Day 1: April 24, 2019
Destination: Stealth Camp Mile 18.5
Today’s Miles: 18.5
Start Location: Crazy Cook Monument, Southern Terminus
Trip Miles: 18.5
The Econolodge is really a great place to stay in Lordsburg. Even though their breakfast normally starts at 7, they opened it at 6 so that we could eat before the shuttle left at 6:30.
I woke up feeling good and well-hydrated. I had a cup of coffee, guzzled some water, and went down to breakfast. I met a few hikers, and after some chitchat and one final stop at the room to use the bathroom (it’s a 3-hour drive after all), I went to load my stuff in the shuttle.
The shuttle was two pickup trucks. The drivers had plastic garbage bags to put over our packs to help keep the clouds of dust from the dirt roads off of them. We squished into the trucks and took off.
In my truck was Fluffy, Joe Dirt, and two other hikers I can’t remember. We took paved roads for a while, and then continued on to the dirt ones. The roads weren’t as bad as I expected, but all wheel drive and a decent spare tire would probably be the minimum to take a vehicle on them safely.
I got really excited when we spotted a horde of vultures on a piece of roadkill in front of us. There’s nothing special about that, but then a coyote dashed into the road, grabbed their roadkill dinner, and ran off with it right in front of us! I thought that was pretty cool, though I wondered if he made it safely from the road only to get hit by a falling anvil.
We passed a number of border patrol cars. There really were no other people or cars around besides border patrol. When we finally got to the Crazy Cook Monument at the start of the trail, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Specifically, the border fence wasn’t what I expected. It was about 20 feet from the monument and was just a basic barbed wire fence. It even had a giant gap in it where one could easily step into Mexico. I’m not admitting that I did step into Mexico, but if I had stepped into Mexico and had someone take my picture, I would have done it at that fence gap....
The shuttle drivers took a group picture with all of our cameras, and then took off. We helped each other take individual photos at the monument, and that was it. While some people took off hiking, I went and peed on the border fence. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
I was almost the last to head out. A guy named Wilder and Sampson the Bear took off pretty quickly. I hung back to get situated and go ahead and get my geisha glow on with my SPF 60+ zinc oxide, though I left before Fuzzy and Joe Dirt.
It felt great seeing and touching the monument, but it really started sinking in as I walked off into the desert alone. When I hiked the AT, I remember walking away from my wife and parents, realizing that I was going to be walking north for quite some time. Today I felt similar, with the weight and magnitude of the journey before me sinking in as I hiked in peace.
The desert is what I expected but also not what I expected. It is desolate and full of things that stab and prick, but it is also beautiful. Every now and then I would see a bright pink flower growing out of a cactus. I expected these things. I didn’t expect so much undergrowth. I kind of thought the vegetation would be more sparse, but there are quite a lot of little scrub bushes of various types. Many of them have thorns. I also didn’t expect to hear or see songbirds, but I did - a pleasant surprise!
The hiking really was beautiful in its own way. It got up in the low to mid 80s today. Honestly, it didn’t feel that hot to me. I’m used to hot, humid weather, and the dry, arid climate was a little easier to hike in. I tried my best to reapply my sunscreen frequently. I am sure I got some sun today on my legs and maybe hands, but I did not get burned!
It is easy to get off the main trail, as many little dirt paths begin to appear. Which one do I take? Well, fortunately there are a few posts here and there that can be spotted from a distance. I had to adjust course many times throughout the day. I will put in a plug for Guthook here. I’m so glad that I have Guthook! It is my map app that shows me where I am relative to the trail. It helped me to correct course many times without a lot of time wandering looking for the trail.
I originally planned to hike to the first water cache. The CDTC stocks 4 water caches in this section known as “The Bootheel.” It would be incredibly difficult without these. The first cache is around 12 miles in. My pack was heavier than usual because I carried 5 liters of water from the start of the trail. I didn’t really need that much, but as I get used to this climate I’m being conservative. As I got closer to the cache, I drank more of my water to bring down my pack weight.
When I arrived, a handful of hikers were there, huddled around the tiny, half patches of shade. There really wasn’t any great shade there. In fact, there have only been 3 or 4 trees, or tree-ish bushes, so far. It’s incredibly exposed out here. So far my long sleeve shirt is working out great, and the bandanna I tuck under my hat brim shields my neck and ears wonderfully. That bandanna makes a world of difference!
I grabbed some water from the cache and sat down next to Fluffy, Sampson, and Joe Dirt. There were a few others there. We enjoyed our scrap of half shade and guzzled some water. I ate some mixed nuts that I had. I like having a salty snack when I camel up on water. It helps my body retain moisture and replenishes the salt I’ve sweated out. That’s what I tell myself anyway.
After a while, three ladies I passed earlier showed up. They took a different shuttle this morning and got started before the rest of us. They were Heatwave, Woodchuck, and Serenity. Gotta love trail names!
I filled up with five liters of water and hiked out with Samson. The cache was off trail, so we bushwhacked up a hill to get back on trail. He wanted to walk another 6 or so miles. Originally, I was going to walk two more and stop, but I pushed a little farther because of the spacing of water sources tomorrow. Tomorrow could be a long day. I may end up walking 20+ miles, depending on water.
Samson walked from the trail down to a dirt road that parallels it (sort of) to help him speed up a bit. I stayed on the trail and enjoyed walking alone and watching the sun start to get lower in the sky. I selected a rough clearing to pitch camp, and set about messaging Gillian and cooking food.
It is so quiet at camp! The stars are incredible. As I sit here in my quilt, it feels very peaceful. The temperature is dropping fast. It will probably get down to 43 tonight - that’s the desert! One new thing I got to enjoy - trying to pull cactus needles out of my ankle. I must have brushed against a small cactus. The needles went through my gaiters and two sock layers. They are very fine and don’t seem to want to come out, so I did the best I could and broke them off. There are still little tiny filaments in my ankle, but it doesn’t hurt so hopefully it won’t get irritated. I’m thinking the little needles are so fine that my body will just dissolve them. Because that’s a thing that bodies do, sayeth Doctor Hungry Cat.
I was grateful for the beauty of the desert today, some good company, and also that the trail never felt “crowded.” I’m thankful that I made it through the day without injury and had a nice sunset while eating dinner. Time for bed! Tomorrow will be a big one!
#1 As you will have figured out by now, I won’t always be posting each night, though I will write a journal for each day (that’s the plan anyway). As I type this I’m on day 3 and haven’t had a signal yet. Anyway, just know that I will post batches as I can if I am unable to update daily.
#2 I am basing all mileage off of the Guthook app I am using for primary navigation. It will be interesting to see my total mileage in the end! If I have to deviate from Guthook and use an alternate on my topographic maps, or walk a fire re-route, I’ll do what I can to track the mileage.
#3 If you leave a comment or email me and I don’t respond or “heart” it, please know that I do see them, but it can be hard to keep up with out here, and sometimes things I think I click on don’t happen. I do love reading them and appreciate them very much!
#4 Typos - they will happen, largely because I type all of these entries on my phone. I’ll do my best to minimize them.