Day 1: Southern terminus of the CDT at Crazy Cook, NM to a few miles north of Sheridan Canyon water cache, ~17.7 miles
Our alarms went off at 5:50 this morning. I opened the door of our room to welcome this day. Still cool outside, the sky dark with a hint of light to the east. Gabriel and I were packed up in less than 30 minutes. We were bemused with ourselves as there was nothing left to do to get ready for this hike save to go downstairs and wait for the CDTC shuttle to Crazy Cook.
This year, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition has taken on the work of shuttling approximately 110 hikers to the border and set up water caches for the first 80-some very dry miles of the trail. Currently, the CDTC is a staff of one and some amazing volunteers, it is fantastic and overwhelming to comprehend the generosity these people are bestowing to help the trail, its users, and the communities the trail touches. This season, they’ve taken on the legacy of local Hachita trail angel Sam Hughes who passed away last year. MANY, Many, many thank yous to Theresa, Radar, Val, and Juan for volunteering to get hikers out to the trail!
Thanks to them, this season’s north-bound hikers can begin at the BLM-officially designated southern terminus at Crazy Cook, NM. Thus, we can more easily hike a route that travels on public lands and reaches CDTC water caches and tanks.
Gabriel and I rode out with Val and Juan. The two-hour ride to the start would take us the most of 4-days to get back to Lordsburg. It was good to see more of the country we’d be walking through, albeit at 70 mph and hear talk of the trail.
One car switch and break stop later, Juan had the 6 of us as close to the border as the rigs could get. We’d have two extra miles to walk to the terminus. Gabriel and I welcomed this extra step in the process, a little more time to fully absorb what we were about to embark on.
We started out with three 2013 PCTers: Hikesawhile, Texas Poo and Seeking and one recently retired ultra runner/Ironman on his backpacking trip in 30 years. We aptly named him Roadrunner after we saw a roadrunner (bird) scurry across the desert. The six of us took our obligatory start photos and in 20 minutes time we were all headed out the 13.8 miles to the first water cache.
From the edge of the Hachita Valley we meandered across scrub and grass desert on trail and little used BLM roads toward the Big Hatchet Mountains.
The route follows washes and canyons through gentle terrain with peaks rising 2,000-4,000 feet above. A land of creosote brush, mesquite, ocotillo, and cholla cactus with the occasional “zipzip” (small lizard) running ahead of us.
Having come from the cool, rainy weather of the Puget Sound region, the day felt warm. A breeze and a few gusts helped to acclimate us. As the day wore on we ducked into shade whenever we found a promising patch in the mesquite and junipers.
We got to the Sheridan Canyon water cache around 5 pm, ~15.8 miles from the start (counting those 2 extra miles). We tanked up, grateful for the efforts of the CDTC to get water to this dry stretch of the trail. (It would have been a heavy load to have carried water for 38+ miles or to have wandered far off the route to find other possible sources.)
After leaving the cache, Gabriel and I felt we were getting our first real taste of the CDT. The route veers from the washes, roads and trail and travels cross-country through rolling terrain of washes and foothills with posts and rock cairns marking the direction. To see them in the late afternoon sun was a bit challenging and at times we just walked in the general direction and adjusted our course as needed.
With gorgeous late evening light we walked and admired the ocotillo and juniper.
This was the CDT we’d dreamed of hiking! A journey that follows a route vs. a trail. Stopping around 7:00 pm, we camped out in the open. I was so tired from the heat, I fell asleep without eating dinner. When I woke up around 10 pm, I felt refreshed and admired the stars and wandered around a bit in hopes of seeing a kangaroo rat. (Besides the one that is almost always by my side.)