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.
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.
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 ☺ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
I was entirely too ambituous with my alarm. It sounds and I shut it down, dozing and staring out at the sunrise.
Finally I give in and start doing all the morning things. So many things to do.
I check my feet and elation!! The bad blister looks good! Turns out a night of breathing with a good dose of betadine did the trick. Not fixed but on its way. Hooray!
I pack up and search for my little tent peg baggie but fear the wind stole it in the night with my 2 favourite stakes that were in it. Yes, I have favourite tent stakes. Booooo to the wind!!! I’m hoping it’s just hiding in my pack and a pack-splosion in Lordsburg will reveal its hiding place.
Out by 7, I’m proud of my better time than yesterday (8) but still a ways to go before I’m up at serious hiker o’clock.
5 miles to the water which go fairly fast.
The water is a cow pond. The water report has instructions for turning on the pipe to get fresh water. Fairly easy and a relief as I don’t fancy filtering and consuming the green pond sludge.
A little break in the tiny shade and I’m off. I see old hachita ghost town in the distance and kick myself for not remembering to take the route out from the pond that would get me there. It’s hot and my feet are still not happy so I settle for gazing at a distance and march on.
Like yesterday the trail is sandy and rocky. There is no real shade and the vegetation is all low stabby spikey plants. It alternates between cross country stabby plant land and four wheel drive tracks.
My day is divided by water and breaks at said water. I’m napping my way to Canada. There is the water cache next, then … amazement!!! The most magical land of running water! There is a tank that has a spigot running, it is surrounded by green soft plant things coming from the ground (I think it is called grass!) And tall stabby plants (trees) that provide a nice amount of shade to rest between the cow poo. Only on trail are you happy to sit next to a pile of cow crap because it means you have shade.
I collect water, rinse socks and march on for another 2 miles before calling it a day. Nice early night tonight! I find a spot behind some bushes that provide a little shelter from the wind, with a view of a pretty rock formation… looks a little lion-y… A tonne of cow poo around so hopefully dont get trampled in the night. I dream that my feet will be ever so grateful for the early night and wake tomorrow ready to smash all the miles.
I blink and it’s morning. The sky is getting lighter and lighter and I delay the inevitable for as long as possible before my body forces my movement to a nearby bush or otherwise threatens embarassment of great proportions.
My feet are still tender. I attacked them with needle and thread and betadine last night but they were so swollen from the day that it was tricky. Swelling is down now and I have 3 large mean blisters to contend with. I take my time getting them right and finally leave camp at 8am.
10 miles to the next cache and I take a mini break halfway. My feet are not happy with me. Socks off and hanging on a tree to air, feet elevated, I hang out for a good 30 minutes.
Finally hiking on the little brown box of riches appears and I guzzle some water and read the log book. There’s a note from Boat and Cloudbuster that they are hanging at the nearby road crossing under a wee bit of shade. I look over and see some movement so I gather my things and hobble over. I figure this is the last I’ll see of them as they are keen on 25ish miles per day, and I don’t want to do more than 20 in the first section to break me in, especially with my stooopid feet.
A beautiful nap in the tiny shade then off cross country following the signs. There’s some cloud cover and nice mild weather which is great for hiking.
My afternoon is peppered with many many breaks, rabbits hopping across the trail, little climbs up and over hills and down and up through washes.
I am slooooow. Soore Sore feet. I am ready to be done after 18 miles but there’s no good campsites and a climb up ahead. Future Snakebite will thank me for doing it now.
So up and over I go and find a little spot halfway down. The wind is a bit nuts but the sunset stunning as I set up my little tarp in case the clouds get mean.
Somehow I’ve managed just over 20 miles on my rotten feet! The blisters are very unhappy with me and I’m crossing everything they get better overnight. I’m going to sleep well.
Alternate Blog Entry (because the CDT is all about alternates):
There once was a girl from Perth
Who wanted to hike ’round the earth
Her feet started dying
With blisters she was crying
But the trail was surely worth (it)
(Hopefully) (blisters crossed)
Crazy Cook monument to Mile 14, 4744 ft.
I’m back. I’m back on the trail. Part of me feels like I just finished the PCT, blinked and suddenly I’m here tackling the most brutal of the 3 long trails in the US, The continental divide trail. I remember when I decided I was doing the trail. It was in Skykomish and a few newly minted triple crowners arrived talking about the joy of the CDT. I’d already decided it was too hard for me. Waaaay too hard core. But they had this glow about them… it looked good. The more we talked the better the idea sounded. I didn’t want my trail life to end and here was another trail staring me in the face. Ah crap. Somewhere between beer number something and a game of celebrity heads it was decided, I was going to hike the CDT.
So here I am.
I am in the middle of fabulous dreams when my alarm bleeps me awake. I’d placed it on the other side of the room so I’d have to get out of bed to turn it off. Well played past Beck. So so tired I stumble through the motions of showering, teeth etc, shove my things into my too heavy bag and feel like a total Cheryl with all my stuff.
The driver for the shuttle is meeting us at breakfast in the hotel, so I race down and explode into the room.
“Ah so you are coming” some official looking guy says (I find out later he is the awesome Radar who organises the shuttles and water caches. Cheers Radar!). I’d tried to contact the CDT to change my date to one day early but had no luck, so I was just arriving with fingers crossed. I’m not going to lie- jetlagged sleepless nights and a 1am arrival in Lordsburg the night before made me wish he said I had to wait till tomorrow so I could sleeeeeep ☺
I galumphed into car and said goodbye to my awesome trail mate Rideordieh who hosted me in Tucson so I could sort out my resupply AND drove me all the way to Lordsburg. Trail people are some of the most generous souls on the planet. Always Ride! Never Die!
The ride out to Crazy Cook is a long one – about 3 hours. The first hour I dozed, then we started on the crazy 4wd track which required holding on to not bounce out a window. There are three of us starting the trail today, so Cloudbuster, Boat and I pose for our photo at the monument, stuff around sorting out this and that, then finally start the first steps. This is happening! This is real! I’m on the CDT!
I feel like an imposter and total newbie with these people with their tiny tiny packs. I need everything I have in here, right? This feels like trail University and I haven’t finished high school…. or maybe this is the Post Grad program and I forgot to go to Uni in between. I’ll get kicked off soon. Away with you!
The trail is hot and exposed. I watch dust clouds and little dust whirls kick up all across the horizon. Shade?? No, not here. Not on uber trail.
My feet hurt. Whaaaaat??? Can I feel blisters starting???
Somehow though, in the midst of feeling completely out of my depth, completely unprepared, the march of my feet and the click of my poles feel like I’m back where I belong.
Then I go the wrong way. It’s going to happn one bazillion times on this trail. It’s not the neatly marked little 30cm wide footpath that the PCT often was, so I should just get used to it. The CDT has great trail markers that you pick your way to cross country. But then sometimes there isn’t one. Or it has blown down. Or I simply looked and walked in th wrong direction.
So yeah, I go the wrong way. Gah I’ll backtrack. Wait…crap. I’d gone the right way the first time. GAHHHHH. I go back again and realise that if I’d taken maybe 10 more steps I would have seen what I was looking for.
So a little extra .5 mile at the end of the day. Blisters! Chafe! Total newbie numpty!
Cowboy camping tonight at the first water cache – the caches are absolute miracles. There are 5 dotted between here and Lordsburg and without them there would be very very long stretches without water.
Oh dirt sleeping how I have missed you! The stars are phenomenal! Do I belong here? Under sky feels like home. I fall asleep to the quietest of quiet sound of absolute silence.
Soooooo it appears my grand plans of blogging all of my epic walk were more like an epic comedy of errors (involving logging trucks, broken screens, crashed computers and insurance).
The quick facts:
– I finished!
– Hands down best and hardest and most amazing thing I have ever done
– I have all my blog notes and they will be making their way into the universe in the future (you’ll have to wait and see!!!)
And NOW I am sitting in a hotel room in Lordsburg having finished the first 85 miles of the Continental Divide Trail! That’s right, I am a glutton for punishment… and epic adventures 🙂
I’m raising funds for Sea Shepherd and Animals Australia, so if you are garnering a wee bit of enjoyment out of reading along I encourage you to pay that back in the form of a few dollars. Fundraising page is in the menu.
You can see lots more of my PCT pics over on instagram , you can read a little article Elephant Journal published that I wrote, but I will leave you with what I decided to do with the final mile to the Canadian border on the PCT.