Crazy Cook(Southern Terminus of the CDT) to Lordsburg, NM
Getting to the southern terminus of the CDT from Maine isn’t the easiest thing to do, but suprisingly it went really well. Two days after Rookie scooped me up from Abol Bridge, the southern boundary of Baxter State Park, he dropped me off at the Portland airport at 4:30am. I flew Delta, checking a cheap duffle bag that included my trekking poles, tarp stakes and extra food. I arrived in El Paso, Texas, a short several hours later, to the welcoming heat and sunshine of the south. I then took the advice of Apple Pie, who recommended that I hop in a cab to the Greyhound Station, where I bought my ticket on-site. Having done so, I avoided any unnecessary waiting around for a scheduled departure, and instead boarded a bus 30 minutes later. Destination: middle of nowhere Lordsburg, NM. The bus driver, a dark-skinned, suave man if I’ve ever seen one, said with an accent almost more french than spanish, “You’re my only Lordsburg. That’s unique”. I’d later tell him, when I got off the bus 2.5 hours later, about the CDT. I could tell the idea perplexed him, but he had an open mind, unlike the assortment of people on the bus, seats filled with what appeared to be one giant extended family, and unfortunately seats filled by illiteracy.
I then walked up the street to the Econo Lodge. The sun burned hot against the pavement and my skin, having yet to adjust to the dry heat, and also for having sat in a seat for a majority of the day, and because I’d likely consumed 15,000 calories in the last 48 hours, felt bloated. Indeed, I looked like a stuffed pig, with swollen feet and fingers. Even my face and thighs felt thick. But that effect would wear off by the evening the following day.
Day one began early. I was fortunate having had the ability to sleep, finally, although I still tossed and turned several times. Having fallen asleep at 7pm, my gear was spread across the room and my maps yet to be organized.
I was tempted to take a zero. Boy was I tempted. I even went down to the 1st floor to see if the shuttle driver was awake. He was not, as it was 5am. Back in my room, I was still tired and my chores left undone. But I got my act my act together, and wasn’t too far behind the ETD: Estimated Time of Departure, which was 6:15am.
I joined the other hikers downstairs, and off we went, half a waffle and a cup of coffee in hand. Along the drive, a four hour drive, we learned of each others story. There were four others. Spot, a lean 74-year old man from Oregon, and who inspired me to go no-cook through New Mexico. I always went no-cook in the desert, and I’m not sure why I thought I’d wanted to change my style on this hike. Dehydrated meals and instant potatoes, see ya later! Besides Spot, there was Bark Eater and Eileen, a married couple from upstate New York. Completing the CDT would earn Bark Eater his Triple Crown, and Eileen’s second long-distance hike. Their pace, I’d observe, was steady and speedy, and they’d share with me some sunblock as I was wearing a pair of quite possibly the tiniest pair of running shorts that I’ve ever worn, and a men’s XL short-sleeved, sun-shirt, sleeves rolled up and the bottom pulled into a knot. My sunshirt was accidentally left out of my resupply package, and I had to improvise, fortunately finding this shirt in the motel’s hiker box. (You know a place is hiker friendly when they have a hiker box and do your laundry for you!) I gladly accepted the sunblock, and later would suprise many that I did not turn the color of a cooked crustacean, but instead developed a rather impressive tan. Besides being the hiker wearing tiny shorts, there was Kevin, a man from Alaska who now resides in Washington, and like Bark Eater and Eileen, were covered in lightweight layers, head to toe. This will be his first thru-hike ever, and there was a charm to observe his nervousness. I even asked if he was nervous, after the others started up the trail, and I tried to give him a few helpful tips. Ultimately, it’s one foot in front of the other. Break it down into pieces. Don’t look at it so seriously.
We stayed close at first, and I enjoyed the idea of having others nearby. But by late afternoon, after the first water cache, which is a big, brown bear box set in the desert by the CDTC and is part of the service included in the $120 price getting hikers to the far, far away terminus, I was on my own, and wouldn’t see anyone for the next 48 hours.
I drifted in and out of sandy wash, while following an impressive amount of trail tread that did not exist in years past. I walked along improved BLM dirt roads and two-track. At other times, I headed cross-country, following the CDT sign posts. Most of the time the signage was obvious, and even when if wasn’t visible, there were so many identifiable landmarks to guide me. The trail threaded it’s way past mountains, staying low in the canyons, a welcome gesture compared to the elevation change along the Appalachian Trail. Most of the time I relied on my map, without a compass, and occassionally I’d turn on Guthook’s App, an GPS and topographic map that shows my whereabouts, the precise location of the trail and calculates the mileage between way points. It is ingenious and eliminates so much stress and anxiety and I love it.
I walked past, and around, Big Hatchett, Little Hatchett, Coyote hills and Pyramid Peak. I cameled up at water caches and electric or solar pumps, carrying no more than two liters of water at a time.
The desert is filled with vibrant colors: terracotta earth and sandstone. Cholla cactus, prickly pear and barrel bloom with yellow or pink flowers. Ocotillo extend there thorny arms into the blue sky, red flowers perched atop.
Sleeping beneath the milky way, a band littered with stars, planets and black holes, I loose myself in silence, peacefulness. What can I say, Me gusta mucho el desierto!