Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Springerville, AZ

After spending a night in Silver City at The Drifter motel (how
aptly-named is that?)watching ESPN tell me ad nauseam that the Skins
got destroyed 52-7 by the Pats, I hitched west to Glenwood, NM and
hiked the Catwalk National Recreation Trail. It's only a mile or so
long, but it's a pretty cool slot canyon with a metal walkway built to
the wall in the narrower parts. Hitched to Springerville this
morning, Marcus is on his way over from Phoenix, and we'll head to Pie
I really enjoy hitch-hiking. It's fun to try and hold your tongue
when people tell you that global warming is a scam to create a world

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Can I Mex? Mex I Can.

The journey is complete. According to timeanddate.com, it took 178 days, 13 hours, and 30 minutes. Here's how it ended.

10 minutes after I left the Internet cafe in Silver City on the 23rd, the power went out all over town. I couldn't buy my groceries or even use some of the pay-phones around town. Mysteriously, Dairy Queen still had power, so I hung out there until the power came back on, bought my groceries, and walked out of town on highway 90.

The next day I walked highway and dirt county roads to near Separ, NM. I saw my second rattler (a Green Mojave?) of the trip. On the 25th I passed through Separ, which is actually just Bowlin's Continental Divide Trading Post. Gross. I walked more roads with a little cross-country cacti bushwhacking to near Hachita. I did see some wild horses, but I also got swooped by an enormous bat, and swarmed by 5 Border Patrol trucks. Three drove past me in formation, one pulled a U-turn and focused his lights on me, and the two from behind pulled up to begin interrogating me. Because I'm sure illegals always wear blaze orange with reflect-y stripes for greater night-time visibility.

Finally I reached the "official" terminus of the CDT at noon on the 27th. The last two miles were a cacti-bushwhack, with the trail ending on the inside of the bootheel at the Crazy Cook "monument." (NOBODY thinks "let's go east to go to Mexico," and NO, the actual Continental Divide does not leave the country to the east either, it leaves to the south, just like you'd think.) The only joy I felt here was that this was such an amazing example of the crap of the "official" trail. They'll put a signpost every quarter mile but not dig tread and then expect it to just spontaneously appear, the trail isn't even routed to the monument (it ends a couple hundred yards down a fence-line road), and the "monument" is a crumbling slab of concrete that just happened to already be there to commemorate somebody's death. Also, it was 90+ degrees out and there wasn't a water source in 40+ miles, and when I found one, I got swarmed by fire-ants and a seven-foot long snake tried to crawl in my pack. Then at night I trespassed across a farmer's field that had a large number of rats in it, and got swooped by yet another enormous bat, this time it was loudly screeching to boot.

I reached highway 81, took it south for 12 miles, and reached the border at Antelope Wells this morning (the 28th) at 9:30. Despite the above paragraph, I had a great time the last few days. The desert had some cool scenery, what little traffic there was on the roads gave me plenty of room, the moon was full so I could do lots of easy night-hiking, and the air is totally dry, so I slept under the stars ever since leaving Silver City. Within 10 minutes of finishing my photos of the border, I boarded a Phoenix-bound shuttle and took it to Lordsburg. Then I quickly caught a ride (with free pizza) to Silver City, where I am now. Marcus is flying out on the 30th, and we'll somehow figure out a way to meet up and head west. (Anybody in New Mexico got a POS car they're looking to sell?)

Stay tuned to the blog; I'll report on my road-trip adventure home and answer important questions like "What next?" "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "What's the meaning of life?" and "When the heck do we get to see the photos?"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pie Town, NM - October 18

Aaron: The new Radiohead album the day it came out? You, my friend, are awesome.

Thomas, Jody, Wendell, and Sarah: I wish I knew the Cookie Monster song, because if I did, I'd sing it in your honor right now. Thanks!

Did 38 on Sunday so I could get to the Grants PO by Monday closing--I surely wouldn't want to be forced to pay $25 for a hotel room and watch movies and Monday Night Football and drink a gallon of chocolate milk--that would have stunk. So I climbed Mt. Taylor (11,301") then walked by a landfill and a prison literally 10 yards from the road while inmates followed me in the yard and stared. Went to the PO and grocery store, then left town.

After a bunch of annoying lava and road walking I'm in Pie Town now on the 18th. I've got maps for the rest of the trip. There are a lot of options south of here. I'm not excited about fording the Gila again, but I probably will end up there anyway. Hopefully, I'll be in Silver City in 5 days, then visit the "official" Crazy Cook terminus, then hike out and down the highway to the Antelope Wells point of entry the next day. Not a lot of water and not a lot of trail. Oh well--it's still fun and the pie is great.

P.S.: I'll try and stop at the PO in Hachita, NM if anybody wants to send me a victory postcard.

For anyone who knows the geography of small NM towns, sorry this is out of order but I was out of town when Garret sent it home.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Silver City, NM

I listened to All Things Considered as I walked into town today, so all is well with the world. Except for my parents' house being in danger of burning down, along with the rest of SoCal, it seems.

After a quick stop in Pie Town, I hiked over John Kerr peak and imagined it was really John Kerry peak and busied myself making puns--I didn't climb John Kerry peak because of its French-looking North Face, but I wish we'd gone over John Kerry peak because anything would've been better than the 4 miles of bushwhacking before and after. Lame, I know.

Then I got to Snow Lake and walked the Middle Fork of the Gila River from end to end. My love/hate relationship with the canyon continues. In the afternoon I was thinking "if we ever run out of petroleum and Tina Turner runs the world with a disguised midget named Master-Blaster as enforcer and good people have to hide in surprisingly well-watered canyons in the desert, I got dibs on the Gila." Then in the morning it was 20 degrees and my waterproof socks didn't keep my feet warm so I had two icy stumps beneath my calves and I found some sunlight and rocked back and forth on the ground with my toes in my hands muttering swear words for a couple hours until it got over 34 degrees.

Then I walked 42 miles on the highway to Silver City, and I've got maybe 4 days left to go. Apparently Francis will be done in under 24 hours. Congratulations, Francis, you've earned it. You're the first, and I'll be "one of the first" and the fastest, for the time being. (The idea of a speed record is kind of dumb since the trail is such a free-for-all, but I digress.) How do I feel about not being first? Well, I'm a little confused that Francis said he was finishing on the 31st and is now done a week ahead of that. Maybe he was going to finish then in order to let me catch up, but then changed his mind when I said I hoped to finish on the 29th to make it 180 days because he thought I was spurning his offer of partnership. Or maybe he's just really bad at math, and honestly thought it would take him 19 days to get from Pie Town to the border (insert MBA joke here.) I might've preferred it to be a straight-up competition--I lose in races all the time and it doesn't phase me.

Anyway, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be first (actually, a tie was honestly what I was hoping for) but I wasn't really doing this to be first. I was doing this to do something no one had ever done before--to expand the set of things the human race has accomplished, if you will. A slight difference, but a real one. If someone had already done this before I started, I probably would've tried something else. But if you had told me that Andy Skurka or Squeaky was going to try and yo-yo the CDT this year, then I would've known they'd be able to pull it off, and probably 20 days faster than me to boot, and I still would've done it, because I was still venturing into the unknown, and it was still going to be the greatest adventure of my life thus far.

Congrats again to Francis. He's from the Bay area too, so I hope we'll keep in touch. I've told him I'm looking forward to the day when we hang out with all our maps and go through the entire trail and I say "I did X nobo, and Y sobo" and he says "I did Y nobo and Z sobo" and we both say "Cool."

On to Mexico!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cuba, NM

Well, I've exceeded my allotted number of offers of free showers/rides from skeezy guys while in town in the past two hours (I usually prefer to get these offers once every NEVER!) so I'm ready to get out of town, but the library was on the way, so here I am. I did the San Pedro Parks Wilderness yesterday and this morning, and now we've only got one high place left--Mt. Taylor, which is in the next few days between here and Grants. It hit 82 degrees yesterday. Life is good.

I camped with Jug and Nitro the night before last and realized that was only the 3rd night out of 162 nights (including day one when I started at 8 PM and camped at the state park three miles from the border) that I've camped with other CDT hikers. Obviously there've been a few nights with other random people in the national parks or Forest Service campgrounds or at a couple friends' places, but not a lot. It was also cool that Nitro knows more about the NFL than any other human being I've met, so we got to gripe about missing the season together.

I've got to go walk the highway shoulder for 6 more miles or so, then tomorrow I'll have 28 waterless miles. I'm carrying take-out from El Bruno's (best Mexican food EVER) so I'll have a delicious burrito for dinner tonight and a slimy piece of Styrofoam to carry all the way to Grants. Again, I'm hoping to finish on the 29th--that'd make it an even 180 days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ghost Ranch 2

Other things I need to mention:
Milena, you rock. You totally rock. Lindt truffles? F--- Yeh!

Cal Football is #2 in the nation. F--- Yeh!

I'm not sure of exactly the mileage or what route I'll take south of Pie Town, but if it's ~300 from Pie Town to Antelope Wells like I think it is, I'm guessing I'll be finishing on the 29th or 30th, assuming decent weather. Marcus might fly down and pick me up, we might try and see Andy Skurka finish his hike at the Grand Canyon on the 3rd, then head to SD and pick up some stuff so I can have more than one set of clothing in Berkeley. My sister has a layover from Indonesia in LAX on the 7th, so that's all got to work in there somehow. It's too much to think about--I've got to get hiking. I'm gunning for El Bruno's (the best Mexican food ever) in Cuba the day after tomorrow, and maybe the Grants PO before closing on the 15th.

Also, if you were wondering, I weight 128 pounds. I hit an all-time high of 147 a week or two before the trail (and before running that 50-miler 3 days before I started), but normally I'm ~135. What a crummy weight-loss plan this has been :)

the Onion

Ghost Ranch, NEW MEXICO!

I ended up staying a night in Pagosa Springs, because it started dumping when Namie was driving me around to do my errands, so it made more sense to stay in a warm dry house than to hike for half an hour before dark and get soaked. Unfortunately, it was still raining (hard!) the next morning, so I ditched into a ski-area tool shed on the Divide and hid there from the lightning for a few hours. I only made 16 that day, and 22-25 the next two days, but on the 7th, I went over 12,000 feet for the last time, left the South San Juan Wilderness, and camped on the state line. On the 8th, I woke up, told CO to kiss my ass (I've got pictures,) and hiked on, and it's been glorious New Mexico jeep roads 'n bushwackin' ever since, with 32+ miles each of the last two days. Right now, I'm in the computer lab at Ghost Ranch--I hiked 18 already before noon to make it before lunch, and it's 74 degrees outside! 74 degrees! The last day I spent in CO it was 18 when I woke up, my shoes were frozen despite having spent the night inside my tent, and I spent the first two hours of the day walking along basically screaming and cussing like a madman until my shoes finally warmed up, and it didn't get much above 40 all day.

I caught up to Nitro and Jug, so hopefully I'll camp with them tonight (the 6th and 7th SOBO hikers I've passed on trail, also having passed Wildcat, Scarlet, Wildflower, Donna, and Gruevy, plus a bunch that I'm sure I missed in towns or whatnot.) The forests are crawling with hunters and the roads are littered with Bud Light cans, but I've got lots of blaze on, and did I mention that it's 74 degrees? One hunter was lost, so the first day in NM everyone was asking me "Are you Dave? Have you seen a guy named Dave?" Also saw two more bears my last day in CO, odlly probably my first black bears of the entire trail.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pagosa Springs, CO

Just rolled into Pagosa Springs. The weather today isn't great, but it's not horrible. I left Lake City on Sunday and had great weather, but Monday it snowed on me again. Tues. and Wed. were great. Namie, the local trail angel is coming into town and going to help me run my errands and then I'm headed right back to the trail--65 miles left of Colorado, and I can't wait for some of New Mexico's boring-ass low-altitude jeep roads. The San Juans were a completely different experience this time around. I didn't recognize much of anything without 8 feet of snow except for obvious things like The Window and the Rio Grande Pyramid. I did do the entire official route though, or rather, what was the official route in June, as they're partially done with a higher re-route that I didn't take because I wanted to see where I'd nearly drowned (Pole Creek). Of course it was piddly this time of year.

I guess I'm now 2 days behind schedule, but things are good. I'm bummed to be missing football season for the second straight year, and I'm kind of ready for the hike to be over. Not that I don't still love it, but being almost 90% done, I'd just like to be 100% done so I can start planning my next big adventure, whatever that may be, (getting a PhD?) and the days are only going to get shorter and the nights are only going to get colder, so I'm just going to keep going as fast as I can.