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Crazy Cook to Lordsburg – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Crazy Cook to Lordsburg Overview

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

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

Saturday April 21st – CDT Day 1

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

CDT Southernmost point – Crazy Cook Monument

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

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

Taking my first steps on the CDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday April 22nd – CDT Day 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday April 23rd – CDT Day 3

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

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

Cow poo water

Cholla cactus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday April 27th – CDT Day 4

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

Miles and miles of open desert like this to walk through

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday April 25th – CDT Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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Travel to the CDT Southern Terminus

Thursday April 19th, CDT Day -2

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

Border wall between the United States and Juarez, Mexico

 

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

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

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

Friday April 20th, CDT Day -1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CDT Thru Hike 2018 – Pre-Hike Ramblings

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

Why hike the CDT?

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

Route Planning

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

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

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

Here’s an overview of my planned CDT route:

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

Navigation

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

Resupply

Maps and cdt resupply planning

 

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

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

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

Documentation

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

Pre-hike Concerns

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

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

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

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