Swept Away by the CDT

Setting Out

After a few hours on planes and in airports, several hours to kill in Tucson, food shopping at the most poorly stocked Walmart I’ve ever been in, a scenic and comfortable Amtrak ride, spending time in a hiker social circle at the Econolodge of Lordsburg, and a bouncy shuttle ride through remote desert, we found ourselves at a stone monument at the border of Mexico and the United States. The anticipation of the moment dissolved as the reality of the situation sets in.

After thanking Ray for the ride and a series of photos at the monument, Peppermint, Taco, Raphael (my partner), and I took our first steps on the CDT. We had an afternoon shuttle so the sun was already baking down on the desolate landscape. With high spirits and heavy packs, we trudged eagerly forward. After getting scraped and scratched while walking through the brush the trail spit us out at a dirt road, which we followed for some time. It occurred to me that the landscape was boring in comparison to the lush green forests I am used to, but I was thankful for the flat and easy terrain. At 8 miles we came to our first tree, alongside a wide and inviting wash- a perfect campsite. Without hesitation, we all set up to cowboy camp (camping under the stars, with no tent). I have no cowboy camping experience and expected to be nervous, but fell asleep with ease in the comfortable, cool temperatures.

No Answers in the Wind

From there, it took us 4 more days to finish the 84-mile stretch to Lordsburg, and the desert showed us just how much variety it has to offer. We experienced baking hot afternoons, which was expected. But we also had a day of near-constant cloud cover with colder temperatures and spitting sideways rain. The harshest evening was that of the second night. We had set our eyes on the second water cache by Hwy 81, where we knew there would be space for tents. What we didn’t anticipate was the wind in the wide-open area.

Setting up the tents was borderline comical but mostly just frustrating. Peppermint was setting up his new Duplex for the first time, and there couldn’t have been worse conditions to learn. We had a brief break in the wind, long enough for dinner and to crawl into our sleeping bags and catch about an hour of sleep, but then it picked back up with a fury. For the next several hours, substantial amounts of sand were blown into all our tents giving all our belongings a coating of dust.

Our tent stakes were continually ripped from the ground- we slept with the mesh doors open so we could quickly dive out to fix them. With one particularly strong gust of wind, the tent collapsed. Raph dove out to fix it while I sat helplessly inside, having already removed my contacts and being too blind to assist. The trekking pole that acts as a tent pole slipped and stabbed a hole in the tent wall. Raphael found the zipper to his vestibule to be off track and stuck when trying to crawl back in. By 5 am I was too fed up to stay put. As long as the wind was going to keep us from sleeping, I figured we might as well hike, so we packed up and set out to the lights of our headlamps.

Home Sweet Trail

We had the trail to ourselves for the first few days but it didn’t take long to start meeting other hikers. Most hikers are hiking the CDT as their second, third, or even sixth thru hike. We are a pretty unique group in that both Raphael and Taco haven’t done a long (like, a real long) trail before. But the trail gossip has me feeling good about the situation- with more hikers and more hiker-friendly accommodations than ever, the CDT is becoming more and more approachable. The water for this stretch was the first sign of this- all caches were well stocked and there were several unexpected gallons of water at road crossings as well. The communities of Lordsburg and even Hatchita (which we didn’t go into) seem to have opened their arms to us smelly hikers with enthusiasm.

We have opted to zero in Lordsburg since we arrived a day earlier than planned- the call of town food was strong. Taco and Peppermint both are nursing blisters so the break will be much appreciated. The Econolodge has acted as a hiker haven- Ray and Mother Hen are happy to allow loitering and phone charging to anyone who stumbles up, and it’s been fun to catch up with other hikers as they arrive. The hiker hunger is already setting in for me (though, to be fair, I don’t think it ever left after the AT), and I am enjoying the surprisingly good food this small town has to offer.

All in all, I am feeling good. My feet hurt some, but they never stopped hurting after the AT so I am just rolling with it. The most frustrating physical aliment is actually how dry my eyes have been. I wear contacts and have never hiked with glasses before, but the dry and arid environment has left my lenses with a permanent coating of dust that is incredibly irritating. I have already shipped eyeglasses to one of our next stops.

It’s been so enjoyable to fall back into the habits of hiker trash lifestyle.

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