On Friday April 22nd, my journey began. It was an early morning where everyone met in the lobby of the Econo Lodge to get a ride down to the border. I was greeted with a hug from a familiar face, Naturally Hob! I met him my second day on the AT back in 2014. He is a wonderful man who has traveled the world and is full of unbelievable stories. There were eight hikers starting with us so two vehicles were needed to transport us all. I choose to pay the CDTC $120 to transport me to the border and stash 2 gallons of water at five water caches between the border and Lordsburg. I would recommend this to anyone starting Northbound. Paperweight, Hob, and I rode together in a truck sharing stories and catching up. A little AT class of 2014 reunion. Before we left, they call border patrol to let them know two vehicles were heading that way. The ride was a little over three hours. The first bit was on paved roads then we turned off onto poorly maintained gravel roads towards the border. The going was slow and bumpy, but the views were wonderful as my heart started racing faster and faster. At one point, the driver laughed saying one way was the right way… We took the wrong turn and had to back up. The truck scrapped up against the shrubs adding new scratches. For this reason, it is well worth the money and peace of mind knowing water would be at each cache.
A bit before 9:30 we were all standing in front of the Southern Terminus. I tried to comprehend my last few years and how I ever ended up here. I never would of imagined this four years ago. We all took lots of photos and I soaked in the moment. I may never be back here again and I may never see the northern terminus. You just never now. I loved the fact that a barbed wire fence was the only thing separating us from Mexico not a huge rusty wall like the PCT. We made it a point to put our foot in the Mexican soil this time. Paperweight and I were the last two to leave the monument and we would be the last two to make it back to Lordsburg. We quickly made it to the first CDT marker where another photo shoot took place. I lasted ten minutes before pulling out my umbrella. There is going to be a learning curve as I attempted to hook it to my pack a few times until I got it right. The heat and elevation was bothering me right away as I felt a little off. New Mexico is beautiful as we followed the path and quickly realized no one will ever walk the same trail. Multiple paths lead to each market. Some appear to be foot traffic and other cow paths. Within the first five miles my legs were scratched up and bloody and I was regretting being so lazy over the winter. Three years in a row of struggling the first few days. We took lots of little breaks hiding in the shade when we could find it. I managed to get what I thought was a rock in my shoe. I leaned on Paperweight hoping to dumb out the rock without any luck. I sat down and realized it was not a rock, but a cactus thorn that punctured my shoe, insole, and was poking my foot. The desert is rough! A few miles along I screamed stop as a rattlesnake sat in one of the washes rattling at us. We moved along and I made a big mistake. I decided to take down my umbrella and keep walking. Next thing I know Paperweight was yelling “rattlesnake.” I couldn’t see my feet since I was taking down my umbrella so I just took big steps hearing something slithering beneath me. Ahh! I just jumped over a rattlesnake that came out so quickly and passed in front of us both. Haven’t even made it 10 miles yet! The snake was huge and more scared than I was. Stay focused out here just because it was flat easy walking the snakes are lurking. We made it the first water cache at 13.7 miles later than we planned. I felt horrible! Dehydrated ad exhausted. We found a small site where I decided to cowboy camp and he set up. It was a rough evening with us both feeling a bit off. Glad we have each other! The sunset, stars, and full moon made my evening! Survived day one with just a little blood shed, some vomiting, rattlesnake encounters, and a beautiful place to call home for a few months.
The water caches are stored in bear boxes along the first section and are filled by employees of the CDTC. We filled up our bottles and headed back to the trail. The morning miles were cool, but full of ups and downs. The trail in this section is marked with old posts as you go up and down arroyos or washes. They are usually straight down then back up. Exhausting and lots of energy spent. We took a break in the shake and I headed out first following what I thought was the trail. Before I knew it, I was off course and at the barbed wires fence with the gate to the left of me. He beat me to the gate. Just wandering around the desert. So many footprints in all different directions. The sun was bothering we again and it was slow going. Again, I’m lucky someone is tolerating my slow speed and willing to take lots of breaks in the shade. We made it to the second cache where we filled up and said hi to Hob. We decided to cross the highway and hide in the shade under a trailhead marker. As we were resting, a border patrol agent got out and walked up to the barbed wire fence to talk to us. He told us his partner is tracking two pairs of footprints along the road and asked to see the bottom of our shoes. They weren’t tracking us. We would find out later a couple took the road instead of the up and down of the arroyos and they left their footprints. We were told on the ride down yesterday that they rake the sand next to the highway to look for prints each morning. No illegals just thru hikers taking a cut off it seems. We took a very long break before heading back into the sun for a few more miles. The trail joins a gravel road where we walked side by side while admiring all the cows. We found a spot right off the trail and called it a day. I got to pop the largest blister ever on my fourth toe. It was a nasty one! I decided to cowboy camp again even in the gusty wind. I set up my umbrella and used a rock to hold it down to prevent sand from blowing into my eyes. The moon was so bright at midnight it I thought it was morning. I missed sleeping under the stars and this life. I’m cut up, bruised, exhausted, dehydrated, and so happy! Day 3
I got a head start since someone has a tent to pack up. The trail continued on the gravel road going up and down. I waited for him to catch up as we found a shady spot for a morning snack after saying hello to rattlesnake number three. The scent of the desert is mixed with the smell of cow poop. Flowers are blooming and the birds are out singing. New Mexico is beautiful. Full of wide open spaces and mountains every way you look. I had that moment today! It hit me hard. I’m hiking the Continental Divide Trail and this is my home for the next few months. I am blessed and full of joy! Held back tears of joys admiring the beauty and promising myself to cherish each moment. Found a rusty old bike that won’t help us get to Canada. At water Cache 3, we met Titan! He also hiked the AT in 2014 and PCT in 2015. We bumped into each other only once on both trails. Today he sat in the shade with us and we had our first conversation. Great guy! Get that triple crown Titan!! He’s a fast hiker and that will likely be the only time we bump into each other. After a long break and drinking over two liters of water, we were off again. We hiked a solid day of almost 20 miles before finding a nice campsite off trail. Cowboy camping again for me in the windy desert. Another beautiful day capped off with a sunset. Love my life. Day 4
The past few days have involved crawling under barbed wire fences and seeing more cows than hikers! Much more wild than any hike I’ve done before. No vandalism or graffiti until two hikers signed a cow skull in sharpie. (Hope I met you two so I can lecture you. Would you like it if I wrote my name on your skull? Come on people! LNT.) We have only found two wrappers that we packed out and two pieces of TP stuck in a tree. Lots of old bottles near some of the road crossing and some bullet holes in the signs close to these roads. The past two years on the AT and PCT has been disappointing in my view. So many garbage and tagging. Grow up! Anyways… The weather was much cooler today and my umbrella stayed in my pack all day. At cache 4, we met Chris from Belgium who is taking on his first thru hike and wins for the largest blister I’ve ever seen. He started the day after us and is a super strong hiker. He joined us for the afternoon miles through the desert. The wind was ridiculous as I struggled to stay upright. We learned they even closed down the highway due to high winds that day. Paperweight found a nice campsite for us away from the wind kinda. We both managed to rip the netting of our new Six Moon Design tents with our hiking pole tips. He ended up putting up my tent for me after I got frustrated and angry fighting the wind. Thanks! I should of just cowboy camped haha. We watched the sunset sipping whiskey and eating candy!! Tough days.
I headed out to the water trough to chat with a cow as I filtered water. Good cold water! Some more crawling under fences and more battle wounds. My body is beginning to accept the challenge and getting into the groove. We both have some horrible chaffing so I switched to pants at our first snack break. We chatted the miles away on another gravel road heading closer and closer to town. Love all the old windmills, deserted farm equipment, and the views! I could live in New Mexico. (Name a state I’ve hiked in that I wouldn’t live in…) As we neared the last cache, a kind man named Apple introduced himself telling me he had cold water and drinks by the road. Such a wonderful man who does magic on the CDT, CT, and the AT. I had a coke and two cold gatorades that gave us the power to bust the 7 or so miles back to Lordsburg. I am feeling strong and confident again. We cruised into town busting the last mile of road walking back to the Econo Lodge. It was a relaxing evening and I ran into Foxtrot from the PCT. He hung out with us and chatted in our room catching until he headed off to bed since his hike begins tomorrow!
Overall advice- lots of sunscreen, an umbrella helps but know how to use it, stop and look for snakes, wear pants if you don’t want to be scratched up, drink 2 plus liters at each water cache, know how to put up your tent in the wind, be prepared for blisters and let your feet air out, get an early start in the morning to beat the sun, and never stop smiling! No two people will ever walk the same path I’m sure I’ve already done an extra mile somehow. I’m loving the trail so far and the solitude! We saw two new hikers, Apple, and only bumped into Hob at Cache 2 in 85 miles. It would be very lonely without someone to share the miles with. This is the longest start of a thru hike into a town for me. It feels nice to just jump right back into trail life!! To many more wonderful days!!❤️ Sass