I had set an alarm for 5am, but I managed to turn it off and then sleep nearly until 6. Fair enough. I hadn’t gotten to sleep early.
The sun was well and truly risen by the time I got started hiking… and was soon hidden by an unexpected haze. I was an unaccustomed dim morning. Clearly it didn’t seem like morning to Banshee. He was still snoring when I walked out.
My water bag was nigh empty. I had used most of the last of my water on my breakfast smoothie. It couldn’t be helped. I had carried all the water I could and had not wasted it. But it looked like there was a spring just 4 miles ahead in the Saddle Rock Riparian Area.
It was cool, easy downhill hiking with plenty of views. Views of clouds. It was overcast as heck and the sun was barely shining through.
The tank in the river wash was indeed filled with sedimenty water, so I stopped for a snack and filtered some to carry away.
But then there was an even bigger water tank just 2.5 miles further down the wash. And then I was being passed by trucks going up the dirt road into the wash. One stopped to say hi and told me Highway 180 was not heavily trafficked. And then I was in a herd of cows. And then I was at the highway and there were tons of cars and big trucks. And moments later I was in one of those cars headed into Silver City.
To be clear, I was still on the trail. The last 13 miles of the CDT into Silver City is a walk along that busy paved highway. And if there is anything I did not come out here for, it’s walking well into the evening with cars and big rigs zooming past. Better to see the trail from inside one of those cars.
Riley dropped me at the Triple Crown Hostel. A voice on the doorbell speaker told me to go sit in the courtyard until he came. Rory was already in the courtyard exercising, trying to heal his wound knees. Blitz shooter up just in time for the owner to arrive and check us in and give us a tour together. He had walked on that highway for 13 miles because he is a crazy purist.
After showers and leaving some laundry to be done, we headed out to the Toad Creek Brewery for lunch. We ate a ton, including green chile cheese fries, Baja fish tacos, New Mexico Reuben, all of which we shared. I finished it all off with a root beer float of course.
Since we had borrowed bikes from the hostel to get around, we decided to explore the downtown area, visiting the two outfitters. While Blitz took time agonizing over which new shoes to buy, I visited the co-op grocery store, which was so small there was a line outside to get in so it didn’t exceed its 8 person capacity. I got a box of Virgil’s Root Beer and some Siggi’s Skyr for breakfast. Then I went back for my bike and told Blitz I was heading back alone.
But no sooner had I gotten back than I realized I hadn’t gotten any moleskin at the gear store. Rabbitfoot, still exercising on the patio, suggested leucotape instead, and it turned out that that’s what I could get at the gear store when I got back to it (after finding the wrong kind of moleskin at the other gear store). I found Blitz there finally leaving with a brand new pair of shoes. He went off to the post office and I returned to the hostel.
I got back with just enough time to go through my food to see what I needed to buy before Brendon left to go pick up Annika at the airport. He would drop me off at Walmart on the way out and pick me up on the way back. Banshee arrived and checked in just before we left. He had done “half” the road walk before getting a ride.
Once at Walmart, I bought what was on my list quickly (plus some A&W root beer to share at the hostel since the Virgil’s wasn’t very good) and spent most of the half hour I had there waiting in line at the register. I spent another fifteen minutes or so sitting in front of the building waiting for my ride back. It rained on me. All those clouds had been for something after all.
Once back at the hostel, Annika was being checked in and Rabbitfoot was finished with his doctor prescribed exercises, so I proceeded to cut up and distribute the amazingly sweet watermelon I had acquired. Soon, though, I realized I had neglected to acquire better headphones or a razor at Walmart. So I hopped on a bike and went back out. I made two stops. At a local grocery, I got cheap razors and a new toothbrush and toothpaste set. At the Family Dollar, I got some cheap headphones (2 for me 1 for Blitz), a Gatorade to hike out with, and a Hot Pocket for supper.
Back at the hostel, I mostly skipped out on the socializing and yoga sesh happening on the porch in favor of packing up my resupply, phoning home, and working on this blog until I gave up waiting for pictures to upload and fell asleep. Plans were in place for the next two weeks. Hiking would recommence in the morning.
It was nice and cool in the morning and I snuggled under my sleeping bag until after 6am. I wasn’t really comfortable because of the whole feet-above-head thing, but I didn’t seem to want to get up either.
When I did, I halfway packed up, put on my slippers, and went to the activity room. There was a pair of trekking poles leaning outside and a hiker I hadn’t met inside.
“Hi, I’m Blitz.”
“I thought you might be. I’m Blast.”
“Oh? Banshee must have mentioned me. I got in at midnight last night.”
“And how is it I passed you on the trail and never saw you?”
“I took a long nap through the middle of the day and didn’t start hiking again until late.”
“You came in at midnight and you’re already packing up to leave at 7am, walking up that hill instead of getting a ride?”
“I hate walking in the heat. I’ll get a few miles in during the cool hours and catch up on my sleep when it gets hot out.”
“But the first of those few miles is straight uphill…”
“I know. I just can’t wait. I want to be in Silver City in two days.”
“I’m in no rush. I’m fine with getting in on the third day.”
“I started so late, and it’s always like this. It was so hard to get here in the first place. I had to go to Mexico… I just feel a constant pressure to go faster and make up time in case I never make it out here again.”
“Well, I’m gonna make some coffee.”
“I had some coffee too… but not that real stuff, just instant. Anyway, I’m headed out. See you in Silver City.”
I did make coffee. Hot fresh coffee full of sugar and creamer. Like 24 ounces of it. And I was just sitting down to drink it when Banshee came in.
“You just missed Blitz.”
“Oh, I saw him last night. Did he already hike out? I guess that’s why he’s called Blitz.”
I found a water bottle under the sink for Banshee to drink coffee from, so he started setting up the coffee maker for other pot while I sat quietly drinking all my coffee from my Nalgene I had brought for the purpose. He pressed the button on the maker, wandered aimlessly around the room, headed for the bathroom…
I turned around and saw the light on on the maker and nothing happening.
“Hey, did you fill that thing up with water?”
“Oh, crap!” He dove for the button and started filling the pot in the sink. Classic Banshee.
“Well, it seems my coffee has done its job. I’m off to the bathroom….”
“Oh, that guy from last night said he’d make us breakfast at 9.”
“Then I’ll try to make sure I’m packed up by then.”
It was actually 10 after 9 when I went over to “that guy’s” trailer. His name was Chris, by the way. Chris Hamilton. He was already up and cleaning the window.
“Did you see Banshee already?”
“Yeah, he came over here seeing if we were doing breakfast. We weren’t.”
“Ah, well, I just came to see if you were still offering that ride up to the trailhead.”
“Sure, as soon as you’re both ready. Banshee said something about getting water.”
“I’ll go see about the gate code then. Mind if I leave my pack here?”
I went to the camp store first. (On the way I met a man with an owl feather in his cap. I hope he doesn’t get caught because the fine for keeping a feather like that is outrageous.) I bought a couple of cans of root beer and a breakfast sandwich for cash. And the lady wrote the code for the back gate lock on a post-it for me.
I took the frozen breakfast sandwich to the activity room to cook it in the microwave, and there I found Banshee just sitting at the table writing in his journal. I started the sausage and egg cooking and told him about the store. I assembled the biscuit and cooked the whole thing and told him Chris and I were ready to ride. I drank one of the root beers and told him to meet us at Chris’s trailer as soon as possible. And then I went there myself.
When I got back to the trailer, Chris’s son wanted to come out and say hi to “my friend.” He asked me questions from inside the trailer door, real stumpers like “Where are you going?” I didn’t see how to meaningfully convey to a three-year-old child “to the trailhead so I can walk to northern New Mexico and then down through Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming after a brief detour through Northern California” so in lieu of all that I pointed meaningfully at the picnic table then walked to it and sat down.
“Yeah I’ll be back in a few minutes!” Chris shouted through the door. Then to his son, “Go inside and keep that door closed.”
“Can’t let that air conditioning out,” said I.
“You’re probably going to wish you had some of that soon. Making me feel kind of lazy knowing what you’re going out there to do.”
“I just saw Banshee in the activity room. He’s probably buying breakfast now.”
“Is he coming here or should we go pick him up?”
“Well, I told him to come here, but if you’re all ready, we let’s just go.”
I loaded my pack in the back of his ATV, we took a selfie, and then we drove over to the activity room. Banshee had just started microwaving.
“I’d say give him another minute or two,” I told Chris, knowing that’s how long it took to microwave the breakfast sandwich. Then I went to go take pictures. Chris got involved in conversations with other guests in the meantime.
When the sandwich was cooked, I showed Banshee where to stick his pack. Then he sat down to eat the sandwich while I went to meet the dog the man Chris was talking to had been walking. Then I got involved in the conversation. It ended up being about all the hikers that came through and topics of interest to me. But I was still glad when it ended. The minute or two had turned into ten, and it was getting hot out already.
Finally, we were driving up the hill. I opened the gate, gave Chris the post-it to get back through later, and we were out into the domain of the cows and climbing that steep hill without any effort on the part of our legs! Totally worth it.
Chris and I got so engrossed in conversation (about things such as what he liked to hunt, how bad javelinas smell, how best to barbecue them, how far it was to the nearest highway, how nice it must be to live in that community…) that we drove right past the trail and none of us spotted the signs. We passed another road that I didn’t remember seeing. I looked at the off road GPS but failed to orient correctly and didn’t realize we had passed it. We had gone another quarter of a mile before we figured it out and turned around.
It was past 10am by the time we were unloaded, and Chris was headed back home. Banshee and I applied sunscreen and started walking.
It had only been a mile when we encountered a Debra at the next road junction. Banshee knew her from Lordsburg. She said I had talked to her husband the night before, and I think I might have but I hadn’t gotten his name. It was Hawkeye, it turned out, due to a once passing resemblance to Donald Sutherland, and he was hiking that day the section I had done the day before. She was trying to leave him a note on the sign, but I explained he would probably be taking the previous road down to the campground and wouldn’t even see it.
Banshee and I left that spot together and then leapfrogged all day. We were like the tortoise and the hare: he hiked slower but I took longer breaks and he always caught up again. (Blitz, meanwhile, is more of a gazelle I suppose. Very fast hiking, very long breaks. We didn’t see him all day. There is a fourth category of hiker too, but you only hear about them from the people they passed ahead of you–the ultralighters who set out to proof that humans evolved to be long distance endurance runners.)
It wasn’t long before lunch and there was no shortage of trees under which to have my picnic. I picked one well off trail, so sometime after lunch I came up on Banshee confused as to how I got behind him. He was stopped at a small water cache containing the last water we would see all day. My bag was still full so I took a liter in my Nalgene.
He caught me again at my afternoon snack break and passed me as I was finishing my dinner break. Somehow I managed to drop my pack on a cholla I couldn’t even see, and it was pricking my back through my shirt. When I caught Banshee at his next break, I took off my shirt and asked him to check my back for spines, but they are small and he didn’t know how to look. I managed to get a couple out of my pack but I could feel one more pricking me the whole rest of the evening.
I knocked off at 8pm and found a flat open space perfect for a tent. Banshee came by while I was setting up and found a place nearby but out of view.
For some reason, I couldn’t get to sleep at the normal hour. I think I laid awake until 11pm or later after knocking off from the day’s blogging and watching a video. I could hear from the snoring in the distance that Banshee had no such problems. My guess is that I had just stayed up way too late and gotten started hiking so late that my clock got shifted somehow. I would strive to reset it soon.
Trail miles: An easy, comfortable, slacking off 15.3
I slept in a bit. I woke up at 5, let some air out of my mattress, then fell asleep for 45 more minutes. I guess my body knew I had a big day ahead.
Although I had been climbing for some 14 miles already, when I set out at sunrise, I still had another 4 miles of climbing to do. Fortunately, the mountains were perfectly placed to shade me from the sun for the first hour. Also, during this climb, I saw the biggest, noisiest, and fastest javelina yet. Getting a picture after a surprise like that would have been impossible.
I stopped just before the highest point for my morning break. Then it was a boring descent down to the first water cache of the day. It was like the desert, but with a few more trees and on the sides of hills.
At at first cache at the C Bar trailhead, I sat behind a rock and snacked, then filled up my water bag, then doused my Buff and shirt before heading out. As much as I enjoy sitting, I can put the hammer down when I have a goal.
At noon, I managed to find a nice broad tree to crawl up under to make lunch. The shady (and cow-dung-free) parts weren’t particularly good terrain for lying down, but I could sit with my back to the trunk, and that was a position I was unlikely to fall asleep in–a good thing when you have a deadline.
The next goal was the second water cache at the Jack’s Peak trailhead. The elevation profile showed it was mostly a level trek from where I was, but it was actually one of those sections with frequent and short ups and downs. All day long, the shape of the trail and my state of mind was giving me flashbacks to similar places on the PCT in California.
Finally, I reached starting line. I stopped next to the water cache under a nice wide pine. I snacked, drank, then laid down for 45 minutes. I figured I could spare this much time at least if it meant more energy for what was to come.
The junction to Burro Mountain Homestead was roughly 7.5 miles away. I had about 4.5 hours of daylight to spare. Between the parking lot and the turnoff to the campground stood a series of mountains requiring thousands of feet of climbing over the next 4.5 miles or so. In other words, I wanted to climb fast.
To that end, I didn’t want too much weight. So I filled up my Nalgene but added no water to my water bag, thinking I had enough to do a few hours hike even if I occasionally used it to wet my sleeves.
The plan was working. The section started out already fairly steep, but I was making great time. A mile in I passed Banshee, who I had not seen pass me because he had taken a “shortcut” along the highway. Somehow, that feels like cheating doesn’t it? Getting a ride to skip a road walk doesn’t, but adding a road walk to skip actual trail? What a waste. Anyway, more about him later.
Two hours into the climb, I was running out of steam. I’d gotten a respite where a new reroute went around Jack’s Peak instead of over it, a clear, beautiful, and nearly level section of trail. But just past that, I still had to climb again. And it was steep. The carbs I had loaded at the bottom had run out, so I had to stop for a break.
I ate some snacks and then went to wash it down with water from my bag… and discovered carbs wasn’t all I had run out of. 8 ounces of water would have to be enough for the last 3 miles.
Or would it? Just as I was getting up to walk on, Banshee showed up with a bunch of extra water, and I filled up my Nalgene from one of his bottles.
Now I had water and carbs and motivation. I ran for the top of the hill. Banshee arrived at the gate marking the highest point right after me. It was all downhill from there. But it was already well after 6pm. Sun set at 8:15. I had 2.5 more miles downhill to the junction, and then probably another mile to the campground from there.
I should mention at this point that my heels were killing me. The moleskin protecting then from my boots had been pulled down by the rubbing action and now my heels were being chafed with every step and had been for the last few miles. By I’d be damned if I were to stop and fix that if it meant getting to the campground after sunset.
The trail wasn’t that smooth either. It was strewn with rocks and very narrow. So the challenge was to go fast, not brutalize my heels too much more, and not roll my ankles on a rock or let my feet slip out from under me. Somehow I managed to get past the worst of it without any major mishaps. And I cruised up to the campground host’s trailer around 7:30 or 7:45. Enough time for him to explain things and show me where to camp and for me to pitch my tent before the sun disappeared.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it down before the store closed. There was no way that could have happened. But I wasn’t opposed to sticking around until it opened in the morning.
I went back to the activity room with a bag full of things for making supper and collecting water. I sat under a ceiling fan while my food soaked in water I’d heated using the coffee maker with my face pressed into my water bag full of cool water just trying to cool down without immediately falling asleep.
I wasn’t alone. Two ladies came in and went to the corner to try to make something work. They told me they were coming back later to play some pool, but they wanted to make sure the baby monitor signal could reach the activity room. Then they left.
I finished eating dinner and made a double dose of my after dinner drink. I was just getting the coffee maker going for hot chocolate when Banshee walked in.
I want to say Banshee is a little bit spacey. Absent-minded maybe, perhaps on the spectrum. Not dimwitted by any means, and by all appearances a solid hiker. Maybe this piece of conversation will explain:
Me: “After going so far out of my way and hiking so hard to get here, I’m willing to stay here until 9 tomorrow when the store opens.”
Banshee: “You’re going to stay here all night?”
Me: “Well, sure. I’m not about to hike…”
Banshee: “Right here in this room?”
Me: “No, of course not. I’ve got my tent set up.”
Me: “Here in this campground.”
Banshee: “Sometimes I take things a little too literally.”
Anyway, there was enough hot water and instant cocoa for both of us. Around about the time we were finishing it, the activity room started filling up. The women from before returned with a stroller and a bunch of men. Things got real lively and we started chatting. So I did what any hiker does in such circumstances: I started yogiing.
Soon, me and Banshee were following Chris out to the cooler on the back of his ATV, and soon we were holding in our four hands two beers, a soda, and a Gatorade. And since he was being so nice and had such a sturdy looking ATV handy, I figured I’d try asking for a ride back to the trail in the morning too. Success on that front as well.
With that arranged, I told Banshee to unpack whatever he’d need to make supper, then follow me with the rest of his pack to where we hikers were supposed to camp. I left him there, dropped off my stuff in the tent, grabbed a towel, and went to the bath house.
There’s no better feeling than a night you get to go to sleep clean, even if it means you have to wash your hair with hand soap. Hey, it works!
By all accounts, the festivities continued at the activity room well after I went to bed, but I had hiked 20 miles over two mountains and was already up well over an hour past my bedtime putting me on track for a 17 hour day. There was no way I was going to be awake a minute longer.
It wasn’t the most comfortable night’s sleep because I’d accidentally set my tent up so my feet were above my head, but I was out until morning anyway.
Because I had stayed up past midnight getting blog posts uploaded, I set my alarm for 6:30 this morning, but I woke up unable to sleep anymore at 6am anyway.
I had set up the coffee maker the night before, but it didn’t work, so no coffee for me. Luckily, I had Gatorade in the minifridge. I took that and the snacks I had set aside for breakfast and took advantage of access to a real bathroom while I had it. I took a shower and shaved even though I would be out in the dust and dry cow manure covered desert an hour later.
I left my room and checked out a little before 8, and decided to get some extra morning energy by swinging by McDonald’s. The lobby was closed, but I ordered curbside pickup from the app and they brought my Sausage McMuffin Meal with orange juice out the door within a minute of my hitting “Complete Order.”
The extra calories really helped with the next bit. The first five miles were just walking down the side of the highway out of town, at which point I missed the bit of barbed wire I was supposed to duck under because I was on the wrong side of the road.
From there, the trail struck out straight across the desert, on a “ten foot easement” across a ranch. I can’t imagine I was within the easement as much as 10% of the time because the trail was very sparsely marked. Sometimes even incorrectly marked.
Just before noon, I found what passed for a shade tree on those flats and had lunch. Shortly after that, I came upon a tire trough and shooed the cows away so I could cool off.
Then I misjudged which side of the trail the tire was on and set off in exactly the wrong direction and jumped the wrong gate. I thought if I followed the power lines, I would eventually cross the trail, but I grew discouraged that this didn’t seem to be getting me any closer to it on the GPS. So I turned south and soon ran into a very sturdy barbed wire fence separating me from the trail. Luckily, there was an open gate just a bit up from it, so I was able to keep going south, getting ever closer to the trail.
Until suddenly the GPS was showing me south of the trail. And I had seen no sign that I had crossed it. So I angled back north again, and yet again I didn’t seem to be getting closer to it. Then I saw that there was a wash near me and the satellite picture showed that it crossed the trail a bit north of me.
So I followed the wash until I saw a trail marker. To summarize: an hour later I was back on the official trail again, and who knows how much extra I walked. (Also, the power lines did eventually cross the trail if I had stuck with them for another three or four miles.)
I should mention that this desert plain was not exactly flat. It sloped subtly and continuously upward, like the continental shelf approaching the shore. (I do not use this metaphor haphazardly; this ridge and valley terrain is an ancient seabed.) I had been going uphill all morning and early afternoon with almost no shade to be found besides the occasional passing cloud.
So it was time to sit down in the tiny patch of shadow cast by an unusually tall and wide yucca and have an afternoon snack. And it turned out the patch of shade was just big enough to curl up in the dirt with my head on a bag of candy and take a little power nap to let my legs get their mojo back before continuing the climb.
I did not lose the trail again. It soon joined a road leading up into Engineer’s Canyon behind Gold Hill. My next destination was the water trough at Engineer’s Windmill. The trail kept getting steeper, but I did not flag or allow myself to be intimidated by the cows guarding the pass until I reached it. It was about 6pm, and that seemed like a perfect time for dinner. So I laid out my picnic next to the barbed wire fence separating me from the local bovine denizens (who seemed to tolerate my presence well enough to come drink while I sat there). It happened to have a decent bit of shade from the afternoon sun too.
After I finished eating, I scared off a cow to collect and filter some water from the trough. The barbed wire separating us crossed over the center of the trough, so we could have shared if she hadn’t been too cowed by my intimidating attitude.
And since I had another hour of daylight, I kept climbing into the hills, scattering herds of cattle in my wake. At dusk, even more animals started getting active. Rabbits, quails, chipmunks, noisy birds. On multiple occasions I saw little javelinas running around. Mostly they wouldn’t sit still long enough to have their pictures taken (and I did not have the storage available for a video at that moment) but the pack of five or so bear where I set up camp at sunset did not run quite so skittishly. I managed to get one clear photo, though it was already so dark out, the contrast was abysmal.
I found a nearly flat spot and got everything and myself under my tent just in time for a light sprinkle of rain. I would have loved for that to have continued until I fell asleep, but you can’t expect such things in the dry season.
It was a bit cooler this morning so harder to get up. Nonetheless, the motivation was there to get going, and I was on the trail and going before sunrise.
The first few miles were along a road through the Pyramid Ranch. Even when the sun was just barely getting up, I dunked my arms in a tire trough once the cows cleared out enough to let me do so.
I stopped in the shade of a tree for my first morning snack and to apply sunscreen, then climbed up to the second Pyramid corral and watering hole. The cows seemed a bit more nervous and protective of this one, so I walked on.
At the electric Pyramid Well, I soaked my shirt and head, and from there it was just a couple more miles down to the fifth water cache box, now leaving the road and following a barbed wire fence.
I stopped for another snack break at the water cache, filled up on Starburst and water. The trail went back through the barbed wire fence (via turnstiles this time) and set out straight across the middle of the expanse between there and the road into town. There were a few key road walks, but a lot more hills to climb and washes to traverse. It was only 4 miles to town and I didn’t want to stop.
And I didn’t, except to occasionally spit water onto my sunward sleeve. The sun was getting high and hot but not as bad as previous days and the breeze was cool and continuous. Even when I lost the trail I didn’t lose much time and caught it again further down.
I made it to the Econolodge before noon and they already had a room clean and available, so I moved in immediately and got straight in the shower. After that, I brought my dirty clothes to the lobby and got everything cleaned for 5 bucks.
An hour later, I could put my going out clothes back on and cross the street to the Kranberry’s restaurant. I had some jalapeño bottle caps with ranch dip, a big beefy taco salad, and at least 3 glasses of root beer, plus a peach cobbler to go to have after dinner.
Back in the room, I started making preparations for the coming section, then went to the convenience store next door to get some supper for later. I realized I was low on Starburst in the resupply I had left at the hotel, so I bought a few bags at the Family Dollar.
The rest of the night, aside from eating dinner (with the family disappointing peach cobbler), was tied up in phone calls and other trivialities. I got most of the way packed, but it got very late and some would have to wait until morning.
The next day looked to be a scorcher. With a heavy full pack, it was not going to be a big hiking day.
I overslept and didn’t start walking until well after sunrise.
The first destination was the fourth water cache only 6 miles away. I had plenty of water still, and a large size breakfast smoothie. But the first part of the trail involved climbing steep hills in direct sunlight, so I stopped for a snack in the shade of a tree as soon as I made it over the saddle.
Coming up on the road where the cache was, I crossed the old railroad bed. The blackness of the rocks stood out from the surrounding desert, even in comparison to the road. Jeffrey had told me the berm was piled with high grade ore from the smelters, that this very railroad route was the reason for the Gadsden Purchase, and that the silver mines here were the cause of the inflation that brought about the end of the silver standard.
Anyway, the water cache was right past that, so I filled up everything and more, and used some of the provided sunscreen as well. I have to keep my knees well coated because I am hiking in shorts.
Less than four miles later, I came upon a water trough filled with cold water. I took off my Buff, dipped it, and squeezed it out over my head and shoulders. Then I dunked each elbow up to my wrists and shoulders so that when I extended my arms into the air, the water ran down the sleeves and down my sides. Very refreshing, though the shirt dried within 15 minutes. I kept dousing my sleeves by spitting water from my bag. The continuous breeze all day combined with the water kept me mostly cool.
I should note that this day involved more instances of the trail going directly through a barbed wire fence with no gate or turnstile than I’ve seen before. I get the impression someone doesn’t like hikers much.
Right after the trough, I found myself getting very hungry. I stopped under a shady bush and had the first half of lunch. It was too early for the full lunch siesta, and there was word of an even better shade tree 1.5 miles further on, so I kept walking.
The next shade tree was everything it was promised to be. A huge patch of shade. I ate the other half of lunch and then napped for an hour with a towel over my knees and my headnet on to discourage the flies.
The next section of trail was flat and boring, with only the occasional barbed wire fence or washed out ditch to liven things up. But I just kept walking, trying to track the scarce markers, looking forward to the next trough coming up in five miles.
This one was a big tractor tire full of cold water. So I sat on the edge and laid back, submerging my head and shoulders. I drank most of a quart of water, ate some Starburst, took another dip, then walked on.
It was only a couple more miles to the oasis where I would stop for dinner. A giant tank of water that provided plenty of shade from the evening sun. I ate and lounged a bit, refilled my water bag from the tank, and walked on.
I stopped randomly beside the trail at 8pm, set up camp, crawled in bed, and finished blogging before civil twilight had even ended. Lordsburg and shower tomorrow!
I started out the morning routine hours before sunup, and was already on the trail just before sunrise. The only water I had left was in my half portion breakfast mix. Yet I had a 7 mile trek to the next reliable water source. As such, I wanted to get there as quickly as possible before the sun got high and started sapping me.
Yet still I couldn’t resist lying in a cool wash under a shady embankment for half an hour after a steep climb. I ate a few dozen Starburst and a chewy bar to fuel up for the remaining march.
It was mostly boring road walk, but now completely out of water except what my remaining limes contained, I was motivated to speed across the humpy flats.
A sea of cows flowed away from the water tank as I approached. A shady, cow pie free bit of ground next to the tank and near infinite amounts of fresh well water coming out of the hose on the other side. I was tempted to jump into the little pond down the hill, but I was able to cool off enough just lying in the shade for an hour and snacking some more. I went back for several refills and even ran the hose over my head before hiking out again through the herd.
The next water cache box was only 6 miles further on, so I could be totally profligate with the water I was carrying. Every time it dried, I poured water on my shirt and my head again. The latter seems to have permanently muted my “water resistant” headphones. Thanks a lot Sony.
The trail remained easy to follow and not usually too sandy, so I was moving out. Just before noon, I found a nice tree and stopped for lunch, then just laid underneath it for an hour. Then I packed up and put the speed back on.
I reached the water cache box before 3 and nearly walked right by it, distracted by an enormous dust devil in the distance. When I opened it up there was a phone number for the Hachita Store. I filled up on water, but then I turned my phone off airplane mode–3G signal available.
I was so far ahead on time, I decided to call. Jeffrey came out with a truck and carried me to the store. On the way, he informed me that he had picked up the Gayhearts at the second water box the day before. Jess seemed in high spirits but her dad was complaining of heat exhaustion and making excuses for giving up. They were on their way to Silver City already. An hour and two root beers, a Gatorade, a burrito, an ice cream, and a real toilet later, Jeffrey brought me back to the trail.
It was a little after 4 and still pretty hot, but the wind was stronger than ever, trying to tear my hat off my head. Also, the flats were the most boring to walk on yet. But 3 hours of flat desert and road walking later, I was at the Vista Rim Tank and oasis. I threw my Tyvek down on the humpy grassy ground and made supper. What I had eaten at the store had only given me enough energy to go five miles or so. But lying in the shade waiting for supper to cook, I was ready to pass out and give up for the day.
Nonetheless, after dinner, I refilled my bottle from the tank, packed up, and hiked on down the road into the sunset. It was all roadwalk and mostly downhill, so even though I was out of energy, I got one more mile done. When the sun was gone, I found a nice area to camp in, and forced myself to get the tent set up.
Overall, it was a nice day, hot but easy walking, and the trail being so much easier meant I could get more miles in before my legs gave out.
I don’t have the trail stamina I had five months ago. Even with hours long breaks in the middle of the day, I’m cruising in late with my legs and glutes totally shot and my energy spent.
I woke up well before dawn, slept in, and finally dragged myself awake an hour later. I got started hiking a bit after sunrise.
The first bit of trail was slow going, trying to spot posts from a distance, many of which had fallen. I lost the trail frequently and had to use the GPS to figure out whether I was above or below.
I came out onto the flats and passed the Gayhearts just before noon. They had taken the road walk instead of the trail and so had it a bit easier. But they were already curled up under two umbrellas. I hid behind a bush and made lunch. I kept going, passed Whitewater doing his umbrella thing, then continued to the second water cache. I filled up and continued across the road.
Here there was a CDT info sign casting a sizeable shadow. I laid in it for 2.5 hours. Near the end, a man my age parked his truck to come look at the trail. His oversized Philmont belt buckle gave him away as a Boy Scout. We chatted, he took some pictures, did not offer any cold beverages, and left.
The shade was running away under a barbed wire fence and done clouds were rolling in, so I started packing up soon after that. I set off across the flats again just before 4.
An hour later, I stopped in the shade of a bush for a snack and a drink, and accidentally lost a pint or two of water when the hose popped out of my bag again. I had already passed another water tank and it was another ten miles to the next water source. I seemed to have a couple liters still, so I crossed my fingers and hiked on.
I stopped again around 6. I was feeling a bit sick and weak, so it was clearly time to refuel with supper. While I was cooking, a big cloud came by with five minutes of rain. I wished it had poured hard enough to collect some.
Even after supper, I wasn’t feeling super energetic, but I walked on a couple more miles as the sun set and didn’t stop until I was well into civil twilight. The trail was easy to find here since it followed a rocky road.
The wind wasn’t as bad as the previous evening when I went to set up, but I was all out of energy. Even so, I managed to crawl into bed before nine. Energy gone, feet all ripped up. I wanted to leave the vestibule open to cool off in the breeze but it started raining again and I closed it up. Not much water left and seven miles to the next source. But a definite repair plan in mind for the troublesome hose. Hopes the trail would stay easy so I could get to the water before it got hot.
This was not enough miles. Siestas might need to be shorter. Snack breaks more frequent.
I didn’t manage to get to sleep until after 1am, but I still managed to jump out of bed and get the coffee started at 5:30. Bathroom time and my last shower for 5 days wasn’t done until 6:10. And despite having to fill my water bag, wolf down “breakfast,” and panic briefly over where my wallet was (already in my pack), I made it down to the lobby well before the shuttle was leaving.
The later part of the Gayheart family was already there, so I met Doug and his daughter Jess who were starting their first long distance trail that day and therefore had no trail names.
The trip was 2.5 hours long to the monument, including a brief stop at the Hachita Store and at the first water box to leave another six gallon can. The road was in surprisingly good shape for being a dirt road to a wire fence with the border in the middle of nowhere. We were able to go 25 mph or better for much of it. But the only other vehicles were Border Patrol trucks and the van of Jerry from Biker Ranch coming back from a drop-off.
At the Crazy Cook Monument, there was a flurry of activity from all of us: taking pictures in every combination, stepping across the border to be able to say we really started from Mexico, and I had to reorganize my pack and dress and sunscreen for hiking. I was also starving and mixed up a proper breakfast smoothie to give me the energy to get started.
The Gayhearts and I started out together for the first three or four miles, just chatting. The trail was basically a flat plain and, aside from the beautiful flowering Ocotillos we occasionally passed, not too exciting. The weather was great though.
We saw a jack rabbit next to the trail and walked through an old run down corral straight out of a Western. Jess collected four rocks in the first three miles. They found messages left by the half of the family that had come through earlier. But then it got hot and we split up. Soon I passed another guy out hiking as he was crawling under a bush. But I had read in the Guthook comments about a big tree a half mile ahead and kept walking.
I found the tree at noon, down from the trail in a dry wash. I ate lunch and then just laid down and napped until 2:30, moving when necessary to escape direct sunlight. It was only ever a light doze, but it helped with the lack of sleep I was suffering from and beat hiking in the hottest part of the day.
When I started again, I stayed in the wash and the trail came down to join me. It wasn’t long before I came to trees offering far better shade than the one I’d been under. Under one of them was the same man from before, who Jerry had dropped. He was from my neck of the woods in GA and working on finishing up his triple crown as well.
It was still hot, but there was a good bit of leapfrogging of him, me, and the Gayhearts throughout the afternoon. I would stop in a shady spot and Whitewater would join me and we’d leave together, or he’d go ahead and then stop and I’d pass him.
In the end, I reached the first water cache about 15 minutes before him. He decided to camp there while I decided to cook my Pad Thai and keep hiking. While I cooked and he made camp, eventually the Gayhearts arrived, intending to camp there as well. I started packing up.
Soon I noticed the hose had popped off my water bag and my pack was full of water. I had to refill the bag and dump all the water out before I could hike out into the sunset, and still the water dripped down my legs for the next mile.
I stopped when it was clear that I would need to pitch a tent under head lamp light if I went further and there happened to be a clear spot next to the trail. The wind was picking up as the sun set and setting up in the wind is hell, but there were plenty of rocks around to secure things.
I finally crawled inside the tent and laid down on top of the sleeping bag (still too hot to get inside) around 9pm. The wind vibrated the tent guy lines all night long but I was dead tired and hardly noticed.
And we’re back after a brief 5 month break. Work has been done. Shots have been received. In 4 days, I begin the final and most difficult of the three Triple Crown long distance trails: the Continental Divide Trail.
This time I’m starting at the Mexican border. North of that, there are around 3000 trail miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to the Canadian border. It’s longer and not as well-traveled as the PCT.
On top of it being longer and wilder, I’m going to finish up northern California on the PCT once I get through the majority of New Mexico, go back home for a wedding at the end of July, then probably come back for another leg before going back for my sister’s wedding in November. With this late start and all the time off, I will not be finishing the CDT this year. Not a chance.
(I won’t be finishing the PCT either for that matter. The Lionshead fire closure and the Bobcat fire closure are still in effect. Maybe next year.)
Anyway, the story kicks off this time with goodbye hugs with Dad at the lakehouse preceding a 2 hour Mother’s Day drive to the airport with Mom.
The airport was pretty crowded for a Sunday. The last time I flew out of Atlanta was to go to California last year, and no one was flying, so it was easy to enforce social distancing. They didn’t even bother this time. Security took an hour, and I arrived at my gate just a few minutes before boarding.
It wasn’t an hour into my flight before breakfast was wearing off. I devoured the snacks they handed out. It was a four hour flight–long enough to watch two movies and a TV episode–and everything went well. My backpack was one of the first bags onto the carousel and 3 minutes later I was on my way to my hotel.
I realized that I had forgotten my phone charger and wall plug somewhere on the way, and when I found out it was too early to check in, I asked about chargers. They let me have a leftover cable from behind the desk, but I had to walk a mile to buy the part that plugs into the wall. Which was fine because I wanted to check out the city anyway and the weather was beautiful.
I was starting to feel quite peckish on the way. It had already been 3 hours since the cookies and small bag of almonds on the plane. So I stopped in a brewpub for a chicken sandwich, fries, and a sampler of their beers, all of which were quite good. I slowly ate until it was time to check in, then returned to the hotel.
I took an hour nap at this point, did a bit of hike planning, then did a movie watch party with some Atlanta friends. By the time we finished the movie, the food truck that had opened downstairs was closed, so if I didn’t want to be dying of starvation by morning, I had to go for a walk.
It’s kind of crazy how many things Atlanta and Tucson have in common. They both have an old Fox Theater. They both have Insomnia Cookies. And the very building I’m staying in would not be out of place downtown. Anyway, I found a little Mediterranean restaurant and got a great meal of shawarma, hummus, gyro meat, dolmades, Greek salad, and pistachio baklava.
I was already in bed by 10PM and sleepy. But that’s the same as 1AM back home.
Woke up at 6 am and went to the bathroom, got a shower, and then went down for breakfast, only to find that the cafe did not open until 8am. So I got a cup of coffee and went back to the room to Google nearby breakfast places. None opened before 8. Tucson in general hardly opens before 8. So I drank my coffee, laid in bed and starved for half an hour.
Shortly after 8, I went down to the cafe and got an omelet with avocado, goat cheese, and ham, a combination made up on the spot, and it is literally the best idea I’ve ever had for an omelet. It came with toast and jelly and potatoes and I had a fresh-squeezed orange juice too. Kanpeki!
After a little time back in my room chilling and calculating how much food I would need to buy, I took a walk down the Safeway to do some shopping. It was about a mile and a half away but I wanted to walk it just for the sake of seeing more of the city. Along the way, I talked to a man who told me all the busses were free, and it turned out there was a bus stop right in front of the Safeway, so I wouldn’t have to walk my 360 dollars worth of groceries all the way back to my hotel.
An hour or so later, I was on the bus with my bags. After one of the bags started to spill out onto the wheel well, a man came up and told me he was going to reach over me to get something. I reached back and found that one of my sleeves of Gatorade chews had slid out of the box. But the guy didn’t seem to believe I was telling the truth that it was mine. Very strange. He really wanted it, I guess. But they’re very expensive so really I’m glad he noticed it.
After dropping the food in my room. I went out again to the grocery store deli to get a Cuban sandwich and some other stuff for lunch (and something to eat when I woke up the next morning so I wouldn’t have to starve before the city opened) and then the post office to get some boxes. Then back to the room again.
I ate my lunch and then hung out for a couple hours watching videos and talking to Mom on the phone before deciding to catch a bus uptown to do the other part of my shopping at REI. It was a 45 minute trip there. 30 minutes to spend a hundred bucks on fuel and food and nuun immunity. 45 minutes back.
Then I dropped my stuff in my hotel before leaving again immediately. I walked south to Barrio Brewing for dinner. When I was in sight of it, I had to wait another ten minutes for a train to go by, but finally I got to go inside and try some nice beers. I also tried an official Sonoran Hot Dog with the beans and spices. After my big lunch, it was all I had room for, and also I meant to take a picture but I forgot.
After that, I walked back to the hotel the same way I went and that was it for the night. I turned in and blogged and got too sleepy to think straight.
Having gone to sleep later, I woke up a bit later, but I could skip breakfast because of the snacks I had bought. I went out after 8 which meant the cafe was open and the free coffee was gone. I had to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee to give me enough energy to get my box packing done. I borrowed a tape dispenser from the front desk and got started.
After packing one box, I realized I had forgotten to buy Apple Cider mix, so I walked over to the nearby Johnny Gibson’s and found some. I also got a Gatorade to rehydrate and some pop tarts for the next morning’s breakfast.
Halfway through packing the second and final box, I realized I had been right to be confused about there only being 3 grocery bags in the seat to my left when I thought there had been four on the bus back. That guy who confronted me about the Gatorade chews must have stolen one of my bags, because I had 23 fewer lunch tunas than I had bought. I would need them, so I had to go back to the store and buy them. I only needed 19 though.
The Johnny Gibson’s had no tuna, so I head for the bus station. Instead of going straight for the Safeway, I took a different bus to the Yoshimatsu Eatery for lunch. It was voted best Japanese restaurant in Tucson, and reviews raved about their okonomiyaki. It was every bit as good as promised. I had a lovely green tea daifuku for dessert and a Japanese craft IPA throughout. I wanted to try their curry but I was full. I went out and caught the bus south to the Safeway.
Along the way, I got to take a passing glance at the University of Arizona. I got off at the Safeway and bought the tuna and got on another bus back to the hotel. Finally I could finish packing my boxes and my pack.
It took some time still, though. There was a lot to pack in four different places. I wanted to leave some of the food in Lordsburg while I hiked by to it, so I bought a tote bag from the front desk since the plastic bags from the grocery store weren’t tough enough and kept ripping.
By 6:30 I had the food and snack situation for the hike sorted. All that remained was shipping the boxes, and that would have to wait until morning when the post office opened. So I left and caught a bus uptown to check out Dillinger’s Brewery.
On the bus, I hopped on Grubhub and ordered that curry I was wanting to the brewery. (The brewery did not serve food.) I got to the brewery a little after 7, and my food arrived some 20 minutes later, halfway through my first flight.
The curry was amazing, and most of the beers were as well. In fact, Dillinger had the best beers I tried in Tucson (and the only sours!) I may try to finagle getting some of them shipped to Georgia in questionably legal fashion.
A Dillinger founder, Aaron told me all about what normally goes on around Tucson, about the beer scene, about how the hotel I was staying in normally hosted an annual reenactment of the shoot-out in high John Dillinger was finally captured (as that was where it originally took place), about the difference in types of hops and how they are used.
After trying 10 different beers and keeping Aaron past closing time, I caught the bus back downtown, but I wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. I headed over to Insomnia Cookies on the way back and got some warm double chocolate mint cookies. There was an unreasonably good guitarist busking and singing against a wall on the corner and I stopped on the way back to listen to his new material, dropped a tenner in his case. He gave me a sticker for his old band, but his new material is not on Spotify yet.
Then it was time for hotel and bed and blogging. And sleep. One last half day in Tucson, then Lordsburg, then, finally, the trail!
I woke up in time for the free coffee this time, and after doing the morning routine, I headed out at 9 to mail my boxes. I got back just in time to receive a call from Mom. I was inspired by the call to check what time that afternoon my bus was leaving. I had misread or misremembered the time. It was leaving at 9:35am. It was 9:36am. I had missed it.
No ticket exchanges possible day of, so I dropped another 40 bucks on the night bus, leaving at 8:05pm and arriving at midnight. I called the hotel in Lordsburg and they made sure I could check in then. Upshot: I would have an entire extra day in Tucson. Downside: I still had to be in the lobby at 6:15 am the next morning to catch my shuttle to the terminus, so I would only be getting some 5-6 hours of sleep plus whatever I could get on the 2.5 hour bus ride. Ah well, hiking isn’t hard even when you’re sleepy.
But I didn’t need to be out of the hotel room until 11am, so I finished packing and then laid down to relax for a while. I turned in my key at 11am promptly, and left my pack at the front desk before heading out to see a bit more of the city.
I walked down Historic 4th Avenue to Sky Bar, which seemed like a nice place to have a drink and pass the time until the good restaurants opened for lunch.
At noon exactly, I went over to BOCA Tacos and Tequila, a famous restaurant whose head chef Maria is competing on the current season of Top Chef. I had 4 tacos and a nice fruity beer from one of the locals. Included were 5 fresh housemade salsas. I put some on the tacos, then ordered a bag of chips to dip in the remainder.
After that I walked to a nearby park to sit under a shade tree and watch a show with Sushi that we’ve been watching every Wednesday.
After that, I found my way, with some effort, to the beautiful beer garden at Borderlands Brewing, the second oldest (I think) brewery in Tucson (after Barrio). It was a hot day, but the beer garden has awnings and spray misters strung overhead. I sampled a nice flight of IPAs and sours.
Then it was almost 4, when the front desk guy’s shift ended. I needed to get my bag from him in case his replacement didn’t know me. I got back just before 4, claimed my bag, and sat down with my stuff in the lobby, plugging my phone into an adjacent outlet. I got a peach ale from the bar from one last local brewery, then fired up Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix.
About a third of the way into the movie, the new front desk guy (the same one who had checked me in and I had a fine experience with) came over to L me the owner didn’t like anyone using that outlet. I told him I needed my phone charged for the bus. He said he’d charge it at the front desk and did. That left me with nothing to do but stew while I waited.
Eventually I got up to ask him for a deck of cards. He didn’t have one, but he said I could go upstairs and use the lounge while I waited. So I carried everything back up and sat in the lounge and worked on a jigsaw puzzle until after 6pm when I could finally check in to my bus. I took my stuff back downstairs, reclaimed my phone, then walked (directly through a parade for Palestine and Colombia, who knows) to the bus station.
It turned out there were power outlets inside, so I kept watching the movie. I finally finished the movie about an hour into the bus trip. I highly recommend if you are a fan of A Goofy Movie or The Amazing World of Gumball or maybe Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs.
I tried to nap a bit in the last hour of the trip but couldn’t get comfortable and never fell asleep. I arrived at the Lordsburg Greyhound stop early, and toted my bag to the Econo Lodge. I got the owner up in his socks to check me in, asked for a 5:30 wakeup call, and was in bed by 12:16, but still not particularly sleepy somehow.
Well, since it involved no hiking whatsoever, I have given you an extra long first post to get things started, dear reader. The schedule will be once a day from here out, though the posts will again be shorter, each covering only a day. Here we go!