Bones in the Chihuahuan Desert

The constant blanketing of bodies and bones across the desert floor–  more than a little disconcerting– do little to make me feel welcome in the harsh, high desert of New Mexico as I walk the second stretch of trail from Lordsburg to Silver City.

Wrong Way and I compare bone stories at camp each night, just to ensure we both saw the most impressive of the day’s skeletons.

I often see a handful of vertebrae scattered across the trail or a femur haphazardly kicked off to one side. Occasionally, I see an entire skull.
The bones become part of the trail’s decoration, with signposts and confusing intersections often marked with a scapula or tibia to help keep hikers on track. Over the past week, it’s become a very commonplace occurrence. The third day after Lordsburg, I have the jarring realization that it’s been a boneless day on trail. 

Thankful to whoever stuck bones on this gate to let me know it’s the right way to go; The CDT blaze definitely wouldn’t have been enough!

Two other sudden changes contribute to the new, welcoming feeling of the trail: the windstorm stopped, and trees appeared. The mood-brightening ability to pitch my tent and sleep through the night– without worrying about the walls coming down around me– cannot be overstated. Combine that with easy access to shade, and suddenly I’m having far more fun on this trail than I did the previous week.

The sunrises and sunsets do continue to be the most beautiful part of the trail.

The trail into Silver City doesn’t have sweeping views of mountains or any jaw-dropping scenery, but I still find myself stopping multiple times a day to reflect on the beauty. Small things, such as the smell of pine needles burning in the sun, are a welcome change from the last five days of harsh exposure and sand.

The miles come easily, and I pass the 100-mile mark on the trail. The sign, thankfully, is made of rocks instead of bone.

100 miles have never gone by so quickly!

The bone sightings are replaced with bear scat sightings as I wind my way further north. Honestly, I’ll take the bears any day. Trees, water, and the signs of living animals do wonders for the overall vibe of the trail.

That said, the heat continues to be absolutely oppressive, and I’m immensely grateful every time the sun begins to set.

I’ve seen more bear scat in Southern New Mexico than I did along the entire Colorado Trail! Definitely grateful for the peace of mind provided by my bear can– and grateful for its dual functionality as a chair. 

I have my first climb of the trail up Burro Mountain, find my first naturally flowing water, and collect more water from a tank infested by bees. It’s still too hot to hike in the afternoons, and Wrong Way and I spend hours each afternoon playing canasta (the best card game– look it up!). I win, obviously.

We are giddy over the smallest, stupidest things (like finding our first pinecone of the trail!!!!!).

I cap this section off with a 4am wake up call to begin a 15-mile road walk into Silver City. Walking along a highway on asphalt isn’t fun in the best of weather and, as the sun begins to rise and the day starts to heat up, my mood falls proportionally.

Not what I picture when someone says “hiking over the Continental Divide”…

In Silver City, disaster strikes. Since the first day on trail, my shoe has been rubbing uncomfortably on the top of my big toe. I’ve blamed it on many factors– the heat, the sand, the inevitable discomfort that comes with starting a thru-hike– but peeling off the Leukotape reveals the worst. Not only is my toenail purple and black, but an infection has developed around the cuticle.

(Despite popular demand, I won’t be including toe pics here. Use your imagination. It’s gross.)

My “restful Nero day” quickly turns to the most stressful day on trail. Not only do I walk an extra 12 miles between the Urgent Care, pharmacy, and hostel, but I have to buy new shoes, start a course of antibiotics, and grapple with the fear that this infection could take me off the trail.

I’m shocked by how pleasant the stretch is between Lordsburg and Silver City. It couldn’t be more different from the first 84 miles.

I’ve just settled into the hike– I’m absolutely not ready for it to end.


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