Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pie Town, NM to Mexican Border

We made it to the Mexican Border! We arrived on October 30th, which is also my birthday. What a great day and special way to complete my Triple Crown. Apparently they don't allow picture or video taking at the border crossing for safety reasons. But we learned this AFTER we had taken pics and videos from a Mexican border agent who berated us for doing just that. Then we were questioned by a US border agent who thought we had come in from Mexico. After some brief questioning and explaining we headed back north towards Columbus, NM. It was rather anti-climatic finishing at this border crossing, but we still took the time to enjoy it. We got a hitch to Las Cruces on Halloween from a guy who transports human cadavers that need to be taken to funeral homes and coroners for autopsies. That's creepy, especially because I was sitting in the back with the stretcher. In Las Cruces we rented a car for 4 days; we decided that we wanted to check out some things on our trip up to Albuquerque. We stopped at White Sands National Monument the first day and got to camp in their 'backcountry' for the night. This was a great stop, it's not crowded and it's the largest white sands dunes park in the world at just under 300 sq. miles. We then headed towards Roswell, NM but on the way there stopped in Artesia, NM for their Bluegrass Festival. That night we stayed just outside of Roswell at Bottomless Lakes State Park. It's a small park that has a couple of small, very deep lakes. The next day we spent in Roswell at the International UFO museum. If you like this kind of thing you'd enjoy Roswell. I do find alien and UFO topics fascinating so I loved the museum. Roswell is famous for the 'Roswell Incident' that happened in 1947. An alleged UFO crashed and alien bodies were recovered. The museum primarily focuses on this event and all the witness accounts (affidavit statements) and the alleged cover up that followed by the military. It basically goes like this: we have recovered an alien spacecraft and bodies to ooops, we meant weather balloon to oh, those weren't aliens they were crash test dummies. It's all very interesting to me, and in my opinion everyone's first account of what happened is probably the true story with the events that unfolded. Either way, Roswell is still synonymous with aliens and/or UFO's more than 60 years after the incident...everywhere in town you see it. We are now in Albuquerque, staying at the very nice Route 66 Hostel in downtown. We've enjoyed having all the big city food options and conveniences. Our CDT hike is over and our adventure is coming to an end. I'm looking forward to flying back to Syracuse and spending time with my family and friends for the Winter. Maybe someday I'll be able to wrap my mind around what all this has meant and put it in context. For now though, I'm glad to be done thru-hiking but I'll miss it soon enough I'm sure. I want to thank everyone who helped me along the way and to my friends Josh & Stephen for sending out all my food drop boxes right on time. To my friend Safety Officer: its been a true adventure unlike any other I've had. We endured and persevered through so much extreme difficulty...the navigation, the endless lightning storms, blisters, rain and rain and even more rain, then cold and snow, intense winds, the Knife Edge. At times, it never seemed like we would finish the CDT. But we also experienced the wild greatness and mind numbing beauty of Glacier NP, The Pintlers, the early morning Antelope of the Great Basin, the remoteness of The Bob, a Grizzly Bear wandering through a high mountain meadow, the majestic and intimidating snowy San Juans, Elk bugling, Coyotes howling right outside our campsite, the many fun times we had in towns along the way. So many great memories. Our friendship bond is only stronger now, you're my good friend and thank you for sharing this experience with me. This adventure is over but I wish you well on your life's journey.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Chama, NM to Pie Town, NM

We left Chama on a road walk but halfway through said 'screw this, let's hitch'. We got a double hitch into Ghost Ranch. This place is historic because Georgia O'Keeffe visited here in the late 1920's and she was so inspired by its surrounding beauty that she later built a house on the property, along with a second home about 15 miles away in  Abiquiú, NM. Ghost Ranch is a great piece of property surrounded by bright yellow Willow trees (still fall in NM), huge Mesa's and Arroyos. They are hiker friendly here too, it's a common resupply drop for hikers and they let you stay on the property the first night for free. We both had food drop boxes sent here and my friend Train had sent us his unused food tickets to me so we got to eat for free too. It was a good stop for us, but honestly I think it's over-hyped a tad for hikers. I'm surprised at how cold it has still been in New Mexico, especially in the morning. The day we came through the San Pedro Peaks it was sunny but very cold and windy coming up and over 10k feet. I've worn my down jacket most days late into the mornings or early afternoon. We hiked through some snow and dropped down into Circle 'A' Ranch where we picked up our resupply boxes. I liked Circle 'A' more than I did Ghost Ranch, less commercialized, peaceful and remote. The owner Marion was so friendly and helpful and offered us to stay for a while and enjoy the grounds. We pushed on to Cuba, NM, which is only 5 miles South of Circle 'A' Ranch. Cuba is a  rundown depressing town, but they have a McDonald's! The town is a dump but the trail South of Cuba is fantastic. We walked the CDT on the edges of these high Mesa's and dropped down into deep canyons and Arroyos, the varying colors around us were spectacular! The trail was easy to follow and well marked. One morning we came across the race director for the Deadman 50 Ultra Marathon, marking the course that overlaps with the CDT for a while. He told us that there is a local guy who comes out every Thursday and builds rock cairns and does general trail maintenance. It shows and we appreciate it! There have been multiple back to back waterless stretches of about 30 miles but it's really been a non-issue for us. The temps have been perfect for hiking in this climate, highs in the 50's, so the water goes a lot further. I often find that 2 liters is plenty to get me through a 30 mile dry stretch. The daylight hiking hours have noticeably become shorter. I've done some recent # crunching and here is what I've found: first hiking light (no head lamp needed) is about 6:45am (as of 10/19) and we stop hiking to set up camp about 6:30pm. That's only about 10.5-11 hours of hiking when you factor in breaks, lunch & dinner. We've lost over 3hrs of daylight since we started the trail at the Canadian Border over 3 months ago! The good news is I'm getting close to 10 hours of sleep a day to offset the 30+ miles/day we've been covering in NM. You might think what I'm doing is pretty amazing but we met a guy named Lorenzo from the Basque region of Spain who has been biking around the world since 1997! Lorenzo is such a what an adventure! This is one of the great things about thru-hiking, you're constantly meeting similar people who have a similar lust for living and adventure. Two of our longest stretches between resupply points on the entire CDT are in New Mexico. The stretch between Cuba and Grants is about 112 miles and we have a 125 mile stretch right out of Pie Town. The only section that's been longer has been the 131 miles from East Glacier to Benchmark. Grants New Mexico is like Cuba, just bigger and maybe not as rundown. This is our last planned zero for the trail. Grants has an AYCE Chinese Buffet and one of the best trail angels on the trail. The Mumms are very accomadating to thru hikers, they shuttle hiker trash all around spread-out Grants, accept hiker boxes and maintain critical water caches for hikers. They are another example of what makes thru-hiking so fantastic. If it sounds like I'm being nostalgic already, I am. With only about 300 miles and two weeks left in my thru-hiking career I can't help but reflect on the last three summers and how it has and probably will shape my life moving forward. There was an endless boring road walk to Pie Town. Actually, 8 miles of the section from Grants to Pie Town was walking in the Badlands of New Mexico and their lava fields. I'm amazed at how often the trail is routed onto roads, even paved high-traffic roads sometimes. Maybe its because of all the private property or maybe its routed this way so the hikers can access water easier, I'm not sure. These road walks are usually boring and flat which means your legs aren't getting much movement variety, translation: very sore legs.  We are staying at the Toaster House in Pie Town, NM. It's owned by Nita but no one lives here and she offers the house up for a donation to hikers and bikers passing through. Lorenzo (our Spanish biking friend) & Cat (AT & PCT thru hiker and CDT thru hiker Sky's friend) were all here the night we spent at the Toaster House. We enjoyed some beer and shared travel stories. I'm looking forward to eating lots of pie before we leave Pie Town. We have determined our finish date to be either November 4th or November 5th. We've also decided that once we reach Silver City, NM that we will hitch over to Emory Pass and take the Columbus route South to the Mexican border from there. We initially, and until about a week ago, were planning on finishing at Crazy Cook. There was a trail angel, Sam Hughes, who used to cache water and shuttle hikers to and from Crazy Cook but he passed away this spring. So the logistics of finishing at Crazy Cook are just too involved and difficult now; we would have to cache our own water ahead of time, by renting a 4WD vehicle in Lordsburg, and then when we arrived at Crazy Cook we would have to walk all the way back to Lordsburg, NM which means we would have to carry twice as much food. It's 92 miles from Lordsburg to Crazy Cook, so 184 miles roundtrip...that's NOT happening! Finishing at the border town of Columbus, NM now makes the most sense. We can arrive at the Mexican Border, eat Mexican food and then just hitch up to Albuquerque, where we are flying out of. 

Be sure to check out all the videos I've posted on my YouTube channel, they're not all uploaded to my blog.