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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 walmart.com 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 Walmart.com), 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 Walmart.com 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
Like what you see?

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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Crazy Cook to Lordsburg – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Crazy Cook to Lordsburg Overview

The section of CDT trail from crazy cook Monument to Lordsburg is not usually a hiker favorite. The trail is mostly pretty flat and is often on old dirt roads and Ranch Land, but is still really wild. Lots of Wildlife, huge expansive views and sharp plants. It’s an impressive place to be, but not a lot of views that look stunning through a camera lens. 

Natural water is pretty much non existent. When taking the CDT shuttle from Lordsburg to crazy cook, the price includes 2 gallons of water at 5 separate water caches. These are in bear boxes, spread out about 15 miles apart. The boxes are along or near a road so drivers can reach them. Besides these, the only sources of water are underground springs which are tapped into via a pipe feeding a large truck tire or stored in a water tank.

Saturday April 21st – CDT Day 1

The shuttle to crazy cook left the Econo Lodge at 6:30am. There were 2 truck loads of 5 hikers each. The first hour or so was on a paved road, then we turned off onto the infamous dirt road section. The road isn’t bad at first, but is a very bumpy ride later on. The bumpiness is amplified by the ultra high clearance trucks. We arrived at crazy cook around 10:30am, anxious to be free of our vehicular prison. 

CDT Southernmost point – Crazy Cook Monument

Just jumped the fence from Mexicoland onto US soil. Onward to Canadia!

There is nothing at the crazy cook monument other than a shaded awning and the monument itself. The border here is “protected” by a 6 stand barbed wire fence. There’s actually a gate on this fence too. I stepped over the fence and then proceeded to enter the US. Had to touch that fertile Mexican soil before heading off towards Canada. 

Taking my first steps on the CDT

As I took my first steps on the trail, I couldn’t help feeling a bit overwhelmed by the journey that lies ahead. Not fear, just the sheer magnitude of a 3000 mile hike. I’ve been dreaming of the CDT for 6 years, and to finally be here is just awesome! 

The trail is really well beaten in the first stretch. The views are nice but not too impressive through my camera lens. After about an hour, I reached the first dirt road. It’s easy walking but there’s a lot of really fine dust that gets into your shoes here. I stopped after 5 miles to dump the dirt and rocks from my shoes, as I was getting a hot spot on one of my toes. 

A few miles up the trail enters Sheridan canyon. The trail follows a wash for large stretches, in addition to the dirt roads and trails. After about 3 hours, I stopped for lunch at the first shaded spot I came across all day. I took some time to clean my feet and apply some tape over my toe before it develops a full on blister. 

Back on the trail, it’s another 5 miles to the first water cache and my campsite for the night. Even though it was only 75 out today, it still felt really hot. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s 20 degrees warmer. I felt really good until about mile 12 or 13, then I started to develop a pounding headache. I pushed on and reached the water cache around 4:45 pm, and man it felt good to stop for the day. 

I made camp about a hundred yards back up the wash I came from, in order to be out of sight of the road. Shortly after, Lightfoot and Kathleen arrived, followed by Hodge podge and Swiss monkey. First thing I did was take some aspirin to address my headache. Then I laid down for a few minutes to rest. 

Everyone was at the water cache by early evening except moose. We all ate dinner by the cache and watched a colorful sunset. With food, water, a little rest and some aspirin I was feeling much better. I got very little sleep last night due to anticipation of the hike today, so turning in at 8:15pm was the obvious choice. Day 1 in the books. Only about 150 more to go! 

Miles – 14.87
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry tent, group
Animals – none

Sunday April 22nd – CDT Day 2

Last night there was something growing outside my tent. I yelled out at it, and didn’t hear it again. Very calm night otherwise. Woke up at 6 and hit the trail by 7. The skies were dark and it looked like rain in the distance. The forecast didn’t call for any, and considering how dried is in new Mexico right now with all the red flag warnings, I was pretty certain it wasn’t going to amount to anything. Just as well, I don’t have rain jacket on me. I’m having that sent to Doc Campbell’s post, 3 resupply points up the trail.

The trail now follows along the base of the Big Hatchet mountains. Others have taken the dirt road we came in on, as it offers easier navigation. But of course, it’s pretty boring walking on a dirt road. The trail in this section is marked with wooden posts, and the are spaced out just for enough so you can’t see the next one and most of cases. The footpath you walk on is also not very defined, so most of the morning with spent walking in the general direction I needed to go in occasionally I would spot a post and I could tell how far off Trail I was.

I saw a couple of deer and a few Jack rabbits this morning. One Jackrabbit was enormous, the largest I’ve ever seen. I was able to get within a few feet of him, and he didn’t even bother to hop more than a couple feet away when I approached him. 

Moose was at the second water cache when I arrived around 12:30pm. He ended up walking till about midnight last night and took the road instead of the Trail, due to ease of navigation in the dark. He went on a head while I stayed at the water cache for another 45 minutes or so.

The trail then crosses it’s first paved highway before heading towards the little hatchet mountains. After about two miles I passed Moose again at a water tank. The shade this tank creates was very tempting, but I pressed on. 

The trail followed a dirt road for much of the rest of the day. It was time to bust out the headphones and get some metal music going. This helped pass the time as I knocked out a few more miles. I was really just looking for a shaded spot to stop, since it was only around 3 in the afternoon. However, there is basically no no shade anywhere, so I just stopped   around 4:15 pm and set up camp alongside the trail. I had already hiked about 19.5 miles today, and didn’t really want to push it too hard too soon anyways. The skies above the little hatchet mountains were getting very dark and thunder could be heard in the distance, so the timing worked out. 

Around 6pm, Sequoia and Camel passed by. There were two other spots for tents near mine, so they joined me for the evening. They had just seen a Gila monster only a 1/4 mile back. Pretty cool. 

Tonight’s camp was nice, for a dry camp. Huge expansive views of the desert and today’s hike.  Colorful sunset and lighting in the distance. Today was good! 

Miles – 19.57
Total Miles – 34.44
Rain – sprinkles
Sleep – backcountry tent, group 
Animals – deer, Jack rabbits, road runner, sequoia and camel saw a Gila monster

Monday April 23rd – CDT Day 3

I hit the trail around 7am this morning. The sky was clear today and it was noticeably warmer. 

The trail today continues down the same dirt road I hiked yesterday for several miles. As I approached a water tank in the distance, a trail split off from the road directly towards it. The entire area was pretty disgusting, with cow shit everywhere and nasty pond water. The water in the trough looked alright, but there were a ton of bees getting a drink. Besides a half liter of Gatorade, I was completely out of water. As much as I wanted to fill up, I decided to push on to the next water source, a water cache along a road another 7 miles up. 

Cow poo water

Cholla cactus

After leaving the water tank, the landscape started to change a little bit. A little bit more rolling hills now and dried grass, in addition to cresting a few high points. Kind of feels like I’m starting to get somewhere.

By noon it was getting really hot. Like, time to find the next shade and stop type of hot. When I finally reached the water cache at 12:30pm, I was relieved to see a small shade tree nearby. Time to get out of the Sun, rehydrate, clean my feet and relax. Hiked about 15 miles so far today. 

Around 2:15pm, the rest of the hikers who started with me on day 1 arrived within a few minutes of each other, except for Moose. Everyone gathered around the tree and any available shade. We later found out it was 95° today. Not the kind of place you want to be when there is 10 miles between shaded spots. 

We hunkered down under the tree until about 4:45 pm. It was still really hot, basically the hottest part of the day, but it will cool off soon. It’s another five miles to a reliable and clean water source, so that’s where we headed. 

There were two water sources along the way before reaching the water tank I intended, but these are just a pipe tapped into an underground spring feeding a giant Tire sitting on the ground. Both of these tires were heavily guarded by a bunch of angry cows, so I didn’t bother to approach. 

I camped on top of a small Hill near the reliable water source, a water tank with a spigot. Camel, sequoia and Kathleen were here as well. We ate dinner together and went to bed around 9.

Miles – 20.36
Total Miles – 54.8
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry tent
Animals – jackrabbit, roadrunner

Tuesday April 27th – CDT Day 4

Normally I toss and turn most of the night, but I slept great last night. I felt noticeable more sore this morning though. This was to be expected with the miles I was putting in so early on. 

Miles and miles of open desert like this to walk through

I was on the trail again by 6:45am. The landscape was becoming more hilly now which makes things more interesting. Nothing like cresting a hilltop and seeing a huge open desert below… Then crossing it. Huge expensive views out here, hard to judge distances. 

 

By 10am I was nearing the 4th water cache. As I the final Hill before the water cache I noticed a jungle gym looking thing at the top. I assumed it was some weird art sculpture type thing. I was pleasantly surprised to find a Trail angel named Apple here with chairs and a cooler full of Gatorade and Coca-Cola! In thru hiker lingo, a trail angel is someone who helps out hikers. When this occurs, thru hikers often referred to this as Trail magic. This was my first trail magic experience, and this kind of generosity from a total stranger is something I’m not used to where I come from. It’s times like these when my faith in humanity is restored a little bit. 

The jungle gym was actually the frame of a shelter that is set up for thru hikers to get out of the Sun. Apple comes out here everyday for 2 weeks during the peak northbound season and provides the above amenities for anyone passing through. Then he heads up to Colorado and does the same along the Colorado Trail. What a great guy! 

Shortly after I arrived I was joined by a few other hikers. I hung out for a solid hour before venturing back out into the desert again. 

This afternoon’s hike was probably the longest stretch of open desert so far, with many miles between any source of shade. Today it was in the upper 80s, real feel in the low 90s… Hot! 

Today the trail is mostly on Ranch land. This means lots of cow shit and barbed wire fences, but also means occasional water sources. Usually it’s giant tire fed with water from and underground pipe. This is what the cows drink out of, but in a pinch it would work for me too. Thankfully I’m not that desperate.

At this point I was hiking with camel and Sequoia. After hiking a few hours past Apple’s location near the 4th water cache, we came acrossed a large juniper tree in a wash. This provided ample shade for a much needed afternoon break. We sat for a couple hours before heading out again around 3:30pm. 

More open desert to cross. Sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy, sometimes low shrub. Another 6 miles to a good water source. It was the hottest part of the day now, I just wanted to cover the miles quickly and get to camp. 

When I reached the water tank, I was surprised to see a hike heading southbound towards it. His name was Nugget, and he was doing the Lordsburg to crazy cook section southbound and intended on catching the shuttle back to Lordsburg where he will continue northbound from there. Just the way his logistics worked out. The other hikers I started with on day one trickled in around the same time.

After getting our fill of water, we all made the decision to push on for a few more miles. After all, nobody wants to camp near a water source with all the cows wandering around. I finally reached camp around 7pm, tired and hungry. I’m glad I have an appetite so far, but I could have used some more food. I can’t wait to smash some cheese burgers in town tomorrow!

Miles – 22. 49
Total Miles – 79.29
Rain – no
Sleep – backcountry tent
Animals – jackrabbit, non poisonous snake

Wednesday April 25th – CDT Day 5

Windy night. Didn’t sleep well. Heard some coyotes howling in the distance. Hit the ground running as soon as the sun came up, highly motivated by the thought of town food.

More rolling hills, washes, ranch land. More trees now too, but still few and far between. I passed Kathleen this morning, who had just seen a couple of javelinas.

Made it to the last water cache around 9:30am, but had plenty left over from the night before. I was really hungry now, so I stopped to eat a Snickers bar before it melted again. Several other hikers arrived shortly after. Lots of leapfrogging. 

After leaving the last water cache, there were more ups and downs than any other point previously in the last 5 days. Every time I went over a hill, I expected to see Lordsburg. But of course, there were many disappointments in that regard. I could tell I was getting closer to Lordsburg by the amount of garbage around and the number of bullet holes in the CDT signs. Yeehaw!

When I finally did see Lordsburg, I still had about an hour’s walk to get there. As soon as I reached hey 494, the paved road that leads into Lordsburg, a pickup truck passed and the driver through a handful of garbage out the window. Back to “civilization”. 

I checked in to Econo Lodge around noon, picked up my resupply packages from walmart.com from the front desk, and promptly proceeded to my room for a much-needed shower. Afterwards, I headed over to Mama Rose’s for some food. A one pound bacon cheeseburger, fries and two huge Cokes hit the spot! 

Back at the hotel, I took a nap for an hour. I spent the rest of the evening at the grocery store, washing my clothes, and going over logistics for the next section. It felt great to get my first section of the CDT under the belt!

Miles – 12.35
Total Miles – 91.64
Rain – no
Sleep – hotel
Animals – rabbits

 
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Travel to the CDT Southern Terminus

Thursday April 19th, CDT Day -2

I took a one-way flight from Detroit to El Paso, with a stop in Dallas. After arriving in El Paso at 9:30am, I hiked 7 miles across town to the train station. I had an Amtrak train reservation to Lordsburg at 1:45pm, but the train was 3 hours late. I expected there to be a screen inside the train station that updates you on the train arrival and departure times, similar to the airport, but there was nothing of the sort.

Border wall between the United States and Juarez, Mexico

 

When I did finally get on the train, the first thing I noticed was how much more legroom you have compared to an airplane. The seats were the size of first class seats in a plane as well. It’s a lot more comfortable than flying but much slower. As we left El Paso, the train runs only a few feet from the border of Mexico. There was a wall separating the US from Juarez Mexico, but the train track then veers away from the border west of Juarez and the Border quickly fades out of sight.

After arriving in Lordsburg, I had a one mile walk to my hotel. I walked a route a little off the main strip, and it had a bit of an eerie feel to it. Everything looked run down and abandoned. High winds rustled the overgrown vegetation on the sidewalks. In a way, it reminded me of Detroit, except that Lordsburg was never large or prosperous.

There were a few other CDT hikers hanging around outside the the Econo Lodge when I arrived. We chatted for a minute before I grabbed dinner from a local restaurant. Running on only 4 hours of sleep, I went to bed shortly after.

Friday April 20th, CDT Day -1

I got a solid 10 hours of sleep last night and felt a lot better this morning. It was very cool and windy this morning, not really the hot desert environment I was expecting. I ran up to the post office to ship back if couple extra items I had in my backpack and then headed over to the grocery store to buy food for the next 5 days. Here I bumped into another CDT hiker, trail name Storytime. Thru-hikers have a tradition of giving each other “trail names”. I don’t have one yet. I saw lots of other hikers in Lordsburg today, most of whom just completed the crazy cook to Lordsburg section.

The grocery store didn’t have a very good selection, so I headed over to Family Dollar and picked up the beef jerky that I wasn’t able to find at Saucedo’s. Then I return to the hotel and repackaged my food.

I ate lunch at Mama Rose’s, where I had eaten the night before. They had a sign in the restaurant that said ” at this site in 1892, nothing happened”. This pretty much sums up how I feel about Lordsburg, except that you could say the same thing for any date. I’m sure something of some historical significance happened here at some point, but by the looks of the town you would never know it.

I didn’t really have much else to do today so I just hung out at the hotel. Nothing else to do except kill time until tomorrow morning. I got bored sitting in the hotel so I went for a walk down the street up to Family Dollar to try and procure some beef jerky. Apparently, the grocery store didn’t have any. On my way, I ran into a group of hikers who just completed the crazy cook to Lordsburg section that I will be setting out on tomorrow. After a few introductions, one of the hikers said “You must be Eric. You’re famous.” I was pretty surprised that a total stranger knew my name, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re on the CDT Facebook group.

Sockeye, Lightfoot, hodgepodge, Swiss monkey, MacGyver, tk and myself

I sat around for awhile in my hotel room before heading down to the lobby to put a few things into the hiker box… Many of the places hikers congregate along the CDT have these boxes where hikers can leave unwanted food or gear for others who pass by. I ran into the same group of hikers that recognized me on the street earlier, and we decided to get some pizza and beer. We took this back to the Econo Lodge and I’m out for a couple hours. It was a fun evening getting to know the people who I’ll be sharing the trail with this year. At some point we got to talking about trail names and I was given the name “Famous”. I usually like to fly under the radar, and so being an oxymoron, I kind of like the name.

Headed to bed around 10:30 to get some sleep, big day tomorrow!

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CDT Thru Hike 2018 – Pre-Hike Ramblings

I have been thinking about hiking the CDT since 2012, and in late 2017 I decided to pull the trigger for a 2018 attempt. As much as I wanted to do this, voluntarily quitting my job and selling my house was one of the toughest choices I’ve made in the last decade. I’ve reached all the goals I set for my self and found life to be quite comfortable. However, complacency is something that holds many people back from doing things we really want to do. Realizing this, I decided to shake things up and just go for it! 

Why hike the CDT?

Why did I choose the CDT over the AT or PCT as my first thru hike? Simple… It’s the wildest and most remote (of the AT, PCT & CDT) with the fewest people. I want to hike it while is still as wild as possible. I’m not opposed to hiking with good company, but I’m not looking for a super social experience here. It just doesn’t feel like wilderness when there’s thousands of other people around. The less people I see, the more immersed I feel in the wilderness.

Route Planning

The first thing I did was choose the route I wanted to hike. The CDT is not a continuous beaten path like the PCT or AT, and offers infinite route options. I used caltopo to do my route planning, like I do for all my hikes. I found gpx files of the CDT, the alternate routes and waypoints which I imported into caltopo.

I spent several weeks looking at maps and refining my route. The beauty of the CDT is that you literally make your own way. While there’s technically an official route, that’s all it is… A route. It’s not a defined trail the whole way.

I have a killer high route planned through the wind river range, inspired by my 100 mile Traverse of the winds in 2014. This time I plan to include the glacier-filled northern section, which is what I’m most looking forward to of the entire hike. I’ll resupply in Dubois, then hike cross country through the Gros Ventre Wilderness over to Jackson, then hike the Teton crest trail north to Flagg Ranch. From here, I’ll enter Yellowstone through the south entrance and hike the Bechler region of Yellowstone before meeting back up with the official CDT trail at old faithful. So basically, I’ll be doing my own thing through half of Wyoming.

Here’s an overview of my planned CDT route:

https://caltopo.com/m/14E1

Navigation

For navigation, my primary method is GPS. The caltopo route I created can be exported to a GPX file to be used with my GPS, as well as printed to paper maps. I printed my paper maps on legal paper and will fold them in half to fit in gallon ziplock bags. Additionally, I have Ley maps and GPX files stored on my phone, but don’t plan on using the phone for navigation.

Resupply

Maps and cdt resupply planning

 

The most difficult part of CDT planning by far is the resupply plan. Some towns are easier than others to resupply in. If the town has a large grocery store or a Walmart, you can get away with not sending a package there. Some resupply points, like ghost ranch and Benchmark, have no place to buy food or supplies, so it’s almost mandatory to send a package. I’m fortunate enough to have my dad as my “support team” at home, who will send me the food and supplies I need to locations such as these.

Resupply packages are typically sent to general delivery at the post office or a business you plan on visiting… Motel, rv park, a store, etc. If you arrive in town at 4pm on Saturday, you’d have to wait till Monday morning for the post office to open. If you send it to a motel you plan on staying at, you get your box right away with no wait. My resupply plan aims to use a few post offices as possible so I’m not tied to their hours.

I will also be using a bounce box. Bounce boxes are used to ship yourself food, gear, and supplies (batteries, first aid resupply, sunscreen, etc) a town or two ahead. The main reason I’m using a bounce box is to support my documentation plan, which is laid out in the next section below.

Documentation

I plan on documenting my hike with a GoPro and 3 axis gimbal for video and a Sony nex-7 for still images. Pictures and video, as well as my GPX tracks from my GPS, will need to be dumped occasionally. I bought a western digital wireless passport pro external hard drive to dump my photos and video to. Simply plug in the SD card and it gets backed up. This will be included in my bounce box, and every two weeks or so I’ll dump data and clear my SD cards. I also bought a 2 in 1 tablet/laptop to include in my bounce box, so I have a computer to interact with my GPS unit as well as update my blog.

Pre-hike Concerns

I’m not worried about navigation and not too worried about water. There are certainly stretches of New Mexico and Wyoming that are dry but with all the great info out there on water sources along the trail I don’t think it will be a major problem.

I’m more concerned with hiking in 100 degree Temps in the deserts and the 250 mile stretch of snow that awaits me at the border of Colorado. It is a low snow year in the San Juans, so it’s possible snow will be less of an issue.

Another thing that has me worried is my lack of appetite when hiking. This has been a huge problem for me in recent years. Often times, the more I demand of my body the less appetite I have. Not only am I not hungry when I clearly should be, but food often tastes bland and things I normally like make me gag. Not being able to replenish calories makes it very tough to cover the daily miles needed to complete the trail. I’m hoping that I will “develop” an appetite after a few weeks.

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Wind River Range Traverse, WY – August 2014 (Backpacking Trip Report)

wind river range beautiful indian basin mountains river

wind river range beautiful indian basin mountains river

Wind River Range High Route Hike Overview

View ALL my pictures from the hike here: Wind River Range Traverse Photos

View an HD video of this hike on youtube: Wind River Range Traverse

  • Location – Wind River Range, Wyoming
  • Park Type – National Forest, Wilderness
  • Miles Driven To Destination – ~3500 miles Round trip
  • Trailheads – Start at Green River Lakes TH, end at Big Sandy Trailhead
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 8 days, 7 nights
  • Trail Type – Point to point
  • Miles Hiked – 100.9
  • Trail Difficulty – 9.5/10
  • Solitude – 9 (except near trailheads or Cirque of the Towers)
  • Scenic Beauty – 10
  • Fires Allowed – Yes

 

Total distance: 94.37 mi
Max elevation: 12287 ft
Min elevation: 7871 ft
Total climbing: 31959 ft
Total descent: -29905 ft
Download

Notes About the Wind River Range

image of the location of the wind river range on a map

The Wind River Range is a mountain range located southeast of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, running NW-SE. Lander is the main town on the east side of the range, and Pinedale is the popular staging town on the west side of the range. It’s so rugged that there isn’t a single road that crosses the 100 mile mountain chain, forcing you to drive around it. The Continental Divide trail runs through the Winds, as they are called for short, and is often labeled one of the most spectacular sections of the entire 3,000 mile hike. The Winds are home to Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s tallest at 13,804ft, and more than 40 other 13ers. It’s home to the largest network of glaciers in the American Rockies. Grizzly and Black Bear roam these mountains, as well as Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Moose, Wolverine, and Wolves. World class trout fishing can be had in the Winds as well, in the rivers or many alpine lakes. Despite it’s popularity, it’s one of the most remote backpacking destinations in the lower 48, with spots as much as 20 miles from the nearest trailhead. Ok, are you drooling yet?? Yeah, this place is every bit is awesome as it sounds. Don’t forget your camera!

 

Wind River Range High Route Maps

Download a GPX file of this hike here: Wind River Range Traverse GPX File

Here’s my caltopo map for the Wind River Range High Route as I hiked it:

 

 

Getting There

The night before I left home, my hiking partner Marc and I were running around doing last minute errands. It was raining, than it rained some more, and then all of the sudden it was a Florida-like outburst of torrential rain that did not let up for over an hour. Large pools of water started forming on the roads as we pulled into a gas station for our last stop. The rain had just started to let up, and now extent of the flooding was fully evident. Looking out onto the main road, water was mid door height on the cars brave enough to ford the water. Waves of water sloshed into the gas station parking lot, and into the neighboring shopping plaza, where water looked to be about 3 feet. This is crazy, Michigan doesn’t get this type of flooding. Locals are calling it a “once in 50 years” type of storm. Later we found out that some spots received over 6 inches of rain in only a few hours. It was reported that 1.24″ of rain fell in just 24 minutes at Detroit Metro airport!

Even though I only had a 1/4 mile to drive from the gas station, I just barely made it home myself due to the depth of the water. Side streets were filled with dead cars, casualties of the flooding. Absolutely crazy, I have never been through anything like this. My neighbors’ basements were flooding, as were friends in the area. So far, mine was holding tight.

The plan was to get up at 6am tomorrow and start driving, but at 11pm I noticed my basement was starting to take on water. Good thing Marc was here with me, it was great having an extra hand to get everything of value off the floor before it got wet. Also, we had to rip out some carpeting before it got water logged. The basement ended up with about 1-2 inches of water in the deepest spots. By 1am, I had done all I could do, and tried to get some sleep. Now, I was unsure if I would even be able to leave, considering the circumstances.

The water was receding at 6am when I woke up, and was fully drained by 8am. I turned on a dehumidifier, several fans and turned down the central AC. I figured this was pretty much all I could do even if I was stuck here dealing with it. I was uneasy about leaving the house but wasn’t about to miss this hike! I was out the door about an hour and a half behind schedule. Not bad considering the circumstances! I also had a friend come by a few days later to check on the house, just in case.

Water floods the intersection of Interstates 75 and 696 in Hazel Park, Mich

Yeah, I don’t think the freeways are an option right now…

 

It was tough getting out of metro Detroit once we finally got on the road. Almost every road in my area was flooded, damaged, had dead cars in the middle of the road or some other obstacle. Marc played navigator, checking traffic on google maps. Freeways were out of the question, since they were filled to the top with water last night and completely out of commission today. We snaked our way through side streets and tried to avoid major road closures, which were pretty much everywhere. We would have spent hours trying to get out of town if it wasn’t for google traffic.

Once out of Southeast Michigan, the next 1,000 miles were pretty boring. Corn, as far as the eye can see for hundreds of miles. Once into Wyoming, the landscape became much more interesting. This was the first time I had ever been to the “Cowboy State”, which is the least populated state in America and the 2nd least in terms of population density. In other words, there’s a lot of open land here. Incredibly vast amounts of it. But, a great drive with lots of variation in land formations.

We arrived in Lander, WY late in the afternoon, where we had a hotel booked for the night. There was a Safeway grocery store in town for last minute shopping needs. We ate dinner at the Dairy Land drive-in. This place serves deep fried cheeseburgers called a “cheese wheel”. I highly recommend it if you happen to find yourself in Lander!

dirt road to big sandy trialhead wind river range wyoming

The long road to Big Sandy

The next day, we drove to Big Sandy trailhead on the west side of the Wind River Range. This is the southernmost trailhead in the Wind River Range. Once we turned off HWY 28 onto Lander Cutoff Rd, it was about 36 miles to Big Sandy campground. The landscape was a desert scrub with some rolling hills, and some interesting land formations.  The transition between the desert and the mountains was much more drastic than I thought. As far as the road condition goes, the first third of the 36 miles was pretty rough, the middle third was pretty good, and the final third was rough. But hey, if a mid 90s Saturn can make it, so can whatever you’re driving.

From here, we parked the car and waited for out pre-scheduled shuttle service to pick us up and take us to Green River Lakes campground, the northernmost trailhead in the Winds. The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, WY offers this service. You might also try to contact taxi companies in Pinedale to shuttle you from one trailhead to another, if you aren’t hiking a loop.

As soon as our shuttle service dropped us off at Green River Lakes campground, it started raining a little. I was able to get my tent up pretty quick, but Marc struggled with his due to being unfamiliar with it. By the time we got everything set up, we decided not to get in our tents and instead to wait out the rain in our rain gear underneath the awning of a little building nearby. It was some sort of maintenance shed, and the doors were locked. We got a little wet, but the weather cleared up after an hour or so.

After the rain let up, we walked down to Green River Lake. Squaretop Mountain dominates the view to the south. We haven’t even started the hike yet and already the scenery was incredible.

View from the Green River Lakes campground

View from the Green River Lakes campground

 

 

Day 1 – Friday August 15th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 12.6
Route – Green River Lakes trailhead to Three Forks Park
Today’s Map

green river lakes campground wyoming dense morning fog

I woke up today at 6am. It was very foggy, with visibility only a few hundred feet. It rained last night and everything was wet. We were slow to leave camp this morning since this was Marc’s first overnight backpacking trip. He hasn’t yet familiarized himself with his equipment (much of it is borrowed from me), nor has he developed a system for setting up or breaking down camp. So, this is going to be a learning experience for him.

wyoming green river lakes morning fog

The outhouses at Green River Lakes campground where the nicest I have ever seen. Definitely not going to have that luxury for the next week, so we made one final stop here. We left the campground around 8:15 and made our way down to the lake to find the trail. Once we were on the path, it promptly crosses the Green River, where it winds through a meadow. The sun was burning off the fog, and already we where blown away by the beauty of this place. The plan for today is to hike upstream along the Green River and find camp in Three Forks Park.

squaretop mountain in the distance behind green river lake

green river lake hike rest stop

The sun wasn’t high enough in the sky to see the true color of the first lake, but the next lake up in the chain was properly illuminated. We stopped for a gear adjustment and quick snack here. Such amazing color, that green. Some hikes seem like they take a while to “get to the good stuff”. Not this one, right into it from the beginning.

green river mesmerizing color

squaretop mountain and green river

After passing the second lake, the Green River snakes its way through various meadows and woodlands. Again, the color of this river is mesmerizing. The trail follows close to the water most of the remainder of today’s hike.Also, the trail was very easy to follow all day.

rocky trail along the green river near beaver park three forks park

We passed a few people here and there today, but nothing crazy. Far less than I was expecting. Marc seemed to do well on the trail today. He kept up a good pace wasn’t having any trouble breathing.

Although Beaver Park had some camping opportunities, we chose Three Forks Park because it’s pretty much the southernmost camping area along the trail before it starts going up in elevation. We hiked 12+ miles today before stopping to set up camp at around 2:15. There weren’t an abundance of good campsites here though, at least not obviously visible from the trail or near it.

campsite at three forks park

Camp was nice, it had all the amenities… close to the river, fire pit, good cover from large, healthy pine trees, and a bear hang rope already set up in one of the nearby trees.

three forks park campsite view winds

View from our campsite in Three Forks Park

While Marc set up his tent and experimented with his hiking routine/gear set up, I took full advantage of this sunny afternoon by fishing in the Green River. I brought a small collapsible fishing rod (brakes down to 5 pieces, and maybe 15″ in length) and a tiny reel with 4lb test line. For tackle, I mostly used spinners. Didn’t catch anything here, and I was a little disappointed considering the hype this place has for trout fishing. However, the countless alpine lakes still lay ahead. Better luck next time.

our campsite is in the trees on the right along the river

Marc had spent most of the afternoon setting up his camp, and making adjustments to his gear. He had a blister forming on one heel, but he attributed that to an improperly cut insole he added to his shoes. He trimmed that up some more and various other adjustments.

Firewood was fairly abundant nearby, and we had a campfire going come early evening. Marc pulled a “Dan”, and burned some of his gear tonight in an effort to save weight. His glasses case and a spare pair of underwear met their demise in the campfire tonight. All I could do was laugh.

Tomorrow is shaping up to be one of the hardest days of the trip, based on the elevation gain and distance. Right now we are at 8,300ft elevation in Three Forks Park, and Knapsack Col (a col is like a pass) is over 12,200ft, plus all the other ups and downs of a 13+ mile hike. We decided to go to bed early at get an early start.

 

Day 2 – Saturday August 16th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 13.7
Route – Three Forks Park to Titcomb Basin
Today’s Map

I woke up at 5:15 this morning. Shortly after Marc got up, he informed me that his breathing was a real concern and he wanted to turn around and go back. I was shocked that he was saying this right now. He spent a quite a bit of money on his clothing and various other items for this trip, along with the time and money spent getting all the way out here. It must be bad if he is willing to turn around now. However, I’m not turning around. I’m not cutting my trip short. I’m going to continue on solo and finish this hike!

We talked for a while about how we were going to handle this situation logistically. His plan was to hike back to Green River Lakes campground. From there, his options consisted of camping at Green Lakes for a few days, hitching a ride to Pinedale for a few days, or hitching to Big Sandy and camping there. Or, a combination of all three. Either way, he must end up at Big Sandy campground in a week to meet me at the end of my hike. He threw out the possibility that he may try to join me in the Cirque of the Towers my last night if his breathing is up to par. In this case, we would meet at Lonesome Lake at 6pm next Thursday night. If he’s not there, meet at my car at Big Sandy campground as planned the next day at 2pm.

It was a strange feeling to part like this. However, I must continue on now, solo. I hit the trail around 7, and it quickly starts climbing.  After about 1,000ft elevation gain through some switchbacks, the trail crosses Trail Creek. This was one of two streams I actually had to put on my water shoes to cross during the trip. It was less than knee deep, but not able to cross by hoping rocks.

Morning Day 2

vista pass looking towards cube rock pass

Descending Vista Pass, looking towards Cube Rock Pass

Looking Back

Looking back the way I came up

Once past Trail Creek, I saw a few other campers set up here in Trail Creek Park. The trail then continues to climb another 1,000ft or so to Vista Pass. Above 10,000ft now, the land opens up a bit and finally starts to look the alpine hike I expected. The trail descends the pass briefly and then continues up through a long, rocky gully.

dale lake in the wind river range, wyoming

Dale Lake

peak lake in the wind river range, wyoming

Peak Lake

After climbing up another 600ft or so, I reached Dale Lake. Now the scenery was turning from great to stunning. As I continued on, I could see Peak Lake in the distance. I started to slow down quite a bit now as the scenery required more stops for photos.

peak lake traverse north side

Traversing Peak Lake’s north side

As I made my way across the north side of Peak Lake, a forest ranger passed by, carrying an axe in his hands. He asked me where I was headed and that was pretty much it, he was on his way. The first half of the traverse around Peak Lake was up high above the lake, in a field of large and steeply stacked boulders. Then the trail drops rather abruptly down to lake level, where the trail remains for the second half.

peak lake with yellow wildflowers blue skies

Looking back at Peak Lake

Nearing the source of the Green River

Nearing the source of the Green River

Past Peak Lake, the breathtaking views continue to amaze. From this point on, I can follow the Green River up to its source below Knapsack Col. Standing on the very spot where water trickles out of the ground and forms such an iconic river of the west was pretty cool. It’s hard to believe that this little stream becomes the main tributary for the Colorado River, which cuts through the Grand Canyon.

base of knapsack col, source of he green river

At the base of Knapsack Col, and the source of the Green River

Now at the base of Knapsack Col, I could see the challenge that lay ahead of me. It was only about 600 vertical feet to the top, but it looked damn near vertical. Scrambling up the steep boulders was brutal. I snapped one of my trekking poles, a Gossamer Gear LT4. I was pretty bummed about that.

on top of knapsack col pass wind river range green river

On top of Knapsack Col

At the top of Knapsack Col, ~12,260ft, there was a group of about 10 people who just came up the other side. At first I thought they might be part of NOLS, but they were part of a community college trip of some sort. One guy had cell phone service up here, but I did not.

twins glacier august 2014

Descending Knapsack Col onto Twins Glacier

a hiker climbers up theeast face of knapsack col

Looking back up Knapsack Col

Now it’s time to head down Knapsack Col and onto Twins Glacier. The top section was mostly rock and dirt, now snow or ice. However, it was very steep. After a few hundred feet I took my first steps in the snow. My Inov8 Roclite 315 trail runners have handled everything else well up to this point, but they were pretty slippery here. It was pretty steep, and I ended up just glissading down the top section. I my camera out, which got a little wet from the snow flying up everywhere. The bottom of my backpack also got pretty wet from dragging in the snow a little bit. No big deal, but next time, I’m going to put the rain cover over my pack and put my camera under my jacket when I glissade. Definitely fun though!

wind river range twins glacier

Twins Glacier

One scary thing about hiking on the glacier was that occasionally, I would take a step and one leg would fall through the snow and I would be up to my crotch. I just kept hoping that I didn’t fall into something larger. Once off Twins Glacier, the remainder of the hike into Titcomb Basin was rocky and soggy. Lots of water flows through the rocks up here, and under the snow in spots. I was getting pretty tired now and looking forward to finding camp. There was one campsite high up in the basin, well before the first lake. I wanted to make it farther today, so I pressed on.

Upper Titcomb Basin

upper titcomb basin hiking titcomb lakes

Upper Titcomb Basin, looking south

titcomb basin lake wind river range

Titcomb Basin, looking north over Titcomb Lake

The Titcomb Lakes were huge once I got up to them. The hike around the first lake was nice. I could see a few tents up in the distance, but I was not seeing any good campsites along the trail where I was yet. Any campsites I have seen thus far have all been behind large boulders for wind protection.

 

Finally, I settled on a spot in between the Titcomb Lakes, perched up on a little hill. I didn’t know how much farther I’d have to hike before I found another suitable camp, and I was exhausted. It was 4:45 by the time I stopped today. Although there was no huge boulders here, there was a rock wall. At least I had some protection from the wind.

campsite titcomb basin with rock wall

titcomb lake wind river range wyoming high route

My water source for the evening

I spent much of the evening reinforcing my rock wall and positioning my tent out of the wind as much as possible. I hate sleeping in high winds. I’ve had my tent blown over in the middle of the night a few times before, it’s not fun. When the wind wasn’t blowing, the mosquitoes were out!

titcomb basin sunset ovver titcomb lake

Watching the sunset from camp

The sunset was nice, and the winds started dying down some after dark. I was in bed pretty early tonight. Another long day lies ahead of my tomorrow.

 

Day 3 – Sunday August 17th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 13.4
Route – Titcomb Basin to Alpine Lakes
Today’s Map

I woke up at 6 today and was on the trail by 7. My intended campsite for today is at Camp Lake. Starting this morning, I won’t see anyone for 2.5 days from this point on.

indian pass trail indian basin titcomb basin island alkes area

lower indian basin island lakes titcomb basin

I wish I had more time to explore the Island Lake area, but I have a lot of ground to cover today. The trail was great in some spots, and tough to follow in others.

Going Up Indian Basin

Indian Basin

Indian Basin

Indian Pass Trail winding through Indian Basin

Indian Pass Trail winding through Indian Basin

wind river range beautiful indian basin mountains river

Indian Basin. Simply incredible.

The hike through Indian Basin was beautiful, especially the upper portions of the basin. The weather looked like it might possibly rain for a minute, then it cleared back up. Nice, more blue skies!

wind river range hiker in snow with shorts

Using my tripod as I near the top of Indian Pass

indian pass winds

View from Indian Pass

Another view from Indian Pass

Another view from Indian Pass

indian pass descent onto knifepoint glacier wind river range

Knifepoint Glacier from Indian Pass

glissade dwon knifepoint glacier indian pass wind river range

That’s my glissade mark on the right

Once on top of Indian Pass, I could see Knifepoint Glacier, which I had to descend next. The descent was very steep at the top. I tried to follow the talus down for a while to someplace less steep before stepping onto the snow. Now, I could glissade my way down again. This time, I prepared myself better, and everything went much more smoothly. I didn’t get wet and neither did my camera. Great success!

knifepoint glacier traverse

Hiking on Knifepoint Glacier

At one point, my leg went through the snow again, only this time there was a large rock in the space below the snow for me to bang my leg on. My forward momentum of my upper body kept moving forward as my leg remained stationary, and this seemed to stress the knee. While this didn’t hurt too bad initially, I think it may have played a role in the knee pain I would experience later on during the hike, and as I write this now, 6 weeks later.

terminus of knifepoint glacier

Knifepoiot Glacier terminus

alpine pass knifepoint glacier view

Knifepoiot Glacier

I continued to head down the glacier, until I realized that I was of course. I was supposed to follow the 11,640ft contour line to the base of Alpine Pass. Instead, I hiked too far down. When I realized my mistake, I had to re-plot my course. The most direct route now involved descending the glacier completely. This was a rather interesting experience. Water could be heard flowing beneath the snow in many spots. It was steep in spots and quite slippery in trail runners. However, I did get to do more glissading! I turned around on my stomach and used my trekking pole as a brake. This slowed me down some, but certainly didn’t stop me. Without the brake, I was picking up some speed.

Knifepoint Glacier viewed from alpine pass

Knifepoint Glacier viewed from alpine pass

alpine lakes wind river range traverse

Standing on Alpine Pass, looking southeast at the Alpine Lakes chain

snow slope by alpine alke

Waterslide of doom

The climb up to Alpine Pass was about 750ft. Seemingly everything here in the Winds is steep and rocky. At the top, I got my first glimpse of the Alpine Lakes area. Unlike the rest of the hike so far (since the top of Indian Pass actually), there is no trail on the map. I have 3 alpine lakes to hike around before reaching Camp Lake. I’m taking the western shoreline of all three lakes. Once I got down to lake level, there was a narrow snow slope to cross before continuing on. There were lots of these along the hike, where it slid straight into the icy water. I kicked in some steps along the slope as I walked along here, and much higher above the water, away from the overhang at the edge.

view of alpine lakes in the fitzpatrick wilderness

The next couple hours sucked. The shoreline wasn’t passable, and I had to head up another steep slope in search of a way around this lake. A passable route was never clear, so moving forward was a matter of going a little ways and peeking around the next ledge or boulder. Sometimes it was a dead end. This ate up a lot of time and energy. At one point, I had to climb down a class 3 ledge system with a 40ft drop to continue along.There were definitely some sketchy moments along the ledges up here.

winds alpine lakes firpatrick wilderness

backpacking the wind river rnage high route near alpine lakes

While moving across a large boulder field, I slipped and braced my fall with my left hand, smashing it on a boulder, palm first. The thumb and hand ended up getting pretty bruised and swollen later on. I believe it was a sprain. Most of the time it didn’t bother me too much afterwards, but there were a few painful mishaps with it later on in the week. Both knees were also starting to hurt as well.

It was late afternoon now, and I was past the first lake. Battered, hungry and tired, I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to make it to Camp Lake today. Instead, I would try to hike a little farther, to the southernmost Alpine Lake. That is, if there is even a decent campsite there. I haven’t yet seen anywhere I’d want to or even could camp at yet in the Alpine Lakes area.

my cmapsite near alpine lakes

Camp at Alpine Lakes

The second lake in the chain was much easier to get around. Nothing here was protected from the wind though. I could see a bit of a peninsula that jets out into the 3rd lake in the distance, so I head for that. Sure enough, I found a spot up there. It was situated behind a very large rock slab protruding from the ground and in a bit of a bowl, protected from the wind. This will have to do! It was already 6:15 , much later than I wanted to be hiking.

alpine lakes cmapsite view wind river range

View from camp

The mosquitoes were bad at camp tonight, just as they have the previous nights. After refilling water and eating dinner, I didn’t have the time or energy to do anything else. I went to bed as the sun went down. Another long, hard day. The last two days have been some of the most difficult hiking I have ever done.

 

Day 4- Monday August 18th, 2104

Miles Hiked – 12.8
Route – Alpine Lakes to Glacier Lake
Today’s Map

Woke at 6:30, left camp at 7:45. Today’s hike  was supposed to take me from Camp Lake to Europe Canyon, however, I was now a few miles behind schedule. We’ll have to see how far I make it today.

alpine lakes sunrise wind river range

traversing alpine lakes narrow ledges

Trying to work my way round the ledges on the right

lower alpine lake

The southernmost Alpine Lake

Immediately after leaving camp, I continued on my course from yesterday, traversing around the last of the 3 Alpine Lakes. The research I had done before this hike had shown a route past this lake on the north/east side of the lake. However, this route was supposedly pretty step and had a class 4 maneuver. The south side of the lake looks much more benign on the map, and this is the route I chose. The first half of the lake was fairly easy, but the second half was more of a challenge. Eventually, I was stopped by some steep cliffs that required a steep climb up loose boulders to the top of a ridge. From here, I could now go around the cliffs. There were a few more narrow ledges to negotiate, as well as some dead ends, before finally making past the last of the Apline Lakes. Good riddance! This was the toughest section of the hike for me.

fitzpatrick wilderness camp lake alpine lake area

Past the last Alpine Lake, about to descend to Camp Lake

By now I could see the route ahead was about to dip below the treeline. I started following a small ridge down, but quickly realized that I was going to have to make my way down off the ridge and walk along side it. To get down, I had to climb down a 30ft section of steep rock with dense shrubbery. The whole rockface was covered in these pine tree-like shrubs, barely supporting my weight as I gingerly tested out each step on the way down. Now, I could continue on downhill with a little more ease.

fitzpatrick wilderness wind river range near unnamed alke

Going down this

slippery rock face winds

near unnamed lake wind river range

After heading downhill a short ways, my route had me descending another steep rockface. This time, it was much more wide open and clear, other than various streams running down it, making for some slippery spots. The rock was smooth and resembled a big slide, one that I did not want to test out. It was very beautiful coming down this section though.

picture of unnamed lake in the wind river range wyoming

Unnamed Lake

picture of camp lake wind river range wyoming

Camp Lake

Once down off the rockface, I was rewarded with a trail to follow, at least for a little while. Unnamed Lake was now visible, and boy was it beautiful. It looked like a great spot to camp, and I wished I had made it here last night. Oh well, moving on. After passing Unnamed Lake, the trial goes up and over a small hill before the approach to Camp Lake. I fully expected the walk around this Lake to be easier than it was. At the top of the hill, I could see now that the only way down to the lake was a steep decent of huge boulders. Sometimes, the boulders are so large that climbing on them and moving from one to another becomes a real chore. That was the case here.

east shore of camp lake view

View from the east shore of Camp Lake

Now out of the boulder field, the trail picks up again and makes it’s way around the east side of the lake.  Despite the name, I didn’t see any good spots to camp along Camp Lake. I wasn’t looking too hard though either, since I wasn’t going to be camping here anymore. It sure was pretty though.

 

unknown lake backpacking the wind river range

The next lake above Camp Lake

wind river range high route backpacking

After passing Camp Lake, the trail starts to climb again. The next section wasn’t super steep, and there was actually a decent trail to follow. I made good time up to the top of the pass, which didn’t seem to have a name according to my GPS and maps.

golden lakes camp lake pass

Unnamed pass connecting the Camp Lake and Golden Lakes area

view of upper golden alke as seen from unnamed pass

Upper Golden Lake

After descending the pass, I found myself overlooking the Golden Lakes area. The trail was excellent in this area, and there were plenty of great campsites to be found. I fully expected to see some people here, but I didn’t. I made good time through this area with an easy trail to follow over relatively easy terrain. I stopped for lunch near lower Golden Lake, and got devoured by mosquitoes and biting flies.

view of golden lake wind river range

Golden Lake

hay pass backpacking wind river range

Hiking up to Hay Pass. Started seeing bear crap here

view of dennis lake wind river range hike

Dennis Lake

After lunch, I continued on the trail and headed up and over Hay Pass. At this point, I started seeing some bear crap, near Dennis Lake. It was pretty wide open up here though, so at least I shouldn’t stumble across a bear without seeing him from a distance. Hopefully. The bugs where horrendous up here as well. Even while walking, I couldn’t escape the biting flies. This is crazy, I thought… must I wear my mosquito net while hiking, too? I wasn’t willing to hike in long sleeves today though since the sun was shining and it would have been too hot. Therefore, I had no choice butt to be eaten alive much of the day.

bridger wilderness north fork boulder creek hiking

glacier lake valley basin bridger wilderness wind river range

The trail was easy to follow along North Fork Boulder Creek, until I had to leave it to stay on course towards Glacier Lake. The hiking was easy up here, but pretty soggy. Lots of wildflowers and huge, open valleys. Not as spectacular as other areas, but this is where I am going to set up camp for the day, alongside Glacier Lake. I could have kept going an tried to make it to my intended campsite in Europe Canyon, but I decided to call it a day at 4:15.

camping by glacier lake wyoming

Camp at Glacier Lake

There wasn’t much for campsites beside Glacier Lake. I found a decent spot behind a large boulder after some searching. Definitely not the best campsite, but it will do.

alpine lake fishing wind river range glacier lake cutthroat trout

Cutthroat Trout

After setting up camp, I headed down to the lake for water, and to do some fishing. First cast, 12″ Cutthroat Trout. Awesome, but there’s no wood up here to burn. I didn’t bring a stove, so I had no way to cook it. Catch and release, I guess. I ended up catching about 8 trout in 30 minutes, all in the 10-13″ range. Caught them all on a#2 Mepps spinner. That was fun, but I really wanted fresh trout for dinner! Maybe another day, when camp is below treeline.

My knees hurt a little today, but less than expecting. I had another fall while hiking trough a boulder field, and again, I used my left had to brace my fall. Surprisingly, I didn’t seem to do any further damage to my already swollen hand. Back at camp, the bugs were the worst I have ever experienced. My head net quickly became one of the most valuable items in my kit.

Day 5 – Tuesday August 19th, 2104

Miles Hiked – 14.2
Route – Glacier Lake to Bonneville Lake
Today’s Map

I was up at 5:45 this morning, and broke camp by 7. The sky was pretty grey today, and only got worse as the day went on. I have had excellent weather the last few days, so I suppose some bad weather is about due.

hiking along long lake's east shore

Long Lake

long lake southern end wind river range

South end of Long Lake

The main reason I stopped last night where I did was that I wasn’t sure how difficult is was going to be getting around Long Lake, which is situated between Glacier Lake and Europe Canyon. Given the difficulties I had going around Alpine Lakes, I didn’t want to get into anything too serious last night, and figured that was best left for this morning. In reality, it wasn’t too bad going around the lake.

long lake infiniti pool

panorama shot of long lake

reflection in long lake

long lake in the wind river range

Long Lake, looking northwest

Parts of Long Lake seemed to flow into the horizon, dropping off into nothingness. Somewhat like one of those “infinity pools”. This was a pretty cool effect. I only wish the sky was blue, these grey clouds are awful for pictures. To be honest, the lakes were starting to blend in to me now at this point. Don’t get me wrong, they were beautiful, but some of them were not named on my map/GPS, and there were just so many of them. This was a stark contrast to my previous hikes in the Rockies, both in Colorado, where there were relatively few lakes in comparison.

europe canton

Unnamed lake in Europe Canyon

Once I go to Europe Canyon, I was looking for campsite locations out of curiosity, since I would have stayed here last night. I didn’t stray from my course though, and didn’t see anything great nearby. However, the area looked ripe with potential if one were willing to spend some time searching.

wildflowers along unnamed lake in europe caon wind rier range

rocky shoreline of unnamed alke

europe canyon lakes

I had been off trail since yesterday afternoon, and will continue to be until later portion of today. Passing through Europe Canyon, my route now skirts around the east side of an unnamed lake up over a small hill. On the map, the contour lines made it look like it was going to be steep and difficult, but it was actually not bad, this time.

hiking near medina mountain

East of Medina Mountain

I’m seeing lots more bear crap now as I headed down the hill leaving Europe Canyon and down towards Halls Lake. One pile of crap looked particularly large, possibly Grizzly. I figure, better start making a little more noise, since I am by myself. I started yelling “Yo bear!” every so often.

location of black bear sighting wind river range halls lake

I saw the black bear on the rock face to the left

While working my way down to Halls Lake, I did run into a small black bear, maybe 100 pounds. I was coming down a hillside along a rockface, and the bear was foraging for food alongside it. It was about 150ft downhill. My first thought was that there could be a mother bear nearby. As I reached for my bear spray, I was also yelling and making noise. The bear immediately scampered up the steep slope like it was nothing. My heart pounding and hands on the bear spray, I scanned the area for signs of the mother. Nothing but silence. I moved on with a new sense of awareness, and you can bet my “Yo bear” calls got louder and more frequent.

wind river range halls creek

Halls Creek

view of halls lake

Halls Lake

Day 5

wind river range middle fork lake

Middle Fork Lake in the distance

Once I approached Halls Lake, I realized that I should have crossed Halls Creek a little sooner. After some scouting around I was able to find a crossing point at the mouth. I started thinking about taking an alternate route now, as I approached Middle Fork Boulder Creek. I had planned on hiking along Middle Fork Lake, Lee Lake, and going up over Bonneville Pass. Instead, I chose to cross Middle Fork Boulder Creek and stay to the west of Dragon Head Peak and Pronghorn Peak, hiking along Rainbow Lake and Sunrise Lake. I would still end up at lower Bonneville Lake, but would avoid a major pass and possibly shave off a mile or two. Yup, that’s the plan.

Crossing Middle Ford Boulder Creek was the second of my two river crossings that required my water shoes during this hike. The was a lot of water flowing through the area and several branches of the creek to cross. From there, I had to climb up another 600ft to reach Rainbow Lake.

While hiking alongside Rainbow Lake, I saw a guy and his dog camped higher up the hillside. This was the first person I had seen in 2.5 days. I would also see a few more people before the end of the day. There was a good trail to follow, but it quickly petered out after Rainbow Lake.

campsite along rainbow lake

Rainbow Lake

The Rainbow Lake and Sunrise Lake area had some excellent camping, and looked like a great spot to fish. In fact, I saw a few guys taking some trout back to their camp, and I was jealous. However, I still wanted to keep going, and make it to Bonneville Lake.

The Hike from Sunrise Lake to Bonneville Lake involved an awkward traverse of a hillside, where hugging the same contour line across was the best approach. Despite the lack of cairns throughout much of the Winds, there were some helpful ones throughout this section.

view from my campsite at bonneville lake wind river range

Bonneville Lake

The Bonneville Lakes area was incredible! Too bad the weather was looking worse and worse, with rain imminent. Someone took the primo spot, but I found a good site on the southwest side of the lake with some decent cover under pine trees.. This was closer to where I needed to head tomorrow morning anyways.

campsite at lower bonneville lake

I set up camp around 4, with very light sprinkles on and off for a while. I was able to get everything set up and get some food in me before the rain got heavier around 5. While raining, I took a nap for a while until it stopped around 7:30.

I was glad to be “caught up” and on schedule now. The next 3 days should be relatively easy, with mileage in the 7-9 range. Hopefully the weather is nice and I can enjoy the extra time I have at camp.

 

Day 6 – Wednesday August 20th, 2014

Miles Hiked – 7.1
Route – Bonneville Lake to Skull Lake
Today’s Map

I had set my alarm for 5:45, but ended up sleeping in til 7. It rained last night, and everything was wet. It was 41°F in my tent this morning. Since I only had to hike 7 miles today, I decided to take it easy this morning. The last 4 days were tough, I earned it!

lower bonneville lake sunrise from campsite

The sunrise over Bonneville Lake was awesome. I wish I had more time to spend here. The weather was looking good this morning, blue skies over the lake. I left camp at 8:20, and shortly thereafter the skies turned grey again..

Near Bonneville Lake\ bridger wilderness hiking up a apss

hiking up the pass below mount bonneville wyoming wilderness backpacking

Mount Bonneville on the left

The hardest part of my day today should be the pass I am about to hike up now. I couldn’t tell exactly where the route would take me until I got right up to the base of it. I’m not sure what the name of this pass is, or if it’s even named, but it’s between Mount Bonneville and Raid Peak. There is a creek running down the mountain here and flowing into the southeast corner of lower Bonneville Lake. Stay to the right of this creek, as it’s too steep to go right up. I crossed it at about the 11,200 mark.

pass betwee mount bonneville and raid peak

I could see Mount Bonneville now, which was engulfed in clouds. The rest of the way up to the pass was fairly easy, and I was at the top by 9:30.

top of pass between raid peak and mount bonneville\ top of pass between raid peak and mount bonneville

From the top of the pass, I had great views of this new valley. There wasn’t a name for this valley on my map or GPS, but it certainly looked large enough to be named. The East Fork River flows through here, so East Fork Valley sounds fitting to me. There was a steep descent of boulders at the top, then a long boulder field to navigate through. I was really impressed with the beauty of this area.

DSC01197

DSC01201

ambush peak mount giekie panorma

DSC01219

As I made my way down from the pass, the views got better and better. The valley really opens up and shows it’s size. To the east lies Mount Hooker, Tower Peak and Pyramid Peak. On the west, Mount Geikie and Ambush Peak. The view to the west was stunning, a solid wall of imposing peaks running for about 3 miles north to south. Simply incredible.

wildlfowers and mountain peaks

bridger wilderness mountains

betweek pyramid lake and skull lake

South of Pyramid Lake

I hiked out of the valley and down towards Pyramid Lake. I saw a few more people here in this area. There was a pretty well beaten path to follow at this point. My GPS is calling it the Haily Pass Trail. I remembered that I hadn’t seen any bear crap since going over the Pass this morning, which was good.

wyoming wilderness backpacking

backpacking in the bridger wilderness

North of Skull Lake

After leaving Pyramid Lake, the trail passes by Mays Lake. From here, it was only about another mile to Skull Lake where I intend to camp for the night. It was easy hiking through this section, and I made it to Skull Lake at 12:20. Only 4 hours of hiking for me today.

wind river range skull lake campsite

My campsite overlooking Skull Lake

I set up on a spot overlooking the lake. I could see the Cirque of the Towers now in the distance from camp. The weather started to improve in the early afternoon, with increasing sun, despite huge cumulus clouds forming all around. I knew it was going to rain eventually, but for now, it was fishin’ weather!

cludy skies near skull lake

Near camp by Skull Lake

I headed down to the lake to do some angling. I know there is plenty of wood around to burn, so that’s not going to be an issue today. Same deal today, basically every cast is either a catch or a bite. However, these weren’t cutthroat trout, I believe they where Brown or Brook trout. Either way, they were on the small side at only about 7-8″, so I threw them all back. Damn, I was really hoping for fish tonight. Today would have been perfect too, since I have so much time at my disposal.

wind river range pack llamas carrying supplies around skull lake

Pack llamas walking around Skull Lake

While down at the lake, a group of people passed by on the trail above with pack llamas. First time I had ever seen a llama on the trail. Many other people passed by my camp throughout the day, on foot and on horseback. Must be a popular area.

panorama shot of skull lake

Skull Lake

By 3:30, the rain was here. I sat in my tent until 5 when it stopped. The, I fished some more. It was fun catching them, even with no intentions of keeping them. It was just so easy!

panaorama shot of cloudy skies over skull lake

Clouds creeping in as the sun fades on night 6

My knees really stared to hurt today. I’m glad I don’t have many miles left. I’ve been relatively lucky with the weather so far, and I’m hoping that it holds out for another 2 days. The peaks were all engulfed in clouds by the time the sun went down. Hopefully this passes overnight.

 

 

Day 7- Thursday August 21st, 2014

Miles Hiked – 9.1
Route – Skull Lake to Cirque of the Towers
Today’s Map

I woke up at 6:45 this morning, but ended up sleeping in til 8. It didn’t rain much last night, but enough for everything to be soaked this morning. By 8:45 I had left camp, en route to the Cirque of the Towers.

cloudy day at skull lake

Looking north from the south end of Skull Lake

It looked pretty nasty out this morning, and I knew I was going to be wet today. After leaving Skull Lake, I saw several people along the trail. I’ve come to realize that the southern end of the Winds is more popular than the northern end. I expected as much with the Cirque of the Towers drawing so many people to the south.

pyramid lake amrms lake shadow lake intersection sign

After crossing Washakie Creek, I hooked up with the Shadow Lake Trail and headed east. It was raining now as I made my way through the open valley towards Shadow Lake. My trail runners offered no protection from the water and my feet were soaked at this point. Still, my feet were plenty warm, as long as I’m moving anyways.

backpacking the shadow lake trail wind river wyoming

Along the Shadow Lake trail

clouds over shadow alke wind river wyoming

Shadow Lake

Once I reached Shadow Lake, the weather was looking worse, and I decided to wait a while to see if the weather clears before heading up over Texas Pass. I sat under a tree for a while, with my knees at my chest and arms around my legs. I was still getting rained on, but kept hoping this was going to clear up.

shadow lake fire rain storm

Waiting out the rain

After 45 minutes, I got up and started looking for a better temporary shelter. I figured I’m going to be here a while and might as well try to get out of the elements a little more. I discovered an area surrounded by three garage-sized boulders offering some protection from the wind. On top of that, there was a bit of an overhang on one of the boulders, and it looked like a great spot to have a fire. It was pretty cold out and now I wasn’t moving around at all.

It’s amazing what you can find to burn, even when it’s raining out. With plenty of wood at my disposal, I made the best out of the afternoon here in my little hideout. I stayed here for a few hours until there was a little break in the weather. Not much, but maybe enough to go over the pass.

trail up etxas pass past billy's lake

Between Shadow Lake and Billy’s Lake

Billy's Lake wind river wyoming

Billy’s Lake

looking down on Billy's Lake

Looking down on Billy’s Lake

looking down on texas lake

Texas Lake

After leaving Shadow Lake, the the next lake up in the chain was Billy’s Lake, then Barren Lake and finally Texas Lake. I’m sure the views would have been spectacular if they were not hindered by the clouds. The trail up Texas Pass was pretty good, well beaten and generally easy to follow. I expected as much from such a popular area. The weather held out until the final push up Texas Pass, when it started to rain lightly. Better than hail and lightning. I’ll take it!

texas pass snowpack descent

Descending Texas Pass into the Cirque of the Towers area

descending texas pass into cirque of the towers

Looking back up at Texas Pass

Coming down Texas Pass, there was some snow pack for the first few hundred yards of descent. I headed downhill through some talus fields and then the landscape gave way to grass. I figured there would be an obvious trial to follow down to Lonesome Lake from here, but that was not the case. There would be short sections of trail that would vanish without a trace. I expected the hike down to be relatively easy, but it was actually quite a pain.

view of cirque of the towers and pingora peak obscured by clouds

First views of Pingora and the Cirque of the Towers

panorama of the cirque of the towers

upper cirque of the towers area

clouds over cirque of the towers

As I started to drop down into the valley, the Cirque of the Towers and surrounds peaks loomed above, with the tops of the peaks obscured by the thick clouds. I tried to imagine how beautiful it would be on a clear, sunny day.

photo of pingora peak on a cloudy day

Pingora Peak

view of lonesome lake in the cirque of the towers area

Lonesome Lake

Pingora Peak was really impressive. It dominates your view of the landscape most of the way down to Lonesome Lake.

lonesome lake shore

lonesome lake wyoming west side boulders talus

Hiking around the rugged west/southwest side of Lonesome Lake

My knees were hurting quite a bit now on the steep descent. It wasn’t until a few hundred vertical feet above the lake until I was able to follow an actual trail. Once down to the lake level, I had to make my way to the other side.  This involved traversing the west/southwest side of the lake, which was also quite a pain. There were huge boulders all along the shoreline which made for some unwanted scrambling.

cique of the towers view form my campsite at lonesome lake

View from my campsite

It was now about 6pm as I made it around the lake. I couldn’t see anyone near the lake, and figured Marc wasn’t going to come up here anyways. I headed straight for the higher ground above the lake to find camp. I passed a handful of people up here camping, not as many as I expected. I found a spot and dropped my pack around 6:15.

campsite above lonesome lake

My shoes and pant legs were soaked from hiking through tall, dense wet vegetation the whole way down from Texas Pass. After setting up my tent, the next order of business is to start a fire and try to dry out my clothes and shoes. There was a large overhang on boulder at my campsite that was excellent for fires. It was large enough to store extra firewood underneath as well. The fire was great, much needed. My feet were pruned from being wet so long.

I wanted to explore the area more, but I just didn’t have the time. I got to camp so late today that I didn’t have time to do anything but gather wood and dry out my clothes. I was running pretty low on food now. I wasn’t overly hungry throughout the trip, but was a little tonight as I rationed my remaining supply to last me through tomorrow. I had brought about 14 pounds of food, however, my food it not nearly as dense as some of the more hardcore backpacker’s  diets. I’m picky, and would rather carry more weight in food as long as it’s food I like. I don’t want to be choking down some nasty kibble just for the sake of saving weight.

I enjoyed a nice fire on my final evening in the Wind River Range, reflecting on the wonders and hardships of the trip. It’s a good thing the rewards are so great hiking here, because it’s equally as challenging. I’m ready for a hot shower and big, hot meal tomorrow!

Day 8 – Friday August 22nd, 2014

Miles Hiked – 9.3
Route – Cirque of the Towers to Big Sandy trailhead
Today’s Map

There were storms with heavy rain and wind all throughout the night. It was definitely colder this morning than it had been all week. The peaks above had a dusting of snow this morning as well, albeit very little. I slept in until 9:45, trying to wait out the  weather for the climb over Jackass Pass. Dark clouds loomed above, with occasional thunder. However, I have a schedule to keep… Marc is waiting for me at the parking lot today and expecting me at 2pm.

leaving lonesome lake campsite

The weather is “clearing”… time to move

I was packed up and ready to head back to Big Sandy trailhead by 10:30. I figured that the hike back is all downhill after Jackass Pass, and there should be a good trail to follow. Should is the key word here.

jackass pass area cirque of the towers

Hiking up Jackass Pass

The weather still wasn’t clear as I headed up the pass, but I couldn’t wait any longer due to my time constraints. The weather was fine until I reached the top, where there was high winds with rain/hail whipping me in the face. I had to put on my sunglasses! I wanted to take some pictures, but I didn’t want my camera to get wet.

hiking near arrowhead alke wind river range wyoming

This is about where I saw the fighter jets overhead

After I made my way down off Jackass Pass and to the vicinity of Arrowhead Lake, I heard an incredible noise overhead. I looked up to see an F-16 style fighter jet screaming across the sky. The trajectory suggested that it had just taken off from somewhere west of here. Seconds later, another jet followed, punching through the rising clouds above one of the peaks. I’ll never forget the sound they made as they echoed through the wilderness. That’s the sound of freedom right there! ‘Merica.

Once I reached North Lake, my route had me going around the east side of the lake. However, the west side looked like it would be easier, and that’s what I chose to do. Big mistake. It looked manageable at first, but quickly became the most treacherous boulder field of the entire trip. These boulders were enormous, some the size of garages or small homes. These were stacked and strewn about, with huge gaps between them This made hoping from one to the other impossible in spots. Not only that, but these boulders were so huge that they had an entire sub-chamber of smaller boulders beneath them. Sometimes there would be as much as a 20ft drop from the boulder I was standing on to the next one below. To make matters worse, it was wet and slippery. Lots of dead ends, backtracking and frustration. The worst part was how slow moving it was. Like I said, I’ve got a schedule to keep!

hiking along north creek wind river range

Following North Creek down hill. AVOID!!

Finally past North Lake, I thought my troubles were over. Again, I was wrong. Any trail I found just disappeared after a short ways. So, I started following North Creek down, thinking this was the easiest route. This was tough too as the slopes of the creek banks were steep and hard to walk along without losing my footing. All the vegetation was thick, thorny and soaking wet as well. Later, I realized the trail probably stayed higher up out of the ravine on the west side where the slope is more mild, along the 10,080ft contour line.

looking down on big sandy lake

Big Sandy Lake

When I finally did reach Big Sandy Lake, I started seeing legitimate trails, and plenty of people. My maps showed an easy hike back to the trailhead now, but you never know.

hiking the big sandy trail

Hiking the home stretch. Almost there!

The rest of the hike back to the Big Sandy campground was extremely fast and easy. I was on a mission now as I was just a little behind schedule. I passed a forest ranger headed towards Big Sandy lake who told me that I was getting out just in time, as the weather was going to be in the 20s tomorrow and they were expecting a few inches of snow. Yeah, definitely good timing!

I arrived at the trailhead at 3, 1 hour late. Marc was sitting in my car waiting for me. Walking back into the trailhead was a great feeling after such a brutal hike. I changed into some clean clothes and put on my sandals. Finally, I can air out my feet! And even though I had to drive now, sitting in such a comfortable seat seemed like a luxury now. Ah, back to civilization.

Marc and I exchanged stories of what happened in the past week now as we drove through the 35+ mile network of dirt roads back to the main highway. He ended up spraining his ankle on the way back to Green River Lakes campground the day we split up. He hobbled back to the trailhead, and hitched a ride back to Pinedale. He got a hotel and rested for a few days. When he felt a little better, he walked around town and hung out at a bar, playing pool with the locals. Then, he took a cab out here to the trailhead to meet me this afternoon.

Driving to the Wind River Range

Leaving The Winds

Wind River Rand Big Sandy Trailhead Drive

The drive back to HWY 28 through the 35 mile dirt road maze was pretty cool too. The landscape is completely different here compared to the alpine environment only a few miles away in the Winds. Vast, arid, and strangely beautiful. A huge storm was brewing to the west, and the sky was looking dark as hell. Good thing we’re going east.

From here we headed to Casper, WY where we got a hotel with an indoor pool and hot tub. It’s always nice to relax in a hot tub after a long hike! We ate at Poor Boys Steakhouse, which wasn’t as good as the reviews online made it out to be, but still satisfying after 8 days on the trail.

 

Final Thoughts

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is how much more challenging this hike was than I expected. I figured, the Rockies are the Rockies. I’ve hiked in Colorado, this will be just like that. No way. This is a step above that for sure. The hikes I went on in Colorado did not require any climbing at all. The High Route through the Wind River Range is largely off-trail, is requires much scrambling. Going over some of the passes here was similar to a class 2/3 summit of a Colorado 14er, climbing wise. Lots of boulder fields to traverse, lots of climbing. Even when you aren’t going over passes, there was a lot of climbing involved on this route. I’m not talking about sheer cliff faces with a 1,00ft death drop or anything, but plenty of spots where slipping could prove fatal.

The northern end of the Winds seemed to be the most remote and offered the most solitude. While previously used campsites were more common in the southern sections, they were tough to find in the northern end, mainly the Alpine Lakes area.

Mosquitoes and biting flies were unbearable in some spots, so make sure you don’t forget your head net. Food storage-wise, I used the bear hang that was at our campsite in Three Forks Park, but other than that, I relied on my OPsaks for food storage and smell resistance, and stored that away from camp at night in a larger roll-top bag. I didn’t have one problem with my food storage system, which is always a concern in bear country. Especially when you have seen a bear already!

Boulders… get used to hiking on them. Many, many miles of boulders, of all shapes and sizes. Some are steep, so steep you fear disturbing one will bury you in a landslide. Others are so large, they’re difficult to move from one to the other. A large portion of this trail is spent traversing boulder fields, so be prepared for that.

Hiking over the glaciers was awesome. Having crampons would have been nice but they certainly aren’t necessary. I was able to move through here with trail runners. It was slippery in spots, but not too bad. I wouldn’t want to do it without a trekking pole though. I guess I’m lucky I only broke one pole going up Knapsack Col.

I didn’t bring enough food this time, even though I had about 13+ pounds. I should have known better. I wasn’t hungry throughout the trip, except maybe the last night. I didn’t weight myself immediately after the hike, but 3 days later after pigging out on fast food the whole way home I had still lost about 15 pounds. I didn’t need to lose any weight really, and ended up losing several pounds of muscle. The physical effort needed for this hike was much more than I anticipated. Realistically, I’m not sure I’d even be able to stomach as many calories as my body would burn out here. I’m going to have to work on getting more calories in my food next time.

I felt bad for Marc and how his week turned out. I assumed he would camp at the trailhead or near it for a few days since he has all his food and equipment. But since he hurt his ankle, he just wanted to get in town and rest up properly, in a hotel. So, this trip was pretty costly for Marc, especially since he needed to buy almost all his clothing and a pair of shoes. I was disappointed that we couldn’t continue together, but was glad that I was prepared to continue on alone. Had Marc continued, he very well may have sprained his ankle on the trail somewhere more remote. I’m glad I didn’t get hurt myself. This route was no joke.

My right knee is still bothering me, more than 2 months later. I’ve been able to do squats and deadlfts, but can’t run on it, and I certainly wouldn’t trust it out on another 100 mile trek just yet. I guess it’s a decent time for a nagging injury, if there is such a time, since I don’t have any hikes planned for the future right now. With that said, I can’t wait til the next one. Get better, knee. Get better.

 

 

As always, questions and comments are welcome!

If you found my trip report useful, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Alternatively, if you feel you have any information you’d like to share with others regarding this hike, please feel free to leave that below in a comment as well.

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Elk Park/Needleton Loop – Weminuche Wilderness, CO Aug 2013 (Backpacking Trip Report)

cdt trail runs along the top of the mountains in the weminuche wilderness, colorado - san juan mountain range

Weminuche Wilderness, CO – Elk Park/Needleton Loop Hike

Complete Weminuche Wilderness Photo Gallery | Weminuche HD Video

  • Trail Name – Elk Park/Needleton Loop
  • Location – Weminuche Wilderness in the San Juan National Forest, CO
  • Park Type – National Forest, Wilderness Area
  • Fees & Permits – None
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 6 days, 5 nights
  • Trail Type – Semi loop – Train drops you off and picks you up
  • Miles Hiked – 48
  • Trail Difficulty – 8
  • Fires Allowed – Yes (No fires in Chicago Basin or Needleton drainage)