We interrupt your regularly scheduled trail update to bring you this important message.

Lonely trail on a mesa.

I’m temporarily off-trail. I came home. It was a difficult decision, but it was the right decision, at the right time for me. Let me back up a few days to give you the low-down on how I arrived here. These are the factors, in order of importance, for making this decision:

  • homesickness and loneliness
  • weather
  • gear challenges
  • a break in my resupply boxes

Homesick and lonely

This trail is not to be taken lightly. Although the hiking is easier in many ways than any other hikes I’ve completed, it is so much more challenging in ways that are more difficult to understand until you are in the midst of them. The main reason I came home is because I was homesick and lonely. I wasn’t expecting this. At all. To say I was homesick makes me feel like a small child at sleepaway camp for the first time. But, there it is.

I missed my husband and teenaged son, as well as my older daughter and her family (whom I usually see several times a month). I also missed my other daughter and son, even though I don’t see them nearly as often. I do talk to them regularly, and I think that was the missing piece. I didn’t get to talk or text with my family nearly as often as I have on other hikes, including the whole AT. There just isn’t a strong or consistent enough signal on the CDT to talk with any one of them  more than once a week, usually in town.

I think these are coyote tracks on a dirt road.

Another big, related factor is the isolation on this trail. I knew it was less traveled than the AT or any other hikes I’ve done, but I think my early start exacerbated it. Additionally, I separated from the hiking buddies I was with that first week when I stayed in town with that infected blister. I was completely alone almost every day on trail after that and only saw other hikers in town. I mean, several days without seeing any other soul. Coming from the AT which was always crowded, even on my flip-flop, this was a jolt. And I like spending time alone. But I guess there is a limit to how much time alone I can manage.

Occasionally, I saw hunters drive by in their vehicles, which was fortunate since I was able to yogi water from them when water sources were 20 miles apart. But as helpful as the hunters were (and they were really helpful, offering water, food, rides, company, anything!), it’s not quite the same as celebrating and commiserating with others going through the same challenges like other thru-hikers can. I felt really isolated, and that was hard. Much harder than I expected.

I knew this trail would be more remote with fewer people. I just didn’t fully grasp how that would impact me emotionally.


Graupel seen under my tent fly.

OK, I knew with an early start, I would encounter snow. I started early to avoid the heat of the desert, but my daughter sent gear for the cold and snow. I even ordered a 0° quilt because I had a few nights already when I was chilly in my 20° quilt.  I already had a few sections with post-holing through snowpack. Sometimes, it was only ankle or knee deep. Other times, it was up to my hips, and I a few times, I almost slid off the trail.

When I left Grants, the weekend forecast was for snow on Mt. Taylor. Climbing Mt. Taylor, I could see snowy sections near the peak, but plenty of clear sections, too. On the mesas approaching Mt. Taylor, graupel kept falling. I looked ahead on Far Out for comments about the trail around the peak. I noticed some suggested avoiding a few miles of snowpack that was on trail by heading down to the forest roads and then heading back up after the snowpack. Sounded good to me! I went down to the road, about a 1000 ft lower and camped there. That night, I had snow and graupel fall. I knew it would be worse 1000 ft higher, up on the trail. Turned out, Mt. Taylor was completely covered with up to 12 ft of snow. (Another hiker who was just ahead of me posted on social media that he picked up snowshoes about a week after I got off trail!)

I was already feeling lonely and homesick, so I went back to town to figure out my next move. I started thinking about the pros and cons of going home. 

Gear challenges

So.many.miles of road walking!

When you’re on a long thru-hike, gear is always a challenge. I haven’t met anyone yet who makes it through a long hike without gear challenges, failure, or damage.

So far, my sleeping pad has sprung a miniscule leak. The pinhole is so small, I can’t find it, but about 6-8 hours after I go to bed, I end up waking to partially reinflate it. So annoying to wake up with a body part on the cold ground at 2 am. 

I love my tent. I love my hiking pants. The two together, aren’t as great. I have repaired the tent screen near the door zipper a few times because my hiking pants have a zipper on the back pockets that has gotten caught on the tent zipper a few times. Know how hard it is to disengage a zipper from another zipper when you can’t see it and can barely reach it? I do, now. So, right next to the zipper, I have a two small tears in the screen that I’ve repaired with strips of KT tape. I think I have learned how to back out of my tent without catching on the door zipper. Maybe. Hopefully.

And finally, one of my last days on trail, the zipper on the hip pocket of my pack broke. Just came off track. Unfortunately, it is the pocket for my snacks, so I am in it often. 

I’ve already gone to REI to replace my sleeping pad and pack. I’m hoping my tent will continue to function and that I won’t catch it on my pants’ zipper any more.

Gorgeous view on a day I was crying about being lonely and homesick.

Resupply boxes

If you remember, much of my resupply is from care packages sent by family and friends. That was another factor in my decision. I have a break in the schedule before I was expecting the next box. That meant that there were a few weeks before someone was sending one and I had time to tell them, and anyone else scheduled to send a box while I am home, to hold off until I updated the spreadsheet with new dates and addresses.

New plan

Before I left home in March, my husband and I had planned for him to join me for a week off trail in Colorado. New plan: we keep that plan, and I return to the trail when he goes to Colorado. The biggest “pro” for going home was, of course, to see my family. The biggest “cons” would be possibly losing trail legs and then returning to elevation – double whammy for resuming my hike.

So, the plan now is for me to walk 10-20 miles on the rail trail at least 5 day/week while I am home, and hike steeper elevations with my pack at least once a week. The rail trail was a great way to condition for the CDT. Although there are some steep sections, they aren’t as frequent or even as steep usually, as the AT. Adding the  steeper hikes weekly should be sufficient. I’ll also go back to the gym and recycle some of the workouts my trainer gave me in March.

In a few weeks, my husband and I will head back to Colorado. I will skip this section for now. We will spend a week exploring the area, day hiking, and sightseeing. That will give me time to get acclimated to the elevation again. Then he will go home and I will continue north. By that time, I will have missed most of the worst weather, and other hikers will have caught up so I won’t be so alone. I will hike the section that I am skipping either after I reach Canada or next summer. I haven’t decided yet.

These views down to where I started the day give me a sense of accomplishment.

The Plain White T’s song sums up my CDT hike perfectly. I’m taking my time. I’m exploring along the way. But I also want to spend time with my loved ones. 

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