I Could Get Used to This: Days 2-3 on the CDT

If it weren’t for the water caches along this first section of trail, I think it would be impossible for me to hike it. The first cache tasted more like plastic than water and the second one was reminiscent of pool water, but this ain’t no place for beggars or choosers, so I was thankful to have anything. I filled my bottles as the crisp desert sun rose over the distant mountains before setting off into day 2. Life out here revolves around the heat of the sun. This morning, Sam “The Kid” and I listened to coyotes howling and the birds singing as we packed up our tents. 

The silhouette of Cedar Mountain backdropped by a clear desert sunrise

While hiking through the morning light, I saw tails of pronghorn dancing through the prickly brush. Before it got too hot, I caught a family of javelinas migrating towards their shady refuge. Not too soon after, a rabbit the size of a dog ran across the trail right in front of me. Lizards darted across the trail faster than I could blink while bees and butterflies flew from flower to flower. Its truly amazing not only that life exists in such a harsh environment, but that it’s thriving. It seems that way at least.

There’s definitely big mountains in New Mexico, and Big Hatchet Peak is definitely one of them!

Chasin’ Shade

It’s easy to appreciate all the tiny things when hiking in comfort. Although once it gets hot, appreciation turns to fixation on the next shady tree and the next water source. The caches are spread out about 10-20 miles through this section. Sometimes a cattle tank might break up the need to carry water, but I never took advantage of it, knowing there would be times ahead where I would be praying for a water cache and forced to drink the poop. 

Indigo Bush was used by native Indians for many purposes including fuel. It blooms yellow but turns indigo once pollinated.

I took my first siesta underneath a perfectly shady tree, clear of all signs of cattle and their poop pies. But there were other things to worry about. As soon as I busted out my snacks, a swarm of ants surrounded me and it became an intentional task to keep them out of my food. At one point I looked down and saw one of the ants carrying a piece of my jerky about three times its size back to wherever it came from. It stumbled and fell, but always stood back up never letting go. I watched in amazement. They might be small but they are damn mighty. If I was an ant, I’d make it to Canada in no time.

A fine eye will be able to see a pronghorn and CDT blaze beneath the distant mountains.

Bonus Miles!

Soon after my snack break and a short nap, I stumbled into my first bit of trail magic. The New Mexico Conservation Corps were replacing cattle gates nearby, and one of the women Jillian was handing out cool water and snacks. The heat had obliterated my appetite, so I only took her up on the water. She was born in New Mexico but had zero interest in ever hiking through the state, but paid hikers like myself a handful of respect for even trying. I told her I was from New Jersey and had never thru hiked before, so this whole experience was rather foreign.

Another new flower I’ve never seen before, the California Poppy.

The next couple miles to the cache were hotter than before. The wind seemed to be avoiding my path and mocking my decision to wear pants and a long sleeve sun hoodie. Let the chaffing begin…. As soon as the heat and trail became overwhelming and monotonous, an exotic cliff line popped up out of the horizon and the trail veered closer and closer to it. Once at the base, the inner climber in me overtook the developing thru hiker and I added on some bonus miles to check out the rocks. A much needed breeze waited for me at the top, along with some of the most vibrant lichen I’d ever seen! I ripped off my shirt and pants to let the sweat dry off. No one else was adding bonus miles onto their hike this early, so I wasn’t worried about being blindsided. 

I wonder if anyone has ever climbing out here before? There is certainly enough cliffs for it.

No Pain, No Gain

A few minutes later, I heard the unmistakable cadence of sneakers crunching the desert floor. It’s impressive how far sound travels when the landscape is so wide open and unobstructed. The Kid was still a mile or more away from me, but his footsteps were as clear as the blue desert sky. We’ve been leap frogging since we started and met up at a water silo just up the trail. The water was cold and I drenched my head and hat with as much as it would soak. Soon after, the bonus miles caught up to me and my feet began to ache. If we made it to the next cache, it would be around 32 miles for the day, not counting the bonus miles I’d tacked on.

So far, I’m really lichen it out here…

The day grew long and I found myself scanning the horizon for the next brown box of cached water. The closer we got, the farther it seemed, and the less patience I had. Eventually we arrived and enjoyed another spectacular and rejuvenating sunset. I draped my sweaty clothes over my tent, hoping for them to dry out over night. Boy did they stink!!

I’m starting to see a repeating theme… every desert sunset is absolutely incredible! Sam “The Kid” doing what we do best… walking.

New Friends!

I woke up around 4:30 the next morning after a bizarre dream of having my dinner stolen by my roommates and throwing a banana at them while chasing them away. There was more to it than that, but I didn’t want to risk drifting back into that weirdness. Taking advantage of the cool morning sounded like a better use of my time, so I hiked under the remaining light from the full moon. The trail today was super exposed. Besides a singular tree every 3 or 4 miles, there was only knee high brush as far as I could see. I passed a famously disgusting water source and was reminded me of how thankful I am for the water caches out here. I saw a calf jump out of the water tank as I walked up to it. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture what’s floating inside those tires…

The most illusive and ephemeral resource of the desert… shade

A couple hours later, the trail intersected a wash and I was in need of a shady break. To my right I saw a big tree with a happy hiker underneath it. “You can come join me if you want” Boomerang called out. “Don’t mind if I do” I replied. She was spreading what looked like beans on tortillas as I popped a squat. The thought of eating was equivalent to the thought of continuing to hike in the heat, but after a few minutes my appetite poked its head. Then Scout showed up and we all enjoyed each others company while escaping the beating sun. For the first time, I introduced myself as Snooze… After explaining the story and seeing the smiles, I decided the name had the right ingredients of backstory, irony, and cadence for me to stick with it. 

The town of Lordsburg is hidden by Pyramid Peak in the background

Dreaming of Ice

Turns out you don’t make very good progress sitting underneath trees, so we ventured back out into the heat. Meeting new people, sharing stories and making jokes was a great way to break up the first half of the day. The rest of the day was separated by cattle tanks that were just absolutely fowl. Eventually the 5th and final cache box appeared in the distance and I met Bag Bowl, Snack Hole, and Stranger. They were leaving as I was coming, which worked out well since there was only a couple square feet of shade behind the metal box.

Tell me it’s dry without telling me…

At this point it was the hottest part of the day and felt well above 90 degrees. I told myself I’d only stay for a few minutes but an hour later, Boomerang and The Kid made their appearance. We traded shade and I set out for the final 5 miles into town. We all made plans to camp at a park just outside of Lordsburg and maybe grab some dinner. Above anything else I just wanted an ice cold glass of water.

The final stretch of road walking, for now.

Finally, Real Food!

The final stretch was boring, hot, and tainted by the litter of people who used the area for makeshift shooting ranges and party sites. Trail turned to asphalt and I felt the reward of completing the first section of the CDT, “The Bootheel”. I set up camp in the park before b-lining it to the nearest restaurant which I was happily surprised with. Cell service returned with the sounds of town and I called and texted some friends and family. Walking into Lordsburg, I was back to standing out like a sore thumb but at least it wasn’t on a college campus.

The city lights of Lordsburg

While wrapping up a phone call outside the restaurant, I leaned back onto the top rail of a decaying fence. The thought crossed my mind a second too late, and as soon as I sat down, it collapsed and sent me falling backwards, pack and all. The fence was directly in front of the booths of the rather crowded restaurant. I hope everyone got as good of a laugh as I did. Chips, salsa, guac, more chips, quesadillas and tortillas made up my first round of town food, and man did it feel good. I chugged 2 glasses of ice cold water and began shivering so bad I had to put on my puffy inside the restaurant.

I came hungry and left hungry, even after a full dinner and endless chips and salsa.

Fin’ de la Bootheel

The open sign turned to close and I wrapped up my feast. Walking back to the park, I saw the tents of most of the people I’d ran into or had been hiking with the past couple days. I gave Sam a hug, having to share my excitement for finishing the first section of the CDT. “Snooze!” Boomerang said from the tent. We bumped fists before I went over to my tent next to Bag Bowl. If the rest of the trail is going to be this much fun, I don’t know how I’ll return to the rat rate of “normalcy” back home.

A sunrise behind Veterans Park where other hikers and I loitered and camped.


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