I spent the rest of the evening on the porch of the welcome center, charging batteries, packaging my food, etc. The forest fire smoke from earlier had passed. The way the sunset illuminates the mesa behind the welcome center is just amazing.

After finishing my laundry, I headed to my tent. It was dark but wasn’t quiet hours yet, and some guy in a nearby campsite was taking advantage by beating a drum. Very amaturely I might add, and luckily he wasn’t at it too long.

Miles – 12.2
Total Miles – 650.4
Rain – no
Sleep – Frontcountry , tent
Animals – none

Like what you see?

Grants to Cuba – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Grants to Cuba Overview

This next section of the CDT is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. After leaving Grants, the trail climbs to the highest point in New Mexico along the CDT at 11,300ft on the summit of Mt. Taylor. This is an alternate route, but everyone does it. Then the trail heads back down into the lowlands and is rather uninteresting for quite a stretch. Just when you’re thinking the best is over, bam! You find yourself on the edge of a high mesa with an awesome view. It’s then a 2 day hike through some of the most interesting desert landscapes I’ve  ever hiked through. The section of trail south of Cuba might be my favorite desert hike 0f all time!

Friday May 18th – CDT Day 28

I was up to 12:30am last night updating my blog(an 8 hour endeavour), so I slept in this morning and got later start than I wanted. I stopped by the post office to mail my bounce box and a post card, and started hiking out of town around 10:30am. A truck recognized me as a CDT hiker and offered a ride to the Mt Taylor trailhead, which would have saved about 5 miles of toad walking, but I said no thanks.

South of the trailhead, I passed a prison. Some prisoners were working outside of the walls, under the watchful eye of a guard. They waved, I waved back.

At the trailhead, I had a 1000ft climb ahead of me. I knocked it out without too much trouble and soon found myself on top of a mesa. Great view of Grants below, and Mt Taylor in the distance. I hiked over to a shade tree and took first lunch.

While under the tree, Nugget passed. Hadn’t seen him since like day 4. Then two more hikers passed… Cardboard and Sandy Cheeks, first time we’d met.

I had noticed that there was a spot in the same location on all my pictures, so I decided it was time to check it out. Nothing on the filter or the lens. I removed the lens and examined the sensor and found a speck of dust… I blew it off and viola! Good to go. Nothing like a speck of dust ruining every single picture.

The hike across the mesa was cool. Flat, easy and views of Mt Taylor. Eventually the trail enters woodlands and the view disappears. This began a long stretch of relatively boring hiking. Time to put on some music. This continued for a couple hours.

I took second lunch around 4:30pm, only about 1.5 miles from the Mt Taylor alternate junction. You could hike right past Mt Taylor, as the official CDT route does, but why? Isn’t that why we’re out here? I laughed at the thought of the purist hiker I encountered in El Malpais, knowing he’s going to skip it for the sake of hiking the official route.

At gooseberry spring, I saw flower man, cardboard and sandy cheeks. The water was in a trough, and was the clearest trough water yet. Nice. I filtered 3L and moved on.

I headed up hill towards the summit of Mt Taylor, with about 3 miles and 2500ft Elevation Gain remaining. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d actually summit it tonight, since it was 6:15pm now. I hiked on and left my plans open to the moment.


After passing through some aspens, the trees thin out and the trail followed an exposed ridge. Looking back the way I came was some of the most beautiful scenery I had seen so far on the CDT. The sun was setting and a magical haze engulfed the lowlands. This motivated me to move on towards the summit. However, I was getting pretty tired. If I climb the summit, it will be like 25 miles and about 6000ft elevating gain today. This with a fully loaded pack that is resting on my shoulders more than it should, due to weight loss. As mentioned before, my hipbelt cannot be closed any tighter now.

I decided the remedy is to stop for third lunch and water. Good call. Plus, I got to soak in the awesome Vista just a little longer.

The rest of the hike to the summit was just as tiring, but there were amazing views around every corner. I felt a bit rushed due to the setting sun, but this also provided superior views that would not have been available any other time of the day. Breathtaking!

After a bunch of switchbacks and false summits, I finally reached the real summit. Woo-hoo, 11,301ft… highest on trail yet. This is the highest point the CDT gets in New Mexico. I had it to myself, but the sun was setting fast. It was really cold now, and I was forced to drop my pack and put on my fleece hood. I snapped some pictures and video, then headed downhill.

The trail wanders through thick forest along a series of switchbacks before reaching the saddle I saw on the map. Sandy cheeks and Cardboard were here, and I asked if I could join. It’s a nice large flat area with some pretection from the wind, perfect.

This is the coldest evening yet. I shivered profusely while doing camp chores and eating, hurrying up so I could get in my sleeping bag asap. This was the first night I closed the vestibule on my tent for extra warmth, and the first night I had to add clothes to the inside of my sleeping bag to keep my feet warm. And I’m a warm sleeper!

Looong day, I’m out.

Miles – 23.8
Total Miles – 489 (start at 475.5 end 499.3)
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – horny toads

Saturday May 19th – CDT Day 29

Very cold night. No surprise since I camped at 11,000ft. Thankfully it was calm with no wind whatsoever. I slept much better with my new thermarest neoair inflatable sleeping pad. The sun hit my tent around 7am so that’s when I got moving. On the trail around 8:30am.

Awesome views this morning. The trail skirts the mountainside as it traverses downhill towards a saddle below La Mosca lookout.

From the saddle, it’s an good climb up to the lookout tower. Unlike Mangas mountain Lookout, this tower was not manned and the top level was locked. Still, great view. I had 4g lte here(AT&T), which I assumed was due to the large cell phone towers next to the lookout. Cardboard and sandy cheeks were here too, but left long before I. Nobody on the CDT lingers long at cool places, always consumed with covering miles.

More good views coming down from the lookout, but they quickly fade. Just like my cell signal. Those towers weren’t AT&T at all… Not surprising. Now it’s more dirt roads again, with an occasional field or meadow thrown in.

This morning dragged on. Miles were slow and my motivation to walk mundane dirt roads was low. My pack is still really heavy and the weight sitting on my shoulders was annoying. I took a few snack breaks, further slowing my pace.

I took first lunch at American Spring. Good clear cold water. While I was sitting down here, a man and his family came over the hill and saw me. “Are we on your land”? I told him it’s public land. He was out here to do some target shooting. I moved on, back to more dirt roads.

If you can’t tell, I’m getting tired of road walking. I’ve been thinking back on my walk through New Mexico and trying to put a percentage to road VS trail. So far, it’s easily been 50% road walking when you count a dirt road of any kind. It’s probably more like 60% or even higher. There’s been some nice parts of the state but myself and many other hikers are ready for Colorado.

Eventually I hit a trail to follow. However, it passes through a non-descript forest with little to see. I was really dragging still, when I came across Sequoia sitting under a tree. I sat down next to her and we caught up on the last week or so. I hadn’t seen her or camel since Pie Town. Good to see a familiar face out here.

Camel was farther up trail and waiting for her at the next Water source, so it was time to move. I was in much better spirits now. Roads, trails, it didn’t matter.

After hiking a short while, we saw someone on an ATV and some campers in a clearing. The woman in the ATV asked if sequoia was sequoia, as camel was back at the campers waiting for her. We followed her back and saw a few other hikers leaving, as well as pony whisperer sitting with camel. What we have here is some trail angels set up to sort CDT hikers this weekend. Unexpected and well timed!

A woman named Glenda ran up to me, greeted me by name and gave me a big hug. There were chairs for us, and she promptly got us some iced tea and made us sandwiches. Her husband Eddie was also here, letting us know we can refill our water and they’d take our trash. Eddie had even heard my story already about the poor experience I’d had at the sands motel.

I spent a while catching up with camel and sequoia while simultaneously sharing stores with Glenda and Eddie. Their whole reason for being out here was really touching. While camping out here last year a CDT hiker passed by, and camped nearby. They kept seeing him and thought, what the heck is this guy doing out here? So they asked, and discovered the CDT. They were so inspired by our stories and the magnitude of the challenge that they decided they wanted to help out as many CDT hikers as they could. So they came back out here this year to camp for the weekend with that intention.

I often forget how doing something like the CDT provides inspiration to others, but it does. And knowing that motivates me to keep going on days like today where I really wasn’t feeling super motivated. It wad hard to leave and go back on trail, but this show of generosity and kindness lifted my spirits more than food and water ever could have.

Not far up tail, camel and sequoia were sitting under a tree. Camel had shin splints and asked if I knew how to wrap tape for that. I gave him the KT tape strips I had, but had no instructions on how to wrap for anything other than knee or ankle. Sequoia walked back to the campers to ask if the had Ace tape. Looks like they’re stopping here for the night. I was only at about 15 miles for the day, so I pressed on with my goal of 20. It was already 6pm now.

The rest of the evening was a nice walk though large open fields and spotty patches of trees. I saw many jackrabbits, and of course, cows. I ate dinner in one of the fields so I didn’t have to eat in the dark at camp later.

I hiked until 8:30pm, just barely light left when I found a suitable spot along the dirt road I was walking. Nothing else to do now except rest.

Miles – 26.8
Total Miles – 515.8
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – none

Sunday May 20th – CDT Day 29

I feel asleep fast night while writing in my journal (on my phone) which I use to update my log when I get into town. I didn’t wake up for a few hours, when the wind picked up. I got out of the tent and laid rocks over the stakes for piece of mind. Even with the wind, I slept much better on the inflatable air mattress than the foam one.

It was still pretty windy when I broke camp. This always makes putting the tent away a pain. It was cooler than normal too. Weather changing? It’s been so consistent in New Mexico.

More road walking this morning. It’s the same field over and over again for the most part. There are occasionally some rocky chasms or canyons, not sure about the correct terminology. Didn’t bother to explore further. I want to cover miles today. However, I wasn’t doing a vet good job at it. I took several breaks to eat, etc.

Today’s water source is Los Indios spring. I arrived around noon, surprised that it was located in such a beautiful canyon. It’s a ways off trail, but worth it. And necessary! Not many other options. The trail hugs some cliff walls down into a canyon, where a little oasis exists. Lightfoot and pony whisperer here, so we caught up on trail gossip for a bit.

I stayed way too long at the spring, about an hour and 45 minutes. I ate lunch, hydrated, and cleaned my socks. Camel and sequoia showed up as well. When I left, I passed a hiker I’d never met, an Asian guy named sematape. Not sure on the spelling, or if that’s his real name or trail name. I didn’t see anyone else all day, until I made camp.

The rest of the day was almost all trail, not roads, and well maintained at that. Trees and branches recently trimmed and well marked. Am I actually on the CDT? It’s not usually like this in New Mexico.

About 2 hours after leaving Los Indios spring, the trail reaches the edge of the Mesa I’ve been walking on. You’d never know you’re up on the mesa until this point. Pretty nice view, especially after the last day and a half coming down from Mt Taylor. I ate again here and soaked in the scenery.

Next it’s a 4.2 mile hike along the same flat top mesa before reaching the point at which the trail heads down. Same ‘ol scenery in this section.


The top of the mesa is roughly 2000ft above the wash I camped in late this evening, so the views here were excellent. It’s steep at the top heading down, but really not too bad after the first section. It was slow going because the scenery was so damn spectacular! I began the decent at 6pm, so the setting sun created great lighting. Lots of good photos.

The landscape below consisted of buttes, mesas, canyons, and just about everything you can imagine in a high desert setting. Some of the best scenery yet. The kind you don’t want to rush through, but then you remember your a thru hiker. Damn.

Down off the mesa, the sun was setting fast. I wanted to camp early but was having a tough time finding a flat spot out of the wind. Lots of cool canyons and great scenery in every direction.


Around 8:30pm I came across a large wash, marked “Canada de Las lomitas” on my map, in arroyo Chico. Carpenter and creeper were camped here, so I headed down a ways out of sight. It was less windy here but still occasional wind gusts even down in the wash. I decided to cowboy camp tonight, the first time I’ve ever done so. Way to celebrate day 30 on the CDT.

Miles – 24.8
Total Miles – 540.6
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry, cowboy camping
Animals – rabbits, large green lizard /iguana

Monday May 21st – CDT Day 31

It was a little windy last night, and a bunch of sand got all over me and my stuff while cowboy camping in the wash. Otherwise, it was a good night.

Now that it was daylight, I could get a good look at the terrain. Spectacular! Beautiful high desert landscape with lots of interesting features.

The first few miles were in a lowland with impressive mesas and sandstone cliffs. Then the trail climbs a little into an area that looked like a mixture of the bandlands and Utah. Weird formations, interesting rocks and geology.

Next the trail climbs in elevation and runs along the edge of a cliff. Great views of the desert below. Lots of prominent landscape features for the skyline. Dare I say New Mexico’s monument Valley? Sure had my attention.

The trail then drops down off the high point for a while and enters an area with hoodoos, badlands and colorful rocks. I made terrible time through this stretch, just too much to see. I veered off trail often to check out anything that caught my eye. And there was a lot!

I ate first lunch under an enormous wall of hoodoos and pillars. I noticed a lot of clouds building in the distance, but this was day 31 and still only a few sprinkles of rain. Not too worried.

After lunch, lots more distractios to slow my pace. But hey, this is why I’m out here hiking the CDT. Most hikers just fly by anything interesting, but I like to explore, take pictures and video. The clouds continued to build, and looked like rain in the distance. Probably nothing to be worried about.

The trail today generally stayed high on a ridge or mesa, so big views were common today. Finally! Over every hill or pass was another great photo op.

The skies were very dark now and continued to overtake any remaining blue. Rain looked inevitable at some point. It was very windy too, which was getting old.

After a few hours of threatening rain, it finally reached me. I took shelter under a rock overhang, which seemed to be a popular hang out spot for cows. They even managed to shit right along the very edge of the overhang, where it meets the wall. There really wasn’t any good place to set down my things. Just then, the rain picked up and turned into hail. I got fairly wet as the wind was blowing right into the overhang.

When the rain let up, I moved on. The Trujillo family water cache was at the next road, a short walk away. Pony Whisperer was here too, only person I’d see all day. Before I could refill my water, the rain returned. Nowhere to take shelter around here except a few scrawny juniper trees. That’s what I did for a few minutes until it passed. Then I ate second lunch and stocked up of h20.

After the water cache, the landscape continued to impress. Pony Whisperer kept hiking as my pace once again slowed to a crawl. Today’s hike has been one of the best desert hikes I’ve done anywhere.

After climbing up to another Ridgeline, the trail follows a dirt road for a while. The fine dirt turned to mud, which stuck to my shoes and made waking a pain. I heard some coyotes bowling pretty close by, but never saw them.

Then the trail goes over deadmans pass. This too was a cool area. High up above the desert below, colorful rocks and cliffs. The tail skirts the edge for quite a while.

More interesting canyons and cliffs this evening. The sky was still very dark and I was certain another round of rain was coming. I wanted to make a few more miles though, so I stopped quickly for dinner.

Shortly after, I saw pony whisperer who had just made camp. About 2 more miles for me. However, I made it barely 1 mile before it started raining. It didn’t look like it was going to let up soon either.

I sheltered under a juniper for a while, debating on what to do. I saw a flat spot nearby, so I decided to set up the tent there. I got the tent up, put my pork in the vestibule and sat in the tent, pretty soaked myself. I set up my air mattress, sleeping bag and took off my wet clothes.

After only a few minutes of being out of the rain, a wild gust ripped one of my tent stakes out of the sandy ground. Then another. Crap! I had my camera gear, dry clothes and sleeping bag in here and certainly didn’t want to see them get wet.

I had no choice but to get out asap and fix the tent. This meant going barefoot, no time for shoes. The ground was wet, muddy and surprisingly cold. I grabbed some heavy rocks to weigh down the stairs so they didn’t pull out of the soft sand again. The rain died down but the wind remained. I hope the tent makes it through the night.

Miles – 23.8
Total Miles – 564.4
Rain – yes, and hail
Sleep – Backcountry, tent
Animals – rabbits, prairie dogs

Tuesday May 22nd – CDT Day 32

Winds died Down and the tent held through the night. My hiking clothes were still wet, so I hung them up at dry in the tree right after waking up. It was funny seeing my footsteps in the mud this morning. Last night was not so funny though.

Blues skies, sunshine and less windy… For now. New Mexico is a windy state. At least, my experience on the CDT has been that way.

After leaving camp, I finished hiking up to the Ridgeline I intended to camp along last night, before the rain. It’s called La Ventana mesa. Great views, but nowhere to camp. It would have likely been even windier last night up here anyways.

Ups and downs along La Ventana mesa. To the east, the terrain drops sharply and offers big views. To the west, a gentler slope with often interesting sandstone formations.

The clouds were building by early – mid morning and the threat of rain returned. I stopped to prepare, emptying my backpack to line it with a compactor bag. I had a pack cover as well, which I apparently left on the ground here. More on that later.

I hiked some more and took first lunch. The skies were improving, Rain not looking imminent. Mountains across the valley reminded me that I’ll be wet for a while in Colorado soon enough.

This afternoons water source was jones spring I believe. Its located at located at the end of a narrow and lush canyon, with an over hanging ledge for shade. However, the local rancher didn’t want hikers hanging out here, spooking his livestock. I took my water and moved on.

The trail then passes through a long stretch of lowlands and a cow pasture before approaching mesa Portales.

Very cool hike along the base of the mesa. Colorful and strange rock formations kept me busy. Every corner turned was something new. Then the trail climbs up to the top of mesa Portales. This was a bit of a scramble at times but fun and awesome views the whole way up.

On top of mesa Portales, just incredible views. What else can I say! Great hiking up here.

I took second lunch under a juniper tree. The wind was picking up though as it does daily… Maybe 40+ mph wind gusts now. I also found my first piece of obsidian up here.

I tried to hurry down the mesa, with Cuba only a few miles away now. The trail down had some cool little canyons and views near the top, which dwindled with the drop in elevation.

Down on the valley floor, it was back into cow fields. Nothing left to do but knock out miles. I found another piece of obsidian on the road leading out to hwy 197.

It was a 4 mile road walk down 197 before reaching the main strip, hwy 550. I used this time to call my dad since I had cell service, but no lte.

I ate dinner at Mel’s drive thru chicken and BBQ. Mmm town food! Then the final walk over to rebels roost.

Rebels roost had a few hikers sitting on the porch when I arrived. I paid for 2 nights in advance, knowing tomorrow will be a full zero day. Time to shower! This must be the most anticipated part of reaching town for most hikers.

It was a good night sitting around on the porch swapping stories with the other hikers.

Miles – 25.2
Total Miles – 589.6
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – rabbits, prairie dogs

Wednesday May 23rd – CDT Day 33 (zero day)

A bed always feels good after a few days in the wilderness, but somehow I always manage poor sleep my first night back in civilization. I was hot, sore and did a lot of tossing and turning.

Went out to breakfast with five star, pony whisperer, camel and sequoia. Priscillianos had big portions, perfect for us human garbage disposals.

Back at rebels roost, I was feeling super tired and was getting a headache. I laid down for an hour and a half or so, and that helped. My lower back was really sore though. I hurt it in December doing deadlifts, and i was just getting some recurring stiffness. I never feel this stuff while hiking, only on zero days. Weird.

Called my dad and got my resupply situated for Chama. This is where most hikers are sending snow gear. Recent reports of snow levels convinced me to pass on sending the ice axe, but I am getting my micro spikes. Also, a 20°sleeping bag (I use quilts these days actually), puffy jacket and warm hat.

Later, Vince (owner of rebels roost) was kind enough to give me a ride into town to hit up the grocery store, and get more food from Mel’s drive through.

Back at the roost, hikers were heading out to get in a few miles before dark. I spent the rest of the evening getting my gear ready for the morning. Awesome sunset tonight.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 589.6
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none

Like what you see?

Pie Town to Grants – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Pie Town to Grants Overview


Leaving Pie Town, it’s a long road walk to anything. Including the stretch before Pie Town, it will be nearly 100 miles of road walking before I hit an actual trail. And even that is optional. It’s a dry stretch along ranch land, and not super scenic at first. Most hikers are skipping the official CDT route through the El Malpais National Monument due to lack of water this year, and I’ll be doing the same. However, this offers the opportunity to hike the Narrows and see the La Ventana natural arch. I ended up hiking the northern end of the El Malpais route to see the lava fields. This was rough terrain, but worth it… I got to explore an underground lava tube! I then road walked to the Zuni Canyon alternate. Here I walked the rim of an old caldera volcano, which wasn’t even named on my maps.

Saturday May 12th – CDT Day 22

Before leaving this morning, I weighed myself on a bathroom scale. 160lb, down 17lbs from my pre hike weight. That sucks, as I did not have a lot of body fat before the hike anyway. There goes all my progress in the weight room. Skinny it’s not a good look for me, no desire to fit into skinny jeans!

I started hiking at 7:50am this morning. My pack was really heavy, carrying 6L of water and an unknown weight of food… probably around 15lb. Total pack weight was probably around 45lb.

Most of the hike to Grants is going to be road walking. Road walking is definitely not ideal, but to me it is part of the game. Other hikers don’t seem to mind skipping road walk sections, some for fear of injury and others for lack of interest. I’m determined to walk and unbroken line to Canada, so to me, skipping any section no matter what would be cheating. Cheating myself.

There was quite a bit of traffic on the road North of pie town. Brad from the pie town cafe drove by, he stopped for a second to chat but was running late. Almost everyone recognizes us CDT hikers, and will waive and smile. It’s a good feeling.

The weather for the next few days is going to be in the mid 70s, which is very cool for this area at this time of year. There was also a very strong tail wind which kept me even cooler. With the easy road walk, today is going to be a big mile day.

After 3 hours, I had hiked 11 miles. I took a break under a shade tree, chugged a litter of water and ate some food. Feeling good.

After the break, it was more Road walking. Traffic is dwindling and the ranches are spread further apart now. Not much to see though.

The Thomas Mountain Ranch would be a tempting stop for one in need of water or a place to camp, but I was stocked up. I took another break at 2:30pm, already at 22 miles for the day. After an hour, I was back on the Road.

Now the landscape was changing a little bit. The terrain is becoming flatter and more open. I stopped to filter 2L of water from a kiddie pool guarded by cows around 4:30pm. This took some time, but was definitely a good idea. I world have been running really low later had I not stopped.

After leaving the watering hole, I took a different road back to the main road. Eventually I just cut across the open desert Inn the direction of the main road. However, when I reach the road it was blocked by a barbed wire fence. I should be on the other side of this fence, but I didn’t see a good place to go over or under it for quite a while. Eventually, I found a spot that I could wiggle under the bottom strand of barbed wire. And doing so, I got a bunch of thorns on my back, arms, legs and pretty much everywhere that touched the ground.

Back on the dirt road, I could make some better time now. It was about 6pm and I still had around 5 miles to go before I reached highway 117, my goal for today. I figure it’ll be a low to mid 30 mile day when it’s all said and done.

I’ve been listening to a song called “before later becomes never” by caliban that has been motivating me. It has a powerful message… “practice what you preach, a thousand words don’t count. with no desire to change, tomorrow will be the same. Be among the few, the few who dare”! This is exactly how I feel about making the deciding to hike the CDT a well as many other things in life and sometimes a songs lyrics just hit home. Many songs have a powerful message but metal music also has a powerful sound to match. I listened to this song on repeat for much of the evening as I completely shattered my old daily mileage record of 26!

When I reached hwy 117, the El Malpais conservation area was fenced off with barbed wire. This meant I had to walk along Highway 117 for a while looking for a way in. It was a little after 8pm now and the Sun was setting when I found a spot I could shimmy under the bottom strand of barbed wire. I found a place to set up camp after a few minutes. Whew, 34.4 miles today! And to be honest, I don’t feel any more tired than most of the rest of the days so far along the CDT. Hell yeah!

Stars are out and the coyotes are howling. Time for some much needed rest.

Miles – 34.4
Total Miles – 391.2
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – jackrabbit, prairie dog

Sunday May 13th – CDT Day 23

When I woke up this morning I did not feel any more tired than I had on previous days with much less miles, so that’s good news. However, there were a few spots on my feet that felt like they could blister if I wasn’t careful.

Stated hiking at 8am. More road walking, yay. Same as yesterday, the guthooks app was not showing the alternate routes on the map. An hour or so later, they mysteriously showed up without doing anything! Now that I could see the actual alternate routes, I realized that last night I did not need to hike to highway 117. Instead, I was supposed to make a right at either the homestead trailhead or another one further south that I passed. This route would have avoided some road walking and likely been much more scenic. Additionally, it would have taken me right to the water source that I was looking for this morning.

When I got close to the water source, I left highway 117 by crawling under a barbed wire fence and headed cross-country straight for it. When I got there, it was guarded buy some Bulls just has the recent comments on guthooks said. The comments suggested heading north another mile and a half or so to a different tank. So I wasted a decent amount of time here.

Back on highway 117, a vehicle stopped to check on me. Alan and Cindy from Utah, BLM volunteers, had been driving up and down the highway over the last few days helping any hikers they saw while they did their work. They offered me a Powerade which I gladly accepted.

Shortly after, I reached the next water source. I jumped a locked gate and headed over to the tank. There was a dead coyote next to it to set the mood. The water in the tank itself looked pretty gross, but the water feeding the tank was coming out of a pipe and crystal clear. I pulled my water from the pipe and began the filtering process. It was getting really windy now, which was becoming quite a nuisance. High winds are one of my least favorite environmental factors when hiking, it just drives me crazy. Anything under a pound just blows away if you don’t watch it. Plus, nasty cow shit dust was blowing all over.

I was ready to take a food break, but didn’t want to do it next to the dead coyote and in the middle of this field with high winds. I walked up highway 117 for a while until I found a decent shade tree.

After first lunch, more Road walking on highway 117. If you’re tired of reading about Road walking, imagine how I felt hiking it. By the time I reached the Narrows Trail, I had hiked something like 90 straight miles on a series of roads!

The narrows trail parallels hwy 117, but about 400 ft higher on a Mesa. These are the first good views I’ve had in quite a while. I took my time waking the edge of the Mesa, overlooking the vast fields of lava flows in the El Malpais National monument.

After a while, the views stated to look the same and I picked up the pace. The trail ends at a view of the La Ventana natural arch. I took second lunch here and enjoyed this awesome Vista.

I knew the trail ended here, but I assumed there would be a route down off the Mesa somewhere. Plan A was a canyon further down the Mesa. There was a faint footpath leading that way at first, but it fade out. When I reached the canyon, there was a drop off that was high and unclimbable. Bummer!

Plan B was to head farther east to the next canyon that the topo showed to be less steep then the Mesa itself. This took quite a while. It was all off trail. I ended up skirting a cliff with a 40ft drop looking for a way down, and ended up well south of where I wanted to be. Once past the 40ft drop, I found a wash that I followed downhill. This led me to the canyon I was looking for, but unfortunately it was much to steep to Traverse as well.

Plan C is another canyon farther east. More Bushwhacking. I saw some bear prints in the sand as I followed another wash downhill. Lots of bear crap around as well. This wash Led me to a huge drop off where I was hoping there would be a way down. It was probably 70 or 80 ft down. This would have been a sweet waterfall if it were flowing.

Plan D is to head farther east, where the mesa flattens out. It sucks to be on plan D though, don’t want to run out of letters of the alphabet here. It was already after 6pm and I really wanted to be off this mess tonight. Instead of following the wash back up stream, I went up over the hill to the east. To my surprise, there was an old road here! It hadn’t been used in a very long time but it was leading downhill. What a relief. You’d never guess there was a road here looking at the contour lines on the map.

As I followed the road down, I was rewarded with great views. It was a beautiful canyon with a massive flash flood wash cutting through it. This wash is coming out of the plan C canyon.

I walked out of the canyon towards hwy 117, and started looking for a place to camp. I found some interesting rock formations with a flat sand spot along the base of one of the walls. This’ll do! An owl flew away and into a cave nearby. It’s hooting echoed I set up my tent. Nice sunset too.

I lost a sandal during the bushwhacking earlier. It was in the outside pouch on my pack. Bummer, I’ll have to get another pair at Walmart in Grants.

Another day, another 20+ miles.

Miles – 21.7
Total Miles – 412.9
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – prairie dog, owl

Monday May 14th – CDT Day 24

Last night I heard a really strange animal sound near my tent. It kept coming back despite me yelling and doing my aggressive dog bark impression. After an hour, it finally went away.

As I walked back to hwy 117 I hit a dirt road. This led to a locked gate with a ranch entryway. Oops, I may have camped on private land last night.

Just up the road is the Acoma-Zuni trailhead. There were two coolers pecked full of water bottles here under a tree, courtesy of the Mumms. I carried 4L for the next section.

From here, hikers who take the Cebolla alternate can either Continue north on hwy 117 or head west on the Acoma-zuni trail, taking the Bonita-Zuni alternate into Grants. I chose the latter, but with the intention to hit up the Ice Caves & Bandera Calder a several miles west of the Bonita-Zuni alternate. From here I will take dirt roads and head off trail to connect with the Bonita-Zuni alternate. That’s the plan, anyway.

The Acoma-zuni trail starts off easy enough. Very quickly though, it passes through an old lava flow. I’ve never seen a lava flow before, so i found this very interesting. The rocks past liquid state was easy to visualize, as it hardens preserving this image. Very cool!

Many more lava fields to traverse. It seemed they got larger in size as the trail goes on. Some had large cracks with 30ft chasms, others appeared to be a collapsed bowl shape. There was no consistency to the landscape. The rock itself is sharp and treacherous, you wouldn’t want to fall here. It’s no wonder the Spanish explorers who passed through here named it El Malpais, meaning “the badlands”. My Spanish is so bad, I feel like I’m going to swallow my tongue every time I try to say El Malpais. Instead, I just started calling it the spainish badlands.

Late morning, I saw another CDT hiker going the opposite direction. This was the first CDT “purist” I met so far. He said he was hiking the CDT official route only, with no alternates. He seemed to look down on hikers who took alternates. Personally, I’d rather hike a scenic canyon than the official trail if it’s a road walk, for example, but to each his own. My goal with the CDT is to hike an unbroken line to Canada, taking the most scenic and interesting route possible. Others want to make it to Canada as fast as possible. I get it if you’re going for the speed record, but if not, why not try to maximize what you see and experience? That’s the beauty of the CDT though… “hike your own hike” as they say. And I’m certainly glad to do it my way! 

Shortly after passing the hiker, I took first lunch. My routine of airing out my feet and dumping sand from my shoes and socks at all breaks has been working thus far to prevent blisters.

After first lunch, the large open lava fields transitioned into more of a pine forest, with a nightmarish terrain of a billion razor sharp rocks littering the ground. Every step required care. Even so, it was impossible to step on flat ground most of the time. Anyone with foot problems would be wise to avoid this trail. Those without, well, this is how you develop foot problems. My pace was cut massively, by a half at least.

I had seen a couple of small caves along the way, but now I saw my first large one. After dropping my pack, I was able to climb down into the cave to explore. I love this kind of thing, spontaneous finds that beg a closer look. My headlamp was in my pack, so I didn’t go down into the sublevel. Still, a cool find.

Not long after, I found many more caves. These caves were actually old lava tubes. Part of the surface had collapsed, forming an entrance. I climbed down into one, sure to bring my headlamp this time. Wow this was cool! A 20ft diameter horizontal tube running underground, connecting one cave to another. A shaft of light from the surface shined into the cave opening at the end of the tube. Walking to the shaft of light, there was another pile of rocks that, if climbed, could lead out of the lava tube. However, you could also climb over the rock pile and continue on in the lava tube. I did this for a while before realizing I could spend all day down here and turned back. This is one of the most unique places I’ve ever explored, and I was not expecting to find anything like this in New Mexico.

I wanted to get to the ice caves and bandera caldera by this evening. The trail passes by many more caves along this giant lava tube, but I stayed in the surface for the rest. And man, was that a hard thing to do!

The trail then passes close to hwy 53, paralleling it for a while. My feet were staring to hurt from the rough terrain, so after second lunch I decided to road walk for a while. It was after 4pm now and I had only hiked about 13 miles today. Now I could cover some miles and give my feet a relative break.

I walked a few miles on the road before hitting a trailhead. The terrain looked less Rocky here so I jumped back on the trail. It was an easy walk all the way to the El malpais visitor center, which had a water spigot behind the building. I washed off, cleaned my second pair of socks and refilled my water.

I decided to hike the roughly 3 miles to the ice caves so I could knock that out early morning. Plus, a sunrise climbing the caldera. However, when I reached the ice caves and Bandera caldera I was disappointed to learn it was privately owned. Apparently, you can own a volcano. My maps did not show the accurately show the national conservation area boundary. Also, all the land around for miles was privately owned. Camping nearby was not an option. It was 8:30 pm now, and getting dark fast. Bummer.

I hiked on West of the ice caves on hwy 53 by headlamp, which had a surprising amount of traffic. I contemplated camping right alongside the road in a ditch, right next to the fence of some ranch land. However, I decided to push on to forest service road 57 a few miles up, hoping there’d be some public land there. Just before reaching the road, a local in a truck pulled over and asked “are you one of those Divide hikers”? Why yes, I am. I told him my plan for the forest road and he confirmed the first 1/4 mile was BLM land. Sweet! However, he warned about a crazy guy who lives in the area that likes to shoot at people. Not sweet. 

It was a pain to find a decent spot in the dark, but I did. It was 9:15pm now. I set up the tent under the stars, ate dinner and went to bed.

Miles – 24.3
Total Miles – 437.2
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – prairie dog, rabbit

Tuesday May 15th – CDT Day 25

Lots of coyotes nearby last night. Didn’t get shot or shot at so that’s good. With the Sun out now, I could see I was pretty close to the private land border. When I left Camp, there was a sign saying entering private land. The funny thing is, this is literally the only sign around it wasn’t shot up! Every single sign for anything else had bullet holes in it.

Today’s hike is going to be 100% road walking, yet again. The first section passes through private land for several miles before entering the Cibola National Forest. I happened to check check my guthook app and noticed I was only about a Mile from an old caldera volcano, which had no name. There wasn’t even a sign for it along the road. Better check it out!

The climb up to the rim of the volcano was steep with lots of loose rock. As I crested the rim’s lowest point, I saw several elk running along a game trail on the inside of the crater walls. Very cool. From here, I could climb the low or high side of the rim. I chose the high side.

At the top, and still below the actual summit, was the best view along the entire rim. What an amazing place to be! This is what I love about the CDT… Never know what the day will be like until it unfolds.

I walked around the entire rim of the volcano before heading back down. If I had more time, I would have loved to get down into the center. Maybe next time I find myself on a volcano in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no regulations whatsoever. 

I took first lunch after the volcano, and headed back to the road. After an hour or so of uneventful walking, a truck passed stopped to ask if I needed a ride into Grants. She said she had already picked up three hikers and took them into town, but I said no thanks, I’m not a cheater! It’s kind of crazy to me that so many hikers are willing to Hitch into town to avoid road walking, and then say they’ve hiked the entire CDT. Everyone is free to take their own route, but in my mind if you’re not walking an unbroken line, did you really thru hike the CDT? Anyways, she offers me water which I happily accepted.

When I reached Zuni canyon, the red rocks and steep walks pleased the eyes. However, it was still a road walk along a paved highway. 10 more miles or so to Grants. Halfway through the Canyon, I got cell signal. This was the first reliable service I had in over 300 miles! AT&T had not been able to compare to Verizon this far on the CDT.

The closer I got to Grants, the more garbage there was along the side of the road. This is been a very reliable indicator of distance to town thus far. It’s really sad to see how little respect people have for our public lands.

I got my first view of Grants in the distance after turning a corner on the road. It was still several miles to the sands motel from here. This stretch of Zuni canyon road was very sad. Run down trailers on dirt farm properties with lots of animals in pens. About a mile or two south of the RV Park, there was a gauntlet of aggressive dogs at every home. A pack of pitbulls chased me in the street, teeth showing, growling and barking. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to kick them in the face, they were way too close for comfort! The owner was right there too, and calmly scolded the dogs, but offered no apologies.  didn’t even say a word to me. I’m sure my thousand-mile stare said it all. I really can’t understand why anyone would want to own these aggressive dog breeds, and then let them roam wild in the streets. This stretch of road did not give me a good impression of the city of Grants.

It was another hour walk from here to get to the Sands Motel. My feet were the most tired they’d been along the entire trail, after hiking 28 miles today, almost all on roads. When I checked in, I was informed that neither my bounce box or my sleeping pad my dad sent were there, but my shipments were sitting behind the counter. Hmm. Once in my room, I checked the tracking number for my bounce box, and it showed there was a delivery attempt on May 2nd. It also said that if I didn’t elect to have it be delivered by tomorrow, it would be sent back to my return address in Michigan. So of course, I had the post office make another delivery attempt tomorrow.

First things first… Shower time! Unfortunately, there was a large hole in the bottom of the bathtub that was purposely covered up with a mat. The first time I discovered this hole, I lost my balance and would have fallen out of the shower if I didn’t catch myself on the shower curtain. Seriously?? Then after the shower, when I peeled away the comforter and exposed the bed sheets, I was disgusted to see a bunch of hair. I really hate to complain about these kind of things because it’s a cheap motel, and it’s better than the tent that I’ve been sleeping on, so I let it slide.

Then, an immense feeling of tiredness overwhelmed me. I never feel this tired out on trail, only after reaching a motel. It’s amazing how the body knows when it’s okay to relax and when it must keep going. No way am I leaving the Motel again tonight, so I ordered a pizza, wings and a two liter of Coke. After eating and writing in my journal, I succumbed to the powerful urge to sleep. Another successful section of the CDT under my belt.

Miles – 28
Total Miles – 465.2
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – deer or elk, rabbits

Wednesday May 16th – CDT Day 26 (Zero Day)

For some reason, I don’t sleep all that great my first night in a motel after getting back from a hike. It doesn’t make any sense at all. And this was no exception. But rest is rest, and anything is better then that damn foam mattress pad I’ve been sleeping on.

I called my dad to get the tracking number for the sleeping pad he sent. This too should have been here, delivery attempt was made May 14th. I walked into the office again to question why the packages weren’t here, and I got some poor excuses… Sometimes we’re not here because we pick up the kids from school, and a lot of incoherent mumbling in broken English.

I walked up to the post office, and my sleeping pad was there. Whew. But the most important package, my bounce box, was still set to be delivered to the Sands sometime today. At this point I didn’t want to stay another night at the Sands Motel, but didn’t have a choice because that’s where my precious bounce box is being sent. I had told the woman behind the counter a little about my story and she ran back to see if the mailman had already left for his daily route, and I just missed him. However, she let me know what his route looks like and when and where to expect him. This will come in handy later!

Back at the Sands Motel, I went into the office to reluctantly pay for another night. There was a different person out front, apparently the husband of the woman who had checked me in previously. Without me saying anything about the missing package, the guy behind the counter told me they didn’t accept the package because I didn’t call them to let them know it was coming. Written on neon green duct tape were the words CDT hiker, my last name, and my ETA date. This was supposed to be a hiker friendly motel, and used to CDT hikers as well as accepting packages.

I informed him that I called the motel before starting the hike to confirm they accept packages for hikers, and was not able to call them after sending the package because I haven’t had cell phone service in over 300 miles of hiking. He didn’t seem to understand how important these packages are to CDT hikers, and offered no sympathy. At this point, I got very angry. I told them how I almost fell in the “fucking hole in the bathtub” and about all the hair in the bed, but since I swore at him, he then said there are no more rooms available. Fine, I don’t want to stay another night in your shitty Motel anyway!

I packed up my things and headed next door to the very kind and friendly Southwest Motel. Next I got lunch at Blake’s Lotaburger. Now, I do not trust the Sands Motel to keep my package at this point. He’d probably just throw it away, or send it back.

Knowing that the mailman takes High Street over to the Sands Motel as part of his daily route, I posted up in the shade behind a department store and waited for the truck to pass by. Sure enough, after about 45 minutes the mail truck drove by. I was a little slow on the draw to flag him down, so I had to run after the truck. I was unable to catch up to him at his first two stops, but he spent a little longer in the third stop and I caught up. I explained my situation, showed him my ID, and he gave me the package before it arrived at the Sands Motel. Even the mailman said that was pretty messed up that the motel refuse to accept the package based solely on the fact that there was no phone call.

I spent the afternoon catching up with friends and family on the phone and not much else. Horray for zero day.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 465.2
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – none

Thursday May 27th – CDT Day 27 (Zero Day)

I slept in today, getting much better sleep. Yesterday was a bit of a lost day, having the turmoil with my packages and all. Damn Sand Motel.

I spent the morning getting my resupply plan for Cuba together (ordering from, then making a list of things I need from Walmart here in Grants for the next section.

It was about 1.75 miles to Walmart from here, not bad in the late morning before temps get hot. I ran into Ripple just getting into town. Perigrene had some shin splints and they had to hitch in from the Narrows. Walmart is pretty well hidden, no sign and not visible from the road. Grants must not have wanted them to build at all here.

After Walmart, I ate lunch ate Dennys and walked back. I spent the afternoon getting my food together and going through my gear.

The evening was spent dealing with the arduous process of unloading my pictures, video and GPS data to my WD Passport Pro HDD. Then copying over the pictures to my laptop, choosing which to use on my blog, resizing them, uploading them to wordpress, copying over my journal on my phone to wordpress and on and on. Time consuming!

Back on the trail tomorrow, after what seems like forever. Back to back zeros, that might not happen again for a while.

Miles – 0
Total Miles – 465.2
Rain – no
Sleep – motel
Animals – none

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Doc Campbell’s Post to Pie Town – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Doc Campbell’s Post to Pie Town Overview

This section presents CDT hikers with a major route choice: hike the official CDT route through the Black Mountains, or hike the Gila River alternate. While I haven’t hiked the Blacks before, and I’m sure it’s nice and all, you’d have to be crazy to skip this alternate. The Middle Fork Gila River is incredible, and offers an experience like no other on the CDT. The Middle Fork Gila River is one of my favorite non-mountainous hikes of all time. There are over 200 river crossings, steep canyons and remote country that practically nobody other than CDT hikers visit. There’s also a great chance of seeing wildlife through this section. 

Friday May 4th – CDT Day 14

Another cold night. Instead of jumping in the hot springs this morning, I packed up and started hiking to warm up. 



It was a road walk of about 4 miles to the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitor center. I bought a few stickers to add to my collection of hiking crap and headed out for the cliff Dwellings. Outside the visitor center, I ran into a guy named Henry who had just type the PCT last year. A New Mexico resident of 25 + years, he had plenty of good info about the area. 

I bumped into Camel and Sequoia at the start of the cliff dwellings Trail. They just finished and were headed out. I spent about an hour here. It’s a cool thing to see but I’ve been to Mesa Verde previously and the dwellings are basically the same. 

Next I walked over to the TJ Corral trailhead to hike little bear canyon. This leads down to the middle fork of the Gila, where the popular CDT alternate runs. It’s about 2 miles uphill then 2 down to the river. The last half mile of little bear canyon is awesome. A spring runs downhill and forms a very small creek in the canyon. It’s narrow and has steep sided walls, and has a lush tropical feel to it. The pictures don’t really show how cool it was.

Little bear canyon then dumps into the middle fork of the Gila. Now this is truly a sight to be seen. Very tall and steep cliffs frame the middle fork and create scene you couldn’t dream up. It’s hard to find the words for how beautiful this place is. Pictures and video don’t do it justice. You just have to see it for yourself. 

Now I’m walking northbound along the middle fork, crossing the river every couple hundred yards. It’s slow going with the sand and rocks, but mainly due to the sheer beauty. Everything in sight is picture worthy. There are a lot of tadpoles in the water and I saw my first school of Trout as well. 

I made it to Jordan hot springs around 2:30pm. Once again, I bumped into camel and sequoia here. They just stopped for a dip before pushing on. I, however, intend to camp here. Short day, but I want to take my time through what will probably be the highlight of New Mexico. 

Above Jordan hot springs is a camping area, but the grounds isn’t very flat. Still, I found an acceptable spot. I spent the afternoon in and out of the water, taking in the scenery. The water is warm but not hot. Maybe 90°, nowhere near the temp of the Gila hot springs campground. I ended up losing a contact lens in the spring, the first time ever in 150+ nights in the backcountry. Good thing I carry extras. 

Around 6pm, a group of people showed up whom I had passed on the trail around 12:30pm. They set up camp in an even less flat area that I passed on. Others arrived at the campsite across the river. A few people joined me in the hot spring and I enjoyed a good conversation about travels and adventures.

Bed time at 9pm. Short day today, long day tomorrow to make up for it. 

Miles – 13.5
Total Miles –  225.7
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – trout

Saturday May 5th – CDT Day 15

Got my feet wet just a few hundred feet away from camp with my first river crossing around 7:30am. It takes the sun a while to reach the bottom of the canyon, and so it feels cold. All the Jordan hot Springs campers were camped nearby, and didn’t see anyone else all day. 

I really enjoyed this morning’s hike. More steep canyon walls, pinnacles and spires towering over the river. Deeper pools along the river bends hide trout, some appeared to be 15″ or more. Lots of tadpoles, lizards, and birds everywhere. 

I find myself hiking in 3 hour blocks before stopping for a break. At 10:30am, I dropped my pack. 8 miles on the GPS, 5 according to the Guthooks app. Hmm, it’s going to take forever to get out of this canyon. 

After turning a corner on the river, I saw a black bear cub on the other side. It was about 150ft away, and thankfully no momma bear in sight. It ran uphill and that was that. Finally, some Wildlife!

I stopped again around noon thirty to air out the feet and clean the sand out of my shoes. My feet are doing pretty good and I intend to keep it that way. A lot of interesting rocks on the bank which kept me occupied for a while.

As the afternoon wore on, I began to get really tired of all of the deep sand and loose rocks on the trail. Not to mention the constant River crossings. I don’t mind the wet feet but the slippery rocks are a pain in the ass. When my feet slip on a rock coated in algae or whatever, often times my foot gets jammed into another rock or my shins get bashed up. It’s getting old.

Later in the afternoon I saw a deer getting a drink from the river. I took another break around 4:30pm to refuel, as I planned on hiking late this evening. The canyon walls were becoming less steep and tall, and more pine trees. Ah I love that smell. 

There were nunerous small caves along the river this evening. Some dry, some wet. I airways wanted to sleep in a cave, but I wasn’t ready to camp yet. Maybe sometime on the CDT. 

As I entered Flying V canyon I scared off a herd of elk. Wow, what a day for wildlife! Making up for lost time I guess. I contemplated camping here but the ground was not great. Sandy, Lumpy no pre made sites. I continued on, disappointed as it was already 7:30pm. 

No campsites further upstream until I reached swinging cross canyon. There was a tent here, first people I saw all day. It was 8pm now, and I had been hiking since 7:30am. I did my camp chores fast and ate a bunch of food. What a day. 

Today’s mileage is 26 according to my GPS and only 19.5 by Guthooks. I’m not sure if Guthooks uses Ley maps or bear creek, but I’m really disappointed in the variance. It seems almost nobody on the CDT is using a GPS to create a track of their hike. Almost everyone uses Guthooks which doesn’t create a track, just let’s toy follow along. I’m not sure anyone realizes how terribly inaccurate the mileage is or if they even care. 

An owl is hooting nearby as I write this. I’m tired but not as bad as past days. Looking forward to hiking out of this canyon tomorrow, even if it is beautiful.

Miles – 26
Total Miles –  251.7
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – trout, black bear, deer, Elk

Sunday May 6th – CDT Day 16

Last night was really cold, I was not expecting sub freezing temperatures. When I woke up in the morning, my shoes were frozen solid. They were soaking wet when I went to bed from yesterday’s River crossings. I put them in a garbage bag and brought them in my quilt to warm them up. My Sawyer water filter could have been ruined by the freezing temperatures, but I got lucky. It was likely not below freezing long enough to do it any harm. Needless to say, I got a late start this morning. I didn’t start hiking until 8:30am. 

Today’s hike along the Gila River middle fork was nowhere near as impressive as yesterday, but still a pretty nice hike. The canyon walls were rolling hillsides more often than sheer cliffs and spires. There were about 30 more River crossings, which seemed like much less than yesterday mile for mile. Along the river banks were more thorn bushes now. These were unavoidable and wreaked havoc on my shins. 

Along one of the last bends in the river before reaching Snow Lake, I saw a small cave in the canyon wall. I explored this for a moment and pressed on. 

Just ahead is the last river crossing, finally! I stopped counting around 20, but between the Gila River and the middle Fork Gila River, it must have been close to 200 River Crossings. Not having bridges over the river and the general in accessibility of it keeps the crowds away, so it’s worth it. The middle Fork was one of my favorite hikes, and probably my favorite non-mountain hike of all time! 

When I reached snow Lake I was a little surprised that it was a man-made lake. And I had a hard time envisioning snow here. As I walked around the lake, I caught up to some hikers finishing a weekend trip. We started talking and when I mentioned I was hiking the CDT, they offered me some water and beer back at their Basecamp in the dripping vat campground above snow lake. Sounds good to me! 

I hung out with Sam, Kim and a group of about 6 at the campground for about an hour. I used this time to air out my feet and dry my shoes for the first time in a few days. I really didn’t want to get back on trail now, but I still had a lot of daylight left to cover miles. 

It’s a road walk leaving the campground for a while before a trail veers off the road. The trail follows a little Canyon uphill, which became more scenic as it climbed. Nice hike. A few water sources along the way, but I was shooting for the pond at the top of the climb. 

When I reached the pond, I stopped in the shade underneath the solar panels. It’s a cow pond and the water was murky, but it’s a big pain so the shit water is diluted. I drank the rest of my water and filtered 5 liters. It’s about 20 miles to the next water source.

After leaving the cow pond it’s a short climb up a hill. At the top, I was blown away by the view. Huge expensive view of rolling hills and golden grass with some mountains in the distance. A sea of gold illuminated by the sun. In fact, that’s what I called this area, “The Sea of Gold”. I imagined Hank Hill saying, “boy I tell you what, this here is God’s country”. The vast view had me stopping and looking around in awe every so often. Except for a dirt road, nothing man made as far as the eye could see. I didn’t mind the dirt road, it’s just like a wide trail that never gets used. My pictures didn’t really capture this beauty of this area.

Eventually the sea of gold turned into a forest. Here, I linked up with bursum Rd and followed this for a few miles. I found a spot along the road to camp for the night. Nothing special, but it was 7:45pm now and sundown is fast approaching. 

Another great day on the CDT. I’m only 16 days in and I’m already starting to wonder how I can ever go back to a normal life again. 

Miles – 22
Total Miles –  273.7
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – trout

Monday May 7th – CDT Day 17

Another calm night. Most nights so far, any wind present during the day dies down when the sun sets. It’s only day 4 since leaving Doc Campbell’s post, but it feels like a week. I still have almost 90 miles to Pie Town, so I’m hoping to cover some big miles today. 


I started hiking around 7:30am, continuing north on bursum rd. It’s a gravel road and not all that scenic at first, passing through a pine forest. Eventually the forest gives way to a large open grassland. 

Now mid morning, I passed a watering hole called Collins tank. I skipped it since I was pretty well stocked with water, but as I passed it I saw camel and sequoia leaving the tank. It turns out they were camped about 2 miles up bursum Rd last night.

We hiked together for the rest of the morning along forest road 94 until we reached Dutchman spring just after noon. At this point I had hiked 16 miles straight without stopping for a break. This left me pretty tired, thirsty and hungry. 

We spent about 2 hours here resting, eating, cleaning up and stocking up on water. It’s another 22+miles to the next water source, so I carried 5 liters. The extra water weight was very noticeable when we set off again. 

Is a short climb up forest Rd 94 to the top of a hill where the Gila River alternate ends and we meet up with the official CDT route again. There was rumors of cell service up here, if you have Verizon. I had nothing with AT&T, and it’s been about a week now without cell service. 

Finally, the CDT splits off from the road to an actual trail. It follows a ridge for a while and passes through a burn area. Better views now, with rolling hills and mountains in all directions. Lots of ups and downs though. 

After about 2 hours of hiking it was break time. This is the most elevation gain we’d had in a while, with Burro Mountain being the only other competition. I kept the break short and moved on after 15 minutes. 

The next section is more ups and downs through pine forest and Rocky outcrops. I was feeling pretty whooped now. I was fully hydrated and acclimated to the 8500ft Elevation, having slept at a similar Elevation last night, but was feeling a little lightheaded and slightly delerious. I think the effects of diet deficient in calories was starting to catch up to me. I didn’t have much fat to lose before the trip and have already lost some weight. Keeping my body fat percentage high enough is going to be a challenge. 

I hiked another hour or more before stopping again. I have to eat, but need to ration my food for the coming days. Camel and sequoia caught up and took a break here as well. A friendly rancher drove by and had knowledge of several other hikers ahead of us. He made sure we had enough water and drove off. 

We hiked another 30 minutes before reading a saddle with a flat spot to camp around 6:45p. An elk scurried away as we approached. We were all pretty tired and ready for food and rest. 

Miles – 24.5
Total Miles –  298.2
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – elk

Tuesday May 8th – CDT Day 18

Hit the trail around 7:30am yet again. We took the Govina canyon alternate based on the chance it had water. Todd Cienaga tank had some nasty brown cow water. This water was murkier than my ex’s soul. Lots of mud and flies, just the smell made me gag. I’ll pass. 

Govina canyon was a nice hike, but no more water. After climbing out of the canyon, the trail then climbs another 500ft up Wagontongue Mountain. The trail doesn’t reach the summit, and instead skirts the side of the mountain. There’s no clear view with all the pine trees unfortunately. 

A small burned section on the descent provided about the only good overlook of the surrounding landscape. It’s massive and wild looking, nothing man made in sight. I set my stuff down on a log and a minute later my backpack, hat and camera were each covered in about 50 ants. Shortly after, I saw a horny toad bumbling along the trail. 

I hiked another 10 minutes before finding a spot to take a break. Camel and sequoia kept going, not wanting to stop until they reached the next reliable water source. This is about 6 or 7 miles more, so about 2 hours. I pushed hard yesterday before lunch, but find I do better when I stop once every 3 hours or so for food and water. It was a good choice. 

After lunch I ran into Gillian, a woman from LA horsepacking the CDT. Pretty sure I already ran into her before, maybe the crazy cook to Lordsburg section. Later, I bumped into Duece, a guy from Wisconsin. Around this time we saw some some interesting notes left along the trail made of sticks… “yum yum snack tree ahead”, “mmm snack tree” and more. Not sure what that was all about. 

Made it to today’s water source, Aragon Well, around 2pm. It’s a large metal tank with goldfish and a large coy fish swimming in it. The water is surprisingly clear once scooped, and filters well. Good water. Camel and sequoia were here already, and duece showed up shortly after. We hung out under a shade tree nearby for about 2 hours. I drank 2.5L of water, washed up a little and carried 5L to get me to the next water source about 23 miles away. 

We set out into the heat of the day with a goal of about 8 miles. It’s pretty much all a dirt road walk for the rest of the day. These roads don’t see much traffic, and some aren’t even real roads anymore. Just a wide trail.

Made camp around 7pm at a flat spot just west of Cabellenza canyon. Another basic, nondescript campsite. Many like this so far on the CDT, the product of just camping wherever you happen to be at the end of the day when you’re tired. 

Running low on food. I’ll be fine but need to carry more next time. Me hungry!! Looking forward to Pie Town, about 32 miles left. 

Miles – 24.2
Total Miles – 322.4
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – Horny toad 

Wednesday May 9th – CDT Day 19

Started hiking at 7:30am. I’m glad we stopped before reaching Cabellenza canyon last night, it was full of cows this morning. Beyond the canyon is a campground. It has a bathroom, picnic tables and water troughs for horses. No water though. 

Across the street from the campground is the turn off for Mangas mountain. There were a few gallons of water cached under a tree here, left by a local Korean war veteran from what I understand. This was greatly appreciated! I chugged another 1.5L and refilled my bottle, carrying 2L out of here. 

The road up to Mangas mountain was an easy walk. At the top, I saw camel’s pack alongside the road. Just as I dropped mine, he came down from the summit which has a fire lookout tower. He moved on while I headed up to check out the tower. 

At the summit, I saw the tower and a small cabin for the lookout person to live in. The tower is manned, and the lookout yelled down and asked if I would like to come up. Yes, please! I climbed up and entered the tower, greeted by Patrick. He’s retired and it’s a summer job for him. I spent about an hour up here chatting with Patrick and listening to lots of interesting things about the area. 

When it was time to leave, Patrick gave me a gallon of water. I chugged another 1.5L and filled up my hydration bladder with another 3L. Now carrying 5L, I didn’t need to filter anything at the next water source. 

This afternoons hike is all downhill along a series of dirt roads. Easy hiking, but not super scenic. I eventually caught up with sequoia just before the water tank we planned on stopping at, about 15 miles from this mornings camp. Camel was waiting here under the shade. 

I ate some food and moved on after a short break. It was really hot this afternoon and I just wanted to get to camp early for once. It’s more Road walking through ranch land. There was one guy on a dirt bike and one truck pulling a cattle trailer, otherwise no traffic at all. 

Around 5:30pm, I was walking by a driveway to a ranch as a truck pulled out. The woman driving asked if I was OK and needed water. I didn’t need water, but was looking for a place to camp at this point. It’s all private land the rest of the way into Pie Town, but fortunately the rancher gave me permission to camp on their land. This was great news, as I already hiked over 24 miles toady and didn’t want to do another 10 into town. 

Camp tonight is on the edge of a field with an imposing mountain in the near distance. I belive the ranchers actually own the mountain. I can’t imagine owning such a large tract of land, or such a prominent feature of the landscape. 

Ate everything I had left except for tomorrows breakfast. I’m so ready for town tomorrow. I just want food, food and more food! So damn hungry all the time. If you ever want to lose weight, hike 8-12 hours a day for weeks on end. Also, really tired of being dirty. Crawling into bed and feeling sticky every night sucks. In such a dry environment, it’s hard to stay clean. Any water found is for drinking. In a few weeks, this will be a problem of the past

I’ve hiked around 180 miles now without getting any cell phone signal. I was expecting to have service in all the towns along the trail, but that might not be realistic. No service at Doc Campbell’s and I’ve heard no AT&T in Pie Town town either. We’ll see tomorrow. 

Miles – 24.3
Total Miles –  346.7
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – jackrabbit 

Thursday May 10th – CDT Day 20

The sun hit my tent at 6:15am this morning, getting earlier every day as the summer solstice approaches. This got me moving and on the trail by 7am.

This mornings hike was nothing special, just 10 miles of dirt roads through ranch land. I passed an animal shelter along the way that had a cooler full of water by the road for hikers.

Around 10am I entered Pie Town. The dirt road I was on good right through a residential area. There were several debris themed homes and yards, so the toaster house stuck out a little less than I was expecting. Nevertheless, it was easy to find. 

There were about 10 people inside the toaster house when I arrived. There’s much to say about this place… It’s eclectic, cluttered, full of energy and good vibes. This is a hiker hostel that operates on a donation basis, and for many, a favorite stop along the CDT. 

First thing I did was take a shower and wash off a week of dessert grime. The washing machine is also in the bathroom, so I did laundry at the same time. Then I snagged a bed upstairs in the loft before they were all taken. There’s no clothes dryer, so I hung my clothes on the balcony outside the loft to dry. I was so hungry that I just put the semi wet clothes on anyways and headed up to the pie town Cafe for lunch. Only ate about 700 calories so far today, not nearly enough for a 10 mile hike. 

The pie town Cafe is known for its burgers. The menu is basically just burgers and tacos anyways. I asked how big the burgers were… 1/2 pound. Cool, give me two! I ate both burgers and fries in less than 5 minutes, no problem. I could have ate a third. 

It’s been nearly 200 miles since I’ve had cell service, but at least the Pie town Cafe has wifi. I downloaded a wifi calling app so that I could call my dad and discuss the next resupply. It’s amazing how remote this area of New Mexico is! 

There were people hanging out drinking beer at the RV park next to the toaster house when I returned, so I joined. Shortly after, we realized all the places to get food in town close at 4pm. Time to eat again, only 2 hours later. 

This time we ate at The Gatherin’ Place. Really friendly people here! I ate a French dip sandwich and pie with ice cream. Afterwards I immediately regretted eating so much. I felt like I was going to puke as I walked back to the toaster house, but I have the stomach of steel and so tragedy averted. 

I immediately laid down once I returned. I fell asleep for an hour and a half, product of a wicked food coma. I felt better afterwards and joined the others outside on the patio. 

The evening was spent telling stories, drinking beer and relaxing on the patio. It looks like a log cabin, and has those party lights strung up. The seats outside are mostly car and van seats and lazy boy recliners. Everything about this place is odd and entertaining. 

Time for bed, and an actual bed at that. I’ve been sleeping like crap on my foam mattress, so this is gone be great! 

Miles – 10.1
Total Miles –  356.8
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – jackrabbit

Friday May 11th – CDT Day 21 (Zero Day)

Sleeping in an actual bed was everything I hoped it could be. I woke up refreshed and feeling great. Still not feeling any recurring pains from the demands of the thru hike, which is more than many others can say. Today is a zero day, no hiking. Just eating! 

Several of us hikers headed up to the pie town cafe for breakfast. They don’t really have a menu, they just tell you what breakfast they have that day. Today it was eggs and bacon or biscuits and gravy. I got the eggs and bacon, with extra bacon and a side of biscuits. While I wasn’t super full, it definitely hit the spot. 

After breakfast I used the wifi to order some food from and had it sent to the Sands Motel in Grants, my next resupply stop. When walking back to the toaster house, I noticed a billboard for a septic tank cleaning company called “the stool bus”. Clever, now I won’t be able to forget that! 

Back at the toaster house, Tony and Joan showed up to collect the money from the donation box and pick up the trash. Tony and Joan are friends with Nita, the owner of the house. They help her with the necessary elements of running the house. The use the donation money to pay the electric bill, restock food in the pantry, fridge and freezer, buy laundry detergent and toilet paper, and of course, keep the fridge stocked with beer. It’s cool to see how this place keeps going, with so many people coming and going. 

There’s no grocery store or convenience store directly in pie town, but there is a place called top of the world located 3 miles west on highway 60. Joan and Tony where kinda enough to give Strider and I a ride there so we could pick up a few things. However, they were not returning back to the toaster house, so we had to walk back. We walked less than a mile before getting a hitch back.

After returning, it was time to eat more food. We headed up to the pie town cafe again. This time I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger, which is one pound of beef. The pie town cafe is under new ownership, and only been operating for 6 weeks. Therefore this is the first CDT season for the new owners, and so they are not used to people ordering huge amount of food yet. Brad, the owner and server, said this was the largest burger they’ve made yet. They took my picture with a picture of wimpy behind me, and said they might use it for one of their advertisements. Good times! 

Camel, Sequoia and I were sitting outside on the patio of the pie town cafe when another hiker named Left showed up. She was looking for her friends who were somewhere along the CDT. After chatting a while here, we invited her back to the toaster house to drink some beer with us.

There were a lot more people at the toaster house tonight. It was a good time hanging out with all the other hikers, seeing new faces as well as old. I went to bed shortly after 10pm, got to get my 8 before setting out on the trail tomorrow morning.

Miles – 0
Total Miles –  356.8 
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none
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Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post Overview

No more open desert, and more water in this section. At least towards the end of this leg. The beautiful Gila River awaits, and cell phone service is a thing of the past for us AT&T customers… it will be another 300 miles before reliable service!

Monday April 30th – CDT Day 10

I had some errands to run this morning, including a trip to the post office to mail my bounce box to the town of Grants. I should be there roughly 2 weeks from now. I got a much later start than I intended.

Since I hitched in to Silver City on Saturday so that I could have most of the day at the Trail Days festival, I now had to get back to the point on hwy 90 where I got my hitch. Other hikers hitched into town and never went back to complete the 12.6 Mile Road walk section on highway 90, or highway 180 if they took that route, but I don’t intend to cheat! Fortunately, the very hiker friendly camp host at the Silver City RV park offered to give me a ride.

I got dropped off on hwy 90 about a mile north of Tyrone Rd just before noon. It should be roughly 11 miles to Silver City from here. Yay, road walk time.

The road walk is just as boring as it sounds. However, there was some entertainment along the way. I passed a long driveway beating to a home along Highway 90 that was lined with toilets. One can’t help but laugh at this. His neighbors must love him!

When I got into Silver City, I walked past a store that sold mattresses and guitars. Yep, you heard right. I love weird business models like this. Not sure how successful it is but it sure is good for a laugh. 

As I was walking down hwy 90, someone shouted “Famous! Famous!!”. It was hodgepodge and Swiss monkey on the other side of the street. Hodgepodge is the one who gave me my trail name back in Lordsburg. They just got into town themselves, and were running around doing errands. We chatted for a few minutes, and then we went our separate ways.

It was around 3pm by the time I made it to Dairy Queen, my lunch destination. So I made pretty good time getting into town. Just over 10 miles. 

After lunch, more Road walking. I followed little walnut rd north out of town for several miles. I passed a guy on the sidewalk who had a ranch up the road. He recognized I’m hiking the CDT and we talked for a few minutes about the trail. As I walked up the road, many cars seem to recognize me as a CDT hiker and waved. 

Several more miles of road walking before I entered the Gila national forest. Still many more miles before the best of the Gila, but no more paved Road walking and a notable milestone nonetheless. 

After walking on the trails for a while, two Mountain bikers came flying around the corner and scared the shit out of me. I quickly jumped off trail to avoid being hit.

Now back on the official CDT route, the Trail reaches little Walnut road trailhead. From here, you can choose to take the official CDT route through the Black mountains or veer west on the dirt road and take the Gila river alternate route. Almost everyone takes the river route. That’s what I’m doing as well.  It really should just be the official route. 

A car approached on the dirt road and stopped alongside me. The passengers were wondering why I had so much camera gear hanging off my pack and just generally interested in what I was doing out here. I told them I’m hiking the CDT and explained that it’s a route from Mexico to Canada. This spawned numerous questions which I was happy to answer. I enjoy telling people about the trail and hearing their reactions. It’s especially entertaining when they’ve never heard of the trail. Most people think I’m crazy! But, in a good way.

The route then follows a smaller dirt road up hill. It was around 7pm now, so I was looking for a place to set up camp. After another half hour I found a good spot and called it a day.

As the sunset, several coyotes could be heard in the distance, growing ever closer. I laid my head down to sleep just before 10pm, ready for another 140 days of hiking on the CDT! It’s hard work but the adventure ails most pains. Life is good. 

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 169.6  
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent 
Animals – none seen

Tuesday May 1st – CDT Day 11

The Coyotes were howling all night, and even as the Sun rose. Now on day 11, this is officially my longest backpacking trip for both time and distance. 

Not far up the trail, I passed a few people cowboy camping. More dirt road to follow, but the views are getting better. 

When I reached bear Creek, I found a plenty of water about 100 ft upstream. A Brit named Henry was camping nearby, and we both pulled some water from the stream. He had been camping with Cracker last night, who had already hit the trail. I hung out at the stream for a while cameling up. 

Even though it was a dirt road, I enjoyed the next section. Sometimes the dirt road is old and now it is a trail only. That’s what I assumed this was. Old mining equipment littered the side of the road. There were a few small stream crossings well. It was surprising to see a truck coming down the road after one of the crossings. It was a US forest service truck. The two guys in the truck asked where I was headed. “Canada”, I said. This spawned the usual questions. I am starting to enjoy seeing people’s reactions. 

Eventually I left the road and headed up Hill along a canyon. Now the trail is along a ridge top with great views. Lots of rolling Hills and mountains, Green trees and eventually red Rocks and hoodoos. Very cool. 

I stopped for lunch at the “Regis-tree”… A tree converted into a CDT register. Clever. I later found out a guy who goes by the name “the hermit” lives about 30 yards away from the tree, but I never saw him or anything resembling a place to live in the area. I’m sure he was watching me, lucking in the bushes or something.

Nice hiking for a little while after lunch. Red rocks and then a forested canyon. Now on the sycamore canyon trail, it gains some elevation, quite steeply at times. Probably the hardest climb yet.

The climbing went on for a while. Thick vegetation along the trail too, including manzanitas. I have some scars on my legs from previous encounters with manzanitas, which brought back those not so fond memories. 

When I made it to tadpole ridge, I was surprised that it was actually a canyon. It was all downhill and easy walking. Where it ends at sheep corral canyon, there was a water tank with a few hikers resting beside it. They started April 27th, and were doing 35 mile days. Beasts! Have fun with that. 

I took a lengthy break at the water tank, which had good water from a spigot. Afterwards I continued down sheep corral canyon. Easy waking downhill. After a few miles, I saw a sign for the Gila River, 4.25 miles. That should make a good camp for tonight. 

The next section of trail follows a dirt road on a ridge top. When it starts heading downhill towards the river, I wad presented with the best views yet. Huge canyons and red rocks. 

The trail down to the river took forever. My knees hurt from going downhill and the rocks on the trail made slipping a common occurrence. Because of a the switchbacks, it was about 6 miles, not the 4.25 as the sign said. Liar! 

The trail goes down to Sapillo creek first before hitting the Gila. After crossing the creek it was only a 1/4 mile to the confluence with the Gila. Here I ran into Cruise again, who I had seen earlier at the last water tank. He was looking for a campsite too. There was a good site along Sapillo, but not many right at the confluence. I was also expecting there to be more hikers here, but it was just Cruise. He took the food campsite along Sapillo, which had room for multiple tents. I opted for a small spot under a tree right at the confluence. 

This spot is impressive. Huge canyon walls surrounding me on all sides, and the most water I’ve seen on the CDT so far. This is where all of the river crossings start. Basically, my feet will be wet all day tomorrow as I will have about 50 crossings or more. Definitely a good place to stop for the night. 

Today seemed long and tough. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. The only other time I’ve done anywhere near as many River crossings was also in the Gila back in 2012, on the west side in the Mogollan mountains. However, that was a tiny stream in comparion. 

Miles – 21.7
Total Miles – 191.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent 
Animals – none seen


Wednesday May 2nd – CDT Day 12

It was nice sleeping next to the sound of the river last night. I saw Cruise make his first river crossing as I woke up and looked out my tent around  6:30am. 

The skies looked dark and stormy, and it was noticeabley cooler than previous days. I don’t have a rain jacket, rain cover for my backpack or a compactor bag for the inside of my backpack yet, as these items are in the resupply box I have waiting for me at Doc Campbell’s. I only have one garbage bag to protect my belongings from the rain. I put my sleeping bag, toilet paper and extra electronics stuff inside as I packed up. 

My campsite was only about 15ft from the Gila River,  and I needed to cross it immediately after setting off this morning. If crossing a river only once or twice throughout the day, it might make sense to take off your shoes. However, today’s hike will cross the river about 50 times, so the shoes stay on. 

Aftet the first crossing, I hardly cared about wet feet. The amazing scenery certainly helped. The river flows through a fairly steep sided canyon with red rocks. Really cool! I bet few people hike this outside of CDT hikers. 

Progress was slow at first, with numerous crossings and lots of loose sand. The wind was gusting over 40mph and the occasional rain drops could be felt. After about 2 miles, I passed the only other hikers I’d see along the river all day. 

When I stopped for lunch, I realized how cold it was as soon as I stopped moving. Lots of sand and pebbles were accumulating in my shoes from the river Crossings, so I had to empty my shoes to prevent blisters. I only stopped long enough to clean out my shoes, filter water and eat. 

Many more river crossings. Deepest was mid thigh, and the water levels are really low right now. None of the crossings were dangerous though. Some really beautiful bends and pools. I can’t stress how cool this was! 

By early afternoon the weather stated to clear. This made the hike that much more enjoyable. The middle section had less river crossings and more actual trail waking. This helped me get the miles I needed faster. 

By mid afternoon the train clouds were back. It rained for about 20 minutes but not terribly hard. Good, otherwise much of my gear and myself would be soaked. 

I saw a sign for a trail leading up to hwy 15 (1 mile) that wasn’t on my map. Otherwise it’d be Another 3+ miles to the Gila River bridge on hwy 15. This was a good climb, but a straight shot to the road. Awesome view of the Gila River in the canyon below. 

Now on hwy 15, there were some good photos ops alongside the road. Another 3 miles or so to Doc Campbell’s. I arrived around 5pm, and set up on a bench outside next to cracker, sequoia and camel. Familiar faces! 

Doc Campbell’s is awesome. They go out of their way to accommodate CDT hikers by staying open much later than their posted hours, stocking foods hikers want, accepting mail stop packages etc. Pretty much any CDT hiker passing through stops here and there’s almost always a few hanging out on the patio outside. It’s a great place to hang out and socialize. 

There are 2 main options for camping nearby; The RV park on the opposite side of hwy 15 and the Gila hot springs campground off Access Rd. I chose the latter. The campground is right on the river, and the hot springs are here too. No showers, but everything else you could want out of a campground. 

First thing I did after setting up my tent was jump in the hot springs for a soak. It felt amazing after the cold and windy day in the Gila River. Beautiful scenery and so relaxing. 

I ate dinner with the other CDT hikers next to a campfire, my first along the trail. Afterwards most of us had another soak to warm up before bed. I laid in my tent looking up at the stars, reflecting on the day. I feel so lucky to be out here. So many adventures still to be had. 

Miles – 20.9
Total Miles – 212.2  
Rain – yes
Sleep – tent, developed campground 
Animals – none seen

Thursday May 3rd – CDT Day 13 (Zero Day)

Today is another zero day. I have one planned for every resupply point in New Mexico, except Lordsburg. It was the first day I woke up to sun hitting my tent. On a hiking day, is already be packed up and gone by then. Last night was the coldest yet, below freezing. I got up in the middle of the night to take my water filter in my tent with me so it didn’t freeze. 

I jumped into a hot spring immediately after getting up. There is no better way to beat the cold! Most other hikers had the same idea. Most hikers also left this morning, few were taking a zero. 

After warning up it was time to head back to Doc Campbell’s to pick up my resupply box, get breakfast and bullshit with everyone else. Walking out of the campground, the road passes through a ranch. There was a rope across the road, clearly blocking it temporarily for some reason. I waited a minute but nothing was happening, so I ducked under it to keep going. As soon as I did that, a stampede of horses came flying down a side road. I quickly jumped back on the other side until the rancher was done moving them from the stable to the corral. 

Up at Doc’s, several hikers were hanging out on the patio. I spent several hours up here charging batteries, eating, going through my resupply box, eating, bullshiting and more eating. It’s more scenic than I was expecting, and just a cool place to hang out if you have good company.

One interesting thing about Doc Campbell’s is the fact that their toilets are plumbed with hot water. You’d think the seat is heated but the hot water warms the bowl. This is only the second toilet I’ve encountered in my life with hot water, worth noting for the comedic value. Lots of jokes about this. 

More hot springs soaking and good conversations back at the Gila hot springs campground. This place is awesome. At $8 for an overnight stay, this is going to be hard to beat in terms of bang for your buck. I highly recommend visiting whether you’re a hiker or not. If your schedule allows, you’d be crazy not to take a zero here! 

I bought some brats from Doc Campbell’s earlier which we cooked over a fire for dinner. Last hot meal for a while, with a 130 mile hike to Pie Town next. I asked if they had any skewers for sale for cooking the brats, and they suggested I buy a fly swatter and remove the swatter part. Genius! McGuyver would have been proud.

Miles – 0
Total Miles –  212.2
Rain – no
Sleep – tent, developed campground 
Animals – none seen

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Lordsburg to Silver City – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Lordsburg to Silver City Overview

The first part of this section, out of Lordsburg, was flat and hot. But, This is a good section because the landscape transitions from desert to rolling hills and lots of trees. It’s hard not to like that after 100+ miles of desert. 

Thursday April 26th – CDT Day 6

I got a bit later start today, leaving the Econo Lodge around 8:15am. It seems like most of the hikers at the Econo Lodge who got in from crazy cook yesterday as I did where going to take a zero day. I considered the same, but really wanted to push to make it to Silver City for the Trail Days festival this weekend. 

It was about an hours walk to get our of town and back on to the actual trail. I walked passed a really old man working outside on his yard blasting some metal music. He waved, I waved back. Then I proceeded to play the air guitar in approval of his choice of music, to which he pumped his fist in the air. “You good? Need any water?” he asked. “I’m all topped off, thanks for asking. Rock on man!” I replied. This made me smile. 

After turning off on to highway 90, the trail splits off from the road and into some ranch land. It’s super easy to miss though, only marked by 2 blue poles along the fence line. On the other side, no trail or markers can be seen. Makes you really wonder if you’re in the right place or trespassing. 

Back into the open desert

This next section is flat, wide open and not the most interesting. It’s going to be over 12 miles with little or no shade. Easy walking, but another hot day. Real feel in the low 90s. I saw a couple of jackrabbits and a horned lizard, that’s about it. 

Lordsburg in the distance

After walking about 3 hours non-stop from Lordsburg I came across my first shade, a small tree in a wash. I stopped here for lunch. Man is it hard to get up and get back into that heat afterwards!

Before stopping I had only seen maybe 3 CDT markers, but they were more frequent now. I walked about another hour and a half before entering some new Ranch land that was at the base of some Hills in a canyon. Engineer Canyon I believe. It was nice to get out of the open desert.

Dead coyote. Those vicious cows must have got him

The smart desert hiker spend his afternoons under any available shade

Working my way up the canyon, I came across the couple of dry water tanks, some cows and a dead coyote. As a followed the wash through the canyon, I came across it really nice shade tree that I couldn’t pass up. It was 2pm now and I had covered around 15 miles, so it was time to get out of the heat for a little bit. 

Not far up the trail I encountered a full trough of water. It was green but would have been decent water to filter. Going by the water report, I opted to hike to the co-op windmill at Mile 102. 

By the time I reached the co-op windmill, I was pretty dehydrated. I thought I had drink almost 4 liters, but upon inspecting my water bladder I had probably drank closer to 2.5 today. I was not very hydrated when setting out this morning to begin with. Yeah, not smart… 20 miles hiked in low 90° Temps through the desert. There was a spigot under the windmill, first thing I did was fill a liter and poured it over my head and upper body. I quickly filtered another liter to drink, which almost brought tears to my eyes. It’s been quite a while since I was in such desperate need of water and the feeling is tough to describe if you’ve never been there. 

Now that’s some high quality H2o

I proceeded to fill my 4L platypus dirty water bag, but I only got another 2L before the spigot went dry. Really now? There was a cow trough that looked had nasty green algae water. Initially I thought it was a no go, but there was a lid covering one corner of the trough. Underneath was much cleaner water, despite tons of bug debris… It looks like a bunch of wings. After swishing these aside, I was able to scoop fairly clean looking water which I then dumped into my platypus bag to use with my gravity system. Boom, good water! I ate dinner here, drank 2.5L and filtered 5L to carry. Tomorrow will be dry too. 

Over the hill lies a whole new environment. No more flat open desert! For now anyways

I hit the trail again around 7pm. I wanted to knock out a few more miles before dark, as well as not wanting to sleep next to the windmill with all the cows. The trail climbs uphill from here. Once at the top, there was an expansive view of more wilderness. The trail follows the top of a Ridgeline for a while before dipping down into a new environment. Easily the best views yet. This energized me as I hiked on another 45 minutes. I found a place to camp about 20 minutes before sunset. I never saw that person after leaving the paved highway in Lordsburg. What a day!

Miles – 21.66
Total Miles – 113.3
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent
Animals – rabbits, horned lizard

Friday April 27th – CDT Day 7

Quiet night, but slept poorly. Cooler and cloudy this morning. 

Todays walk started off easy. Forested hillsides with little Elevation change. Lots of places to camp just off trail on soft sand. 

After an hours hike I reached hwy 90. I had a few bars of cell signal but no data. I called my dad to hash out the logistics for my resupply box in Pie Town before moving on. 

Gopher Snake

The next section was enjoyable… New terrain, nice views and easy. So easy that I wasn’t paying attention to my footing and almost stepped on a snake. It looked poisonous at first but upon closer inspection, it lacked the diamond head and rattle. Gopher snake. Still, don’t want to step on it and get bit. 

I liked the views over the next couple hours. Rolling hills, trees and occasional grassland. Not stunning but a really nice walk in a unique looking environment. 

I came across a cooler full of pop and beer for CDT hikers near the jacks peak /burro peak trailhead. Yay! I helped myself to a pop and moved on. 

Now the trail begins to climb. A lot. And climbs some more. Now there are pine trees, first I’ve seen on the CDT. 

Soon enough I was near the top of Jack’s peak. There’s some campsites up here and foundations of old buildings. At the summit is several cell towers. Apparently none for AT&T though, as I had no data. 

Taking a break below Burro Peak first 8,000ft mountain on the trail

Next the trail dips briefly before heading back up to burro peak. Not a great summit view with the vegetation, but still a decent. It’s just over 8000ft, the highest yet on the CDT. 

Really nice walk through pine forest coming down from burro. I stopped for a break at the first nice view, and man was it a good one. And wouldn’t you know it, I had cell service and LTE now! Perfect. 

After my break, I had a decision to make. Take the cut off trail through deadmans canyon or head towards Burro Mountain Homestead. I need water, and mud spring is near the junction of the two trails, so that’s where I headed. 

I spent about Half hour looking for mud spring before realizing it’s along the trail and not down the mountain off trail like my GPS coordinates indicated. The spring looked like a campground fire ring filled with water. You’d want to filter this, but I opted to wait… Thinking I’ll stay the night at the homestead. Just yesterday, Wayne at the burro mountain homestead posted on the CDT Facebook page that a certain area is open to CDT hikers for free tent camping, along with water and free shower. Can’t beat that! 

I passed a hiker named cracker on the way. He gave me his map of the homestead and told me the office is closed. It’s basically an rv park /campground /trailer park, but had pretty good amenities. I set up my tent in the “orchard” along orchard drive. The shower felt amazing after such a long day! 

Miles – 25.4
Total Miles – 138.7
Rain – no
Sleep – rv Park /campground in tent
Animals – rabbits, deer, gopher snake

Saturday April 28th – CDT Day 8

I was pretty sore this morning and got a bit slower start. I can’t wait swap my foam sleeping pad for the inflatable, just as soon as the threat of thorny plants and cacti subsidies. Then I’ll sleep better. 

My walk this morning was boring and uneventful along Tyrone Rd. The plan is to get to Silver City as early as possible, so I’ll hike to hwy 90 and attempt to hitch into town. 

When I reached 90, I started walking north as I put my thumb out. Several cars passed before a pick up stopped. The woman had a CDT hat on, and was headed to Silver City for Trail Days herself. She dropped me off at the silver city rv park, where I planned to stay. I got out of the truck and she drove away before I could grab my pack from the bed of the truck, so I chased after her. Luckily she stopped! 

Checked in at the Rv park, showered and picked up my first bounce box. A bounce box is a package filled with things that I send myself every other town or so as I progress up the trail. I have extra batteries, first aid supplies, vitamins, ziplock bags for food, etc in the box. Most importantly, I have the 2 in 1 laptop/tablet I am using right now to update this blog as well as a hard drive to dump my photos and GoPro video to and interact with my GPS unit. I mailed the box direct to the RV park, but will have to wait until Monday morning to ship it to the next destination, the town of Grants… about 300 miles up trail. 

Next I headed out for food. I went to a place called Fry House for chicken wings. Been craving them for several days now. Behind the bar, a cooler full of Four Loko caught my eye. I thought they outlawed it, hadn’t seen it in a few years. I asked the bartender if it’s a popular drink around here. Apparently, they are used to make a drink called a Mexican Trashcan where you pour shots of liquor into the Four Loko. Those days are gone for me, I’ll pass! 

Then I headed up to western New Mexico university for the trail days festival. I wandered around campus for a while until I found a bunch of booths set up on an athletic field. Yay, freebies! I got half way through the booths before they started to pack up for the day. 

Back at the RV park, hikers were gathered around drinking beer and swapping stories. Most of us headed back up to the university for the trail days keynote speaker event at 7pm. Cam “Swami” has hiked over 60,000 miles in 56 counties, and is known for his “12 long walks” in a year and a half. He hiked over 10,000 miles in one calendar year.. what a beast!

Miles – 8.2
Total Miles – 146.9
Rain – no
Sleep – rv Park /campground in tent
Animals – deer

Sunday April 29th – CDT Day 9 (Zero Day)

Today was my first “zero” day, which means zero miles hiked. And it felt great! No alarm to wake up to, just a full day of rest. Most other hikers I started with on April 21st took a zero day in Lordsburg, but I pushed to make it to Silver City for trail days. 

cdt 2018 silver city

It was a nice leisurely morning bullshitting with the remaining CDT hikers before they took off. It really emptied out by noon. I used the hard drive in my bounce box to dump my pictures and video and spent much of the afternoon on my laptop updating this blog. The mini usb cable I brought to connect my GPS to my laptop wouldn’t allow the computer to see the GPS. Could be a charging only cable, no data transfer. I walked to a few stores before realizing nobody carries these in stock anywhere. I called my dad and had him throw in a known working cable into my next resupply box.

Later in the afternoon, the RV park’s camp host Kat offered to take a few of us hikers up to Walmart. The folks at the RV par are super hiker friendly! Bought my food for the next section and picked up a super lightweight pair of sandals to wear in camp. I also picked up another set of headphones since the earbud fell out during the last section. I gots to have my metal music!

I spent the rest of the evening going through my bounce box and resupplying items in my pack. Back on trail tomorrow!


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