As we approach the monument at the southern terminus, jubilance begins to course through my veins. All the hard work and time I put into saving up for this trip, and now my dream is finally coming to fruition. Unfortunately, this feeling would surpass roughly 3.2 miles thereafter.
Nothing could prepare me for the affects the heat would have on my body, as well as my psyche. I spent a good portion of the first day on trail wondering if I was going to collapse where I stood. Water did not seem to agree with me, yet I forced as much down as my body would allow. It turned out that drinking all that water was part of the problem. I was lacking electrolytes and by drinking water I was flushing out what little I had in me. Of course I had no idea until a couple of other hikers explained it to me. Of all the places I have hiked, New Mexico has caused me to make the most adjustments.
Only two days into my hike, I was forced off trail due to heat exhaustion. I spent my first evening dealing with some of the most painful cramps I have ever experienced. My fingers, my toes, my legs and my arms were all furious with me and no matter how much I stretched, the cramps would not dissipate. Sleep was troublesome, because all I could think about was whether or not I would even be able to walk in the morning.
Despite not feeling well the following morning, I knew I had to at least get back to the highway. I figured even if I had to wait there for hours for a hitch, I would be much better off than if I were to try to push it farther. My two friends, AJ and Ted were planning on an extra thirteen miles after the road. As much as I wanted to stay with them, I knew the best thing for myself was to get to town and continue to acclimate to the heat.
It is astounding how much of a difference that one day in town made. I went from feeling like death to crushing three marathon days in a row. The social aspect of hiking has always been the biggest draw for me and spending days alone in the desert motivated me to catch up with the others. Fortunately for me, I timed my hike perfectly to arrive in Silver City for Trail Days.
Trail Days was everything I needed and then some. All of a sudden, I was surrounded by dozens of hikers and most of them were at the same point as me on trail. I spent the next two days getting to know all of my new friends and even found myself a group to share this incredible journey with. There were also some wonderful PowerPoint presentations prepared by previous Thru-Hikers. The CDT presentation made me realize how little I knew about the trail and furthered my excitement exponentially. Once the festivities began to dwindle, Bones, Dos Egg Rolls and myself took off for the next section of our pilgrimage; Gila National Forest.
I was overwhelmingly impressed with the beauty of the Gila and also taken back by the challenges it presented. The trail forces you to cross the river roughly 50 times before you have the option to take the high route. In order to salvage the positive feelings we had towards the river, we decided to take the high route to avoid being cold and wet for another two days. We could not have been happier with our decision, for we were able to get the river experience, as well as incomparable views from above the river. I will admit, I was beginning to become a bit jaded concerning water; we hardly had to carry any through this section due to the constant crossings. It would not be long before the trail reminded me that things are not that simple.
We were still in Gila National Forest, but things were drying up substantially. So much so that a forest fire ignited from a bolt of lightning. Unbeknownst to the guys and I, a bunch of hikers were planning alternates around the fire. We decided to tackle it head on and luckily for us we managed to escape the smoke ridden forest unscathed. However, I did have to spend roughly six miles covering my nose and mouth with my Buff to avoid smoke inhalation. This was also the first day in quite some time that water sources were few and far between; at least that is what I thought. Every time I approached water that appeared on my Guthook's app, I was quickly disappointed with the realization of a dry source. It turns out I had passed a water tank and another cache at a tower lookout, because I failed to read the notes in the app. The only water I had consumed all day was some murky pond water I had filtered earlier in the day and I only packed out three liters thinking there would be plenty along the way. Around lunchtime I was left with only a few sips of water and still had roughly ten miles to the next cow trough. You read that right... a lot of the water we have been drinking, we are sharing with the cattle. The troughs are algae ridden, but when you hike as many miles as we do, you really can not be picky. Needless to say, since then I have made sure to carry more than enough water between sources.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have done a substantial amount of road walking. I am certainly not complainIng, as the scenery has been unlike anything I have ever seen. Not to mention I got to see my first rattlesnake and have too many new cow friends to count. All of this lead me to quite possibly my favorite place / favorite night I have ever had on trail and this occurred in Pie Town, New Mexico.
Ever since the beginning of the trail, I have been hearing about the Toaster House in Pie Town. I am not sure anyone could have prepared me for the awesomeness that would ensue. Nita, the woman who owns the house, now owns another house as well and makes the Toaster House available to hikers. It is all donation based and the hikers are able to shower, do laundry and sleep in beds. It gets better though... Nita makes beer and liquor runs for the hikers and the kitchen is always loaded with food that we are welcome to. Still none of this compares to the tour that Bones, Dos Egg Rolls, Winter and myself were taken on by Nita before the end of the evening.
Nita is one of those people who can put me in a trance by simply speaking. Her story telling had me extremely relaxed, but it was all so interesting that I had to make sure to pay attention. When you arrive in Pie Town you would never think there is such a rich history, because there really is not much there. After our tour around the town, I had to run back up to my room to make a list of the things I had learned... I really did not want to forget. Here is what I came up with:
-Pie Town was the pinto bean capital of U.S. in the early 1900s.
-Pie Town is home to one of the ten satellites that comprise the Very Long Baseline Array. It is a string of giant satellites that can see billions of light years away and can detect stars being born. The satellite even makes corrections for the rotation of the Earth and slight shifts in the crust of the Earth.
-There is a telephone line crossing through the town that stretches across the entire U.S. Back in the day that was how they were able to send information "quickly" from one end of the country to the other. Obviously these days that technology is rather obsolete.
-Although I had already been introduced to the Alligator Juniper, she enlightened me by informing me they can only be found here in New Mexico.
-The Magdalena Radial Dike Swarm cuts through Pie Town and is part of the proper Continental Divide. The rock forms are absolutely stunning and took 8 million years to form.
-Last but not least: Pie Town is located in Catron County, which is the largest county in New Mexico. However, it is said that more elk inhabit the land than humans.
Even though Trail Days had really lifted my spirits, it was the Toaster House that reminded me why I do what I do and that is because of the amazing community that surrounds the trail. I spent the evening having an absolute blast with complete strangers. These like-minded, altruistic individuals restore my faith in humanity and inspire me to be a better person. I will admit, at the beginning of the trail, thoughts of quitting consumed my brain. It is safe to say now that nothing will become between me and that Canadian border.
As always if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will respond as quickly as possible! I have been exhausted, so I apologize if this is not my best material. While my body continues to strengthen, hopefully my writing will follow suit. Thank you so much for taking time to follow my journey... hopefully I will have more to share very soon!