New Games with New Rules: Days 7-9 on the CDT


Thru hiking is a game where you make your own rules. The game is governed by a certain set of laws, most of them natural. Wind, fire, flooding, rain, and snowstorms all force the players to adapt to the game. There’s no winners or losers. Realizing that this game is something you want to play and making it to the starting line is enough of a win. Hiking even a hundred miles past it is supreme feat.

As I walked the road 12 miles into Silver city, my feet supremely hurt, and I wondered what were my rules to this new game. Should I put my thumb out for a ride? Will I be able to connect my footsteps all the way to Canada? Did I really quit my job and pack up all my belongings just to come out here and walk highways? Will my legs be able to carry my stomach after I eat all the food in Silver City?

The most exciting and inspiring part of walking the paved road into Silver City.

A Legit Town With Legit Food

Except for crossing the official Continental Divide, the road was very uneventful so I’ll skip to the good parts. Every ache and pain disappeared as I heard the sounds, and smelled the food of downtown. The annual bike race brought hundreds of cyclists and their friends and families, along with food trucks, live music, great food and everything in between. I was in no rush to get to my accommodations at the grungy Motel 6, so I stopped in a handful  food stores and restaurants sampling what Silver City had to offer.

For qualifiers, cyclists pedaled dozens of laps around downtown Silver competing for a spot in the main event  “The Gila Monster”.

First up was a bear claw, a pastry from the local bakery. Second was a delicious homemade roast beef sandwich from the local Food co-op. Next up was a pulled pork sandwich from a food truck. I then realized that I have to save some money for the rest of this trip so I silenced my stomach. A local woman gave me a hitch to the motel after meeting tons of wonderful people and sharing laughter and stories in downtown Silver.

Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

Spending so many nights sleeping in the desert made walking into a hotel room felt odd. The washing machine had a line and I didn’t really have enough clothes to do a full load, so I washed them in the bathtub instead. Once showered, I planned on immediately going to the grocery store and accomplishing some town chores but my body demanded a nap and the soft bed felt too good to deny it one. Soon after, MacGyver and Salt texted, saying they were headed to the brewery. I knew that I would probably hurt my wallet over there, so I had a pregamed chicken tenders and mac & cheese at the Albertsons.

Silver City: Where dirty hikers meet serious bikers.

The Only Taxi In Town

Although us hikers do a lot of walking, once we get to town, walking is like a sin. Our motel was a few miles away from the brewery so we called the one and only Uber driver in town. 10 minutes later, Nathaniel came to come pick us up.

We ran into another group of hikers at the brewery and sat down, trading stories of the past week since we started at the Mexico border. It’s really cool to hear all the different backgrounds that everyone has and how they ended up on the CDT. Some folks are climbers, others are  canyoneering and river guides. Some have hiked to the base camp of Mount Everest. Most have completed at least one other thru hike. Everyone loves the simplicity of walking.

A group of hungry yet happy hikers. Left to Right: Me, Boomerang, Scout, and The Kid

First Zero

I planned on staying in town the next day, enjoying the thought walking as little as possible. I texted some other friends to see if they’d want to meet up for some breakfast in downtown. After a big omelette, and another round of sharing stories with the crew, I lounged in the local park for the better half of the afternoon. I really got a feel for the diversity of the town while stretching, journaling, and doing some yoga in the grass. A woman who lived there all her life was standing under the gazebo playing beautiful tunes from a flute. Young kids dressed up in costumes getting ready for a foam sword fight. Other questionable folks yelled at each other with hostility. I felt like a true spectator.

Bag Bowl made his way to the park and set up shop in the shade, eating chips and guac. I eventually joined him and asked him if he wanted to split the extra bed in my room. He happily replied yes and I was happy to spend a little less money during my stay. We made our way there and took another round of showers before heading back out to the brewery with a different group of hikers; Boomerang, Scout, The Kid and Finn.

It feels good when the road finally turns back into trail. Boomerang strutting her stride across The Continental Divide.

Leave Room For Spontaneity

The previous night was quite rowdy with live music and tons of people dancing, but this night was quiet, and we all had some really good conversation, talking about hiking, and some horror stories on the CDT and others adventures. Some of those stories included Into The Wild, the misfortune of a CDT hiker named Otter (RIP), and any stories that we could relate to. Just like last night,  Nathaniel drove us to the brewery and once we were done, we called him to pick us up. Just before we left Stranger and Snack Hole pulled up. Stranger knew a friend in town who had a cabin in the mountains right along the CDT. He invited anyone who wanted to add on some extra miles to join him and Snack Hole. Boomerang and I giddily raised our hands and we made plans to hike out the next morning and meet at the cabin.

My First Monastery 

We all stood in silence listening to the beautiful prayer songs while gazing upon equally beautiful mountains.

The arrangements not only meant that we had to add on an extra day of hiking, but many extra miles and thousands of vertical feet of elevation to peaks and ridges before finally reconnecting to the Gila alternate. The road walk out of town slowly transitioned from sidewalk, to a private road, to a dirt road until finally Boomerang and I found ourselves back on the CDT.

We stopped to eat lunch when Snackhole and Stranger rounded the corner. Our group looked over the map of where we would hike today to get to the cabin. The four of us leapfrogged each other for the rest of the day sometimes talking, other times listening to music or just enjoying the beautiful forest. Instead of filtering water from a rather dirty stream, which would clog our filters, we decided to do a little side quest up to a Monastery which allowed hikers access to their well water.

Wet water equals happy hikers, as Strangers smile will attest to.

Is Water Wet?

It was here that we determined some water is dry and other water is wet. In case you didn’t know, wet water is what you want (say that 10 times fast) and that’s exactly what we found from the 2500 foot deep well. We respectfully explored the grounds of the monastery and realized we were just in time for one of their prayers. As we walked upon the chapel, we heard some of the brothers and sisters singing a beautiful song in Latin. I’m mostly clueless to anything that has to do with religion, monasteries and prayers. What I do know is that what they were singing and praying for was absolutely beautiful sounding. We walked some gravel roads away from the monastery, and eventually reconnected with a road that would lead us to the cabin.

A Cabin In The Woods

The excitement was shared amongst all of us once we finally found it. We threw down our packs and enjoyed the remaining sunlight, sipping some whiskey and smoking some hand rolled cigarettes. I don’t typically indulge in those two, but with the crew I was with and after the miles of the day, it felt really good. Snack hole and Stranger took one of the beds and Boomerang snagged the other one, so I found myself cowboy camping on the deck, underneath the starry night. The moon was beginning to wane, and the stars became brighter and brighter. I saw three shoot across the sky before I closed my eyes for the night. Today, and the previous days, were very good days. Days I wouldn’t soon forget.

It’s not just the cabin, but who you share it with that makes the experience so special. Filled and furnished with everything you need and nothing you don’t.

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