After bumping along at least 40 miles of barren and rutted dirt roads, I stepped out of the truck and shouted, ”Woohoo—there it is!” I couldn’t believe I was finally setting sights upon my third southern terminus of the Triple Crown trails, the Crazy Cook Monument.
As I approached the Monument, hot air whipped across my face, a welcoming from the New Mexico winds. I unloaded my pack and tucked it under the shade structure nearby. I looked at it on the ground surveying all my gear one last time and noticed it seemed to already be smothered in dust and sand. Back in the desert again!
It had been a hot, dry trip to the terminus from Deming, NM where I stayed the night before. I only carried 4.7 liters of water with me from town and didn’t want to drink any of it on the way, so the dull headache that arrived with me at the monument indicated that maybe I should’ve brought more for the ride. Also, it had taken longer to get to the terminus than I had expected, so it was already about noon. “Great,” I thought, “nothing like starting a thru-hike dehydrated and at the hottest part of the day—in the desert.”
Perk, Aaron and I snapped some terminus photos, threw on our packs, and took our first steps on the journey that will likely bring exciting and challenging times to our lives for the next several months.
The trail started as a dirt path through brush and brambles, transitioned into a dirt road and then a wash. I saw quickly that there wouldn’t be much shade, at least in the first stretch, as there weren’t even any sizable bushes to note. I knew my umbrella would offer some reprieve from the sun, but I also observed the wind might challenge how often I could use it. I was already feeling a bit exhausted from the spurts of violent wind on the very first day, but reminded myself that it couldn’t last forever–right?!
Later that evening, we found a bit of shade and sat relaxing for a while. I thought about how the first day of my other two thru-hikes felt pretty similar. Exciting. Nerve-wracking. Painful. A struggle. Emotional. I felt extremely grateful for the opportunity to begin the last leg of the Triple Crown journey, but was I ready for it to be over? Was I even ready for the challenge ahead of me?
It felt like the girl who had climbed an icy Mt. Katahdin in 2015 and the one who pushed through record snow in the Sierra Nevada just months before had gone into hibernation. It’s interesting to look back at a thru-hike and wonder, “WOW! Who WAS that person?” It’s stranger to find yourself back in the middle of it wondering if she will come back. Then somehow when you just have to belly up away from the comforts of home and familiarity, a new “normal” sinks in. I reminded myself that it was this way twice before and that it would the same again. Just breathe.
After a short day of hiking, it felt good to set my tent up that first night–a space that somehow felt like home even though I hadn’t been in it for over 6 months. We only hiked about 8.5 miles, but I had wanted to take it slow anyway. I asked Perk and Aaron how they were feeling, and we all agreed we should’ve had more water. Luckily, we only had about 4 miles to the first cache the next day but it felt pretty uncomfortable to already be rationing water. Rookie mistake!
Perk decided to cowboy camp that evening and Aaron tried inversion sleeping. Just kidding, but he did accidentally attempt to set his tent upside down which made for a good laugh. His tent had come in just before heading to the CDT, so he hadn’t had a chance to practice setting it up. It was pretty similar to my duplex, so we had it up in no time.
To my surprise, it was fairly warm all night and in the morning. I had expected the desert to be a lot colder in early April, but I wasn’t complaining! We reached the first cache in the late morning and I’m not sure I’ve ever been more thrilled to see a metal box full of water jugs. We ate lunch there and drank our fill.
After packing up from lunch and hiking on, I found myself slowly starting to notice the beauty of the desolation surrounding me. At first glance, one might think they were suddenly dropped onto Mars, all hope abandoned. Upon further investigation, small signs of life revealed themselves. Sure, some of the most prominent signs of life I saw were cow patties, but they were welcomed indications nevertheless.
By the third day of hiking, I started to get back in my groove. I didn’t take as long to leave camp in the morning, I had fine-tuned my packing and unpacking routine, and everything had its place. My body was still sore from the aches and pains that come from laying on a couch and then throwing yourself into a thru-hike, but it was starting to feel good.
By the fourth day, I was downright excited to be on trail. I found myself singing, laughing and feeling much like my old trail self. Yes, it was hot, the constant wind was maddening, and my body longed for real food and a shower, but I was home and “Dixie” was back.
That afternoon, we arrived at the road leading to Hachita, NM, where Perk and I had mailed a resupply package. As we hiked, we had toyed with the idea of just going to Lordsburg from there and taking a day to shower, run errands and eat. The closer we got the road the more those plans solidified. On top of that, Aaron had diarrhea, so we decided to go ahead and try to hitchhike to town.
After an hour or so of unsuccessfully thumbing maybe 4 cars, I decided to message a shuttle driver through the InReach. In waiting for a reply, the border patrol pulled up and asked if we were okay. We told him that we were just trying to get to town and I asked if it was illegal to hitchhike in New Mexico (admitting that I should have already known the answer to that). He laughed and told us, yes it was legal, but he had just been concerned if we were okay. Apparently, one of the four cars that passed us thought we were stranded in the desert and needed help. I guess they were half right! The border patrol took us down to the Hachita general store to wait on the shuttle driver so we could at least have shade and Gatorade.
Bucket list item: Hitch a ride with border patrol. Check.
As we sped down the road in the bed of that truck, I grinned. If someone had told me 5 years ago that my life would be what it was at that moment, I would have laughed. I’ve always enjoyed simplicity, but never did I think I’d be so thankful for the bed of a truck or as indifferent to being stinky and caked with dirt. I was even excited for cow pond/trough water in the last stretch simply because it didn’t taste like a plastic jug. As I watched the asphalt move below us, I looked at my friends and realized just because a moment is inexpensive doesn’t mean it’s cheap. In fact, most of the best things in life are free.
Here are some of the inexpensive moments I enjoyed during this stretch of the CDT:
Thank you so much for following along on my thru-hike! More to come–