Traveling West: New Jersey to New Mexico
One Trail, Three Termini
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) has three southern termini: Crazy Cook Monument, Antelope Wells, NM, and Columbus, NM. Charlie and I chose the Crazy Cook Monument. I couldn’t find much information on the history of the Crazy Cook Monument.
The one story I could find was about Frank Evans, who was killed there in 1907. Apparently, he was working on a crew that was building a fence along the US-Mexico border, and he had words with the cook. The cook turned out to literally be a crazy cook, who murdered Evans in cold blood with an axe on May 1st. Evans would have been 37 on June 12th. Charlie has worked with lots of chefs, and believes this story because most chefs are crazy.
Honestly, we chose Crazy Cook because the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) operates a shuttle from Lordsburg, NM to the monument. Our shuttle driver Juan More Time told us that the monument had been tipped over, and a group from the CDTC worked to upright it.
The shuttle was pricey for both of us, but we’re from the east coast. We don’t know anyone in New Mexico, so this was the easiest way for us to get from Point A to Point B. First, we had to get to Lordsburg.
Monday, March 28th –
New Jersey/New York
Terri and Eric, my sister and brother-in-law, came to Seaside Park for the weekend. On Monday after we had packed, unpacked, and repacked our packs at least three times, we all got into the car and headed north to Fort Lee.
Charlie and I ran a few last minute errands, including a trip to the post office and REI. Suddenly, I realized that we were within driving distance to the Appalachian Trail, and I had to touch a white blaze. I had to say goodbye to the trail that taught me so much and changed my life in so many ways because we don’t know when we’ll be back east.
Charlie thought I was crazy, but I got on the Palisades Interstate Parkway and drove north. About 45 minutes later, we passed the trail, so I got off at the next exit, and we headed south. I slowed down when I saw the hiker sign. There isn’t a shoulder to stop or anywhere to pull over, so I drove onto the grass and hopped out of the car. With my anticipation growing, I walked quickly along the grassy shoulder with cars whizzing by. One woman even stopped to see if I’d run out of gas or needed help. I just shook my head and told her I was fine.
Then I disappeared into the woods, and I was back on the trail!Tears of happiness sprang from my eyes when my feet hit the trail. I was flooded with memories as I touched the blaze with my fingertips, and then I thanked the AT, and set my mind on the CDT.
Tuesday, March 29th – New Jersey/New York City/Illinois/Arizona
We got up early and caught a ride into the city with Terri. She works at Columbia University, and I love visiting her on campus. I lived in NYC many years ago, and I love the energy. Saying goodbye to my sister is never easy. She is my best friend. When I have a hard day on the trail, I think of Terri.
From Columbia, we took the subway, which was crazy since we were carrying our packs, to Penn Station, where we caught a train to Newark Liberty International Airport Station, where we caught the monorail to Terminal C. This wasn’t as hard or confusing as it might sound. We could have taken a taxi or used Uber, but we’re hiker trash, and we’re on a budget.
We had some time to kill at the airport, so we ate some overpriced food, and made up stories about travelers to entertain ourselves. Finally, our flight to Chicago was boarding, and we were speeding down the runway and flying into the big blue sky.
In Chicago, we had a short layover, and then we were on our way to Tucson, Arizona. Lordsburg does not have a major airport, so people usually fly into Tucson or El Paso. The flight to Tucson was cheaper! As an added bonus, my friend Stacy moved there with her boyfriend, Nate, a year ago to get her Doctorate, and they picked us up at the airport and let us crash at their place for the night.
Wednesday, March 30th – Arizona/New Mexico
There are two ways to get from Tucson to Lordsburg: Amtrak or Greyhound. We considered both, and then, I decided to put my social media skills to use. I’m a member of a closed CDT Facebook group, and I asked if there were any other alternatives.
Several people responded to me, and I was able to get us a ride from a hiker named Radar. He picked us up in Tucson at a hardware store across the street from Stacy’s place. When we got to Lordsburg, he drove us around town, took us to the post office, the grocery store, and gave us tips about water sources and desert hiking. He was our Trail Magician!
We spent the night at the Econo Lodge in Lordsburg. We tried to stay calm. We watched Survior, and laughed at the people, struggling to live outside for 39 days. Then we started to freak out. Do we have the right gear? Do we have enough money? Are we prepared to hike in the desert? What the hell are we doing?
Thursday, March 31st – New Mexico
At 6:30 in the morning, we caught the shuttle to Crazy Cook. There was another hiker named Milk Jug in our shuttle, but we haven’t seen him since we all took a picture together at the monument.
Well, we survived our first five days in the desert! We have blisters, and we’re not used to the heat or altitude, but we arrived back in Lordsburg yesterday morning, and today, we took an unplanned, unexpected zero.
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