The First 300(ish) Miles: New Mexico Desert

The Continental Divide

From the moment I stepped away from the Southern Terminus, the CDT has been kicking my butt. The temperatures swing from extremely hot and dry during the day, to below freezing when the sun sets. The winds have been so strong that I can feel sand between my teeth. The stretches between reliable water have been up to 20 miles or more, making days with ten extra pounds of water on my back seem normal. Everything out here hurts, and I absolutely love it.

Mexico to Silver City

While the terrain has been relatively flat, this hike has been far from easy. There are stretches where there is no shade and the sun beats down relentlessly. The first 80 miles from the border seemed like a long flat stretch of nothing. Most of the land is grazing land for cattle, and the water we drink is meant for livestock. The trail is generally a dirt road or a series of CDT signs posted right across a field that we constantly lose track of.

But of course the joys of thru-hiking are found in people and kindness, even where the views are lacking. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by instant friends. Only a few days in and I had found a solid group to spend the days with and camp with at night. Jacob, I knew from the PCT, and Charlie joined us on day one. The next day we added Yak and Pneumonia to the group, some Appalachian Trail veterans. It’s so easy to get to know people out here. We all have so much in common. Or, more likely, it’s just that we’re all in the same vein of crazy. Either way, the people have been keeping me going on these long days.

We worked our way through flat valleys, from cow ponds to solar wells, and eventually climbed in elevation into the mountains near Jack’s Peak. Finally there were some pine forests and hills to climb. On our last day before getting to Silver City, we ran into a family celebrating Easter Sunday. They offered us burgers and cold water on a day when we went 20 miles without a source. It was some of the first trail magic we ran into, and it was so unexpected. That definitely lifted our spirits before we pushed into Silver City for our first Zero day!

The Gila River Alternate

Our day off in Silver City was used extremely well. We basically stayed in bed all day and watched TV. Other than making sure we had all the food we needed, there really wasn’t much else to do except let the blisters heal and our brains rest up. After one last meal at Dennys, where the waitress gave Yak a hard time, and gave me a free meal, we were on our way to the pink line: The Gila River Alternate.

Finally we ventured somewhere with frequent water and a change of scenery. The Gila River is a beautiful miracle. It carves its way through a sheer canyon that offers the most dramatic views we’ve seen yet. We all got used to our feet being soaked through all day, since the trail crosses the River about 200 times on the alternate. The water was surprisingly frigid, but a nice change from the exposure and high temps of the last few weeks. The occasional hot spring also gave us a nice place to soak our tired feet. The river valley felt like a whole new world to us.

The temperatures dropped below 30 at night when we were in the river, making it hard to leave the warmth of my quilt in the morning. My laces were frozen! Our feet were always wet. One morning we even made a fire to dry out our shoes and socks. Of course they were wet again as soon as we crossed the river, but it was nice to not put on frozen footwear.

When we left the Gila River, we were right back into the dry, exposed desert we had grown to love. We were back to cow ponds and long water carries. That night we met a few ranchers who offered some ice cold beers. Yet more trail magic! Then we had nothing but long dirt roads between us and Pie Town, New Mexico.

Finally, we made it to Pie Town. It’s a very small place, but it has a lot of character. We stayed at the Toaster House, a free hiker hostel, which somehow has even more character. Nita, the amazing owner, even gave us a tour of the town. We caught up with a lot of friends there, and of course, had some amazing pie. It was another great break from the trail, and a glorified hiker reunion. After some much needed rest, we were on our way, yet again!

Trail Magic

It’s so cool when people take time out of there day to help a hiker. These are some of the awesome folks who helped us along the way. Even if it was just a ride or a cold drink, it lifts our spirits. They’re all Trail Angels to me.

  • Solo: She was camped out on highway 90 in a long dry stretch to give water and cold sodas to hikers.
  • Paula: She gave us a ride away from Burro Mountain Homestead back to the CDT
  • Tasha: She and her family offered us cold water and leftover hamburgers from their Easter Sunday Celebration
  • Elaina and Briana: Elaina was a hiker we met in the Gila River. She and her sister left cold drinks, sour patch kids and whiskey for us on highway 53.
  • Ranger Cary: He was working at a NF campground and offered cold water as we passed through.
  • Kevin and Chance: They were ranchers working when we passed by. They gave us Coors!
  • Jetta: She keeps a beautiful water cache below Mangas Mountain and also offers rides to injured hikers.

  • Davila Ranch: This place was great. They have a facility complete with laundry showers, and a kitchen for hikers to use before they reach Pie Town. We made some eggs and potatoes there!
  • Nita: She runs the Toaster House in Pie Town. This used to be her home, but she transformed it into a free hiker hostel. It has plenty of beds, a great atmosphere, and rooms stacked high with boxes that hikers ship to themselves.

Keep Moving Forward

After a few weeks on the trail, I can definitely feel myself adjusting. My legs and my lungs are catching up to my ambition. The people out here are amazing, both hikers and locals. I am so thankful for my friends for making the hard days easier. There have been so many low moments that instantly turn around into spectacular memories. This is why I love thru-hiking! I can’t wait to see what the rest of new mexico has to offer!

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