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Redline mile 0 to water cache at 13.7 (Note: mileages based on Guthook App. Redline refers to the main/designated trail. Mapped alternates are named and I will use those names when needed.)
Wildlife: 1 pronghorn antelope (from truck), 1 ‘variable ground snake’ (researched later), multiple jack rabbits and small lizards
The day kicked off early with 7 hikers meeting at the hotel lobby to load into two vehicles for the three hour trip to the Crazy Cook monument. Why three hours? Well, one pit stop, lots of dirt roads, one stop to drop water at the first water cache, and the final part of the dirt road being very rough. The trip allowed a chance to talk to the other two hikers in our truck. One with the trail name of Stinger is on his second CDT hike, which he completed 10 years ago. He is already a triple crowner and could become a double -triple. Wow.
At the southern terminus we got our obligatory pictures at the monument , stepped one foot into Mexico (no border wall here, just an old fence) and took off just before 10 AM. Weather clear, 80 degrees, and a light wind. The target for me on the first day was the first water cache, about 13 miles. Five of the seven hikers took off at a rapid pace. Me and another hiker named Roadkill started off at a similar pace.
The first trail choice at about 3 miles was whether to follow the ‘official’ trail, which winds through some low mountains, or take a dirt road that skirts around the mountains but is roughly the same distance. Two young hikers were fast enough I couldn’t see which they did, but the rest of us took the mountains route.
My pack was heavy because I was carrying 5 1/2 day’s of food, being unsure of my daily pace, and with 4 1/2 liters of water. Though I had some idea of my water needs from training, I was playing it conservative because of the high desert environment. (It was too much.) On this route there was a solar powered well at 12 miles plus the water cache at 13.
Though there was nothing steep, the trail through the first 7 miles was all up. And the wind picked up. And I didn’t eat much. Combined with the excitement/nervousness, it wasn’t good. I felt miserable and ready to fall over, literally. It sounds hard to believe but I wondered what I was doing there and started making plans to quit. Yep. Less than four hours in and I was done. As I lay against my pack (the first shade tree was another two miles away) I wondered what to do. Well, I had to make it to at least the first water cache to even be picked up. So I snacked, drank some water at got slogging along. After a bit I remembered a bad day in training when I figured out I had been short on electrolytes. But I had downed a Gatorade on the way to the monument; surely that wasn’t it? To be sure, I took a salt pill. When I made it to the shade tree (yeah!) I took off my pack and layed down — and snoozed for 20 minutes. What a difference it made! A new man got up and hiked on.
It did my ego well when I caught up with two of the hikers, but only because they too had taken a siesta in the early afternoon. (Lesson learned: forced snack schedule, electrolytes morning and afternoon, forced breaks including one longer siesta early afternoon.)
High mountainous desert is rugged, varied, and beautiful to me. Though using my phone’s GPS for navigation when needed, it was fun reading the topography from the map (also on the phone) to make sure. The CDT is notorious for not being well marked. Sometimes it follows Jeep paths or dirt roads but then suddenly veers off without warning. There are posts with CDT signs to follow but they are spaced very sporadically (very) and some are blown down. Got to pay attention.
Though I had enough water to make it to the first water cache, I did the short off-trail hike to the solar pump at the first water source. You must understand what these wells are there for; the cows. Most of the land we are crossing on this first segment is BLM land, which is leased to ranchers (including water rights). So this solar well (with the older windmill still standing) means lots of cow patties in an enclosure. This tank had no spigot to use, but to avoid collecting from where the cows drank (and lots of bees had died also) you could climb the ladder to open the top of the tank to open a screen and collect clearer water (still greenish and some dead bugs). I use a separate water bladder to collect dirty water and then use my water filter to fill my clean water bottles. I collected 1 liter just to practice.
I made it to the first water cache at about 6 PM. (Side note: the water cache box was simply a large brown metal container bolted to a small concrete pad. They are normally used as food storage containers in areas with bears. There are five such caches on this first segment to Lordsburg that have 6 gallon water jugs maintained by the folks who provide shuttles to the start point.)
It was obvious to me my choice was to camp there given my not-so-stellar day. Surprisingly I was not very sore and felt good just getting there. Roadkill also made the decision to camp there. The other hikers were already gone by this point. I elected to cowboy camp the first night, which is simply sleeping out under the stars without a tent. A full moon night as well.