Larapinta Trail Day 4 – Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ellery Creek

I slept well despite the potential dingo/cat/ giant echidna attack, although I was really warm with the tarp above me. We make coffee and head off at 6am, guided by our headlamps before the first light appears around 630am.
It is a ‘Larapinta flat’ morning, meaning rolling hills, for the first 6km then a nice big switchback climb through tall grass and shrubs to Counts Point. We climb fast, dump our packs at the top, hike out to the point (a 1.4km out and back alternate) and are rewarded by an absolutely amazing 360 view. To the west we see Mt Sonder down a valley that drops far and steeply resembling a giant ship’s hull, to the east we see along a long ridge that we will be hiking and our friendly caterpillar sits south of the road we drove in on that seems to follow us consistently (or perhaps is just really long and doesn’t change shape). Obligatory selfies and a couple of perfectly executed dance moves done we hike back to our packs, shovel in some spoonfuls of soaked oats and head down the super windy ridge.
Counts Point Larapinta Trail
Turtle and I on Counts Point

The ground is all rocky and very hard underfoot, and the sun is starting to bite, but it is brilliant. We pass a bazillion supported hikers in their tour groups- they hike decent km but carry nothing and have camp and dinner waiting for them when they finish. Slack hikers! (I secretly question why we didn’t choose this option ūüėČ ). My pack today isn’t too heavy as I only have 3L with me as opposed to yesterday’s horrible day long 5L carry.
As expected the ridge drops suddenly at the end and we have a very steep descent. The footing is much nicer than we’ve had, with beautiful big steps cut out of the rock. We pass more groups of hikers, have 3 near ankle rolls thanks to shakey non-stabilizing legs that are fed up with rocky descents, then finally land on a beautiful red dirt path. The soft powdery dirt feels like clouds underfoot compared to the rocks, and I fly down the trail to Serpentine gorge. I get confused with the carpark/ gorge/ hut/ water signage not knowing where the water tank is and worried I hiked past it, so end up sitting on the ground for a while waiting for Turtle so we can decode it together.
Turtle arrives and yay the hut, with water tank, is just around the corner. We always land at the gorgeous huts for our lunch break and never get to sleep there! Hopefully one of our stops will be in a hut.
I never thought I’d be so excited to hike on dirt


I lie on my back and lift my feet to get the rocky throbbing to subside, while awkwardly spooning cold refried beans from my plastic icecream container into my mouth. I drink some electrolytes, retape my feet, re-suncream ( I am working in THE sexiest above sock/ below skirt knee tan. About 6cm of tanned perfection), fill up water, soak my bandana and buff in water to cool me off and head off to Ellery at 1230pm.
It’s hot but there is a lot of wind which takes the edge off somewhat. I need a distraction from the glare so decide to pop my music on for the first time. I then give myself a “Well Done!’ Elephant stamp for such a good idea because it works perfectly. The trail is rolling hills, some big climbs, and generally pretty exerting but I’m able to bounce down them feeling amazing with my head full of tunes. There are some phenomenal rock formations with clear sea markings – it blows my mind that I’m looking at remnants of the shallow sea that existed here 800 million years ago! 800 million. I try, and fail miserably, at wrapping my head around that. I have lots of really cool scrambles and climbs over different types of rock, while looking across surprisingly green valleys full of trees. Another choose your own adventure type day as there is no space for a dirt trail through here.

Trig Point
Detail of the amazing rocks
The ridge gets more dramatic as the day goes on, dropping suddenly and climbing back up just as steeply. It’s cool to see trail winding far on the hills opposite, and as my energy fades a little I level up on playlist and get the ‘climbing mountains’ motivational songs on! I cross my fingers that we have passed all the groups of walkers for the day because I am now the star of my own (really long) music video, singing really loudly, coordinating with hiking pole dance moves wherever possible and grinning like a fool because it is a crazy beautiful ancient wonderland out here. I’m sure Turtle is nerd-gasming¬†somewhere behind me on the trail about all the rock formations that she loves.
I brace myself for the last km of the trail as some of the guides I passed said it was particularly hard underfoot on the way into Ellery. I’m not sure how it could possibly hurt more than yesterday! It doesn’t. It is actually fine. Note to self – don’t listen to guides. However, I do somehow manage to take myself on an unplanned extra alternate and add a couple of km to my day! I’m still happy though as I finally enter Ellery campsite.
I claim some platforms for Turtle and I, then wander down to the water hole. It is the coldest water on trail and I’m in need of a wash so I’m keen to jump right in. I make it as far as my butt then bail. So so so cold. Hurting deep into my bones kind of cold. Snow melt kind of cold. It takes ages for my feet to stop throbbing, but I’m sure it was good for them!
Ellery Creek


I collect our food drop from the store room and sit at a picnic table chatting to Jack and eating cold rehydrated chili on chips ( we added a packet of chips to this drop- genius!) for my dinner while waiting for Turtle.
She rolls in a while later, huge grin on her face. She can’t contain herself and shouts across the carpark “How good was today?!?!”
Food bag sorting, setting up beds and chatting to random weird hiker guy that rocked up that seems to have walked every major trail in Australia! He lists them all as he is searching the ground for cigarettes and asking all the car campers for beer. I’m sure he has some good stories but is a fraction too bizarre with a splash of the creeps for me!

A magical previous hiker has left some Rid in the hiker room, which is a godsend given I’m determined to cowboy camp every night. Tonight, again, I’m on a little platform under the stars. With just a couple of strategically placed hiker pole and loud pot booby traps around me because, you know, creepy dude. An almost perfect night, except some car campers have decided to watch tv.
Yup. Tv.
In the middle of the country with the best view you could ever hope for above, but one cannot possibly miss the latest Home and Away or Bachelor. Blergh. Earplugs ftw.

Larapinta Trail Day 3 – Ormiston Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam

I’m awake and staring at the stars from my little platform looking for a shooting one as a good omen for my day. Star sighted, I pack up my things in the dark, wander down the road to the kiosk where Turtle meets me and we make coffee with a hiker box fuel cannister. Fruit is always a luxury when hiking (or fresh anything) so I’d packed an apple in this drop that I ate before we headed off down the chilly dark trail just after 6am.
A high rock wall appears in the shadows next to us which looks extra spooky and impressive in the dark. I give it a hug, in an attempt to connect with some of it’s ancient wisdom (yes, I hug trees too) and we continue through a dry deep sand riverbed before climbing up the hills as the first light begins to shine. Mount Sonder is still in the distance, but ahead we have spectacular canyons and white gums glowing in the early light. Superb layers of orange and red rock are stacked up to form huge towering walls that would be an awesome waterfall in the wet season. We whistle the Jurassic Park theme song as I’m pretty sure there are some dinosaurs about to emerge from the boulders. We vow to return via helicopter after the rains begin!
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Underfoot is a gorgeous dark iron rock that reminds me of lava fields but is less porous, so we decide the black layers must just be old oxidation of the iron rocks. We are walking through some scraggly burnt trees when Jack catches us and zooms ahead.
This is so far my absolute favourite day!
Our climb to Mt Giles lookout begins after 8km and is a lot less steep than I anticipated. It is still a hard climb, more so towards the top, and the views are insane. The landscape is getting more and more dramatic and I’m so excited when I realise we are hiking across the top of this narrow ridge with mountains either side.
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I don’t want this part to end, except that the sun is well and truly up and burning fiercly so we don’t stay the top but begin the very steep very rocky descent. The land falls away veeeery steeply and I can see where our lunch spot must be in the distance, hiding in a gorge far below. Down Down Down. The ground is really hard underfoot and the trail is very tricky. My poles go away and my hands come out a lot to lower me down huge steps and navigate around large boulders. A group of supported hikers pass us in the most inconvenient place possible on the trail- they are hiking opposite direction but the same distance as us today without any packs! They are still making amazing time though. As he passes, the group leader admires our Dirty Girl Gaiters and my homemade anti-desert-spikything-leg-protectors that I made for the CDT last year that are still serving me well!

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Finally finally at the bottom. Sweaty and hot. Feet throbbing from the pounding down¬†the steep steps and all I want is lunch! It is not to be. Instead we hike through a rocky canyon that is actually really fun jumping up and down and around huge boulders. It’s choose your own adventure hiking, where every step is a puzzle piece towards finding the trail.
I spy shade! Shade! Glorious shade. The foot of waterfall gorge campsite is a perfect shaded piece of staggered rock that is like a mini ampitheatre. Shoes and socks come off and I elevate my hot feet, the rock nice and cool on my legs.
The usual lunchtime rush ensues with eating, drinking electrolytes, retaping feet, applying suncream, refilling snack pockets and topping up my hydration bladder with the extra water I have. It’s a hot day with no water sources so I’m carrying 5L that I’m doing my best to ration.
Out of the gorge we enter a vast pastel valley with a pass way down the end that we are to climb up and over. The spinifex covering the slopes looks like little soft green cotton balls, but is mean and spiky and stabs us all day long. More beautiful red rock sits at the top of the green slopes with amazing trees finding purchase in little ledges and cracks.
It is hot.

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The other side of the pass is even more spectacular. There is, however, no respite from the heat until we are up and over the pass. I find a little burnt out area with some tree coverage that looks non-snakey that I sit down in and enjoy 5 minutes (or maybe it was 10) of non-foot pounding where Turtle joins me. A piece of red licorice and a sip of electrolytes and we are back on our feet and around the corner into a new canyon.
This Inarlanga Pass. It starts like the first canyon with big white, black and pink hued boulders, then turns into an orange fantasy land. The walls are fluro orange towering high above us, the ground is dotted with ghost gums and huge cycads, and the boulders are big and tricky to get around. The cycads are phenomenal relics of long ago. Until recently it was thought the West Mac cycads were around during the Jurassic period, making our Jurassic Park whistling this morning quite appropriate! But recent studies show they have “only” been around for about 10 million years. I’m pretty sure that still warrants some admiration! ¬†Hiking poles go away and hands come out as we slide and scurry and edge our way through. My feet are so sore after spending all day on hard rock, but the hiking spectacular so I command my feet to take a few spoons of concrete.
Towards the end of the canyon the fading light of the day hits the top of the rock walls, making them glow even more.
Finally out the other side I find a sign that explains that this is the pass between the lands of two different people. I’m at the junction to the Ochre Pits which is a registered sacred site and still used today by the Arrernte people – they don’t access the pass without the permission of the traditional custodians of the land on the other side of the pass.
the light is well and truly fading now. The sky is gorgeous tonight and we turn a corner to unexpectantly find someone watching the sunset with his camera and no other gear. Turns out he is camping at the same place as us and has hiked up to view the sunset. The last km takes forever. It is way more than 1km and we swear at the sign! Mean sign.
There are a lot of tents set up, so we cross over the creek bed and find some flat spaces on the other side next to the water tank where Jack has already set up. I lay out my tyvec, blow up my mattress and fluff out my quilt, then wander over to our “dining room” (rocks big enough to sit on to eat dinner) where Turtle and I eat yummy food by the light of our headlamps. I fill up my water ready for tomorrow then scurry back to my fluffy quilty home for the night.
It doesn’t take long for me to fade away into sleep, but am rudely awakened by something walking around close by. The night is so quiet it’s easy to hear, and my spidey senses are all on alert. I shine my headlamp into the trees next to my bed and am greeted by two eyes staring back at me. Bloody dingo.
It scampers off and I sit up trying to see where it went, before giving up and lying down again. 5 minutes later it is back. GAH. I don’t want to be woken up by an exploratory sniff to my head, so ¬†I pull my tarp out and set it up super quickly. The beauty of a tarp is that I don’t have to move any of my things, but just erect it around me and am super impressed with how quickly and well I set it up. No adjustments required, perfect first go. This never happens and I am tempted to wake everyone up so they can give me a medal for Perfectus Tarpus Erectus. I self high five instead, and lie down in my mini house. I’ve got the little doors rolled up so I still have glimpses of my star friends, and hope they don’t do anything too amazing tonight that I miss. Goodnight stars! Goodnight dingos!

Larapinta Trail Day 1 – Mt Sonder to Rocky Bar Gap

We wake early from our comfy hotel beds and sort all our last minute¬†things.¬†We had a bit of a panic yesterday when the transfer company hadn’t delivered our boxes for our food drops, and the gear company hadn’t dropped off our fuel canister. We have 3 luxurious food drops organised – complete overkill¬†but we can, so we are! I’m so excited about our tiny food carries, particularly as the temperatures are forecast as unseasonably warm for our hike so we will be have a few 5L water carries. Thankfully the boxes arrived, and there was a fuel can in the lost and found at the hotel so all ok!
Our extra luggage and food supplies for our post-Larapinta road trip are all locked away in the hotel storage room, and our friendly driver Justin¬†arrives to take us on the 3.5h trip to Mt Sonder. Several pickups of other hikers around¬†Alice and we are on our way.¬†There are 3 groups on the¬†bus with us – one solo young guy doing a 10 day itinerary (same as us- not sure about particular km¬†per day/ campsites he will be at), one group of 3 taking 15 days,¬†and one big group of 6 with¬†huge packs, brand new leather¬†giant boots, and enough food for 3 weeks who are hiking Serpentine to Mount Sonder.¬†Yes I am Judgey McJudgeypants-ing their shoes and packs, because with our weather forecast of high 20s all week and no shade on the trail, they are going to be in a world of pain ūüôĀ
Finally we arrive and are here! Larapinta Trail! Turtle and I have the¬†obligatory starting photo taken, fill up water, empty contents of packs (except for water and lunch) into Turtle’s tent, then begin the climb up Mt Sonder. The driver told us¬†of the¬†Arrente (the people of Alice Springs)¬†story of Mt Sonder in which a lady becomes pregnant to someone¬†who is not her husband, so she is banished for eternity to lie on the ground and becomes the mountain. When you look at the mountain you can see her on her back with her face towards the sky.
It is a 16km return trip to the summit, and we climb as the heat goes up and up. The views across the desert are spectacular- I stop often to look out across the red landscape (catch my breath). I decided on the flight into Alice that the ground looks like a wrinkled sheet Рflat with big bumps all across. A sign at the airport told me the Arrernte story is that caterpillars and stink bugs fought around here which created the land forms, with the bodies of the caterpillars turning into the mountains. So many beautiful red and green striped caterpillars to see!
The ground is rocky and hard, then dusty, then rocky again. This trail has a reputation for being brutal on feet and shoes- I expect to need a new pair of shoes at the end of the trail even though it’s only 231km and my shoes normally last about 700km!
The top is stunning. I see Mt Zion in the distance, and Ormiston gorge where we will end up tomorrow. It’s hot with no shade so I sign my name quickly in the register and scurry back down about 1km to a shaded rock area where we eat our lunch.¬†Others from our bus¬†pass by, looking a little worse for wear and carrying empty 1L water bottles – hopefully they are more careful with water going forward.
Finally stumble to the bottom, I beeline for the pit toilet (the mountain is sacred land, so …), then¬†guzzle a litre of electrolytes, refill my water bladder, add my dinner and some water to my fancy rehydration machine (small empty screw top icecream container) and we start the hike to Rocky Bar Gap. We will be hiking into the dark but it will make tomorrow so much easier so we decide our fresh day one legs can have more km on them.
Sunset is magical. The light across the caterpillar backs glows deep red before everything fades to hues of purple and orange.¬†The days are short as it is midwinter so we don’t have lots of light to hike by. The stars start poking their heads out 2, now 7, now 10, then all of a sudden they are everywhere! Everywhere!! The headlamps come out and we stumble along in the dark with our million candles above. I get particularly stumbly and bumbly when it is dark, a combination of my body shutting down saying “It’s dark now! Sleep time!” and¬†weird eyesight that can’t judge distances properly via headlamp. So¬†my km/h slows right down. The weather is beautiful though and I relish the cool breeze on my slightly burned legs. Sorry legs! I underestimated the sun and didn’t apply enough suncream – this is one of those amazing places that actually has an ozone layer (unlike Perth) so thought I’d be right. I was wrong.
Finally at camp, I spy one tent set up. Turtle and I set up our cowboy camping spots then reconvene to eat a quick quiet dinner before sleep. I stare up at the sky mesmerised. I’m exhausted but don’t want to go to sleep because it’s too beautiful. You haven’t seen stars until you have stared up at them from your bed on the ground in the desert. Tonight in the clear outback desert air, I see possibly the best stars I’ve ever seen.
One more shooting star then I’ll close my eyes. Just one more…

The Anatomy of a Resupply Box

I’ve had a bunch of questions from future long distance hikers about how I organise my resupply so thought I’d share the information here.

Being international, vegan and stoveless I’m hoping to share a tip or two for others who are finding themselves overwhelmed with figuring out what they want to eat in 4 months time ‚ėļ

Resupplies can be as complicated or easy as you want to make them.
I hike with a mix of pre-posted resupply boxes, I buy as I go, and I make new boxes in towns with good grocery stores to send ahead. I try to make the boxes as healthy as possible,¬† as it’s easy to buy junk food in towns when I have a hankering. When you are pushing your body hard everyday you want to give it it’s best chance to do well- you don’t put cheap fuel in a Ferrari and expect it to work well! 😉 Always everything vegan and cruelty free!

Here is what I like to pack:
For everyday I pack 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, 3 bars, 1/2 to 1 cup salty trail mix. Then I also add a few sweet things (chocolate, sweet trail mix or lollies/ candy), plus sometimes some protein powder and always electrolyte drink mixes (2 electrolytes per day). If the weather is looking bad, high altitude, or a lot of elevation gain or loss then I’ll add in a little extra. I get hungry when it’s cold or I’m at altitude, and it’s good practice to have a little extra in case you get stuck in a storm and need to wait in the tent a day for weather to pass.

The food I like to eat!
Breakfast
– granola that I add some extra yummy things to such as freeze dried fruit, hemp seeds, chia seeds and some powdered soy milk (or protein powder)
– probars – Original Blend, Whole Berry Blast, Superfood Slam, Superfruit Slam, Superberry & Greens, or the probar base bars.
-oatmeal – easy!

Lunch
– crackers – Mary’s original or hemp or any kind of crackers with lots of yummy seeds (always trying to get extra nutrients!)
– almond butter or sunflower butter –¬† yum butter has great pouches that contain about 3 serves for me, a small plastic (not glass!) jar of nut butter is about 5/6 serves
– dried flattened bananas (trader joes)
– vegemite! If I can find it ‚ėļ

Dinner
I don’t carry a stove, but anything that says ‘just add boiling water’ will cold soak well. As long as you don’t need to simmer or cook for any length of time. I add the contents to my empty talenti container with water at my last break of the day and by camp time it’s ready.
– ramen – koyo brand has yum vegan ramen, ‘normal’ ramen noodles are vegan then you can add miso powder or vege bouillon cubes
– alpine aire – the vege burrito bowl and santa fe black beans and rice. Each pouch contains 2 serves.
– dehydrated black beans and refried beans – you can find these in the bulk food section of food co-ops. I also found a brand of instant beans at walmart that was yum!
– backpackers pantry – chana masala, Louisiana red beans and rice, kathmandu curry. I think each pouch is 2 serves (marked on the packet)
– just veggies – dehydrated veges to add to ramen or other food.

Snacks and Extras
– salty trail mix – not too spicey. I make it differently everytime but with lots of variety. Love tamari flavoured, smokey, vinegar, crunchy things. Yum! I never get sick of salty trail mix
– sweet trail mix – berries, nuts, dark choc, ginger. Yum!
– protein powder – vega brand, sunwarrior, spirutein are all yum and are available in individual serves
– bars- probars, kind bars (some are vegan), larabars, raw bars, macrobars, chia warrior, vega, cliff bars (some are vegan- check ingredients)
Рkale chips, broccoli chips,  crunchy dehydrated green beans
– nori – yum! Also good to add to dinner
– Lenny and Larry’s cookies
– chocolove chocolate
– salazan chocolate
– Justin’s individual serves of nut butters
– dried or freeze dried (much lighter!) fruit
– lemon coconut macaroons mmm
– electrolytes – scratch raspberry flavour is my favourite! Nuun is another good brand
– dark chocolate covered espresso beans to bounce up the mountains
Рanything awesome that  is vegan!

Other Things
Рeach box I also add a travel pack of Wet wipes  (biodegradable if I can find them)
– some zip locks – I repack most things into ziplocks as it’s lighter than the original packaging
Рevery now and then a new toothbrush, a travel toothpaste,  maybe travel/ sample of suncream or moisturiser
Рshampoo / conditioner РI cut up the solid shampoo / conditioner bars from  Lush and put in a few boxes Рluxury!!!
– vitamins – I send a multivitamin, turmeric and magnesium to help decrease inflammation and aid muscle repair.

Don’t forget to check what resupply and restaurants there are in town. I’ll often add some vegetable or chia squeeze pouches or other heavier snacks I can eat in town, or an extra dinner if it looks like greasy fries will be the only food option.

Packing Out Of Town

When in town, I’ll often hit up a grocery for hummus and some veges to snack on, as well as green juice or smoothies to buy. If it’s a shorter food carry I might pack out an avocado or fruit to eat the first day.

Where To Buy
Between Whole foods, trader joes, REI, co-op markets and any grocery/ supermarket you’ll find all of the above ‚ėļ

How To Post
Always (unless specifically told otherwise) send USPS priority flat rate boxes. This means you can bounce ahead if necessary for no extra charge. I try to post to a hotel or business where possible instead of the post office general delivery. This saves having to wait in town if you arrive on a weekend and find the post office closed.

That’s it! If you have any great tips please comment below. ¬†This post will be updated as I think of more things to make it more useful. Happy eating!

CDT Day 9

Silver City – Zero miles!

A perfect zero (a zero is zero miles hiked). I sleep in, do laundry, pick up my spot, get a bunch of wry smiles at my multicolour leggings and fluffy boofy clean hair. I wifi hop around town to catch up on emails and blogging, buy lunch at the co-op (such good resupply food!), sip coffee and listen to the insanely good voice of Barb at the Yankie Corner coffee house, indulge in amber ale and sweet potato fries at the Little Toad Brewery (a brewery named for meee! Toad is one of my lesser-known nicknames).

Watch out Silver City - hikertrash comin atchya
Watch out Silver City – hikertrash comin atchya

 

Commemoration of returned SPOT (YAY!), clean fluffy boofy hair, and behind me Madam Millie- Silver City's celebrated brothel madam 😉
Commemoration of returned SPOT (YAY!), clean fluffy boofy hair, and behind me Madam Millie- Silver City’s celebrated brothel madam 😉😂

 

Yummy amber
Yummy amber

The buildings of Silver City are so cute, the people so so friendly and welcoming, and the walls decorated with bright colours and murals. All good things within walking distance – everything you want a trail town to be!

Tomorrow is post office and hiking on! To Canada!

CDT Day 8

 29ish miles (Silver City)
I’m awake I’m awake. I don’t know how my alarm manages to sound so insistent. I’m keen to get a wriggle on the rest of the 3 mile climb up burro peak so pack up and move along.
I enjoy the climb, the rock hopping, the views¬†to the desert below. It’s overcast so not too hot. The terrain changes with each step upwards.¬†The spikey stabby desert morphs into pine needle-y forest and I love it! Different plant smells waft in and out and I’m constantly taken back to the PCT where I first smelled all these smells. I hope that doesn’t continue, because¬†although I absolutely love the PCT and love being reminded of it, the CDT is its own special world and deserves its own memory triggers for the future. I’m also missing my trail family hard as I adjust to this solo hiking world I’m in.
Trees!
Trees!
I come around a corner and a big shaggy brown furry bum galumphs off in front of me. BEAR!!! She (he?) is so gorgeous! I yell out hello and watch for a good 15 seconds as she runs away further down the track. I just want a cuddle!!! My longest bear encounter yet.
I turn on my¬†music on my phone and set it to speaker so I don’t¬†startle any more bears coming around corners.
The water is off on a parallel track and I have to backtrack to find it. Officially the murkiest mankiest water so far. I grab 2L even though it smells like mud. Mmm nom nom.
Somehow I miss my trail turnoff, but¬†I hate backtracking so decide to be ‘clever’ and take the next turn off…bad idea.
I come to a fenced off private area where I thought there should be road access amd water. There is neither. No biggie…I’ll just follow the fence line cross country and meet up with the trail. Except the fence goes up and down and up and down and is generally a bazillion times harder tha backtracking .2miles would have been.
And then.
The fence is no longer next to me, it’s in front of me. This whole area is fenced off so I have to go back to the road I came from. Noooooo. About 2 miles wasted.
So I follow the fenceline and am cut off again by a barbed wire fence. Huh??? I didn’t enter any fences but somehow have ended up inside¬†the fenceline. I can see the road up ahead, and by now I am a pro at scrambling under barbed wire so I¬†smoosh my pack through the mini opening and¬†lay on my belly to scuttle through. I can hear an atv whirring behind me. Oh crap!!! There are ‘no trespassing’ signs all over so I hurry my butt up to get through and skedaddle before¬†it shows up.
I make it through and find myself on a dirt road. Yay a road! I happily march along, excited that I’ve got some kind of certainty to where I am headed instead of my cross country expedition.
Except I’m on the wrong road.
I’m missing a map and after a couple of miles I realise that my assumptions filling in the gaps of the missing map have been completely wrong. I’m walking a road running parallel north of the one I should¬†be on, that is about to dead end.
GAAAAAH. I try cross country for about half a mile then decide it is lunacy as the terrain is going all over the shop so I cut across to another road and finally know where¬†I am. It’s where¬†I would have been about 3h ago if I’d backtracked and taken the right road.
Ok. It is what it is. Now to march on with my dwindling water under the now-exposed sun.
Somehow¬†make it to the hwy where¬†I have a long road walk into Silver City. I decide I’ll walk as long as I can before light¬†disappears. It’s a speedy hwy and I have no intention of walking on the side of a 65mph road in the dark. My plan is to walk till light is fading, hitch into town, and slackpack the remainder in the morning.
My feet are screaming at me, ghosts of plantar fasciitus past, and I can only go an hour at a time before I need a 10 min break to elevate my feet.
Light is fading, the sky is thundering and I decide my time is up. I half-heartedly stick my thumb out for a hitch but no-one is having a bar. I think they can tell I would much rather finish the walk tonight and sleep in tomorrow. So I continue. And my feet scream but I keep telling them to think of all the sleeeeeeping. The sleeeping iiiiiin.
On the outskirts of town the houses and area is how you would expect the outskirts of town to be…a bit dodgy. But then the houses get nicer and nicer. They become gorgeous and the¬†perfume of flowers wafts across the humid night. I breathe it in and make my new CDT memories, of that hard day followed by that gorgeous humid night in that oh-so-pretty town of Silver City.
The Palace hotel is my choice of residence for the¬†night. I fall in carting my stink with me and am told the last room has gone. Nooooo. But miracle of miracles the latest guest comes down and says he doesn’t want the room. Hooray!
It’s the cheapest of cheap rooms, no private shower and no window but¬†I don’t care. The hotel¬†is from the 1830s and has so much character¬†I want to stay. And I also don’t want to walk to the other side of town!
Once in my room I drink water. And more water. And actually eat some things. And drink more water. Another miracle- my SPOT has been found and the finder has skipped up to Silver City because he is getting off trail, and it’s waiting for me at the visitor’s centre!

I can’t wait to explore the town tomorrow- it’s a zero for me and my grumpy feet ‚ėļ Some magic tablets to help make my feet happier and crampy muscles less crampy, earplugs in and


I faaaade far away to a land of waterfalls, lakes, and all the frozen drinks.

CDT Day 7

Day 7  117.8 (16.8) 7270ft
I wake throughout the night. I have a headache and my legs are cramping up. Not good.
I get up in the dark and start hiking. I am so sloooooow. My phone dings at me as I’d taken it off plane mode¬†and put the sound on the alert me when I have signal. It¬†does its usual go crazy thing. I post a message to see if anyone is behind me so they can keep an eye out for the SPOT,¬†I email the water report to update, and put¬†up a fb status so any friends who are following know I’m alive. This all takes too long!
Finally I find the windmill. There is a gross tub full that I am about to filter from, then check the comments on guthook for the water and find a tap under the windmill! Fresh flowing cold nectar of the gods!!! So happy. But sooo tired. Crap yesterday and dehydration really took it out of me.
I coordinate with an awesome friend to¬†post me a new¬†SPOT to Silver City (somehow SPOTs are hazardous and can’t ¬†be sent expedited by REI??), see more emails that need responding to and generally waste too¬†much time.
The trail is a marked trail now with signs¬†instead of long range sighting for posts and cross country hiking. I’m in a daze as it wanders up and down hills, seemingly going in circles but apparently going forward.
It’s hot again but there are trees. I stop often and try to jump start my motivation but I’m not feeling it. I realise I’ve only eaten a probar and bowl of cereal since I got up yesterday. No wonder I’m sleeeeepy. ¬†I don’t feel hungry and my stomach is still adjusting to the water so I just have small bits and pieces from my trail mix.
I find a spot to hide from the hottest part of the day and put my feet up. Next thing I¬†am opening my eyes and 30 minutes has passed. I don’t even remember deciding to nap!
Onwards onwards I force a bit more food in, stop to collect more water and finally arrive at the trailhead for the big climb up Burro Peak. I  was planning on heading up late afternoon to avoid the sun, but now some storm clouds have come in!
As I round the corner to head up the trail I’m confronted with epic trail magic!!! There are buckets hanging filled¬†with fruit, gallons of water, a case full of beer, soft drink and fruit juice and a bag filled with all kinds of snacks. Giant thanks to Trail Genie who set this up! I eat a banana and take a fruit juice and head on up.
Trail magic!
Trail magic!

 

Just as I’m wondering if I’ll make it before the storm a huge clap of thunder sounds behind me. Shite. Going up 1690ft in elevation with a storm is not the best idea. I have bad track record of trying to out hike storms so I contemplate staying with the trail magic but look at the elevation and there is a flat spot 2 miles up that should be good for camping.
I make it 2 miles with rain slowly dripping on me and see that there is actually another flat spot in another mile. Except as I’m about to commit another thunderclap sounds and I bail. Better to find a good campsite and set my tarp up well here.
I set up my tiny tarp for only the second time on trail and wonder if it will be big enough, strong enough if I hit a real storm… cross all the things. The storm doesn’t eventuate but rain pitter patters on and off as I eat food and do¬†all the night time things. Tomorrow¬†I will have all the energy back and stop doing baby miles. Hopefully.

CDT Day 6

Day 6 Lordsburg to 101 (16.4)
Gah town and interwebs! There are still lots of emails and writing and messages to respond to so I spend the morning sorting all that.
 I spend too long and get scared everytime I look outside and see how hot and bright it looks.
Finally out just after 10 and commence a road walk out of Lordsburg. Hot. Bitumen. Glass. Rubbish. Dogs barking. Hot.
Finally the trail veers off under a barbed wire fence and into another great wide deadly desert. I think this is the last of the great wides for a while.
It’s really hot. And there is no shade. The plants are tiny and are not helpful at all. I’m getting really hot and kicking myself for such a late start. I imagine that the trail is like a mario game and when I hit a sign as I go by cold cans of soda will fly out. Mmm cold. Mmm liquid.
It’s getting stupid hot. I keep looking at my watch and it¬†is creeping up and up. 34, 36, 38.
I finally¬†see what might be a tree off trail. I’m not supposed to veer off the trail in this section as the trail only owns 10ft either side of the path, but I’m sweating too much and don’t have enough water for this heat. I bunker down in the dappled shade and wait.
So much shade!
So much shade!
I’m still waiting. How¬†is it 330pm and¬†the temperature still climbing??? 38.8
I’m still sweating just sitting here. I take stock of my water situation and I have about 1.2L for 6 miles. Normally this would be plenty but I am feeling too hot, my heart is beating too much because of it and there¬†is no shade in sight.
My mileage calculations change over and over for the day as I won’t be hiking soon. C’mon clouds!
I watch whirly whirlys form in the distance, listen to flies and bees buzz around me. I wish I could nap but there’s only room for cross legged sitting. I daydream about cold drinks and iceblocks and swimming pools.
Dust-nados are always on the horizon somewhere here
Dust-nados are always on the horizon somewhere here
I can still see Lordsburg in the distance! Gah of the hwy was closer I would totally hitch in for a cold drink then hitch back out.
Finally I’ve had enough and decide to brave¬†it. I ration ¬†my water – one sip every 15 minutes. It’s dizzy hot. I try not to panic because that will only make it worse so I just stare at guthook ¬†(hiking app with maps, water sources, elevation) and will the miles to tick down. I read and re-read the water report. There is a possibility of water in 2 miles, amd another source half a mile after that. Please let there be water at the first one!!!
The trail finally leaves the great wide flatness and starts to meaner into some hills. The climb is a good distraction and there’s even trees here! Treeees!!! ¬†Then somehow I’m at the water. The tank is dry. But there is another rusted covered tank and I lift it to find…. water!!! Manky water with floaters but I don’t care. I filter a litre and add some electrolytes and sit and sip slowly. I know it won’t be good for me to guzzle, plus I am drained of all energy to contemplate guzzling. As I’m sitting on the edge of the tank a cow wanders up and stares at me accusingly. I try to show her where I got my water from but she¬†doesn’t understand. I also try to explain there is another water source in half a mile but she just stares at me then wanders off to hide under an inadequate tree. Poor cow.
I take my manky litre and march on to the next better water source. All her cow friends got the memo and they are guzzling water from the tank.¬†There are about 50 cows and I can’t get close. Crap!!! Water report says great water at a windmill in another mile. So I march on again.
I get to the windmill and there is nothing. Not a drop. I search for a tap or some magic button and there is none. Nooooo. The water report is usually very reliable. I’m so thirsty¬†I could cry but I have no tears.
So…the next water is in 3 miles. I have no choice but to keep on. At least the sun is setting now and it’s much cooler. I pass the 100 mile mark. I have no energy for proper celebration, but take my obligatory selfie.
I last about a mile and call it a night. My mileage is pitiful but I had no choice with the heat. I have about 100ml left of my litre so I take one sip and leave the rest for morning. Crossing fingers, toes and praying to the water gods overnight.
I reach down to my pack to press my SPOT¬†to notify that I’ve made it to camp and it’s not there! The clip and the velcro it should be attached to are there, but no SPOT. Crap crap crapola. It must have come loose on one of the scuttles under barbed wire fences. ¬†Poo. I’ll have to sort out another when I have phone reception- this trail is too sparsely populated for me to feel¬†safe without it.
Blergh. Pooey day. But¬†now I’m on an actual trail with actual trees so yay! 2 miles in the morning till happiness.

CDT Day 5

13 miles (85.2)
Lordsburg
My night was sprinkled with yippings of coyotes in the distance, another epic show from the stars amd beautiful weather. I wake before sunrise and manage to get out of camp by 615! Record!
I trot along taking photos and as I come to a junction where I search for my map to see of there is an alternate (the trail does a useless loop around a hill) I see someone coming from behind me on the trail. A human! A hiker human! I haven’t seen anyone in¬†over 2 days! Other hikers exist! Amaaaazing!
“Hi!” I yell out “Are you real??”
“Hi!” The hiker human yells back “Yes! I am a real other person!”
I see that shortly behind him is another hiker. 2 real hikers!!! Holy¬†poo it’s a party out here.
It’s Wes and Stumblin Beef. I saw them briefly on day 2 as they passed on the road being dropped off at the monument. They are real proper hikers (unlike pretend me) and have been smashing out 25s to get a nice break in Lordsburg.
We chat for a little, the Wes is speedy so he hikes ahead and Stumblin Beef catches up. Hiking and chatting on a wide enough trail for 2 (a friendship trail!)! Amaaazing!
I can tell I won’t be hiking with these guys for long. Speedy McSpeedikins.
I take a cross country route leaving Stumblin on the trail and find Wes hiding in some shade “Did you beat up my brother?” He asks. “Yep! Dumped him in the well!” “Ok!”
In another 1.5 miles it’s the last water cache, with its tiny cache box shade. I guzzle water, spend too much time reading through the log book and make the mistake of taking my phone off airplane mode.
BEEEP BLEEEEEEEP DING DING DING LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME IMPORTANT THINGS ALL THE THINGS!!!
It turns into a frenzy of dings and chimes and beeps as all the messages from Facebook, whatsapp, gmail and messenger come flooding in. I have a quick look through but my phone is at 12% so I turn it off and pack up.
The boys catch up and hike out shortly behind me. I plan on taking the Ley route into town, but after a couple of miles it seems boring on the road so I take a jeep road across and find the trail. Dumb move. Lots of up and¬†down. Yes more interesting ¬†( I see my first deer of the trail!!! but¬†I realise this will make my walk to town at least 1/2h slower. That’s half hour extra in the sun and without cold things in my hands.
The lasy couple of miles is on the road into town, passing zillions of cans, broken glass, barking dogs. There are lots of abandoned businesses and houses- I wonder what has happened that everyone has left?
Finally I see the beautiful sight of the econolodge!
Then the town twilight zone happens. Time disappears and I have no clue where it goes. Pack-splosion all over the room, shower,  walking aimlessly to laundry, to store to buy detergent, back to laundry, resupply, eat some things, pack things, unpack things, lose things, find things.
Then it’s late and I haven’t done my blog or fixed my tent or performed surgery on my feet.¬†So I do all that and it’s waaaay past hiker midnight (hiker midnight is 9pm) so the earplugs go in, the ac goes on, my head falls in love with the pillow (pillow!!!) and I drift into the land of nod.

CDT Day 4

20.2 (72.2) 4650ft

Ah you silly alarm. Unless your pretty tune is accompanied by a fresh shot of espresso I think you have buckleys at getting me up at these overly ambitious times I keep setting.

Don’t wanna get up

It’s a chilly morning so I delay getting up until I see the sun hitting the rocks high up around the little valley I’m sleeping in.

I march up and over a hill, excited that the terrain seems to be changing and a bit more interesting. I hit the water cache just as it’s getting yucky hot so I hide in the tiny amount of shade the cache box provides, and hang with the little lizards there until I can delay the inevitable no more. Onwards!

 

The interesting terrain disappears and in its place a giant wide expanse of…nothing stretches out before me. No trees, tiny bushes, not a cloud in the sky, and 34 degrees at 1030am. This is going to be fun.

Hikers get to know each other by our footprints. This is Cloudbuster and Boat. I'll never catch them now!
Hikers get to know each other by our footprints. This is Cloudbuster and Boat. I’ll never catch them now!

Brutal brutal brutal. Embrace it embrace it embrace it. I try to hide behind tiny trees when they appear sporadically but they provide little to no relief so I continue. And swear. I swear at the sun, at my feet, at no one in particular. I swear at the snakes that they’d better not appear today.

Magically I stumble upon a wash with an actual tree with actual shade!!! Woohoo siesta time! Being out in the exposed open for so long is making me sleeeepy and I have a glorious nap.

The CDT is one giant connect-the-dots, or in this case connect-the-signs. The signs are spaced sporadically and I cross country to get to each one. I have a little celebration everytime I spot the next sign, and throw a mini tantrum when I scan the horizon and can’t find the next. I’m never lost… sometimes I just decide that I want to insert a nice wide curved line where a straight line should be. Artistic license.

Scanning the horizon for the CDT signs.
Scanning the horizon for the CDT signs.
New Mexico - in some circles known as "the land of much shade and many trees". Those circles have never actually been to New Mexico
New Mexico – in some circles known as “the land of much shade and many trees”. Those circles have never actually been to New Mexico

I make up many songs to keep my mind occupied and distract me from the heat and monotony of this section. Some of my greatest hits include
“Bunny, do do do do do doo,
ah rabbit rabbit, do do do do do doo,
you are a pretty rabbit
and I want to cuddle you”
Then there’s the crowd pleasing
“I’m going to town tomorrow,
bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be showers and laundry.
Just thinking about tomorrow,
wipes away the sore feet and the sorrow;
I want a bed!
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I’m in town tomorrow, it’s only 15 miles away.” (Insert appropriate amount of miles as the day goes on). A lot of my songs feature forced inclusion of extra syllables.

The next water is the first really dodgy water of the trail. There are a bunch of cows drinking from it and they scatter as I arrive. I apologise for scaring them and insist we can share but they just moo back and look at me warily. The first water in a tire is too manky to try, so I march on to the next and manage to filter some pretty clear water from under the algae, and it doesn’t taste bad!

Cow water! Actually tasted ok
Cow water! Actually tasted ok

Some more rock formations appear, I climb over some hills and I’m finally out of the deadly desert and into some rolling hills. Still exposed but more things to see.

Very pretty. Very stabby.
Very pretty. Very stabby.

I find a little spot under a low tree (I hit my head setting up!) to cowboy camp.
Town tomorrow (in case the song wasn’t clear enough for you). Woohoo!