Pie on the Continental Divide Trail – New Mexico and Finishing the CDT
Day 111 started after a solid night’s sleep, cold brew coffee, and a microwave burrito got my day started. I packed slowly, quickly realizing I’d bought way too much food for a four-day stretch but secretly happy about it. After a WiFi and food stop at the Golden Arches we hit trail, the midday sun coming down hard on the black asphalt and us. For the rest of the trail, all of our town and resupply points were on trail, we didn’t have to hitch in and out of towns anymore. This meant it felt easier to motivate ourselves to get out of towns earlier. We did some calculations while hiking, realizing that we had just around three weeks left before we were to finish. How time flies. The desert again impressed me with its variety and sheer beauty, and I hoped that it would remain so interesting all the way to end. We found water at a beautiful spring at the end of a small slot canyon, filling our bottles before settling in for the night.
It was pleasantly warm the morning of day 112. I was the first awake and packed up quietly. I stopped at the spring again to grab a little more water and hopefully catch some early morning wildlife, but no luck. I spent the morning alone, happily hiking along enjoying the morning light on the rock formations. I thought of home, of normal life, of all the amazing things I’d seen on this trail. I guess I began to reminisce and I was OK with it. At lunch some of the crew caught up but they stopped to grab water and I kept going. That afternoon I caught up with two southbounders who we’d not met previously. It was nice to chat to new people and hear their experiences on the CDT and other trails. Thru-hikers are good people. I’m generalizing, but whatever. I camped with them that evening as I never saw Cheesebeard and the gang again that day. We had a big climb first thing the next morning and so after ramen and a little whiskey I went to bed, reading a few pages of my book like every night.
Day 113 I woke up feeling groggy, having not slept well. A horse that had been grazing nearby decided that 2 a.m. was the perfect time to canter around the field repeatedly. It woke me and I had a hard time getting into a deep sleep the rest of the night. This meant I turned off my alarm and stayed in bed late, giving the rest of the gang time to catch up. We chatted and started to climb 2,000 feet up to the top of the mesa, with grand views back to where we’d come from. Once we got on top of the mesa the scenery changed,and it became really boring. The same trees with none of the interesting rock features of the previous couple of days.The great thing being it was flat, enabling to easily do 27 miles. We had sporadic water sources and sporadic rainfall in the afternoon. The film crew drove out to meet us and filmed for a while. They got super lucky as we were treated to a beautiful pink sunset with dark gray clouds all around. We rolled into camp with a sprinkling of rain and all talked and ate dinner from inside our tents. Reminiscing over previous trails and all the food we were each missing and hoping for.
Day 114 started pretty timely at 7:30, the sky was blue and the wind was moving the clouds quickly along. Early on in the morning I hit a brown muddy pond to drink from. I’d known it was coming up but it still wasn’t pleasant to fill up my water bottle with water that looked like chocolate milk. The film crew was camped farther along the dirt road we’d been walking on and we stopped briefly to chat and shoot some interviews. We moved on, slowly starting to climb up to 9,400 feet and colder temperatures. After lunch we continued gradually climbing and got to the next viable water source. I’d intentionally tried not to drink too much of the chocolate milk water so dumped the remainder and hydrated at the flowing spring. Again we had planned to do a 30 but fell short at 27 due to fading daylight and energy levels.
We had just 14 miles into town on day 115 and everyone was eager to get there. We had decided to have our final zero on trail in Grant’s. We spent the next day and half mainly locked inside our motel room consuming huge amounts of food and watching movies from bed. We ventured out briefly to the Junkyard Brewery and had some good beers and conversations with the owner.
Day 117 I awoke feeling good, having caught up on some much needed sleep. I packed slowly and hit Denny’s hard before heading out of town. Click was back with us on trail, deciding to get back on for a section. The section from Grant’s to Pie town was all road walking so it was nice to all hike together and chat. It was a bright, sunny day, the road walk was pretty boring, but we plodded on, stopping only briefly to shoot with the film crew. Fourteen miles saw us at a water source and our camp spot for the night. After admiring the stars from my sleeping bag I dozed off to sleep.
We’d made the decision to wake early on day 118 and do a bigger day so up at 5:45 we were. We started moving before it got truly light, pounding the asphalt from the start. The start of the day was slightly more interesting with rock formations off to the left. A hawk flew over our heads, settled on the cliff and watched us pass. Unfortunately the trail turned back to open plains with little views and little shade. Thirty miles was our goal and halfway into the day everyone’s feet were already sore. Hiking on the road and 2,500 miles behind us probably something to do with it. Midafternoon a friendly local stopped and handed me a cold beer, congratulating me on making it so far and wishing me luck. We hit our goal of 30 and camped with the film crew, 24 miles left to Pie town.
It got real cold in the early hours of day 119, enough so that my water froze slightly. I got moving just as it got light, everyone else still in their sleeping bags. I didn’t see the rest of the hikers until later that day in Pie town. Two cyclists from the U.K. passed me and stopped to chat. They’d ridden down from Alaska and were headed all the way to Argentina, a trip of more than 14 months. It was interesting to hear things from their perspective and some of the different challenges they face to us being on foot. The road walk was hot and the ground was hard, definitely not my favorite section of trail. I made it to Pie town and Toaster house by about 4 p.m. It was Cheesebeard’s birthday so we rustled up some beers and headed over to the film crew’s campsite to celebrate. We excitedly watched footage from earlier in the trip and it made me realize how quickly the time had gone. Eventually we headed back to the cozy, quirky Toaster house for a solid nights sleep.
We’d be warned of the possible vortex at Toaster house and on day 120 it became real. We woke super rested and happy to have slept in a bed. Our intentions were good, we organized our resupply and took care of chores. The same friends from the AT who we’d met in Montana came into town. First they bought all of us Pie and then bought all the fixings for grilling burgers on the barbecue. A bunch of other southbounders turned up, beer was bought, burgers were grilled. Suffice to say we zeroed, had a great time, and regretted nothing. That feeling of “being on the home straight” just couldn’t be denied.
With a slightly sore head we awoke and slowly packed up our gear. The Gathering Place was thankfully open so a couple of us grabbed breakfast. I also got a mini pumpkin pie and thoroughly stuffed myself, feeling kinda sick when I left. After grabbing my pack from the Toaster house I set off. We had another 40 miles of road walking to do before The Gila and my feet were not looking forward to it. The temperature was a little cooler with a pleasant breeze and the walking was easy. The highlight of my day was when a good-sized tarantula crossed my path. It was large and black with a brown fluffy butt. I dropped my pack and we hung out for a while, good times. At 17 miles in we got to the only decent water source for a while and decided to spend the night there, 25 miles until water the next day.
It got down to 23 degrees in the night so safe to say it was hard to get out of the sleeping bag on day 122. I packed up and headed out, leaving the rest of the crew awake but still in their sleeping bags. Once the sun’s rays hit me I warmed up and got into a rhythm. The trail turned from gravel roads in open plains to dirt roads among pine trees. It may not sound like much of a change but it was a relief to the feet and a little more stimulating for the brain. I caught up with three other SOBOs we’d be hanging out with at Toaster house and preceded to leapfrog them for the rest of the day, not seeing anyone else until the evening. I got to the 25-mile water source around 5 p.m. Back behind the stock tank was the top of an old school bus tucked in the woods, just like in “Into the Wild.” I took photos and sat and waited for the crew to catch up. Eventually they did and we set up camp. Too busy talking and not concentrating I knocked my pot off my stove, spilling my dinner. I picked up what I could from the floor (don’t judge me) and made it work, hunger being a serious thing this late in the trail. I cowboy camped under the stars, dozing off to an awesome “Star Wars” audio book.
After another troubled night’s sleep I awoke with a fine layer of frost all over my gear. This and the cold weather made it difficult to get out the sleeping bag. We all finally got going by about 8:45 and I hadn’t realized until just a few moments before that we had over 6,000 feet of climbing ahead of us. I wasn’t mentally prepared for it and it kicked my ass. I felt good in the morning but in the afternoon I felt like there was nothing left in the tank when climbing. I’m not sure exactly why but probably just that our bodies are so broken down with 2,300-plus miles behind us. I pulled out the musical big guns (the “Rocky” movie soundtrack) and pushed onward and upward feeling like Balboa. Just as the light was fading I saw a small fox chilling in the middle of the road. His bushy tail swaying as he scampered off. Camp and the only good water of the day was at 23 miles. I was happy to be in camp, feeling stiff and sore from the day’s climbing.
The morning of day 124 was much warmer. I awoke lazily and made hot rice pudding with coffee for breakfast. I slowly packed up and started moving with the crew just behind me. With creamy flat road miles to walk, the group hiked a lot of the day together chatting and laughing. Before we knew it we’d done eight miles and by lunch we’d done almost 15. A flock of probably 15 turkeys crossed the road down away from as we ate. We continued to cruise along in the afternoon and even though rain clouds threatened, we stayed dry. We got down into one fork of the Gila River and were immediately rock hopping and following the river downstream. This was only the start of the Gila and I was already impressed. We reached Snow Lake and a campground with composting toilets, trash cans, and picnic tables. What luxury. We even made a campfire and talked with our dinners. Eventually, feeling sleepy, I made my way to my tent to write and edit some photos before passing out, excited for the Gila River proper.
Rain came in the night and woke me briefly, but for the first night in a while I slept solidly through the night. Packing up wet gear in the morning was no fun but we were treated to a beautiful, foggy scene over Snow Lake. We skirted the edge of the lake and climbed over the dam (the lake was built in 1967) and into the Gila. It took us a while to warm up, especially as we were soon getting wet feet crossing the river. The river valley was fun despite the crossings and by lunch we had reached the junction up to the high route. We had decided to take the high route to see what it had to offer. I was pretty disappointed but it was relatively flat, easy miles. As the sun set we found a spot to set up, being careful of the numerous cacti.
I awoke on day 126 after a really good night’s sleep. Cheesebeard and I set off a bit before the rest of the group and made our way down to the Gila River. We had only eight miles until Doc Campbell’s and our resupply box. Condensation had been bad in the night so we took the opportunity to dry gear, charge our electronics, and gorge on food. We’d sent ourselves too much food so ate and shared it with the group. Doc Campbell’s also has good handmade ice cream, a nice treat. We did well and managed to get moving by about 3. We were quickly down alongside the Gila again and wading through it. In the tenish miles we did that afternoon we probably crossed the river 20 time, some of the crossings being thigh deep. We’d heard the Gila was cool and it’s definitely true; tall cliffs on either side and colorful desert life all around. We all spent the night under the light of the moon, dozing off to the sound of crickets.
Morning in the Gila was a little rough. I’d slept great but putting on wet socks and shoes wasn’t great fun. Immediately leaving camp we had several more river crossings and the ambient temperatures were pretty low. You’d think an ice bath for our weary feet would be good but it got old real fast. Scratch and I left earlier than the others and it was really nice to chat all morning with her. We’d met back in Glacier in June and had just recently been reunited. Eventually the sun shone down upon us in the valley, making the crossings way more bearable. We even found an area with hot water bubbling up in the river and warmed our feet. Eight miles into the day we left the Gila for good, climbing up into the surrounding mountains. It was a slow day and we only managed to make about 22 miles. This left us with a 16-mile walk to town the following day on very little food. Silver City would be our second to last town before the Mexican border and we planned to pillage it of all its fried chicken, ice cream, and Taco Bell Fire Sauce.
Just after my alarm went off at 6:15 we saw headlamps approaching. All of the crew aside from me, Pebbles and Cheesebeard had camped a mile back and had got a real early start. That motivated us to get up and get moving, just after first light. It was a frustrating 16 miles, lots of ups and downs and cold cold hands. Eventually we made it after much grumblings and walked straight into a Pizza Hut buffet. Six thru-hikers at an all you can eat buffet; scary stuff. We found a great deal at the Comfort Inn and settled in for a chilled nearo. Somehow I’d managed to get a bed all to myself in town and starfished my way to a good night’s sleep.
I immediately put in laundry and ate the awesome hot breakfast at the Comfort Inn, a great start to day 129. We did our usual routine of slowly packing and organizing while watching TV and lounging. Checkout came at 11 and we set off, first stop: Lotaburger, a New Mexican burger chain. The green chile burger was pretty decent but we had a desire for more, onto Dairy Queen! At our second food stop I ordered a medium peanut butter cookie dough Blizzard. I should have gotten a small because I ate the whole thing and felt sick I was so full. Classic thru-hiker style. The word zero got thrown around for a while but we bravely made our way out of town, bloated but happy. We would be walking alongside a two-lane highway for the next good while and camped off the side of the road. It definitely wasn’t my favorite night on trail but we didn’t have any other option.
With daylight saving time coming into effect I awoke with the rising sun at around 5:30. The moon was shining bright on one side and the sun coming up on the other. I’d slept great and was motivated to get in some miles. It was straight back to pounding the asphalt but the miles went by fast and we’d done 18 by 2 p. Conversation was all about the end of the trail and all the mixed emotions we were feeling. Our plans for the end of the trail coming together and future plans for other trails and adventures around the globe. I realized that although the CDT is a harder trail than the AT, I had an easier time with it. I think that it had only taken us 4.5 months on the CDT compared to 6.5 on the AT made it easier. Also the AT being a first hru-hike and the second hike being a little easier. We made 25 for the day before it got dark, leaving 14 to Lordsburg, the final town of the CDT. From there less than 90 miles to the Mexican border and the end of an amazing adventure.
Day 131 was town day. The last town day of the CDT. Lordsburg, N.M. Denny’s was the first thing we came to and it was just what the doctor ordered. Lots of food, bad coffee, and good service. Lordsburg itself was a bit run down but the Econolodge treated us well and Kranberrys had good food and a killer salad bar. We resupplied and took care of chores before settling in with some cold beers. It was a surreal experience to be in our last trail town, just a few more days to go.
I’d slept badly in the night but got out of bed around 7:30. I drank some coffee and started organizing my pack. After another stop at Kranberrys and McDonald’s (shh) we started out of town. Just like the day coming into town, the trail was not much more than signposts spread out every 200 yards. With usually just a faint trail to follow getting off track was easy to do. The day’s planned 23 miles was cut short to 16, mainly due to us not leaving town until 12 and the sun setting at 5:45. I made myself a huge bowl of mac and cheese with real cheese and tuna before snoozing off, intent on catching up on some sleep.
We got a good amount of rain in the night, the wind was howling and pushing the tent into my face. Eventually it calmed down and I got a really good night’s sleep, snoozing multiple times in the morning. We got a slow start in the morning but it felt good to sleep in. At the water source we found two black widow spiders, North America’s most venomous spider. We got moving and the morning’s fog cleared and the sun came out as we followed CDT posts toward Mexico. The terrain was easy, the scenery was sparse but beautiful, and we had plenty of water throughout the day. Many of our water sources were huge tires with a natural spring, a common sight on the CDT. After 25 casually hiked miles, we stopped for the day. We set up and ate dinner, all cracking jokes and laughing until falling asleep.
The start of day 134 and our second to last day on trail started moist. Crazy condensation on the inside and outside of our tents and our sleeping bags and gear. We’d camped in fine, sandy soil and the wet gear attracted it all, making everything damp and grimey. After complaining about that for a little while, Oilcan and I shot a “What’s in my pack” video ( the first of many) and then we all headed out. We had to do a 30 and a 30 we did do. The terrain was pretty flat but there was no real trail and we had to constantly dodge thorny bushes and cacti. The last five miles were especially frustrating with so many sharp plants and numerous washes to scramble/fall into into and back out of. We made our miles just after sunset, leaving just 14.6 miles to the Crazy Cook monument and the end of the trail. I fell asleep under the stars with all of us speculating about the cartel activity and how our final day of hiking might be.
I woke up in a wet sleeping bag on the morning of day 135. It felt like Christmas, the stars were still shining when I woke at 4 a.m. and I was excited. We all awoke, made breakfast, and packed up. There was a feeling in the air, tangible excitement for the final day. Fortunately the going was easy as we followed a gravel road almost all the way to Mexico. The film crew passed us about halfway through the day, on their way to the monument to film our arrival. Then that moment came. The last mile to the border the trail disappeared and we were bushwhacking through thorn bushes. The monument came into view and we all started running, whooping and hollering. The CDT was over and it felt so good to have achieved this huge goal we’d set for ourselves. We took our photos and shot our footage, all while drinking scotch and crying. Once our time was up we headed back to Lordsburg and found a free campsite to spend the night. All the hikers and film crew got beers and cooked up some awesome tacos and Mexican food. Sharing stories from the past months and relishing that this amazing thing we’d set out to do was over.
A huge thank you to everyone who followed along on the adventure. Apologies that they were overdue but stay tuned to my Instagram and YouTube for more CDT and long distance hiking content. All the best, Pie.
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