Day 3: April 26, 2019
Destination:Stealth Camp Mile 59.0
Start Location:Stealth Camp Mile 39.6
Today was a mix of false starts and applying lessons learned. You may have noticed I’m walking more miles than would seem normal for just starting a thru-hike. This is true, but a lot of that is based on water availability and shade. There is hardly any shade out here, so while I could only walk 12 miles and stop at a water cache, if it doesn’t have shade, I can’t sit there and bake all day. On the AT we congregated around shelters. On the CDT we congregate around shade!
Let me quickly explain what a water cache is. The CDT keeps four water caches stocked during hiker season in the section of trail between the Southern Terminus and Lordsburg. This section is so dry and hot that it would be incredibly difficult to hike otherwise. You can pay for the caches, or they are included with the price of the shuttle that the CDTC runs to the border. What is also great about the water is that it doesn’t need to be filtered, yay!
Back to the false starts. I woke up early this morning around 5:30, trying to get an early start. While I was packing up, Fuzzy and Joe Dirt walked by with their headlamps, and later Samson the Bear passed by. I’m always kind of slow packing up camp. I wanted to get going early to get past the next water cache and find a place with shade to wait out the heat of the day.
I left camp and fortunately didn’t get too far before I realized I’d left my trekking poles. I returned, grabbed them, made it about a half a mile down the trail and felt the blister on the bottom of my right foot explode. Yuck!! I had taped it the night before, but I guess it was bigger than I thought. I have a few blisters at the moment, but they are all under control. I think it’s the combination of heat, constantly dirty feet from all of the dust and silty terrain, and miles. I sat down in the trail and re-unforced the tape, which did the trick to make walking comfortable. Woodchuck and Serenity were close behind me when I stood up and put my pack back on, but I took off to make up time.
It was a beautiful morning. We had a few more hills today. The desert is not flat, though the climbs are very tame. It’s flat with some rolling hills I guess. The grade of the inclines is quite nice. At one point I saw some kind of cave in the distance, not too awfully long before the water cache.
I made it to the cache at 9:20 and proceeded to drink two liters of water. Since water sources tend to be far apart, unreliable, or both, I do a lot of “cameling up” when I get water. It keeps me well hydrated and helps me keep a nice contingency buffer. I’m realizing that I am going to be carrying a lot of water on this journey! The next water source that seemed decent was a tank in a little over 5 miles. I loaded up 3 liters of water and hiked out. That may seem like a lot for 5 miles, but it was already in the mid to low 80s by 9:30, with no shade. The arid climate really sucks the hydration out of one, and I couldn’t be completely sure that this water tank would work out.
Fortunately, the tank was my oasis in the desert, literally. Fuzzy, Joe, Samson, and Dave were all there enjoying the shade created by the large cylindrical tank. There was a spigot kind of hidden behind this railing, and clear, coolish water came out.
I spent the next 5 hours at the tank. I tried to nap, then cooked my dinner for lunch. I figured that way I could eat more quickly without clean up if I had to hike into the late evening. We all sat around and talked and moved with the shade. It was a good chance to recover, hydrate, and air out my feet. Heatwave, Serenity, and Woodchuck showed up. Longfish showed up later. He is a bit older and from Maine. He’s been struggling with the heat and was talking about maybe calling it quits in Lordsburg. He seems to be undecided at the moment. It’s no joke out here though - the conditions are tough. While none of us are in a hurry to get to Colorado, the desert isn’t getting cooler by the day. One of the guys in our shuttle group, a hiker named Boo Boo, apparently had to hit the SOS button in his Garmin to get off trail. Samson told me this was his triple crown hike (he has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail), but I guess he had heat exhaustion, heat stroke, or something like that. I feel badly for him and hope he can return.
The five-hour siesta left me feeling great! I headed out at 4 and made it to the water cache around 6:30. I ate my lunch for dinner there (tortilla with a “chicken creation” packet) and chatted with the others. There was a road crossing nearby and a border patrol car pulled up. The other guys hiked out, and it was just Heatwave and I left. She was camping there with her friends, and I planned to hike on after eating. The border patrol officer walked up to meet us. He was super friendly and asked about our hike, and also whether we might camp there tonight. He said they patrol regularly as there is a lot of illegal border crossing going on.
One of my goals for this section of trail was to try and get a photo with border patrol. My neighbor back home is in law enforcement, so I thought he might get a kick out of it. Tonight I was successful. The officer (Dave) let me take a picture with him. I’m looking forward to sending that to my neighbor!
I hoped to hike another 1.5 to 2 miles, but I took a wrong turn and had to bushwhack across a grassy field. I was worried about snakes as they tend to come out in the evening to feed, so I took my time getting through making a lot of noise with my trekking poles.
Tonight is another night of amazing stars. Honestly, I have never before seen stars as bright as I have here. It’s a pretty amazing display.
Tomorrow I’m going to try and push a longer day, so I need to get to sleep! I should be in Lordsburg day after tomorrow. Ideally I’ll have a short walk into town so that I can charge things, resupply, upload these blog posts, and hike out. I’d like to avoid paying for a room until Silver City if I can.
I’m looking forward to what tomorrow holds!