Knock Knock… You’re Late! : Day 1 on the CDT

I might as well have been in a Halloween costume, walking around the University of Arizona with a full loaded backpack for a thru hike. Being surrounded by shirtless jocks and girls in bikinis made me stand out like a sore thumb, looking like Huckleberry Finn with brown bananas hanging off my pack. My bus ride from Tucson was scheduled to arrive at 9AM, but it never did… 

“Don’t dream your life, but live your dream” – Mark Twain

12 hours later, I boarded the midnight bus with one other hiker, a couple of meth heads, and a bunch of ordinary folk. I arrived in Lordsburg at 1AM and after a short walk to my hotel and quick shower, my head hit the pillow at 2AM. The CDTC shuttle would pick me up at 6AM the same morning, so I set my alarm for 5AM, hoping to catch some ZZZ’s before starting the adventure of a lifetime.

Let the walking begin! Meeting new friends from Colorado, Canada, and Australia.

A Dream, Nightmare, or Reality? Yes.

It felt like a dream hearing knocking on the door and my name being called… until I realized it wasn’t. I checked the time and it was 6:30AM. “Sheehan!”… knock knock… “Sheehan!” I answered the door in my boxers and saw the shuttle driver Tim with a mix of disappointment and frustration on his face. “You’ve got 5 minutes before the shuttle leaves. Get ready!” he said. I fumbled over apologies and excuses, feeling equally exhausted and embarrassed. “I’ll be ready, I promise” I replied. Before I closed the door, Tim mentioned someone had found my wallet last night and one of other other shuttle drivers had picked it up for me… If there was another moment in my life more embarrassing, I couldn’t remember it. I shut the door and crammed all my gear into my pack, crushing the chips I picked up yesterday.

My expectations for this section of the CDT were horizon to horizon flatness and a hard to follow trail, but I was happily mistaken.


5 minutes later, a convoy of three trucks filled with hikers pulled up to the Econolodge to pick me up. Everyone else had woken up much earlier and had to walk to the pick up point. I was the princess who slept in and didn’t have to wait a minute. After loading my pack into the truck bed and retrieving my wallet, I climbed into the back of an already packed truck squeezing against other hikers. I’d been nervous the past couple days mentally preparing for this adventure but my current embarrassment overshadowed all the anxiety.

The first of 5 water caches where hikers are allotted 2 gallons of water each. These cache boxes are sometimes the only source of shade down here.

The truck was packed full of some of the most understanding, patient, and forgiving people of all… hikers. “We’ll make fun of your for the ride down, but once were on trail we’ll build you right back up” said Chad. It was a 3 hour ride to the southern terminus, enough time for my embarrassment to wear off and to get to know everyone else I’d be hiking with.

Seeing little miracles like this made me happy to sick to the “Red Line” rather than taking the alternative road walk.


The topics of trail names came up and Chad asked me “Hey Sheehan, how come you don’t have a trail name?” I explained that this was my first thru hike and had never been appointed one. Apparently that was the cue and everyone in the car started spouting out names. Late Guy and Wake Up stood out amongst the others, but when I suggested Snooze, everyone in the car harmoniously joined in. “Snooze!” they all said. Let’s see if it sticks…

More little miracles! The irony of these flowers is astounding, so soft yet surrounded by such sharpness.

After a terminus photoshoot, we all set off on the journey of a lifetime, into the unknown. This adventure had been in the making for 2-3 years for me, so it felt quite surreal to finally take the first footsteps I’d been long dreaming of. The sun was hot but the wind was strong. My smile was big and unwavering. Even if I only made it a week into the trail, it felt so rewarding to not just talk about my dreams, but to be actively chasing them. A lot of people don’t ever get to do that which made me feel very grateful.

The Big Hatchet Mountains loom over the first dozen miles of the CDT. If I didn’t take this photo, I’d never guess it was in New Mexico…

And Now We Walk

As I started hiking and caught up to all the other hikers in the shuttle convoy, they all asked me what the hell happened this morning. The story was a great icebreaker bringing smiles and laughter. Everyone has been in a similar situation at one point or another. I found my pace and started making miles, sometimes with others and sometimes solo. I expected the beginning of the CDT to be nothing but barren, flat desert. While it seems the landscape is void of features and life, its rich with mountains, animals, insects, and plants. The last few miles of the day saw me beneath Big Hatchet Peak as the sun started to set.

The easily navigable trail became quite hard to follow without these cairns marking the way. Even with them, I lost the trail a few times in this section.

Typically there’s a bittersweetness while watching the sunset, knowing that I’ll either have to drive back to work tomorrow or hike back to the trailhead the next morning. Knowing that I’ll get to do this everyday for the whole summer brought tears of excitement, joy, and gratitude to me eyes. A full moon started to rise as I set up my tent. The desert heat turned into a cool breeze. It might have been a rough start his morning, but everything seemed to have worked out just right. 

If I keep seeing views like this, I might not ever want to leave the desert.


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Comments 3

  • Donna Brooks : Apr 24th

    Life is full of unknowns and the CDT will bless you with many! Enjoy our natural beauty with every step.
    My husband and I live In Pagosa Springs, CO and have a cabin in Platoro on, CO so maybe we’ll see each other this summer.

  • David Odell : Apr 25th

    Enjoyed your first post. Good luck on the rest of your CDT hike. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

  • Jeff Greene : Apr 25th

    Great pictures! Mostly/Maybe/Almost makes it worth the effort!


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