I can’t wait for my next thru hike. Yeah, I’m not even done with this one, but I can sense the end just over the horizon. How could I not want to do this again? After tasting this freedom? Americans talk a lot about freedom but I don’t think they really experience it that often. Freedom is not the choice between Coke and Pepsi or which television show you got to watch tonight. It’s not what car you choose to buy or that weekend vacation. Setting out to walk across this beautiful continent for months at a time, sleeping and waking according to natural cycles, listening to the wind blow through junipers while billions of stars glisten right above your head; you see where I’m going with this?Soon my hike will be over and I’ll have to get another job and join the ranks of the wage slaves. My time and efforts will be sold to some boss so I can slowly fill my bank account again. There will be alarm clocks and timecards to punch, overtime hours and deadlines. My free time will be dished out a weekend at a time but Monday will always be right around the corner.It’s OK; I see how the game works. Employment isn’t something concrete, it’s more dynamic than that. My frugal lifestyle will allow my savings to grow and then I can buy back my life to do as I please for another 5 months. Even though I usually only make $8000 or so a year this is more than enough to be comfortable. When I’m 50 I might look back at my life and be sorry I didn’t build a career and savings, but I doubt it. I’ve met too many envious people who have done just that yet wish they had done this kind of crazy stuff in their youth. I’ve only been around the sun twenty-nine times, but I know what my spirit needs to stay afloat. My lifestyle isn’t for everyone but it’s the perfect world for me. And really, what more could a person ask for?
- Starting Location: and more hiking the desert
- Destination: planning the next hike already
I walked in desert through a section called the badlands, twisting and turning in a ridge of eroded rocks so shaped by the forces of nature that mobility was slow at best; up and around pillars of stone, down crumbling banks of metamorphic turmoil. Found a cattle tank and drank vigorously from its murky depths, glad for hydration and ignoring the copious deposits of cow feces surrounding it. The New Mexico sunshine clouded over and a thunderstorm blew in, sending me running for cover under the sparse protection of a juniper tree. Ah! To flee for respite from the rain and then sit on a cactus! Irony knows no bounds in the unforgiving desert lands.The rain blew over and I continued on. There in the sand I found a half stick of chewing gum and picked it up. Holding it against a backdrop of turquoise sky I examined my treasure. Litter? Hmmm…. Disobeying every law of common sense I’d been taught as a child, I slowly unwrapped my find and placed the gum in my mouth. My jaws masticated this piece of trash and found it to be good, so I picked up the pace and went my jolly way. Rock cairns are difficult to follow in the dark, so I was forced to stop when I found a nice flat spot. Kicked the cow pies out of the way and set up my tarp. Lightning flashes in the distance and the rumbles of thunder follow long after. A brief spat of rain went by, but I’m warm and dry. Brother Coyote, I hear you calling; Mother Earth, I feel your dirt. They may say, those were the days, but for us – these ARE the days.
- Starting Location: hiking the desert
- Destination: the story of my picture…and more
After a big breakfast, Rolland and I took off for the 5 miles to Cuba on foot. The CDT goes right down the main drag and here we bid farewell. Rolland had to hitchhike back to his car and go home, and I was sad we couldn’t hike together longer; he was such a great person! Good conversation will be missed.I resupplied and saw a thrift store so I ducked in, looking for a thinner shirt for the upcoming desert. Found a nice synthetic Columbia button-up and even though its XL size was huge on me, figured I better get a shirt more appropriate for warm weather. The one my Uncle Jerry handed down to me was perfect for cold Colorado, but too hot for high temps. So this Columbia shirt, which probably cost $40 new, set me back 25 cents. That’s a bargain!Finally got walking on the highway, which I had to follow for five miles before hitting trail. The banded mesas were beautiful and once on trail I was hiking through sand, cactus, and fantastic rock outcrops. This is pinon-juniper country all right, and I’m enjoying the change in scenery. The trail was VERY well marked with blazes and cairns; a nice change as well. Cruised along until dusk before finding a sandy flat spot to camp for the night.
- Starting Location: Circle A Ranch
- Destination: hiking the desert
Rolland and I started out this morning on nice new CDT tread, but soon a bunch of unmarked junctions had us scratching our heads in confusion. Tried to stay on trail but eventually said, ‘To hell with this’ and just took off through the woods on a bushwhack. It was so nice to have someone to talk with today and before long we ended up at Circle A Ranch.I didn’t need a night indoors but how could I resist a place called the Circle A? I simply had to go. We checked in and Walter, the caretaker, let us borrow his vehicle so we could go to town. In Cuba we bought fixin’s for burritos. Back at the ranch we cooked up a feast and drank our nourishment on the patio. The Circle A is a perfect spot for CDT hikers to relax and I highly recommend it, even if the place isn’t really an anarchist establishment.
- Starting Location: Meeting Rolland
- Destination: Circle A Ranch
October already? Where has the time gone? Oh yeah, being a hiker trash hoodlum in the woods! Nice, easy hiking today. Hit some new trail with markers, which was a nice surprise. Ley’s map and Wolf’s guidebook differed after a highway crossing and I chose to follow Wolf’s route. Found a nice CDT post among the road and ribbons for 20 feet but then nothing but a bushwhack through the forest. It was pleasant though, even if it was raining. Ponderosa pines and open forest had me cruising along. At 6:30 I met Rolland who is out doing a big section of trail and decided to camp with him. He told me he saw Organic Steve back in Pagosa Springs; so that means he must be way ahead of me! I wanted to hike with that guy; haven’t seen him since Lima, Montana. Don’t know where he passed me but now I probably can’t catch him. He must not be signing registers because I never saw his name there. Steve’s ahead, Toek and Jug are way behind…I’m in a hiker void!
- Starting Location: Ghost Ranch and the desert
- Destination: Meeting Rolland
Sure am glad I packed 3 liters of water from Harris Bear Spring because the Yeso stock pond was unbelievably disgusting. It was a long way to carry water but that pond looked like chocolate milk. No, I take that back; it looked like chocolate pudding. A mighty bushwhack down into a canyon awaited me and I stood on the cliff above looking into the abyss. Plunged into the spiny desert flora and flailed through plants that wanted to kill me but could only poke and scrape my delicate skin with their claws. Luckily, nobody was around to hear me squeal.Ghost Ranch! This bustling little church retreat in the desert is famous on the CDT for their hospitality towards hikers. I picked up my mail drop and cheerfully chucked my tattered old shoes into the trash and donned my new ones. Showered and washed my clothes in their machine twice, but they still stink like wet dog.Paid $8 for lunch and was kinda disappointed at the mere soup and cornbread offered, even if it was delicious. At an all-you-can-eat joint I’m used to a smorgasbord of high calorie american crap food: like waffles smothered in ranch dressing and roasted chicken giblets with butterscotch sprinkles. Where was the quivering vat of green pudding? Where were the mystery meat shapes? Alas, they were nowhere to be found so I ate about 3 pounds of cornbread and was thankful to be full. This area is beautiful. Colorful mesas in hues of red and brown loom over a landscape of desert plants, and the brilliant blue sky above holds fluffy clouds of moisture high above the arid land. I walked cross-country, admiring this drastic change in environment, just looking around in wonder and peace before brushing up against a cactus and being brought instantly to reality. Argh! I’m in the friggin’ desert! Every living thing pokes, stings, or stabs! But when life gives you a thorny spine, you should pull it out and use it as a toothpick.
- Starting Location: New Mexico!
- Destination: Ghost Ranch and the desert
Funny how your expectations can be so wrong. I kinda figured New Mexico would be dry and relatively warm after a Colorado autumn, but the storms just keep rolling in. Today was cloudy and windy as I walked the maze of forest service roads that serve as the CDT. It got ridiculous after I zoned out and missed some obscure turn. Had a few miles of bushwhacking to try and find the correct dirt road in a forest FULL of dirt roads. And then there are the roads yahoos make as they go crazy in their 4×4’s and really make route finding a challenge. Junctions all over but I somehow stayed on track. Think I passed about three blazes in 25 miles. Big ol’ storm blew in to douse me with rain and there was even some bonus lightning thrown in for good measure. I slopped through muddy jeep tracks until the rain stopped and found a nice campsite overlooking a canyon. All of today’s hardship floated away as I watched the last bit of sun vanish over the horizon.
- Starting Location: meeting Andy
- Destination: New Mexico!
Stormed all day! I avoided the meadows where the ‘trail’ was and bushwhacked through tree cover since lightning was everywhere. At a highway crossing I met Andy Skurka and hiked with him for the rest of the day. Rain turned to hail and we got pelted with marble sized chunks for a while. Crazy cross-country in this weather was no treat, but it all worked out well. I stopped after a little night hiking but Andy went on. 30 miles is plenty for me; I hate walking in the dark. The rain abated but intense lightning and thunder continues. Flashes so brilliant they hurt my eyes!Andy is the first hiker to pass me on this trip, but he hikes 40 miles a day, so no surprise there. It was nice to have company for a day.
- Starting Location: hoboing to Cumbres Pass
- Destination: meeting Andy
In thanks for my nice accommodations the past two evenings, I packed out the miscellaneous trash others had left and had another amazing breakfast in the restaurant across the street. Walked to the road for the dreaded hitchhike back to Cumbres Pass when I heard the bellow of the locomotive engine across the way. Hmmm…the train goes right up to the pass and stops, but the tickets for this tourist ride were mighty expensive. All these folks were paying big bucks to get a taste of train history, but there was one important piece missing: a hobo! Why, that role could be filled by me! So I jumped aboard and hoped there was no ticket check, and by golly it worked. I’m glad I was able to be an honorary stowaway so these people could really relive the railroad past, but I didn’t eat sardines and drink any cheap wine to really make it authentic. I was filthy, though. Man, what a ride! The old train took off and I couldn’t stop grinning. This sure beat hitchhiking! I met a fella in the passenger car who had read my trail journal and I was shocked anyone reads this madness. It was my first experience meeting a reader! I felt like Stephen King must feel; well, if he was stinky and a crappy writer, that is.Although the train stops at the pass for 5 minutes, nobody is allowed off and it took a little coaxing with the conductor to get permission. Otherwise, I’d have just jumped off! So my hobo hiker experience was a smashing success. They were going there anyway and there were lots of empty seats. Plus I think it gave those paying costumers a thrill to have a real live tramp enliven their experience. After 4 miles I crossed into New Mexico, my last state on the CDT. The jeep road took me through beautiful areas and I enjoyed the brilliant colors of the aspen trees and their changing leaves. Got to use my new water filter too! My buddy Jared mailed it to me in Chama for the real nasty water sources ahead. Thanks, my friend! Feels great to be in New Mexico. No more worries of snow; just worries about water. This trip is flying by. It will be over before I know it, and I’ll have to go back to my other life where I wear the same clothes for weeks and walk all around town. How will I make the transition?!!!
- Starting Location: Foster’s bar and great locals!
- Destination: hoboing to Cumbres Pass
Had a big breakfast and got all spazzed out from about 8 cups of coffee before hitting the library. The librarians there were so nice! Got my bounce box from the PO while purging the contents and sending a ton of junk home. Sick of paying postage to mail this stuff ahead when I never use it.While sitting on a bench eating a can of beans, I met Bill and Mary Jo. They invited me for food and after a wonderful conversation, gave me a handful of money! Once again I am amazed at the generosity of strangers. When I tried to refuse this gift, Bill said he’d wrestle me if I didn’t take it, and he looked like a fair match so I figured I’d better accept.So now I’m at Foster’s Bar with a bunch of money and it’s happy hour. Ended up getting buzzed, watching two locals have a fistfight and talking with the bartender and Cleo, a nice local lady. An unplanned zero day in town, but what a crazy night! Hiked back to the railroad tracks at midnight and slept in another rail car.
- Starting Location: camping on the railroad
- Destination: Foster’s bar and great locals!