When Perk arrived at my house in Alabama from New York, I already knew it–he wasn’t ready. His pack likely had no gear in it, he hadn’t settled on a supply of food and his taxes weren’t complete. As I greeted him at the door I asked, “Hey Perk, are you ready?!” His response was a smirk, then several quick bats of the eyes, and then he heartily laughed, “What do you think?”
Perk and I have been friends since the Smokey Mountains during our Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikes in 2015. We were both one of ten “tramily” members of a group of solo-hikers that bonded and formed along the way. We all only hiked as a group for a few hundred miles, but made a lifetime of memories.
Perk and I also started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) together last year in 2017, and although we got separated for about 700 miles, we managed to finish together. We both knew it couldn’t stop there so decided we to complete this long journey known as the “Triple Crown of Hiking,” which includes completing the AT, PCT, and CDT. Two down, one to go! The CDT will be a whole new challenge as it spans 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana though plains, mountains and even grizzly country!
So, when Perk made it to Alabama to begin our road trip west to the CDT, I was pretty excited. I went outside and helped him tote in multiple tubs of gear and bags of food from his car, as I had the year before when we were preparing to depart for the PCT. We caught up briefly and then he showed me the one piece of gear that he was sure he was carrying, a ukulele.
In fact, he explained that he’s ditched his trekking poles in exchange for the uke as he’s going to force himself to learn it because it will be in his hands the entire way. He’s hoping it will multi-purpose as a way to keep bears away. “Hike your own hike, Perk,” I joked. Anyone who has done a thru-hike or two is probably sick of hearing that sentiment as it has been used to death, resuscitated, and then murdered again.
After a few days of running errands, doing taxes and dialing in on gear, we both were ready to go. Perk and I loaded his car with our things and set off to get Aaron, the third crew member on this journey. Aaron is a friend of mine from Alabama. He has been editing my YouTube videos for about two years and decided he was sick of just looking at the footage in his dark home in Alabama. He asked me if I’d be okay with him joining for the CDT adventure and I told him yes! It will be fun because not only is this Aaron’s first thru-hike, but also his first backpacking trip.
I think everyone should do a thru-hike as it expands the mind and alters perspective, at least it has for me. So, we managed to work out details of how we would make the videos work, Aaron gathered some gear and we were ready to roll.
Our final destination was Perk’s friend’s house in Estancia, NM. He agreed to watch Perk’s car for the duration of the hike, and generously offered us a place to stay and a shuttle down to the southern terminus. On our way to Estancia, though, we made a few stops along the way.
First, we stopped off to see “The Orr’s.” They are a family of nine, and seven of them hiked the Appalachian Trail the same year Perk and I did. The two parents, Queen Bee and Bumble Bee, are SAINTS as they managed to get themselves and their five children from Georgia to Maine. The kids ranged from ages 10-22 at the time! Anyway, they reside in Burleston, TX which is kind of on the way to New Mexico, so worth a stop in to catch up.
If you’d like to learn more about them and their journey on the AT, you can read their trail journal entries HERE.
Next, we visited Perk’s Aunt and Uncle in Denton, TX. They are a sweet couple and are so hospitable when you stay at their home. They gave us all a place to rest, fed us and sent us on our way!
Finally, we were passing through Amarillo and just had to stop off to see “The Cadillac Ranch.” If you’ve never been there, you’re missing out on quite the artistic expression. Several models of Cadillacs have been speared into the ground at a 45 degree angle and probably contain thousands of layers of paint as passers-by stop to decorate them daily. It’s a nice place to stretch the legs anyway, and to see something…different!
It was kind of a different experience for me because just 4 years ago around that same time I had visited Cadillac Ranch for the first time. I was on a business trip from Colorado (where I was living at the time) to Houston and decided to go sight seeing along the way. I had my dog son, Hank, with me and we had a great time together. Unfortunately, though, this was a very dark time in my life. My job was making me absolutely miserable—made me question my worth, put an unbearable amount of stress on me and so much more that isn’t worth getting into here.
It was surreal to stand there in the same place, several years later, and after a complete overhaul of my life. It was as if this scene of old tattered cars was a time machine and knew that someday I’d be back here to reflect. I saw the ghost of my past self floating through from car to car, talking to Hank and spray-painting our names on one of them.
I walked up and touched the car that my past self had painted and wished I could reach back through in time and reassure her that somehow everything would be okay. I smiled as I remembered, though, that she knew that even back then.
As Aaron, Perk and I walked back to Perk’s car, it dawned on me that this triple crown journey began with me quitting my job in Colorado and escaping the rat race to go hike the AT…and this final trail, the CDT, would take me back through that area. How interesting it is when life comes full circle from time to time.
The next day we arrived at Perk’s friend’s farm in Estancia, NM. I went to Walmart to resupply and mailed myself packages ahead. I decided my first would be to Hachita, NM (about 40 miles from the border). I didn’t want to carry a week’s worth of food starting out if I didn’t have to.
I wish I could tell you that our travels down to Deming, NM and then to the southern terminus was seamless, but that wasn’t the case at all. Using google maps we decided to navigate ourselves to the terminus. Turns out the route we mapped out had some impassable gravel roads. After hours of trying to reach the terminus and failing, we went BACK to Deming to stay another night. I wasn’t thrilled about the delay, but it was a learning experience. I will post detailed directions in the future with pictures to help anyone wanting to reach the terminus!
Although the correct route to the terminus is also a couple hours of rough-riding dirt roads, I am happy to report that we didn’t have to wait for “the third time is a charm” and nailed it the second time! At about 11am on April 5th, I found myself standing at the southern terminus, Crazy Cook Monument, of the Continental Divide Trail thinking, “Well, here we go again…let’s do this.”
Thank y’all for tuning in to following my journey—more to come here soon! Don’t miss my videos of this journey on YouTube or if you’re into podcasts and want more “real-time info” check out the podcast I was asked to be a part of during the duration of my CDT thru-hike at: www.hikingradionetwork.com