Pie Town to Grants, New Mexico

5/5-8: 58 miles

A bunch of us left Toaster house in the morning, freeing up bunk space for the incoming wave. Hikers are on the trail in record numbers.

We gathered after 16 miles at the TLC Ranch where the family set up a shady area with chairs and coolers full of water. They wanted us to stay for dinner and have us camp but it was only 3:30 so we moved on.

We spent the day on gravel roads for 22.1 miles to a wonderful solar mill with clear, tasty water and many campsites protected by trees and flat once I kicked the desiccated cow pies out of the way. Lovely night camped with OT, Jacobi, Sugar Mama, No No, Gray, Tinman, and late arrivals Top O and 13.

After the first night there are optional alternates. Gray, TM and I decided to stay on the highway which is really hard on the feet and legs. There was a trail you could take up onto the cliffs for about 4 miles but as it got later and our feet hurt worse, we just continued on the highway to stealth camp at the Arch. We pitched tents after 22.2 miles then hauled our stoves and food bags to the picnic tables to cook dinner. Kidnapper’s family of 6, plus happy dog Muir, came scrambling down the cliffs from the trail we didn’t take. They were stoked about its beauty and stopped to cook dinner with us, then continued down the paved highway to a water source and hopefully a spot to camp.

Gray wants to get to Grants in time to clean up and be ready to greet the local VFW who are lined up to greet and support the Warrior Expedition hikers as they make it to towns. So he’s going to take the highway another 20-ish miles in the morning and get in a night before me and Tinman.

Day 3 Tinman and I took the Bonita-Zuni route for a few miles through lava on the ancient route between Pueblos. It connects to gravel road and a back way into Grants which does not involve walking blacktop. I’ve done the route before and prefer it to the highway the Ravens and I walked in 2017.

He hated the lava but loved the deserted gravel road through beautiful country and another perfect windmill water source for clear, cold water. In fact he told me his entire journal entry for the day, after injuring his toe and foot on the lava, was “f*ing rocks!” I moved slower through those 6 miles and didn’t fall, whew.

We camped off the bigger gravel road in a lovely canyon within earshot but not eyesight of the semi-busy road for a 22.5 mile day.

The next day was all downhill and Tinman wanted to get to the post office for Saturday hours that closed at noon which we made easily. Hikers are clustered at the numerous motels near Walmart, Walgreens and Denny’s by the freeway. I ate dinner with OT and Jacobi who got in a day earlier and so will leave the next day while I zero and decide what to do. Probably the last time I see them so we exchanged hugs and contact info.

May 9, Mother’s Day while I’m taking a zero. I don’t really care about these invented holidays. I bought resupply and then wandered back through the deserted and decrepit Route 66 through Grants just to keep in motion.

What am I going to do? I knew I’d have to get back home after a month, that’s fine. But it’s easier to leave from here, Grants, take a bus straight to Albuquerque where I have a flight booked. On the other hand, I can hike on to Cuba, another amazing 100+ mile stretch. I’d already texted a trail supporter there a week ago and he said he’d find someone to give me a ride (for Uber prices) but the time frame feels too tight for me.

I looked up the bus schedule and flight changes. I can spend a few days in Seattle with my daughter Sarah and her Sam! The bus leaves tomorrow at 6 am, ugh, and if it doesn’t run, I could hike to Cuba instead. The indecision is agonizing, so I told Tinman I’d probably decide at 5 am. Meanwhile….

Hikers gathered at Motel 6. Injured Lady Bug is here in Grants for a week to let her foot recover. She, Tinman and I went and got take out from Denny’s and went back to Motel 6. Warrior Expedition members (Earl) Gray (Goose) and Blues Brothers are rooming together, now joined by Jabberwocky, who I met night one in the Bootheel! We chatted away, I know some of their stories—the PTSD, nightmares (“I’m pointing the gun but it won’t fire.”), insomnia, survivor’s guilt. As they turned to go back to their rooms, they looked at me and Lady Bug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day, if you’re moms!”and opened their arms for big hugs. They hugged me tight, thinking about their moms, I could have cried. What if these men, in their 30’s and 40’s were my sons? I’d be proud, heartbroken, worried. Being a mom is the hardest job ever and I know that I’m a mom by proxy for some hikers on trail, but this? Heal well, all my sons. I send you onto the trail, fare well. Farewell.

You can’t Hallmark this shit. I’m so sad to leave this trail and these people. But there’s another trail soon in June. And another after that. And another.


Doc Campbell’s to Pie Town

4/27-5/3 127.2 miles total

Like this those miles: 16.2, 21.2, 21.3, 18.3, 20.2, 16.2, 14 because:

After an uncomfortable, hot night in the motel, we hit the road at 7. Those guys did the Gila Cliff Dwellings, which I’ve seen and loved. I told them to take the beautiful Little Bear Canyon route after leaving the Cliff Dwellings. I hiked alone all day, through the Gila. I love this place, this trail. I saw 11 hikers going south, short haulers and Strange Bird who was hiking out on a broken foot. I told him Tinman was behind but could help confirm the injury. Later I heard from another hiker that I had helped Strange Bird by listening and affirming. He told me a lot about himself—high functioning, 54, high pain threshold, other personal details—and I’m glad I made him feel like he was making the right decision by patiently (45 minutes standing in the trail) listening. I love that the trail makes me be a better person.

Anyway, I stopped at 3:30 to wait for TM and Gray and we all gathered to camp with Top O, OT, Jacobi, Fried Green Tomatoes (whose gaiters I found and returned at Doc’s!). Today I saw 11 hikers SOBO, 1 backtracking, 6 ducks, 4 deer, 1 snake.

Top O (background) and OT

Day 2 the crew climbed out of the Gila and camped in the campground at Snow Lake. It rained off and on all day. I weirded out over a comment I took to mean I was too slow. No worries really as I tag teamed with OT and Jacobi. Top O is now hiking with them, I should switch too, these guys are more my speed. (Now as I write at the end of the day I’m cold in my tent in the rain.)

Tinman, Gray and I stopped at noon to eat and dry out tents and bags. Nope (Deaf Hiker Go Away) stopped too. Trying to be proactive I wrote a note asking what pronouns to use. See photo of Nope’s hiking outfit. The reply was, “ I don’t care about that shit.” No help. Guess we’ll all describe Nope as we see fit. “He pees standing up,” “They are Trans,” “She’s transitioning.” I tried to be respectful.

Day 3 Cold AF last night. I hiked out cold with a headwind, uphill, by the f*ing solar pond to the f*ing plain in the headwind. Why am I doing this again? Too windy to keep earbuds in and listen to Foo Fighters and The Killers to keep me on tempo. I yelled obscenities at the wind. Yeah, that worked. I made the miles. Finally dropped into the trees on the far side at 11:15 am? Trail magic, what! Guru with soda, an orange and a protein bar, totally unexpected, and here, after a hateful morning, thank you so much!

I fell behind again in the headwind for hours and got water from a tank surrounded by calves, no cows. I did not freak them out.

Tinman has a new blister, Gray has tendinitis in his ankle so we camped a bit early. Will it slow them down tomorrow? I doubt it.

Day 4 Dirt road to Dutchman’s Spring then back on the official red line, tons of climbing. Water sources and carries tend to be a major factor in how we plan our days. At that junction, TM was ahead but Gray and I got cell signal and, along with 4 or 5 others, bogged down for quite awhile. After hiking out, I finally caught up to both at 12:30, they had waited but put their packs on as soon as they saw me and bolted after telling me what mile they’d camp. Yeah, not going that far with all this climbing, plus why? The miles would be easier to accumulate on the flats tomorrow. I said I’d Satellite text where I camped. I was happy to hike at my own pace. In fact I stuck a fist in the sky when they were gone and shouted, “Liberation!” I’ll see them in a few days, maybe. Maybe not. Camped with Top O, OT, Jacobi, and Lady Bug from Quebec in a pine needled haven.

Day 5 Not a bad day, some climbing. Camped near a water cache with a bunch at a campground. Trail Angel Cheshire Cat and dog Stella Blue was there. He’s been angelling since the boot heel—fresh fruit every couple of days for us! And I get to throw a stick for Stella. Plus, he fist bumped the dudes, but I got a hug. Oh, hiking in the time of Covid. Nobody has got it, we wear masks in town but not on trail. Most have said they’re vaxed. It’s just not even a topic of conversation among hikers.

Day 6 Felt great today. Powered up the 4 to Mangas Lookout, first one out of camp I think. At 11 trail angel John Boy screeched to a halt on the dirt road and gave me Dr Pepper and a cherry pie. Not crowded at Davila Ranch, a little oasis with a washing machine, shower, toilet and food. Many hikers walked in then out to Pie Town. Spent some time with the family of 6 I’d met near Eureka on the PNT last year. Kidnapper (the dad, what a perfect trail name!), Wildflower, Amazon , HoneyBadger and 2 more. Kids are 18, 16, 14 and turning 12. I ate eggs and potatoes they’d made and had leftover, then cooked Ramen with 3 more eggs for myself. I camped as did a bunch more.

Day 7 Into Pie Town and Toaster House, windy walking, 11 miles by 10 am. 14 by 11:30. The place is packed! There’s 8 of us sharing beds and space upstairs, so good to be indoors! Ran to the only restaurant still in business in Pie Town, there used to be 3. Gathered with more dirty hikers as they trickled in—good fun, good food!

Road to Pie Town
Tex, Jacobi, Sugar Mama in Toaster House at Pie Town
What’s going on here? Military doctoring some women hikers’ foot injuries. Uh huh.
Toaster House kitchen, hiker boxes stacked up and Little Brown
Feral kittens under the house, later 3 were rescued by a hiker couple who got off the trail to bring them home. They’d found a newborn on the walk in and were bottle feeding it around the clock already! 4 kittens saved!
Hikertrash at Toaster House—all these hikers are in my bubble, I know them!

Silver City to Doc Campbell’s

4/24-27 45.1 miles

Warrior Expedition and friends in Silver City

Headed out the Walnut Creek Rd to the Gila Alt after saying goodbye to Michele and Payton. It was a long day for few miles but I really enjoy hiking with Tinman and Gray. Funny though to watch Tinman (Chief in the Navy and Fire Chief) with his protective instincts over the both of us, a woman with 12,000+ trail miles and a 29-year-old combat vet with the PCT under his belt.

At water, we found OT ill. His hiking partner Jacobi got Tinman to check him out—they’ll overnight there, lots of 4-wheeler traffic in case it’s something serious—right now it’s nausea and weakness, hope he’s OK.

Weird encounter with with a (my perception) Trans woman in a skirt and a patch on her pack “Deaf Hiker, Go Away.” She was going the wrong way to the water and asked me where it was. I pointed and she then pointed at her patch.

We got water and hiked into beautiful rock formations which made Tinman and Gray happy too!

Day 2 we didn’t make it as far as I’ve camped the last 2 times, passing my former campsite 1 1/2 hours into the morning. Still a good day dropping into the river with Top O too who joined us at last nights campsite along with Little Brown. Season Pass from Florida joined us tonight as well. So different from the solo experience the times I’ve been here before.

And the next day, 3, a short beautiful walk to Doc Campbell’s where I’d reserved an apartment, as I’ve done in the past. I was happy to share with a couple of hikers. So many others camped behind Doc’s, love the company, such a different experience this time around.

Lordsburg to Silver City, New Mexico

Gray Goose and Tin Man

4/20-22/21 45.4 miles

Turned out to be a surprisingly short section, one less night than when I’ve hiked it before because there is a four mile trail closure for a prescribed burn. There were two suggested alternates on Guthook, one of which required a 35 mile water carry if the not-to-be-counted- on water caches weren’t adequate. Since there are so many more hikers than anticipated (I surmise), I was worried about water caches being depleted. But Tin Man roomed with Radar at the Econolodge in Lordsburg and Radar gave him a better plan. Tin Man passed the word on to other hikers: stay on the CDT to Burro Mountain Homestead RV Park (a mile off trail but known to be hiker friendly offering free water, showers and camping) where the Ravens and I stayed in 2017. Then hike 7 miles to Highway 90 for 11 more to Silver City.

I’d been telling hikers in the first stretch that half a day out of Lordsburg, we’d finally get into trees. And so it was.

After getting to Lordsburg the day before at noon after walking 15 miles, I showered, laundered, ate a burger, drank a couple of beers, and got ready to hike out after a prepackaged Covid breakfast at the Comfort Inn. Love that place! They held a resupply bag for me while I hiked from the border and had a room ready when I asked at noon after walking into town. Right on. Rode the elevator up with a couple of youngish unmasked (against hotel requirements) guys from El Paso. I hesitated when I saw them as they held the door for me. Then said, “The hell with it, I’m vaxed,” One laughed and said, “So are we!” All of us joyful. I asked where they were working, they asked where I was from. The usual reaction that Puff Puff imitates so well, “ Alaska?!”

It was a good day out of Lordsburg into the trees. Tons of hikers: Tex and No Keys, OT (Old Timer, a Viet Nam vet and straight up believer in the Lord) and Jacobi, Cake and So Good, Bedbug, IBTAT (I think, guy with a camera I’ve been leapfrogging with—amazing photos and I’m now following him on Instagram), Gray Goose and my now buddy and fellow OG Tin Man. As I remembered from the two times I’ve done it before, it’s basically all uphill for 16-17 miles.

Dead cow
Resting in the shade
Cow pie cairn

We all gathered like Water Buffalo at the first and only water source, the Engineer’s Windmill, getting water out of the cow trough and sitting in the shade, the first big shade since the beginning of the CDT. As we sat, a cow and calf began lapping up water. As I walked on, I saw a herd of cows and calves near the trough. The next day I heard that hikers just a couple of hours behind us found the trough empty, the pump broken and no water at all in the tall water tank. Some hikers posted comments on the Guthook App. The CDTC follows and uses the comments for their water report so I’m hopeful they were able to contact the rancher so he could get water to the herd. Poor mamas, poor babies.

At about 5:30, Gray Goose, Tin Man and I pitched our tents in a shaded, wind protected, sandy bottomed little campsite.

The next day I caught up to them at a trail angel set up after 11 miles or so, around noon. Solo cooked hot dogs, had fresh fruit and cold sodas. She was camped in her van and was so happy to help us all out. Outstanding day brightener! I knew there was going to be quite some climbing and elevation gain up to Burro Mountain and it was getting hot.

Since the last time I was here, a new section of trail has been built, something the Guthook guide has not incorporated into the map, but it was well built and well blazed and eventually hooked into the trail I knew. At the top I found OT, Jacobi and Tin Man! I followed them downhill on slippery, sandy and gravelly trail, taking my time so I didn’t go ass over teakettle as is my wont. At the junction off trail to Burro Mountain Homestead RV Park, they waited so I wouldn’t miss the turn off. Of course I wouldn’t, and was probably kind of overly sensitive about that. I thanked them and on the way down felt I should explain or apologize, something. Why can’t I just assume men would do the same for another guy hiker, that it has nothing to do with me being a long lived female?

Burro Peak view

Anyhow, on the deck was a wonderful pile of hiker trash. I’m so happy to be out here! Tex, No Keys, Cave Man. Gray Goose greeted me, Tin Man, OT and Jacobi. Already pitched behind the bathhouse was Beth and John. It was quiet before dark, even though No No and another hiker came in just before. Free showers, close camping, deer browsing amongst our tents. A beautiful restful night.

Day 3 we trickled up and out on dirt roads towards the highway. At the junction we started the trudge on paved highway. About 4 miles before town, most of us stopped at a burrito place. I had a bacon, egg and red sauce burrito—absolutely divine. We had to stand in the drive thru lane behind cars, then eat in the dirt and shade of a tree across the lane.

There are so many hikers that when I called the Triple Crown Hostel, they were full. I had a reservation for the next night, but was getting to town a day early because of the fire closure and reroute. No problem, my favorite cheap motel, Copper Manor, had room. But I’ve been traipsing along with Warriors and a former Warrior and current adhoc Warrior supporter. They’re staying at an in town RV park with a few cabins or trailers for rent. So I’m sharing a trailer with another hiker for a zero and got to eat dinner with vet and Warrior Expedition on the ground coordinator Michele and her totally delightful daughter Payton. Oh also some guys, Gray Goose, Caveman, Tin Man.

Getting ready to hike Hwy 90

It’s been a unique experience, not just on the trail, but in life, to spend quality time with vets. I love our discussions about military history. I listen in to their detailed and technical discussions about guns and other weaponry. I am taken by their honesty, why they joined, what they have done after getting out.

Where else but at a brewery?
Silver City Visitor Center

CDT Crazy Cook Monument to Lordsburg, New Mexico

4/15-19/21 84 miles (4 nights)

The road to the CDT monument at the border is much improved from 2017 when I rode out with the Ravens. Dion (Buddy Backpacker’s dad) of Crazy Cook Shuttles picked up me and 2 other hikers at 6 am. I think I was hiking by 9 am, planning to camp at Water Cache #1, like we did last time, after about 14 miles.

One of my goals in hiking this hellish stretch again was to learn from my mistakes. Day 1, I made three mistakes, but one I fixed, and another was kind of fortuitous. The first mistake was leaving my sandwich in the motel refer. The second was forgetting to test my Guthook map app. Duh. Couldn’t find my little GOS arrow on the map. Asked another hiker, problem solved. The third was when I set up camp and realized I’d packed the wrong sleeping pad, a Big Agnes that is divinely comfortable but heavy and bulky. But I hydrated like crazy all day and felt fine. Way different than 2017.

Super windy camping at Water Cache #1, with a bunch of people including a group from Warrior Expeditions, combat vets. Way more hikers this year but still fewer than the 50 that start the PCT each day.

From Water Cache #1, I took the gravel road rather than climbing back up to the “red route” in Guthook that goes post to post. It was simple, tedious, but reasonably quick walking. I felt better today—exhausted from carrying 5L of water from MP 25.2 to a beautiful, sandy dry campsite.

Day 3 I felt even better, walked a ways with retirees Beth and John that I met the first day. They’ve biked the trail and Baja and other cool places, this is their first long distance hike though. It’s especially nice to have another woman in my general age range out here, women are definitely in the minority in the wave of hikers I find myself in. It’s easier walking today, but that means monotonous. So people at water sources are a big excitement: Kyle, Tinman, Grey Goose, Jazz Hands and trail angel Cheshire Cat and his dog Stella Blue (I got a banana!). After yesterday’s water haul to camp, I decided to call it a day at a water source after 18.5 miles, another short day of walking just 7 am to 4 pm. It’s more or less dark at 8:30 pm.

The last night I camped with 15 miles left to Lordsburg as planned. What I didn’t anticipate was how quickly those miles went when you’re not suffering from heat exhaustion and have another hiker to chat with! Made it to my hotel by noon and got early check in, sweet!

The whole stretch has been so much cooler than last time, breezy and just lower temperatures. I’ve used my sun reflecting umbrella for shade several times but not constantly. So glad I made this section in good shape! I won’t need to zero, I’ll just get my burger and beer and head out in the morning.

Continue reading

2021 really?

CDT 2021 what?

Wow, what? So I was planning the Arizona Trail (AZT) starting mid March, 800 miles or 2 months but then the wonderful USASA Series Directors in Mt Hood, Ali and Leslee, decided to host a Regional championship for Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Washington in early April, so after going to that, I’ve got a month to hike till I have to be back in AK. Watching my Facebook feeds, I jumped on a shuttle reservation to the CDT start at the border of Mexico and New Mexico April 15. It’s a few hours on bumpy dirt roads from Lordsburg. Not only am I pandemic crazy, I’m masochistic. I’ve done the CDT from the border. The first 85 miles to Lordsburg sucks! No shade, reliant on water caches, I got heat exhaustion but didn’t realize it. But, maybe I can learn from my mistakes and do it better. And, maybe getting on the trail for a month will help heal me. I’m vaxed, but traumatized as we all are from the pandemic isolation and paranoia and anxiety. Combined with being ancient, I hyperventilate over every weird new physical, emotional, or psychic symptom. Is it aging or illness or anxiety?

Team Big AK at Mt Hood (I’m in there)


The USASA Pacific Northwest Regional Championship was a blast!

Flew back to Alaska to change out my snowboard gear for my hiking stuff, then flew to El Paso for a night. Uber to the Greyhound, 3 hour bus ride to Lordsburg, NM, and I have a bumpy shuttle plus water cache lined up for tomorrow. Last time I did this, the Ravens and I were together and met the other 5 hikers who started that day in including Dassie (read her book!), Burning Calves, and Johnny who became German Mormon up the trail. I hope to meet and hike with more great characters this year. Yeah I solo happily but I actually really love company on the trail. For it to work, we have to compromise and adapt to other people’s hiking style, a satisfying challenge. Hiking friendships and partnerships that form on the trail are fascinating too. Me and Puff Puff, Trooper and German Mormon, Nuthatch and Party Saver, AJ and Dassie (buy her book!), and many others.