May 16-17, 33 miles hiked
We finally made it to Lordsburg around 11:30 at night and arranged a 10am departure to the Mexican border the next morning on a shuttle organized by the CDTC (trail coalition). I’d passed through Lordsburg before, on a drive from New Mexico to Eugene over Christmas, and remembered it as the most depressing, dying town I’d ever been to. It seemed different this time, though. Somehow not as depressing. Juan picked us up and we began the long, bumpy ride. Juan tells us that around 190 hikers have started the CDT this season, and we are the last. The drive takes about 3 1/2 hours and follows a string of dirt roads until, suddenly, there’s a monument right next to a barbed wire fence (the border). We said goodbye to Juan, took some pictures, did some last-minute rigging of my violin case set-up with twine we’d found in the hiker box at the motel (thank god Phil is a sailor and knows how to tie knots and stuff), and off we went.
The first day of hiking was pretty easy. The trail was flat across the beginning of the Ocotillo desert, and although it was hot, there was a breeze. Since we got a late start, we planned to hike only 13 miles that day, to the first water cache. I was happy about this, as my pack was much heavier than I’d expected it to be with the addition of the violin. We reached the cache and Phil started making dinner. I pulled my violin out and practiced scales and Kreutzer etudes. Playing the violin still felt comfortable and normal, even out in the middle of nowhere, under a darkening desert sky with only Phil, the lizards, and the rabbits to listen. I was a little sad going to bed, missing our kitties Bruce Lee and Spiral, and our dog, Merric. The feeling of starting this huge thing, not knowing what to expect or if I would even like it, was still there, too.
The wind blew furiously all night and the flapping of the tent kept me awake. We woke late, the sun already hot and high in the sky, and didn’t start hiking until 9:45. The trail wound along some low, bare mountains from trail marker to trail marker, and we kept losing the trail, only to walk cross country, dodging cactuses, until we found another marker. This was very slow, and it seemed to take hours to go only a few miles. Finally, the trail tired of these mountains and we descended into another basin towards the second water cache. I am learning that so far, hiking in southern New Mexico is walking across dry, flat basins towards low mountains you can see for miles and miles, then finally getting to mountains and traversing through them, only to descend into another basin. We were constantly surrounded by cows, rabbits, horny toads, and lizards. We also saw two javelinas that day, which are like wild pigs. They are the funniest-looking animals ever, and apparently aggressive if you get too close to them.
Both of us were in horrible moods by the time we got to the cache, wiped out from the heat and exposure. After the cache, the trail followed a dirt road for several miles into a new set of mountains. Another thing I’m learning is that I LOVE dirt roads. There is no route finding involved, and you can just walk without worrying about stumbling on a cactus or other prickly thing (all plants in the desert seem to have spines of some sort). We followed the road another 7 miles, then camped on top of a little hill, the lights of a distant ranch below us. Both Phil and I are still not sure how we feel about this hike. I’d somehow forgotten that during a thru-hike, all you do is hike all day. And hiking through the desert in the heat, our packs heavy with water, is hard. What’s more, on the PCT we were constantly meeting new friends and hiking around other people, but here, we’re completely alone. Our bodies are not used to backpacking, and everything hurts and just feels harder than it should. I tell myself that we’re still adjusting, and this will get easier and become more fun.