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“Wander a whole summer if you can…time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will definitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” John Muir

Month

April 2016

Day 10: A Trip Into Town

Miles: 15
Camp: Trail angel house in Silver City CDT mile 161

I heard Squirrel stirring before the 3:00 alarm, but I couldn’t bring myself to exit the cozy warmth of my sleeping quilt yet. I tucked my down jacket into my cocoon in order to warm it for waking, and lay there enjoying the last snippets of slumber.

Finally my alarm beckoned, and I rose diligently knowing my day would be much better if I took action. I made oats and coffee, then sat and gazed at the big dipper as I consumed them.

“I love my life,” I thought in that moment. “I love it lots.”

Chores got done by hikers one by one, and soon Spirit and I led the march out of camp to town. It was great hiking by 4am, the stars and waning moon lighting our way. I apparently need new batteries for my headlamp, but town is where we are headed so it should be an easy task. She and I chatted about hiking, relationships, mining and food as we plugged away at the road miles (the first 4 were dirt).

The copper mine loomed large to our left as an unpleasant odor wafted our way. The miles went quick though, unfortunately to the detriment of our feet. Spirit was feeling her blisters and I, shockingly, was not. However, the bunion on my left foot woke up and stabbed at my nerves as I walked. All it takes is a road walk to aggravate one’s ailments, no matter what they may be.

When Rampage caught up to us, the sun began to rise. It was definitely coldest just before dawn and we all pushed forward to stay warm. We even passed a long driveway lined with toilets.

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New Mexico sure has character.

By 10 am we were walking into Silver City. Just as we were slogging the last half mile a woman yelled to us:

“Are you hiking the CDT?”
“Yes,” we replied as she paused in watering her flowers.
“Come stay with me!” She shouted

She showed all 6 of us down to a huge apartment with everything we could ever hope for (showers, beds with pillows, laundry, a full kitchen, wifi, multiple toilets, a yoga studio and more)…at no cost. I felt like I was in shock at the amazing offer she presented us with; a free apartment with all amenities for our entire group. Her name is Wendy and she hiked the PCT in the 80s…alone and in a high snow year (she sure had a more impressive hike than ol Cheryl). She is a true angel who I couldn’t even begin to be more grateful for.

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Wendy and her pup at Mckenzie Pass on the PCT
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Our amazing kitchen
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Spirit and Squirrel figuring out the new GPS

We are all going to cook dinner together and then get up to make our own breakfast. It is so perfect so far.

No view from the loo because it was super dark outside. The toilets were clearly out of order. Such a tease.

Time to relax. Hiking on tomorrow.

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Day 9: In The Pines

Miles: 15
Camp: Somewhere along Tyrone Rd. Mile 146ish (it’s a lot harder to tell on this trail)

Of our group of 6 I was the only one to cowboy camp last night. I really love just laying on my tyvek and tents sometimes feel constrictive when there is a whole sky to bask under. Eventually I’ll enjoy hiding in my tent again, but it is still warm enough in New Mexico to sleep without shelter, even if we are in the mountains. Either getting out of a tent or simply a sleeping bag, it is sure to be one a chilly start to the day.

I shivered through my morning along with everyone else, and then warmed up quickly as we started hiking. The trail has been wonderful these past few days in the mountains, and today we went even higher (up to 7680 feet). It was the first day we had some real climbing to do and it felt good to use those muscles. We climbed up until we were among ponderosa pines and the smell was intoxicating. The warm smell of vanilla wafted through the air as the needles softened the ground beneath our feet like a carpet. I was in heaven all morning.

There were still cactus among the pines, looking healthy and out of place…but a reminder that we are still in the desert.

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We walked to a water source called mud spring and it looked the part. It was palatable when filtered, and was our last water for 20 miles including a dry camp. This meant carrying extra water to use in camp for dinner and breakfast, so some of us opted to eat our cooked meal at the source to carry less water. I’ve been especially grateful to have my gravity filter which lets me do other things as the water hangs from a branch and gravity does its job.

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Gravity filtration system

Everyone else struggled with their filters as they have become clogged from all of these murky sources. At least I can do other things as my water does it’s own thing, but they all have to sit and squeeze or pump their water to get it clear and drinkable.

After the lunch/water break we had to find an old section of trail to get to the road we will walk into town. The trail is being rerouted but it hasn’t been finished yet, so we opted to go the old route. This proved to be more complicated than we had anticipated, as the trail wasn’t marked and had several hard to find turns. We eventually just started bushwacking through a wash to get to the road which was kind of fun. Part of hiking the CDT is finding your own way sometimes.

Once on the road we knew that camping would be scarce, so we found a suitable location just 15 miles from town. It is a small wash with pine trees and a pine needle floor just off the road. We hope to go unnoticed here as we just need some rest before our 15 mile road walk.

We will get up at 3am to hike the paved road at the coolest time of day…then we should be in Silver City by noon in order to get errands done and avoid another zero. All of this taking it easy and extra time for yoga has been great. I feel amazing, the trail is amazing, my friends are amazing…and even the weather has been great of late. I really can’t complain about a thing.

Dinner: trail mix, cookies and crackers

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Old house foundation in the middle of nowhere
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View from the loo

Day 8: We Aren’t In The Desert Anymore (But We Are)

Miles: 14
Camp: CDT mile #113

Knowing we were going to take it easy today, none of us set an alarm and we woke naturally with the sun. I slept well in my tent, but somehow completely lost an earplug in the night. I had to switch it to the other ear every time I rolled over (which is rather frequent when I camp). I’d rather that than a sandstorm any day.

This morning was by far the coolest yet even though we barely made it into the mountains last night. I thought I would warm up just hiking in shorts, but eventually had to dig out some warmer clothes. I added my wind shirt, buff and pants. It made a big difference in how I felt and it made the miles more enjoyable.

The trail kept winding deeper into the mountains as the cool wind helped us forget those hot days in the bootheel. We eventually stopped at a windmill that had good water and took a nice long break there. I spent some time doing yoga and other stretches, and it felt life changing. Cerveza also caught up with us, as she had to wait behind us in Lordsburg for new shoes. Her feet feeling better she was able to close the gap between us, and it helped we didn’t go very far.

The walking today was really great. The trail went up and down a bit, but nothing too dramatic. I noticed new muscles being engaged in climbing with my pack, but I am happy for any opportunity to get stronger. The whole point of taking our time is to build our strength and the trail was conducive to that with it’s gentle climbs. Soon we will be scaling mountains, but for now the meandering hills are nothing but pleasant.

Our last water source was the murkiest yet, a true science experiment. Algae floated on top of the water and it appeared slimy while small water bugs and tadpoles danced beneath the water’s surface. I remember Edward Abbey saying that the best water has the most things living in it. We should truly worry if nothing was able to survive in it. I thank Edward Abbey for the positive spin on the situation. He knows a thing or two about this life.

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More cow trough water
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Water is life

After filling our bottles, we collectively decided to find camp nearby. We are truly milking this section and it is luxurious. We got to camp early and have all kinds of time for resting, stretching, eating, reading etc. I love it this way, so easily and smoothly transitioning into the trail life again. It’s really starting to click now; the old habits that make time in camp most efficient, tricks to loading the pack so it is easy to get to everything and carries comfortably, what to eat at snack time, how much water to carry. It is all coming together.

I’ll say it again, I love this trail.

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Windmill
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Looking back on the desert floor

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View from the loo

Dinner: ramen. I gave the spice packet to Squirrel and added coconut oil, oregano, broccoli, chicken, beef jerky, garlic, turmeric, sea salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to the noodles.

Day 7: Water With Cows

Miles: 15
Camp: CDT mile 100

When my alarm went off in the hotel this morning, I couldn’t wait to get up and get back to trail. I took a quick shower, grabbed my pack and went to meet the group at McDonald’s. I brought my leftover sandwich from last night and just ordered a coffee while I ate. It was much better than the coffee at the Econolodge, but the hunger hasn’t set in yet so McDonald’s has no appeal to me.

We all finished up and hiked on down the road. We had a paved road walk for about 2.5 miles before the trail became a trail again. Then we had to follow sporadic signs across the desert as we often do, sometimes feeling as if it was well marked, sometimes scratching our heads in confusion with no sign of trail in sight. It often makes me think of that Donovan song but with the word “trail” substituted for “mountain.”

‘First there is a trail and then there is no trail and then there is…’

That happens a lot. You think you’re right on trail and then it just stops and you have to figure out where you are all over again. We haven’t gotten really lost yet, but that is the benefit of having lots of eyes on the job. I like to think of finding the signs as a little game, and it keeps my mind engaged for long periods of time…until I get distracted by some animal or plant, which I often do.

Since we were in no hurry today we took a couple of leisurely breaks under some shade trees. At lunch we lazed about sharing stories about times we got in trouble growing up, which turned into a pretty deep 2 hour sharing session. Just 4 ladies lounging in the shade talking about life. I enjoyed it very much.

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Rampage telling a story

We then walked on into a cool wind. The air has cooled down a lot, but the sun is still present. Any time the wind stops, you could certainly feel the heat, but it was unusually pleasant all day as we began our ascent into the mountains and out of the desert. I would go so far as to call it perfect. Today was as good as it gets for weather, and the trail itself was pretty gentle on us. Provided, our goal was only 15 miles, it made the pace casual…but the CDT has been kind to us today.

My feet never had time to get upset with me either, which is why I was especially keen to do easy miles with the group. We will all work up to 20 miles when the time is right, but there is no need to hurry now. It is so great to enjoy the calm pace, the good company, amazing weather and trouble free feet. It’s a feeling I won’t get too attached to, but I will enjoy it for now.

When we stopped for water today there was a tank on a hill with nice clear water in it. We all gathered round to fill our various vessels when a cow came up to get a drink. It stopped and watched us as we finished up, seeming rather impatient with our intrusion. As most of us began hiking on, Spring Chicken was still packing up and the cow just marched over next to her and began to drink…soon joined by a friend. It was am entertaining scene.

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Not long after getting water, we got to mile 100 and set up camp out of the increasing winds. We all chose more wisely than the other night, but had some struggle setting up our new tents in the wind (mostly Rampage and I struggled, as Spirit, Squirrel and Wilderness have free standing tents). Once we got set up, we lay in our shelters laughing and eating dinner. Looking back on the desert floor we see a giant sandstorm brewing and we feel for the hikers crossing that terrain today, but are glad it isn’t us.

We are officially out of the bootheel and moving into the mountains. It feels right.
There is no place I would rather be.

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To the mountains!
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100 miles!

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"Hey, that's my water."

View from the loo was at McDonald’s so I’ll spare the image. It should be back tomorrow.

Dinner: refried beans with cous cous, hot sauce and veggies (I made too much and am super full).

Day 6: Guess It’s An Early Zero

Miles: 0
Camping: Not. Hanging in Lordsburg.

Well, it wasn’t my intention to zero this early on but here we are. The group decided to stay, and I wasn’t eager to venture off completely alone just yet. Though I strive for my solitude and independence out there, people are part of the journey as well. Plus, it never hurts to give the blisters a chance to dry out more…and hotels are really cheap here.

Therefore I want to use this blog to talk about some of the really impressive people I am hiking with and around. First off, I started the trail with a group of 7 women (and 4 men too). Turns out that is some kind of record. Go us!

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The ladies: Spring Chicken, Rebecca, Spirit, Wilderness, Dust Bunny, Cerveza, Rampage
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With the guys: Gnome God, Mudbug, Elusive and Squirrel

Rampage is from Colorado and this is her first thru hike. She is a cancer survivor with type 1 diabetes and is amazingly positive and a true badass. She has to continually monitor her blood sugar and take insulin in order to hike. Just when you think you have enough to deal with out here, I can’t even imagine the extra effort she puts in even though I watch her do it every day. She is really positive about it though, and it is really impressive. She even had to deal with a serious bloody nose (almost 30 hours!) after the wind storm the other night. She said her tent looked like a crime scene…and she just laughs about it and keeps on trucking. If you want to read more about her she blogs at http://rampaigingaround.wordpress.com

Another interesting hiker is Elusive. I met him on day 1 and he is on a most fascinating and admirable journey. He is roughly 65 years old and started hiking in 2014. He did the Appalachian Trail first, then rode his bike to Florida, hiked the Florida Trail, rode his bike to Minnesota, kayaked the Mississippi to New Orleans, walked to Lordsburg, NM, is now hiking the CDT and then plans to kayak the Missouri River, walk to California and do the PCT…and there is more to come. He is just about the nicest, happiest, most inspirational person I’ve come across in my own travels. Read more about Elusive here: http://www.davidowenroberts.com He also wrote a book that I plan to read after trail, because it sounds really cool (it’s about aliens observing Earth on a faster timeline).

We are also hiking right around the warrior hikers, a group of Veterans who hike together to combat PTSD. They are pretty cool so far, though I haven’t spent much time with them yet. They have been really friendly so far, and I look forward to seeing them down the trail. I love seeing people use hiking as a tool for healing, it really is the best therapy I’ve ever had.

Everybody out here is impressive solely for being here. Cerveza is working on her triple crown with this hike, Spring Chicken used to do triathalons, has hiked the Colorado Trail 3 times and the JMT once. She is 64 and doing better than most of us kids, like it ain’t no thing…it is so inspiring to look around at the endurance and tenacity of these hikers. I’m proud to be among them.

No view from the loo today. Just picture an Econolodge bathroom if you must. Back on trail bright and early tomorrow! Can’t wait to see what’s coming!

Dinner: toasted turkey sub loaded with veggies

Day 5: The Desert Is Alive

Miles: 22
Camping: Hotel living in Lordsburg, NM CDT mile 85

After watching a most incredible sunset last night I began to bed down for the night listening to the wind. It started out innocent enough, but soon picked up to a wicked howl. Sand was flying everywhere, including through the mesh of my tent. I had set up my tent before the wind began, so it was taking all of the hearty gusts broadside. I couldn’t lay on my right side without getting sand in my face and my left hip was screaming for relief. It was an ongoing battle until roughly 1 am when the wind simply stopped. It was a terrible night of sleep.

Nonetheless, I was up at 5 doing my morning chores. It took a while in my drowsy state as I fumbled with everything I touched and had to clean a fine film of sand off of myself and all of my gear (a job that may never be finished). Note to self: pitch the tent with the nose upwind next time.

As I set out hiking, I fell into the cool easy walking of morning easily. The moon hung bright in the calm sky, mountains beginning to blush pink in the morning light. It’s all worth it for this.

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The walking was cross country for a ways, and I found myself a bit off trail a couple of times. Never too far. I eventually came upon my first source of water shared by cows and had to make do with it. It looked much worse than it tasted though, and after filtering it was perfectly clear and had no funny taste or odor.

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After collecting what I needed I marched on into new terrain. The ground was a red sand covered in red rocks…probably much like Mars:

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Among the red rocks there were some beautiful white stones that formed crystals. My pictures didn’t come out great, but they seemed pretty special to me.

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As I began moving over a saddle I heard a loud rattle and again jumped. Alone this time, I was confronted by a much less polite snake than yesterday. This one got into striking pose and hissed at me venomously. I made a hasty retreat keeping a sideways eye on the angry serpent. The hair all over my body stood on end as the experience gave me quote a chill.

Not too long after that I saw my first ever wild tarantula. It scurried into a hole and I ran over to look in after it. The spider was hunched in there looking out at me curiously. I thought it rather cute, and bid him a good morning before hiking on. This day was pretty cool so far…you see so much more when you hike alone.

I eventually took lunch under an old tree and even attempted to nap after last night’s poor rest. The nap never worked out, but lunch was good and shade is heaven out here, so I simply enjoyed the rest.

The early afternoon was then taken up by looking at plants, cows and rocks. Pretty dull to write about really. I get pretty caught up in the cool foreign landscape of the desert. So distracted that I landed at the next water cache sooner than expected. Debbie was there, and is now known as “Spring Chicken.” We were only 7 miles from town at 2:15 and decided it was silly to try and stay another windy night on trail when town was so close.

I popped 2 Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and moved on down the ol dusty feeling good. The miles were easy but for my blisters, but I try not to focus on them if I can avoid it. Sometimes it feels like I’m walking on sandpaper my feet have become so tender…but the rest of my body and my mind are strong and ready to go. It’s frustrating to say the least…but part of the process out here. I’m doing a lot better with my feet than the PCT so far, so no real complaint.

I made it into town with no big events to speak of and caught up with my friends. They had a room for 5 already, and Spring Chicken and Rebecca were still expected to arrive. I decided I’d get a room with them when they arrived so we could all spread out more comfortably…plus the rooms here are super cheap so not as much need to pack a bunch of people in one room. We will surely do that later.

We all took showers and then ate pizza at the only restaurant in town. Tomorrow I’ll get my resupply in order and see what people are thinking for the next leg. For now I’m ready to doze in a comfortable room and let my feet and me get some much needed rest.

Dinner: mushroom and pepperoni pizza

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Ocatilla with leaves!

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Going to find out if I can eat the yellow part...
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View from the loo

Day 4: Miles From Nowhere

Miles: 15
Camp: CDT mile 63

No matter how far away they are, a pack of coyotes howling maniacally in the night sounds too close when cowboy camping alone. They were either fighting each other or making a kill because there was some pretty awful sounds. The sound is haunting.

I managed to fall back asleep at some point, waking to the early alarm and the bright moon. The trail was difficult to follow before sunrise because it was cross country and unmarkef, but I moved slowly and managed to not get myself lost.

Hiking at sunrise is definitely a special time of day, I’ll take it over midday miles every time. The trail was gorgeous all morning as well, winding through a couple of cool meadows and by a giant water tank (and a tire for the cows) on a hill.

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I gathered some liters for the next stretch and continued over the next few easy miles. As I came up over a saddle I took some time to look all around me at the view. I really felt like I have already done so much, and yet I still have so far to go. On my way down the other side a bee started harassing me. I took off my hat so it wouldn’t get trapped near my face and it decided to swoop in and sting me right on the chin! I’ve never been stung by a bee before so I guess I was long overdue, but ouch! I put some salve on it and hiked on with a keen eye on all flying insects.

Soon I ran into the rest of the group. They were finishing up a break and we all hiked on together to the next water cache. We talked about our various ailments and plans for town as we walked. I was chatting with Spirit when I heard something rattle. I instinctively shouted, “rattlesnake!” and jumped back a few feet as a 2.5 foot rattlesnake coiled itself up between two bushes. It stayed there quietly waiting for us to pass and I thought it a polite snake. Even it’s initial rattle was a mere shake rather than a full on rattle. A shake hello.

We kept our respectful distance and walked on, climbing through yet another barbed wire fence to the water cache. There are lots of these fences to get over, around or under our here. No snags so far. We all found a patch of shade at the water box and lounged about for a couple of hours eating, laughing and hydrating. Then the same man who gave us cold sodas on day 2 showed up with more cold sodas. Holysmokes! He stuck around longer this time and chatted with great interest with each of us. He is just a sweet guy from Colorado driving around the desert with a cooler of soda for hikers. What a world we live in. It’s nice to be reminded of that.

After the lounge session we hiked on. It was growing hotter so I took a slower pace than the group. It had been a long break with little shade, so my hope was to find more ample shade to hole up in for the rest of the hot part of the day.

After 4 miles of hot, flat desert full of dead animal bones and skulls, I found a nice shade tree and made myself comfy for the long haul. I lay down and closed my eyes, elevating my feet in the tree’s low branches. It was a lovely break.

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Just as I was about to eat something and continue hiking, Rebecca showed up. She is also struggling with blisters and has the same problem with it being worse later in the day. We got to commiserating on that when I started fiddling with one of my most painful blisters. Without being too graphic, I was able to alleviate the pressure a bit more and Rebecca gave me some gauze to cover it.

I ended up being so excited to hike that I forgot to eat. It is kind of shocking when I forget to eat, even when I’m not on trail. It is my favorite activity, besides hiking.

As a result of us being less than par, we walked the wrong way for a stretch. Maybe 1/2 mile? We walked back to trail and Rebecca had to call it quits for the day. I rallied to meet my 15 mile goal even though my stomach was telling me it was time to make up for my forgetfulness.

There was talk of wind tonight, and I saw rain clouds in the distance so I pitched my tent for the first time this trip. As I made dinner the rain clouds moved on and it is a beautiful night. I’ve half a mind to get up and hike for another hour, but the chore of packing up camp with my tent is too much. I have no idea where the rest of the group is, but they aren’t planning to get into town until Sunday, so probably not far. I hope to share a hotel room with a couple of other gals so I just hope they are still taking it kind of easy too. I think resting my feet when they actually feel better is a good strategy. This way I can take advantage of tomorrow to get close to town and have a full day Sunday for chores.

Things are working out great. I’m independent like I want to be on trail, but have my friends when we are in town. It’s really just been pretty perfect, blisters and all.

I love this trail.

Dinner: refried beans with cous cous, kale, chicken, corn and salsa.

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View from the loo

Day 3: Go Your Own Way

Miles: 18.8
Camp: CDT mile 48

Waking up early is a little easier when you aren’t really sleeping. The full moon and my snoring campmates kept me from a good nights rest, but I felt pretty good nonetheless. When I did catch some z’s off and on, I had a dream that my teeth were sunburned, an indication of how hot the day was. It was all my brain thought about even as I slept.

I made my coffee and oats and had my pack ready to go by 5:20. It was so great walking by the light of the moon and under the stars. I remembered how much more I enjoy hiking in the morning, when I’m at my freshest.

When the sun came up over the mountains to the east, everything looked so beautiful I had to keep stopping to admire the great light and views…I feel so blessed to be there to see it.

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It is so much easier to walk when the ground isn’t 1000 degrees, which is the main reason we hike before sunrise. That habit goes away in the mountains when it is also a heck of a lot colder in the wee hours.

A few of us planned to take a side trip to a ghost town called Old Hachita, but before that detour we had to find an old electrically pumped well and get more water. It was a cool wooden structure set next to a pond. When you flip a switch water comes out an old pipe and you are good to go. There were trees around the pond, and even an egret who lingered on the opposite shore from us. It was quite an oasis in this desert…especially when you ignore the unending supply of cow shit laying about everywhere (literally everywhere as ranchers lease the land for their cattle…or own it and are nice enough to let us pass through). Though the water is from a deep underground well, I filtered mine for good measure.

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After a water and snack break I headed to Old Hachita with Rampage, Spirit and Rebecca. It was easier to find than we had anticipated and was worth the extra steps. It was an old mining town that we know nothing about. Well, we know one thing and it is that they did a LOT of mining. There were mine shafts all over the place, most blocked off by barbed wire. Other than that, the old town was pretty run down.

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We explored a little and then enjoyed lunch under a nice tree before hiking on…and it was only noon! By this time yesterday we had barely covered half of the miles we had done today and it felt great.
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After leaving the town it grew unbearably hot in the desert. The air didn’t even move in a whisper and the sun shone down on us and everything mercilessly. My feet swelled in my shoes and new blisters formed. I’ve been really good about blister care this trail, but it was so stupid hot that I waited to treat this last round because I couldn’t bear stopping without shade to work with. There is just so little shade to be found out here, and without a breeze it is just stifling.

I eventually found a solitary Juniper tree and fell into its soft branches, closing my eyes. It was nice in the tree, it smelled of Juniper as I lay in the shady branches. I felt as if the tree was holding me there as a very gentle breeze cooled my skin. I thought about how I made every effort to wake up early to avoid walking in the heat of day…and yet, I walked right across a desert floor at high noon. I was mad at myself for not slowing down, but I took a deep breath and regained my composure. “I can slow down now,” I told myself.

With that attitude I finished the day on my terms. I hiked a few more miles seeing my friends at a water cache and then hiking out an hour after they left (it was still so hot!) I chose camp within a mile of the group, but stopped simply because I wanted to. As far as timing, I’m right on schedule and in no hurry. The miles will be there tomorrow. Time to cowboy camp alone for the first time and get up early to face a new day…and I am happy. Truly, wonderfully happy.

I love this trail already.

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View from the loo

Dinner: mashed potatoes with broccoli, chicken and salsa.

Day 2: Where’s Waldo?

Miles: 15 by trail; about 24 actual due to terrain
Camp: CDT mile 29.12

This morning started out perfect. I had a good nights sleep, and any pain from the day before didn’t linger. I made up a healthy breakfast packed at home a few weeks ago, and fired on up the trail. Several hikers had recommended we take the road from the water cache because the trail was rough, but none of us saw the point of doing that, so we followed the trail as planned.

It was a beautiful morning, though growing hot quickly. We had to follow large wooden posts held up by piles of rocks across the landscape. Sometimes they were easy to spot, and other times it was a real trick to find them among the tall standing agave and yucca plants. Like a game of Where’s Waldo?

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The early walking was pretty easy going, and I had my usual fun studying all of the unique flora of the desert. My favorite new plant is the ocatilla, a long spindly, spiny plant with bright red flowers at it’s tips. Dodging it was a chore at times, but it stood so beautifully against the landscape.

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Soon enough, the trail markers became harder to spot and we had to team up, training all sets of eyes on the horizon to find the next trail marker. They occasionally get knocked over by cows, so they aren’t always there.

We managed to find our way out of the mountains and onto the desert floor, realizing that we had only been 9 miles after 6 hours. The walking was all over the place, hardly a straight line, sometimes feeling like giant circles and so much going up and down through arroyos coming off the mountain. It added miles to the day, even if we only went 9 by trail.

By the time we all reached the second water cache 11 miles into the day it was already 2 and we were all beat up by the desert. Radar was there filling up the cache which thankfully meant cool water to drink. It was simply beautiful. I built a fort with my umbrella, tyvek and trekking poles that gave me enough protection to eat lunch since there was no shade for miles.

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Radar also gave us gatorade…and he brought my shirt that I had accidentally left in the hotel in my drowsy and distracted departure (thanks to Pink for making the handoff). It was a good moment, made even better yet by a nice man who came upon us with a cooler of ice cold Mountain Dew. As much as I abhor soda, it was the single most tasty one I have ever consumed on that shadeless desert floor.

After a Gatorade and soda we all felt as if we should push on another 5 miles (hello sugar!). Seemed like a good idea at the time, but a couple of miles on I felt some blisters I treated earlier in the day raising hell in my right shoe. There is not so much as a hot spot on my left foot, but 3 angry blisters have fought their way through the leukotape on my right. Alas, it is inevitable.

I took a break under a tree while everyone else marched on. I have to remember that I’m on my own out here. Everyone is so great, but just because they are pushing their bodies doesn’t mean I have to push mine…and believe me, we are all struggling out here.

Embrace the brutality indeed.

I still wouldn’t trade it for anything. Through the pain I continue to smile and delight in the freedom of a Thru Hike in its fledgling stage.

So I sat in the shade for 30 minutes and gathered my composure before deciding to move on. I ended up running into Rampage who had been sitting not 20 yards from me under another shade tree. She and I got to walking and talking with no sign of the rest of the group ahead.

Getting tired, sore and frustrated with our blisters we decided to stop in a wash and call it a day. We ate dinner as Debbie showed up, and are now lying cowboy style under the sky again. The moon is full over the mountains and the air is so refreshing after a day of stifling heat. We aim to rise early and hit our miles before it gets hot tomorrow…I’m not great with alarms, so hopefully we succeed. It will surely be worth it after today.

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The moon over the mountains, Big Hatchet Peak to the right

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We are sleeping in the mountains you see here tonight. Was a long walk to get here.

Dinner: tortilla soup with chicken and salsa (salsa was great Elaine!)

New addition to the blog will be called, “View from the loo”…every day the last picture on my blog will feature what I see during my daily poo:

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