CDT Thru Hike: New Mexico Part Three

When we left Silver City for the second time we got a ride back to the same trailhead from which we’d hiked north a few days earlier. Not too far south of there, maybe half a day or so, the landscape started opening up into the vast, exposed desert we would be enduring for the remainder of the trail. It was in this stretch, a few miles before reaching the road into Lordsburg, where the trail became somewhat difficult to follow. 

There’s decent trail signage along most stretches that aren’t road walks, however, most of the signs are facing south. If you’re hiking south, unless you happen to get lucky with the sun hitting the back of the sign at just the right angle to reflect to the light, the blazes often take a fair bit of searching to find. Some of this difficulty can also be attributed to the countless cow paths crisscrossing the desert. It’s safe to say the majority of the time those paths were more established than the trail, and it was easy to accidentally find yourself on one of those if you weren’t watching closely enough. 

Because of the way we split the section south of Silver City in two, it wasn’t long before we reached Lordsburg, the southernmost town on the CDT. Considering we had just spent a few days off trail for Thanksgiving, there was no need for us to spend a night there or take care of any town chores aside from our resupply. Sitting on the curb outside the grocery store, sorting and packing our food for the final days, that was when it started sinking in that we were almost done; the next time we’d be in town would be after we touched the monument.

A lot of hikers don’t care for the section of the CDT from Lordsburg to the border. The trail is exposed and easy to lose, water sources are gross, and in general this section can be a bit monotonous. Despite those downsides, I found myself feeling thankful that we had changed our plans and hiked sobo instead.

Had we hiked the north as we’d originally planned we would have finished in Glacier National Park. Although that would have been an impressive place to finish this thru hike, it would have been a completely different experience. Having a few days of solitude at the end, and through terrain as unchanging as this part of the desert, allowed for quiet reflection I’m not sure would have been possible to the same extent in Glacier. I’m grateful we finished so alone; no tourists or park rangers around to engage in small talk, no one asking impossible questions like “how was it?” or “are you excited to finish?”

Finishing in the desert came with the added bonus of finding amusement in the trail conditions, rather than only annoyance. The CDT had put us through enough up to this point that things like route finding through cacti seemed perfectly normal, and climbing over and under barbed wire fences didn’t faze us at all. As for the water sources, there was more cached water than we expected, and the non-cached sources didn’t seem as bad as other water we’d relied on in previous sections. 

We expected to do a lot of night hiking in this section but quickly gave up trying. With very few north facing signs to reflect the light of our headlamps, it was nearly impossible to find the trail. The first night we ran into this we decided it wasn’t worth it and we would just be sure to get earlier starts in the morning instead.

We reached the southern terminus just as the sun was starting to give us that perfect, golden hour light. Another hiker had finished earlier in the day and was waiting for us when we arrived. The three of us spent the last hours of sunlight sharing a small bottle of cheap champagne, taking a lot of pictures, and trying and failing to find the words to capture how we felt.

Time feels different on trail, both fleeting and yet somehow slower. So much life can be fit into four, five months when the distractions and obligations of the “real world” are removed. Several months after finishing I still don’t know how to respond when I’m asked how it was, and I’m not sure I ever will.

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