CDT Day 102-107: The Desert is Trying to Kill Me

CDT Day 102

The rain stopped overnight and I wake up to a dark haze. But I know the rain is coming again so I get up while it’s dark to take advantage of whatever dry hiking I have.

The sun trying to poke through the fog makes for a glorious morning.

I get a couple views of the canyon, but it’s still pretty banked in fog and I can’t see too far.

The thunder and lightning starts late morning, of course when I am up on a ridge.

I try to wait it out when the downpour starts, but it doesn’t let up. I count the seconds between thunder and lightning, luckily it’s still a few miles away. The rain comes and goes and I slide through thick mud making my way down into the canyon. Eventually I pop out at a trailhead as the sun tries to come out and walk a few miles down the highway until I hit a little store.

I attempt to dry myself and my gear out on the patio as a I stuff a microwave burrito, some cheese-its, and a poptart in my mouth while another storm pounds overhead. The rain finally takes another break and I decide I might as well keep going, I’m gonna be cold and wet whether I’m walking or sitting outside. Since the Gila River route is totally closed from this point south, I have a long highway walk to begin. I figure I will get as far as I can tonight and do the rest tomorrow. The rain comes and goes, I warm up on a big climb and get some sweet views of the canyon.

Finding a place to camp along a highway is not so easy, especially searching for something semi-dry, but I find a jeep road right at dusk and wander down it until I find a spot between a couple pine trees that might provide a little cover. I’m soaked. All my stuff is pretty soaked. But I climb in my sleeping bag and hope for the best! At least I have hot food!

CDT Day 103

Worst night ever. The rain started up and didn’t stop for hours. My sleeping bag and tent and all my clothes were soaked and my tent was just a puddle of water. The temps were just above freezing, so it could have been worse, but boy was it miserable. At one point I considered getting up and just night hiking, then realized that was probably a good way to get hypothermia. I think I managed a couple hours of sleep, but the night just kept getting colder and colder. I was so thankful to finally get out of my tent come morning. I started a long, cold roadwalk, blazing my way through the fog and fording creeks that were running over the highway. Eventually the sun popped through the clouds a bit and I attempted to dry myself and my gear out. My sleeping bag might be a lost cause, the down material has clumped into the corners and even with direct sunlight wouldn’t dry out. I keep on walking when I feel a few raindrops starting, but luckily it dies off. I pass through the little town of Pinos Altos which looks like it has some cool history.

Finally I make it down to the valley and the town of Silver City. I hit up the DG (Dollar General) for a quick resupply and then find a cheap, much needed room at the Motel 6. Not the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, but it’s warm and dry and I have a king size bed and the employee even gives me a discount and lets me do my laundry for free after he finds out I walked here from Canada. After a shower I grab a pizza and salad and kick back and watch some Monday Night Football and enjoy a comfy (and dry!) bed.

CDT Day 104

Feels so good to wake up in a comfy bed and have actually slept through the night! But of course I’m wide awake by 6:15. I try to go back to sleep, but it’s of no use. So instead I run across the street to McDonalds and bring some breakfast back to eat while I watch an old rom-com. I can’t believe how ancient movies made in 2008 seem now. I pack up and head out and walk through Silver City. One of my favorite things about thru-hiking is walking through all the towns that I do, that I may never see in normal life. I push a big day and I’m dead by the end of it, but it feels good to be back on the trail and off the road.

I climb through forests and pass lots of cactus and other pokey plants.

I get some views of the valley below.

The sun feels great, but every time I walk into a shadow, I instantly start shivering. Especially with all the wind. I don’t know if New Mexico is normally this cold this time of year or if it’s just from all the recent storms.

I hike into the sunset.

And find a place to camp in the trees after dark.

It’s already freezing and my sleeping bag, while not soaked, still hasn’t completely dried out despite my best efforts. With the down all clumped up, it has formed wet balls that I can’t seem to unclump. But I better figure out how to soon because it reaks and I definitely don’t want it to start mildewing. But I see some stars in the sky, so hopefully that means I’m in for a clear night!

CDT Day 105

Waking up to another soaking wet tent, despite no rain. This desert is so sneaky. A cold and windy morning, but it’s pretty easy hiking.

Good thing because my legs are feeling dead. I scare a few cows off and a few javelinas, the first I’ve seen on this trail. They give me a snort before running away as fast as possible. Water is becoming non-existent besides drinking with the cows. I skip a tank that a bull is guarding as he glares at me as I pass and find another one.

I swear it tastes better than it looks. I cruise down some sandy roads.

And stumble upon some interesting finds.

Then the trail pretty much disappears and I’m left wandering along the desert floor. Wanna know what’s not fun? Bushwacking in the desert. It takes all my concentration not to impale myself on all the cactus and other pokey plants.

My legs and socks and shoes are instantly full of burrs and needles. As I’m wading through grass that’s up to my thighs it crosses my mind that I would never see a rattlesnake out here before I stepped on one. Right after I have this thought I see a big old snake.

Luckily, not a rattler, but still gives me a little jump. I finally find my way to the highway and stop to pull the thousands of sharp burrs out of my socks, but it’s impossible to get them all and I eventually give up. I roadwalk into the town of Lordsburg. It seems like a town that used to be something cool and now is just trying to survive and live off people passing by on the interstate. I do my normal dollar store resupply and find a crazy cheap motel. I don’t really need a hotel since I stayed in one a couple days ago and can definitely go a few more days without a shower. But it’s cold and I haven’t been sleeping well in my tent recently and it’s my last town stop on the trail and New Mexico is so cheap, so why not? I enjoy a super hot shower and grab food from a diner across the street. Fried catfish, sweet potato fries, and a massive salad. Wow, real food tastes so good. I spend the rest of the evening picking all the remaining pokey things out of my socks and shoes as I watch the MLB playoffs. I forgot how much I love baseball and how much more special it is to catch a game when I haven’t had the chance to most of the summer. I air my sleeping bag out, hoping it will FINALLY dry all the way out tonight. I really need it to be dry to get a good night’s sleep on trail.

CDT Day 106

Wake up to a warm room and a comfy bed. It’s such a treat when it’s not the norm. I do my usual town morning: McDonalds breakfast of course. I chug all the cheap hotel coffee and say goodbye to my dingy room and walk out of town and head back to the trail.

Or should I say where the trail should be. Because it basically doesn’t exist anymore. The entire day is spent bushwacking and following random footprints and animal tracks, trying not to roll my ankle on all the rocks, and just mostly getting lost and searching for the trail. There are signs every so often but they are so spread out, they’re pretty much useless. And since most of them are faced the opposite direction for the NOBOs, the plain white back of the sign is basically impossible to see in the sun.

I mutter “WTF” to myself only about a million times. It’s a constant battle between trying to scan the horizon for a sign or a parting of the grass, staring at the map on my phone, and looking at the ground so I don’t run into every cactus or pokey bush or step on a snake.

There’s a trail out there somewhere

It’s exhausting. My legs are soon just a mess of cuts and needles and my socks and shoes are full of pokey things. And here I thought the desert would be the easy part. The highlights of the day are finding a couple water caches and some surprisingly good cow tanks and watching the sunset.

I almost step on two rattlesnakes, a big one and a baby. The first rattlesnakes I’ve seen on trail. I honestly thought I was going to get through the whole trek without seeing any. I hike into the dark until I decide it is basically pointless to try and hike at night when the trail is even harder to find. Good news is the cold front seems to finally have lifted or I’m just far enough south that it’s finally not freezing anymore! Even after the sun sets, it’s still not that cold. Very thankful for this after so many miserably cold nights.

CDT Day 107

Wake up before the sun and since it’s not totally freezing, I actually get up. it’s so enjoyable to watch the sky change colors as I’m packing up and eating breakfast (aka instant coffee and poptarts).

Poptarts might not be the best food, but for the price, weight, calories, and obviously deliciousness, the off-brand poptarts are one of my staple hiker foods. Which is funny because I literally never eat them in normal life. I start hiking and right as the sun pops up I have to stop and strip all the extra layers off because it’s so hot. The trail is once again, basically non-existant. So lots of stumbling around and bushwacking around. But the water is good with all the recent storms and all the cow tanks are full! Good thing because it’s actually hot today. I had almost forgotten that there was another temperature besides cold. I also get some great mountain views!

Yeap, even down here in the deep desert, they still have mountains.

I have to go into the tiny town of Hachita to buy fuel since nowhere in Lordsburg sold any so I have a long road walk in. The only thing in Hachita is a gas station with a little store which surprisingly has pretty much everything you need. I grab a can of fuel and a cold Gatorade that’s never tasted so good. I sit outside and dry my gear out and watch the multitude of people who come and go from the store, a lot for a little tiny town. Obviously, all in cars instead of on foot. Much smarter. I see a couple border patrol SUVs, a sign I am getting closer to the border.

After a break and letting my feet rest as long as possible, I keep on. Another long road walk. The last few miles absolutely destroy me. My legs and hips are so tight and I think all the sun really got to me, despite slathering sunscreen on all day. I feel like I’m going to puke, but I have to just keep breathing and keep walking. I can’t camp on the highway and also I’m out of water. I finally make it back to the trail and luckily there is a water cache close by. So thankful for these trail angels that keep these stocked! I sip water and lie on the ground, my body suddenly freezing since the sun has set and my body is trying to cool myself from all the sun. But I can’t move. And the sunset really helps lift my mood.

Finally I get up and fill up with water, being careful not to disturb the black widows hanging out in the cache. I decide to camp close by in case I drink all my water tonight, and I’m smoked anyways. I’m pretty close to the highway, but it seems like it isn’t travelled too much at night so the noise should be minimal. I stumble around setting up, groaning as everything hurts. I finally finish and force myself to stretch, knowing I will feel way better if I do. Laying down on my sleeping pad never felt so good when I finally do.

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