Lessons from Surviving the Bootheel

Well, I am on day five of my hike, sitting in Lordsburg. I finished the first section of the CDT known as the Bootheel! It was definitely a unique experience for me. I really enjoyed it though. The beauty of the desert is so different from what I’m used to.

I learned some good lessons on this section and thought I would share:

Timing is everything! I have accepted that I cannot hike how I want to hike. I have to hike how I need to hike. I like to start early and end early. I now start early, find some water and shade, stay out of the heat of the day for four to five hours, and then hike until sunset.

Shade and water are my new gods. There is hardly any shade in the Bootheel section. There is some, but it isn’t always there when you want it, and it isn’t always where the water is. Most of the CDTC water caches are exposed to the sun. All of them are, actually, but some have shade for a couple of people. I am carefully timing my water carries and making sure I can make the miles I need to set myself up for water. If I see shade midday, I have learned to take it and not push on because there might not be anymore for a long time.

Shorts are OK, but frequent sunscreen application is a must! I am of Irish descent, so I have fair skin and pale skin. I am really careful with the sun, and so I have been applying SPF 60+ sunscreen every 90 minutes or so. Any longer is definitely too long for me! I used an entire bottle to get through the Bootheel. Sun exposure was my biggest challenge in this section.

I knew the hike would have some of these challenges, but I think there is nothing like firsthand experience to really give me a respect for them.

As a general update, the hike is going well. I have a few blisters, but I think it is due to the extremely dusty environment as well as the heat. I’m popping and taping them and that is working fine.

I almost stepped on a rattlesnake yesterday! I was hiking pretty fast and was about three feet away when it coiled up in striking pose and started rattling. It was kind of intense, but fortunately I was able to stop quickly enough and jump back.

The sunrises and sunsets have been beautiful, as have things like cactus flowers, and the weird vegetation that tends to grow in the desert. I have seen a coyote, some jackrabbits, various types of lizards, and geckos. The brutality of the desert definitely holds some of its greatest beauty.

I’m looking forward to heading up toward Silver City and will post another update, if not from there, then soon after. If you are interested in more detail, I keep a daily journal with photos at www.UnfetteredFootsteps.com. Hike on!

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