CDT NM 3rd Section

Day 15: Sapillo Campground

It’s so hard to get going in the morning. It’s not that lying on my air mat is the most comfortable thing in the world, it’s just that the cool morning air turns me off from getting out of the bag. And then I fall back asleep for 45 minutes. Anyway, it was 6:30 before I finally left camp.

A mile down was the water cache and the highway. I drained my breakfast smoothie and topped off every bottle and crossed the highway. The next water source was nearly 24 miles away, so I would need to stretch my water enough to stay hydrated all day plus make a dinner and a breakfast from it.

Around 8 or 8:30, I encountered Debbie, Hawkeye’s wife, previously of the trail out of Burro Mountain Homestead, coming down the hill having parted with Hawkeye moments before. She said she would be meeting him with the van at the campground 20.5 miles ahead and asked if I needed anything.

There was plenty of wants I could have thought of, but there was one definite need.

“Could I trouble you to bring some extra water?”

Dry spell situation solved.

“Crap, I should have asked if she’d slackpack me.”

The trail from there was a brutal climb. Even though it was still cool and shady, I was stopping frequently to catch my breath and cool off. I stopped for a full-on snack break at 9.

Maybe 30 minutes later, I caught up with Hawkeye taking a break of his own. He is a fast uphill hiker and wasn’t carrying as much weight. And he had a lot of stories to tell about all his hiking adventures over the last 30 years since he retired, and… well, basically his entire life story, honestly. By pushing myself to keep up with him so I could hear what he was saying, I finished that five mile mountain climb at least 30 minutes sooner than I would have alone.

We reached the peak around 11:30 and my stomach was very insistent that it was lunchtime.

Me: “No, stomach, lunch happens at noon.”

Stomach: pain

Legs: slow

Me: finds a shady lunch spot

Hawkeye and I had lunch together and continued hiking and chatting and even sometimes taking pictures together until our afternoon break at 2. Somewhere in here he offered me dinner and a beer. Then we needed some alone time and switched to leapfrogging, meeting only when we stopped for breaks or picture/video taking. (He is recording his hike to fundraiser for his foundation for grants for equipment for disabled athletes. See more at

We both took breaks every two hours and four miles. My left foot was kind of killing me by the last section, a four mile descent into the campground. But the views were amazing and there was a dramatic shift of scenery when I entered the canyon at the final mile. It was so different and stark that dramatic was the only word that came to mind. But it didn’t completely distract my the pain in my foot.

When I finally spotted Debbie and Hawkeye’s yellow van across the campground, I turned off the trail and cruised straight up to it.

“Have a seat. Have a beer. Have some jalapeño chips,” she said. I did. I swallowed a naproxen with my beer, changed into my camp shoes, and a half hour later, the foot pain was gone. Coincidentally, that is also when Hawkeye finally arrived and informed Debbie she would be making dinner for three. I was not expecting rice and chicken and veggie stir fry for dinner when I woke up that morning.

In gratitude, I fixed them some Christmas in a cup, to which they added some Jameson, and that worked surprisingly well with it. I had pitched my tent nearby, and after a brief dumpster finding odyssey, I led the charge to bed and sleep.

The morning promised actual toilets and hiking out with plenty of water. But Hawkeye was headed up to Gila Hot Springs on a side trail instead of staying on the CDT, so I would truly be alone on this ever more remote section. But at least there would be a nice cool flowing creek for the first time on this trip in just 3.3 miles.

Trail miles: 21.5

Distance to Hwy 59 and Winston: 61.9 miles

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