Silver City, Golden Arches, Final Footsteps

From my campsite, it was less than ten miles to Silver City via the Walnut Creek alternate. A nice, easy road-walk on a warm, breezy morning. My first stop was a gas station, then I went for an early lunch. I emailed the CDTC to reserve a place on their shuttle, and they promptly replied: the shuttle only operates in NOBO season. They gave me the number of their driver, Tim, and I left him a voicemail asking if he could drive me to the southern terminus. I figured this direction would maximize my chances of getting a ride, despite the steadily increasing number of SOBOs.

After that, I performed my usual town routine. Resupply, check-in, chores, dinner. I also looked at the route to Lordsburg and noticed the 12 mile walk along Highway 180. The alternative was to walk 20 miles of Highway 90, which was even less appealing. That direction would also shorten my hike by a day, which I didn’t want – I only had ten days left.

Highway 180 wasn’t exactly riveting, but it was quite hot. I stopped for water about two miles after leaving the road and camped a few miles after that. The next day was warm too, but the trail climbed high enough that pine trees frequently provided shade. Late afternoon, at an elevation of almost 8,000 feet, I stopped at a cistern near the summit of Jack’s Peak. It still contained a few inches of water, some of which I filtered while texting Tim to make arrangements. Entertainment was provided courtesy of the squirrels and birds that warily came to drink. I camped less than a mile later and watched as the mountain cast a lengthening shadow across the desert.

Down and out

I started descending immediately after leaving camp, and by the time the trail leveled off, trees were losing their battle against desert vegetation. The next significant elevation change wasn’t until early afternoon, when the CDT began its final big descent. I dropped below 6,000 feet for the last time, watched the trees disappear, and followed a dry wash out of the hills into a flat, heavily-grazed, wide-open landscape. I eventually camped between some powerlines and a dirt road, with the lights of Lordsburg twinkling in the distance.

A dirt road through a brown, featureless landscape, under a layer of thin, high cloud.

The desert, north of Lordsburg.

The hike into town next morning only took about three hours. Although the CDT was crisscrossed by cattle trails, the terrain was easy, and I soon started seeing trail markers. With the sun directly behind me, the reflective signs formed a line of beacons leading me to Highway 90. At that point, FarOut told me I’d have to “cross a barbed wire fence” which, in reality, meant taking off my pack and crawling under said fence. After that, it was less than three miles to McDonald’s.

Most important meal of the day

Breakfast was still available on the touchscreen menu, and I put some real thought into my order. I took my time selecting and removing items, then several more minutes adjusting quantities. Finally, I was satisfied. I swiped my credit card with barely-contained anticipation, grabbed the receipt, and found a table.

Five minutes later, the manager informed me that they were, in fact, no longer serving breakfast. I crumpled the receipt and settled for a Big Mac.

While drinking an unhealthy number of refills, I arranged my homeward journey, now just six days away. I also booked a hotel room for the night, then commenced my resupply quest. The prize I wanted most was a box of Dollar General’s Cherry Limeade drink mixes, and I was lucky to get the last one. I avoided the “OlĂ© Xtreme Wellness” tortillas though, after buying some in Cuba and subsequently learning a valuable lesson about too much dietary fiber. I made a quick stop at Family Dollar before walking to the EconoLodge to check in.

Trail Angel

Tim was parked outside at eight the next morning. It’s an 85-mile drive to the southern terminus, and one third of the distance is rough dirt road. That’s one of the reasons it took almost three hours to get there. The other reason was that the Border Patrol were having a busy day. Tim pulled over several times to let their vehicles pass, and at one point we waited almost 15 minutes due to a blocked road ahead. We later discovered there’d been a high-speed chase, a crashed SUV, and several injuries. Despite the delays, we arrived before eleven o’clock.

The southern terminus of the CDT is remote, to say the least, and the road sees very little traffic. A big thank-you to Tim Sharp, because without his help, my hike might have ended at Lordsburg. Not only does Tim drive the official CDTC shuttle during NOBO season, he drives his own vehicle out there for people like me in SOBO season. He stocks the water caches between the terminus and Lordsburg and helps with trail maintenance. Contact the CDTC to get his number or find it in the FarOut comments for the southern terminus. Donate generously, because truck tires and suspension components aren’t cheap. Thanks again, Tim!

Crazy Cook

There were four hikers waiting for Tim at the terminus, all of whom I’d met before. It had been a long time since I’d seen some of them: Topper, 8 days; Seabs, 18 days; Haydn & Helen, 116 days. We did some catching up, took some pictures, then everyone headed back in the direction of Lordsburg. While they enjoyed air conditioning, I started sweating. It was one of my hottest afternoons on trail.

I eventually took the Commodore Road alternate and camped next to the same dirt road I’d travelled earlier that day. The Big Hatchet Mountains were less than two miles to the southwest, while the mountain range on the opposite side of the flat, featureless valley was almost ten miles away. It was a pleasant view, blocked by nothing taller than waist-high desert scrub.

Shortly before sunset, Tim stopped to chat during his drive back to the terminus. I saw him again at nine the next morning, as he returned with another group of hikers: Soggy Whopper, Thumper, and Locomotive. I’d last seen them more than two weeks ago, and I congratulated them on finishing. As Tim’s truck disappeared into the distance, I started mentally preparing for the severe weather approaching from the south. Clouds had been gathering since first light, and the overnight warmth was fading fast.

A gentle uphill slope leads to mountains in the distance.

Sunrise and changing weather.

Ten minutes later, I stopped to watch the drama unfolding at Big Hatchet Peak, less than five miles away. A monster of a storm was in the process of smothering the mountains. Heavy, low cloud crawled over the summits, accelerated down the steep upper slopes, and raced across the shallow lower slope with uncanny speed. I put on my rain jacket and braced for impact.

One last obstacle

Fortunately, the thunder and lightning at the center of the storm missed me by a mile. All I had to worry about was a deluge of ice-cold rain and chunky hailstones. As I continued west along the dirt road, the storm moved quickly northwards and the rain eased. A mile later, I realized how lucky I’d been. The flash flooding had been much worse directly beneath the cloudburst. Water levels had already started to drop, leaving wide cuts across the road, several inches deep, with hailstones piled up along each side.

I was supposed to rejoin the CDT where it crosses the valley floor east of Hatchet Gap. Unfortunately, the valley floor was completely flooded, and I had no idea how deep the lake was. Walking slightly downhill, I postholed through banks of knee-deep hailstones, and waded into the freezing water until it came dangerously close to a certain part of my anatomy. That was the main reason I turned back, but there were other factors. The lake was at least half a mile wide, there were no trail markers, my feet were painfully cold, and submerged vegetation kept scraping at my legs and threatening to trip me up.

I returned to the road, walked west to Hatchet Gap, and crossed the valley floor at its highest, narrowest point. A short walk along Highway 81 took me back to the CDT.

Muddy water and banks of dirty hailstones amid desert scrub.

Hailstones on the shore of a temporary lake.

The end of the redline

Rain continued until early afternoon, but once it stopped, there was no more bad weather for the rest of my hike. The next two days were warm and sunny, with a slight breeze. Generally, CDT markers were well spaced, and I only lost the trail once or twice. At the end of my last full day, I camped beneath a juniper tree in a dry wash, less than eight miles from Lordsburg. Whether to spend one more night on trail or go straight to town was an easy decision.

I left camp at the same time as usual, pausing after a mile to watch the sunrise, and a few miles after that to talk to a trio of SOBOs. There were a few small hills, and at the top of each, I thought I’d catch a glimpse of Lordsburg. Eventually, I did.

Closer to town, I thought about the Crazy Cook Monument, and the fact that my hike hadn’t ended there. I needed to choose a location to symbolize the end of a long journey; my own particular southern terminus. Two miles later, I walked underneath the freeway and headed for the Golden Arches.

At the same touchscreen as last time, but well before the 10:30 a.m. deadline, I ordered my breakfast-of-champions from five days earlier. As I gobbled down the last of it, I leaned back in my seat for some post-trail contemplation. The same questions had occurred to me many, many times during the past few thousand miles, and I really should have figured out the answers.

Another adventure? A new job? What, exactly, comes next?

As I write this, I still haven’t decided.

By the numbers

  • In Montana and the Great Divide Basin, I was bitten by 5 ticks and found another 2 before they latched on.
  • I encountered 3 rattlesnakes in the area around Rawlins, WY.
  • I saw 0 bears. Maybe bears aren’t real? More likely, they could smell me from half a mile away.
  • The red-or-dead NOBO is a rare creature. No alternates, no shortcuts, they stick to the CDT the entire way. I only met 3 of them.
Physical issues
  • The hem of my shorts rubbed against my hairy legs, and within a month, I had 2 bald patches.
  • I discovered a new type of blister. It appeared, I burst it, and a day or two later, a blister formed underneath. I burst that one, and a couple of days later, an even deeper blister developed. I call it the “Inception” blister, and I had 2 of them.
  • North of Dubois, WY, I talked to a SOBO who told me how he started the trail overweight and hadn’t lost much during the first 900 miles. I lost about 10 pounds in the first 3 weeks, and nothing after that. Since finishing the CDT, I’ve regained all that weight and more. Maybe some future scientific study of thru-hikers will provide useful data about weight loss.
  • On a not-completely-unrelated subject, may I present: The One Roll Challenge. I started the trail with a roll of toilet paper containing 300 sheets, and 15 remained by the time I finished. Here’s my advice for potential challengers: get creatively efficient with your TP. Fold, don’t scrunch, obviously. And although it’s sometimes a gamble, always try to make it to the next pit toilet. Your odds of a small win are good, but your odds of a big loss are not insignificant. Good luck!
  • By my calculations, almost 42% of a “Top Ramen” block’s volume is air.
  • I took an average of 1 photograph every 3 miles on the CDT. For comparison, I averaged 1 photograph every 2.5 miles on the PCT.
Desert vegetation and a cloudless sky.

A poignant sunrise. My last day on the CDT.


From Lordsburg, I took a Greyhound bus to Phoenix and picked up a rental car. It was dark when I reached Flagstaff, and I chose the same hotel I used when hiking the Arizona Trail. I returned to the car at eight the next morning, carrying my backpack and a plastic bag containing my lunch. I planned to stay in Salt Lake City overnight and arrive in Boise by the following afternoon.

While I was wrestling my backpack into the trunk, a passerby stopped to ask for help. His name was Kenny, and he explained that his truck had broken down on the way to Montana. He wanted to know if there was a homeless shelter nearby. I told him there was, but I didn’t know exactly where. When he asked if I had any spare change, I gave him $20.

He asked another question, and I immediately felt less charitable. His tone was unappreciative; entitled rather than disappointed.

“Got any more? A Greyhound ticket’s $300.”

I still had $22 but wanted to keep it in case of emergency. He seemed to want an unreasonable amount of cash, so I didn’t give a reason.

“Er… No.”

Unfazed, Kenny switched gears. He repeatedly requested the bottle of Coke from my lunch bag but changed his mind when he saw I’d already drunk some of it. He then asked for a ride and wasn’t put off when I said I was heading south. (I lied. I pictured myself being responsible for him for the next 30 hours.) He promptly decided he wasn’t going to Montana, and again asked for a ride. I refused, and he soon left. Things might have gone differently if he’d had lower expectations.


I felt bad for not meeting the standard set by the generous people I met on the PCT, AZT, and CDT. I also knew I’d made the right decision. After 6,000 miles of hiking, this was the first time I’d had misgivings about a stranger. Your mileage may vary, so trust your instincts.

I’m very grateful to all the people who helped me during my time on the CDT. Without their assistance, the hike would have been much more difficult and much less fun. For so many reasons, I want to thank hikers, bikers, trail angels, Trek bloggers, hotel owners, shop owners, postmasters, postmistresses, townspeople, tourists, everyone at the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and every driver who’s ever stopped for a filthy hitchhiker.

Finally, thanks for reading.

A screen-capture from Google Earth, showing the path of the CDT.

Everywhere I spent a night on the CDT.

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Comments 3

  • Chris : Mar 20th

    Thanks for putting all of this together,.. I really thought we were going to see a picture of you at the McDonald’s kiosk as the last photo.

  • David Odell : Mar 20th

    Enjoyed your journal. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77


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