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Ghost Ranch to Chama – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Ghost Ranch to Chama Hike Overview

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

Sunday May 27th – CDT Day 37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday May 28th – CDT Day 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full moon and coyotes howling. Off to bed.

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

Tuesday May 29th – CDT Day 39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday May 30th – CDT Day 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday May 31st – CDT Day 41

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday June 3rd – CDT Day 44

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

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

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

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

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

Like what you see?

Cuba to Ghost Ranch – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Cuba to Ghost Ranch Hike Overview

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

Thursday May 24th – CDT Day 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday May 25th – CDT Day 35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday May 26th – CDT Day 36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like what you see?

Grants to Cuba – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Grants to Cuba Hike Overview

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

Friday May 18th – CDT Day 28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Looong day, I’m out.

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

Saturday May 19th – CDT Day 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday May 20th – CDT Day 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Monday May 21st – CDT Day 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday May 22nd – CDT Day 32

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like what you see?

Pie Town to Grants – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Pie Town to Grants Hike 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 is 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 mesa 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. It was easy to visualize these rocks in their liquid state as lava, as it hardens preserving this image. Very cool!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday May 15th – CDT Day 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continental Divide Trail – Doc Campbell’s Post to Pie Town Hike 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 inaccessibility of it keeps the crowds away, so it’s worth it. The middle Fork was one of my favorite hikes, and probably my favorite non-mountain hike of all time! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday May 7th – CDT Day 17

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday May 8th – CDT Day 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday May 9th – CDT Day 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday May 10th – CDT Day 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles – 0
Total Miles –  356.8 
Rain – no
Sleep – hostel
Animals – none
Like what you see?

Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post Hike 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 was 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, those were tiny streams in comparison. 

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 noticeably 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 145 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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Crazy Cook to Lordsburg – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Crazy Cook to Lordsburg Hike 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 strand 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 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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