This post was written in my sleeping bag at the end of a long day. Please excuse any errors.
The first 80 miles of desert are brutal. There’s no water. No shade. Half the time, there’s no trail and we connect posts cross country. Everything has spikes. By day two, a thousand tiny cuts crisscross my legs. Everything hurts.
But there’s a tiny flower that unfurles by my head at dusk, closing as the stars wink out at dawn. Coyotes yip and howl at each other across the plains. And the stars pop out at sunset, until the moon blots them out, floodlight bright. I’m dirty, tired, sore and so, so happy. Shake’nBake meets me at El Paso airport. Out of all the relaxing vacations he could have chosen, instead he has decided to hike with me for two weeks. Instantly, it’s like no time at all has passed. We meet Butters at the Amtrak station, picking out a fellow hiker by his backpack. The train is late into Lordsburg and there’s barely time to eat dinner and repack before we’re fitfully trying to sleep before the early shuttle. The shuttle bounces and jars its way to the border. We pull our packs out and the driver takes a quick group picture, before driving off. We’re 80 miles from anywhere and it suddenly feels very remote We take more pictures and hop back and forth across the Mexican border. Then we wind our way north towards Canada. We pick our way down a faint path, dodging cows, until the trail joins a dirt road. The day is heating up and there is no shade anywhere. We break for lunch before the trail swoops down into a wash, as easy hiking as the road had been. The wash takes us to our first water cash. We all miss the trail and cut across country to find it again. A fence of spikey ocotillos wave their arms as we pick our way uphill. I use my GPS app to find the first post- I’ve now used my GPS more on the first day of the CDT than on the entire PCT. In the morning, the trail is gone. We pick our way cross country from marker post to post. The posts seem only to mark the best places to cross the cavernous ravines, rather than to denote a trail. I step on a thorn so vicious it spikes all the way through the sole of my shoe and into my foot. We stumble seven miles to the next water cache by noon - a dismal showing for two hikers used to the comparatively easy miles of the PCT. There’s no shade at the cache and we make our own from tyvek and tarps to siesta out the heat. The next two days are a mix of dirt road walk and no trail. We pick out CDT markers in the distance, playing first post. There’s no shade anywhere, and I have heat rash. Infact, the CDT seems determined to keep us from the few trees that dot the landscape. We head towards them, only to veer away cross country at the last second. The CDT has started out tough. But I am already so in love with it. I love the solitude - so deep that I know I won’t see people for days after Shake’nBake leaves. I love the challenge of the route finding. I love the peaceful desert nights, with the coyotes serenading us under the stars. And I’m looking forward to all the adventure this trail will bring.