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**From October 2015**

As we were hitching and not getting picked up, a mini bus pulled over. A tour mini bus. With older people. We thought there was a mistake. Until Memphis popped out of the window and the driver opened the doors and told us to get in. Only Memphis could yogi a ride from a paid tour group full of people in nice shoes and cardigans. In exchange for the ride, the driver had us talk about our hike until we got to Chama.

Hoping out of the tour mini bus, we set our packs down in the bar. E.D. and I had both sent packages to the post office, so we ran over there before it closed while The Darkness, Crosby, and Memphis got a head start on beers. Technically, E.D. finished her flip in Chama, but The Darkness, Crosby, and I had been trying to convince her to just keep hiking and become a true sobo. What’s another 700ish miles? Why not, right? We had celebratory beers anyway, partly because Platoro had none.

Full of food and beer, we heading toward the Y, the best, cheap, hiker friendly motel in the area. It was about a mile away, so we threw our thumbs out just in case. At an intersection, a very large man in camo pants and a neon green shirt waved us down and ran across the street. He was giving out New Mexico bandanas to passersby. When he heard we were hikers, he offered us a ride in his monster truck to the motel.

We climbed up and got there lickity split. As we piled out, we saw the front desk lady laughing and shaking her head. Leaving our packs outside, we meandered in to see what spaces she had.

Front Desk Lady: I knew you were hikers the second I saw five of you jump out the back of that thing! Haven’t seen to0 many of you since April!

She hooked us up with a good deal on two rooms between the five of us and we set about the normal chores plus a few extra ones. In The Darkness’s absence from us, she had decided to stop brushing her hair and had formed a single dread under her hat with all of her hair somehow in it. One job was to brush that out.

The weather had begun to look nasty again as we managed to sneak in the laundromat right before it closed with a six pack. We snagged that and decided to leave the next day late morning or so, hoping it might have a chance of improving in the morning.

However, when we woke up, the weather in town had cleared, but we couldn’t see the ridges in the slightest. We took our time leaving the rooms and ultimately decided to road walk to Ghost Ranch as we heard thunder cracking. In short time, we were trudging along the road in full rain gear plodding away.

Apparently we looked odd enough that a cop turned around. We dutifully took off our sunglasses and chatted politely. She seemed simply curious. We pointed where the trail actually was and her reply was:

Cop Lady: Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be up there either.

Thunder clapped again.

Cop Lady: Hmm, yeah, definitely not. Have fun.

We proceeded over to a store on the side of the road where we enjoyed sodas and chips and scoped out the maps for possible stealth sites. Loitering until we finished our snacks, we headed back out and found a slightly stealth spot off the side of the road near a fence. We stayed on the roadside of the fence.

Suddenly, I woke up to dogs. Loud dogs. Sniffing. Great. We probably shouldn’t have camped where we did, but we weren’t trespassing either. The dogs went away eventually, although not silently.

The next day, we had a fun activity planned. Walk 14 miles to a bar on the side of the road. On the way, a car slammed on it’s breaks and pulled over.  All of us paused.  Then Axel popped out of the car excited having finished his flip.  We met his sister who had taken him to Ghost Ranch for a massage and they passed us sodas.  We meandered along finding odd bits of trash, license plates, and other questionable roadside items until we found the bar.

The $2 bill.

The Bar, El Cuerno, had five bar stools. The bar itself had no food, however the gas station convenience store attached had a microwave in which one could put frozen pizzas and other classic convenience store items in to heat up. The bartender also ran the convenience store and conveniently believed in tabs. El Cuerno had $1, $5, $10, $20, and a few $50 bills plastered to the walls and ceiling.

About three hours into our patronage of El Cuerno, we decided to put a bill for the CDT up. The Darkness looked smug and pulled a $2 bill out. We wrote “CDT SOBO 2015” with all of our trail names.

Eventually, we meandered on to find another stealth campsite when we ran into the spot where the trail crosses the road. Conveniently, it had a wonderful campsite near some questionable water.

Coming into Ghost Ranch.

We meandered into Ghost Ranch just in time for lunch the next day and were greeted well. They reminded us that lunch was not AYCE like our guidebook (Yogi) said. We just said ok and loaded a tray up each. Probably higher than most, if not all, but we did not need seconds after that.

Snagging a campsite, we split the cost and headed for the shower room where we could charge devises and do some laundry. Underneath one of the sinks, we found Whistle’s discarded and decrepitated Altra shoes. We knew they were his because we had been following his tracks for close to 2,000 miles.

Whistle’s discarded shoes.

We used plenty of their wifi and hoped to watch a movie in a room ED remembered with great fondness. However, when we wandered that way, a religious meeting of some sort had staged a coup of the movie room for the entire evening. Instead, Memphis downloaded some comedy podcasts and we enjoyed them over the picnic table at the campsite.

In the morning, we plotted our route to into Cuba, New Mexico.

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**From September 2015**

Naturally, we stood on the side of the road sipping beers trying to hitch a ride at dark. When cars came by, we hid the beers behind our backs. In twenty minutes, two cars passed. Both had Texas plates. A work van passed. The work van turned around. We turn, chug the rest of the beer, and shove the cans in our pack side pockets.

Guys: No one else is going to pick you guys up. Can you squish?

Memphis: Yup!

We had a good ride down to Lake City where the guys dropped us off and we found Axel who had gotten about five miles ahead of us from Salida. We dropped our packs and immediately went for food and beer. Showers could wait. For us at least.

When we got back to the hostel, Alix was there to take money and show us the ropes. We met Lucky and chilled around an indoor picnic table somewhat thinking of the chore order for the next day. ED hadn’t been feeling well, so she was finally planning on going to a clinic.

The next day, while we were making a laundry plan, Crosby caught up and walked into the hostel. He looked like he wanted to stay the night, but we weren’t looking for a zero until ED came back with giardia meds looking miserable and curled up in a ball on her bunk. We zeroed. Axel left, planning to hike eight miles to a yurt.

The zero day became a lazy laundry, chatting, wandering around town day and catching up on phone calls to the other world. We asked Alix if she’d be willing to drive us up to the pass the next morning if we tossed her some gas money and she agreed. We got some San Juan’s updates from Jeff who had decided to slow to ten miles a day with a book to finish his flip in Chama. He was still laying in his bed giving us the beta for the next section at 10am.

The next morning, Alix drove us out of Lake City and we hit the trail anew, ready for the San Juan loop that we had anxiously been awaiting for pretty much the entire trail. Big thanks to Alix! She also has a really cool blog here.

Just past the yurt looking down into the valley.

We hiked over toward the yurt for a lunch break since it had a water source nearby and who doesn’t want to check out a yurt? Memphis beat us there and we eventually caught up and checked it out. It was the same one I’d stayed in on the Colorado Trail four years before.

The trail then climbs to the high point for the Colorado Trail at 13,000 and change. This also began the 40 mile or so section above 12,000ft entirely. Nothing but sweet, beautiful ridges with solidly built trail. We had the Colorado Trail for just a bit more before it split off toward Durango and we went toward Wolf Creek Pass.

The nicely signed Colorado Trail which we were about to leave.

We camped fairly high that night in a hidden spot that Memphis and Crosby found as the sun had just finished setting. At first with the low light, I thought instantly, “oh shit, a moose” until I heard the sound of someone blowing up a Thermarest. All of us had begun to notice the shorter daylight marked by decreases in mileage and colder temperatures. The weather report we saw gave us a six day window of awesomeness—exactly what we needed.

Good morning, Mr. Moose.

In the morning, we woke up to Memphis deflating his pad as usual and we had another glorious day. It was nice having Crosby along to mix up the conversations a bit during breaks. We wanted to stop frequently because each high point brought about a different view and usually none of us had tired of the previous view.

Continuing past the dirt road which would eventually lead to Silverton, Crosby reminded us that we could watch a lunar eclipse tonight. We knew we had to get higher for a better, unobstructed view. Part way up the climb my stomach forced me to sit and eat before dinner. I’d gotten to the point where I couldn’t ignore my stomach anymore. I impatiently ate a cliff bar and some chocolate to fuel me up the last climb of the night. ED, Crosby, and Memphis passed me while I ate.

The iPhone’s attempt at capturing the lunar eclipse.

They had found a good spot on a ridge around 12,600ft where we could see the moon and the stars. We set about cooking dinner and waiting for the eclipse. The temperature began dropping and we put on layers sequentially. Even with the full moon, we could see a brilliant amount of stars and no light pollution. We watched almost the full eclipse when a few clouds blocked the last bit.

At that point, we gave up on hiking more and laid down in a line to cowboy camp and watch the shooting stars on the other side. We listened to some tunes and tried to pick out the constellations we all knew. Memphis strategically placed himself out of punching range so he could snore uninterrupted.

That night was cold. So cold, in fact, that we woke up with the sunrise completely covered in thick frost.

Shaking off the frost and watching the sunrise.

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**From September 2015**

Despite a very late start, we managed to get a few miles in before dark. Sometimes just getting back on trail, even a few miles helps immensely the next day. We found a pathetic looking shelter without a floor that we paused to see. It included quite a bit of graffiti, including a tag from Yogi and Worldwide.

We got distracted reading it all and ended up staying there instead of trying to reach a hunting cabin four miles further. Memphis played some comedy from his phone while we ate dinner. Then, I read theSkimm’s summary of the upcoming republican debate as a drinking game.

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My spoon 😦

In the morning, we passed the hunting cabin, which boasted several hunters clad head-to-toe in…you guessed it…cammo. This stretch had more mellow ups and downs full of aspens changing colors for the fall. With the Colorado Trail and the CDT combined, we had no trouble with navigation following the well-defined trail. We cruised, chatted, meandered, and admired the array of aspen leaf colors on the ground and on the trees.

One of those lunches, I went to make the classically old peanut butter tortilla when tragedy struck. My Sea to Summit titanium spoon BROKE in my peanut butter. I held up the handle and peered into the jar.

Memphis: What just happened?

Me: My spoon…

E.D.: In the peanut butter?

Me: I hate peanut butter.

Memphis: Is that titanium?

Me: Yes…

E.D.: You can use my spoon if you need it.

Memphis: You just broke a titanium spoon with peanut butter?

Me: I got this spoon in Daleville on the AT five years ago.

E.D.: Damn.

My favorite spoon was no more. It finished the Appalachian Trail with me. Then it survived a winter of the 46ers I had left to climb in the Adirondacks, it hiked the Colorado Trail with me, it went to New Zealand with me, the spoon survived three ski seasons stuffed into my jacket pocket, it hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, it survived a year of grad school in my backpack, and it went two thousand miles down the CDT.

I retrieved it from my peanut butter jar, licked it clean, and saw that it broke in a spot that neither duct tape nor superglue could fix. I immediately looked for cell service to send my trusty resupply Mother a picture, but none existed. I sadly put the spoon in my bag and thought about all of our times together.

The rolling hills.

The trail continued further through fields and more aspens until a bit before the Creede Cut-Off. On the Colorado Trail, I went into Creede and it was one of my favorite trail towns. This go-round, we would continue to Lake City instead.

Before the cut-off, we camped at the last water before San Luis Pass. Having already climbed San Luis on the Colorado Trail, I did not feel particularly inclined to do it again in interest of getting closer to the road into Lake City, knowing that would be a hard hitch. As per usual, Memphis got up the earliest and high tailed it uphill. It was cold that night and the tents stood rigid with frost. Stuffing a frosty tent into a stuff sack absolutely annihilates the comfort of one’s hands. I usually remedy this by putting my hands inside my puffy afterward.

After San Luis Pass, the trail winds around up and down the high ridges and contours around others passing large volcanic rock structures that always look like sand drip castles on the beach.

On one of the passes, I sat and laid out my tent still complete with frost in the sun and wind to dry while eating some lunch with my poor broken spoon. E.D. came up and did the same and we speculated about the whereabouts of Memphis when he popped up behind us.

Not a bad nap spot.

E.D.: What?

Me: Where’d you go?

Memphis: *smirking* San Luis Peak! My first 14er!

E.D.: Congrats!

Me: Whoa!

Memphis: Yeah! And Action, Shortstack, and Crosby are coming up!

We hadn’t seen Action or Shortstack since Dillon and we hadn’t seen Crosby since Lemhi Pass before Leadore, Idaho! We continued, aiming for the road into Lake City, when Action and Shortstack caught us and told us they were going to take the Creede Cut-Off. They did say that Crosby was planning on going the San Juan route. After catching up, standing, with our packs on, they speed toward the Cut-off and we continued toward the road.

We doubted we’d get a ride around 8pm as the sunset sunk below the ridge, however, we hit the road anyway.

Memphis: WOOHOO!!

E.D.: Something happened.

Me: A ride?

Memphis: BEER!

We hurried down to a wonderful cooler of cold beers. Thank you to the person who left some cold ones by the road!

The sunset going down to the road.

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The Darkness: “I’ll take the Moose Drool please.”Me: “I’ll take the Pigs Ass Porter please.”

Waitress: “That one’s fun to say! Can I get you two frosted mugs for those?”

Both: “Yes, please!”
Backing up, we had an easy ten miles into East Glacier with a well graded 2,000 foot climb. We had to cross through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation for three miles and the “trail” began what Ley referred to as the real CDT. It split off several times, was 4×4 track, went over several blowdowns, and became massive mud pits at points. Sometimes it was hard to tell the nuff apart from the horse shit.
As soon as we got into town, we went straight to the first restaurant and got burgers/veggie burgers and beer.
We checked out the other hostel and decided it was dark and less inviting. The Darkness resupplied at the store while I got my package from the post office and we spent a chunk of time ripping apart and making larger priority mail boxes to fit our ice axes. The post matter laughed and said he’d been doing it all week and had some good ideas.
Heading back to the other hostel, smartly named after food, Brownies, we saw two guys who looked liked overwhelmingly clean thru hikers. We approached. They were indeed thru hikers, one of which flipped up from New Mexico and the other of which was going sobo, but they had hiked together on the PCT. They were Fun Sized and Lighthouse.
Town chores began to take a long time – like showering 8 days of dirt off, doing laundry, packing the food bag, blogging, posting pictures, and chatting with Fun Sized and Lighthouse as well as two other flippers, Ridge Runner and K2. And hiker midnight is at 9!
Our plan *was* to get up, eat, and leave mid morning, but then Scallywag, E.D., and Patch rolled in and The Darkness and I decided to zero. That meant significantly more time for blogging and other chores. Later, another rolled in, Whistle, and it was quite a fun zero day.
The next morning after breakfast, The Darkness and I made our way out of town getting confused in the golf course exit, but did finally find the 4×4 track eventually. It was HOT and we came to several choices in the track over about three miles and had to pull out the guidebook to pick. We reentered the national park again and contoured the bottom of it for quite a ways. It looked as though for a few sections, the park service took a weed whacker and cut a foot wide path, then ran out of battery for a mile, then another chunk.
Treeboo caught up to us and we walked with him for a little bit. We decided to inquire about an interesting individual who we met previously who seemed to want to find himself in the wilderness.
The Darkness: “Did you meet John?”

Treeboo: “hahaha the guy in five fingers heel planting?”

The Darkness: “Did he have food?”

Treeboo: “Yeah, he got some from day hikers…”
Treeboo was a long distance runner too, so once we stopped for lunch, we never saw him again. Our food bags were massive with six days of food in them and we needed to eat them down a bit.
We continued heading toward Marias Pass and stopped at a pay campground for some water and a map break. Up walked a dirty individual who introduced himself as a section hiker going from Helena, MT to the Canadian border. Naturally, we asked for beta. For starters, he said the official CDT contoured a burned ridge for eight miles and was basically a pile of blowdowns for that amount of time. Translated: eight mile obstacle course of downed trees with no shade. An alternate trail followed a creek the whole way lower down. Great, cod creek…hot day…sounds fantastic…for tomorrow.
I was tired, so I packed about three liters of water and headed up the hill away from the pay campsite toward an area that looked flatish on the map. The Darkness wanted to go camp down by the creek on the alternate two miles later, so she did that and I found a nice, wooded flat spot above the pay campground. Why pay for camping???
In the morning, Scallywag, E.D, and Whistle walked up as I finished breakfast and said they camped immediately outside of the pay area, but walked back for the privy in the morning. Classic. They had also talked to the section hiker and wanted to take the wetter alternate. They headed on and I was about 15 minutes behind.
I found where the CDT split off to contour the ridge, but it wasn’t marked at all and the turn was not obvious for sobos. To have taken it, I would have needed to turn more than 90 degrees to my right.
The alternate was a well kept trail, probably because of equestrians. There was quite a lot of fresh horse shit in the trail. The first ford of the creek was a cold, refreshing easy start to day and almost reached my knees. I found The Darkness after the second ford putting her shoes back on in an attempt to keep her feet and growing blisters dry. I just plunged straight in with the winning combination of Teva sandals and Darn Tough socks each time.
We found the other three in some willows around mid morning snack time and by then I had lost track of the number of fords…I stopped counting at 8.
After the break, we continued in toward a forest service cabin that the section hiker told us about thinking it would be a cool place to eat lunch. Before getting there though, a horse startled me from the trees and I looked over to see an older gentleman with a cowboy hat, his daughter, and five horses.
Guy: “Where are you walking from?”

Me: “Today, or in general?”

Guy: “In general…?”

Me: “Canada.”

Guy: *looks pensive?* “Where are you going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Guy: *Eyes bug out* “uh huh…”
We talk about a few other things and I said we wanted to eat lunch at the cabin and he said they were heading that way too.
Finding the cabin, we noted the brilliant orientation of the porch so that it became shady in the afternoon and the shade increased as the afternoon passed. The cabin was locked, so we enjoyed the porch. Then, the guy in the cowboy hat showed up.
Guy: “So…would y’all like some cold beer?”

Us: *Eyes bug out* “Yes, please!”
Out came cold Miller Lites and on a day when the sun melted us, they never tasted so good. The guy had an entire horse dedicated to coolers in the saddlebags! Now, that is smart traveling. We’ve been doing it wrong the whole time!
We had three route choices from the cabin for the next few miles, so we showed him the map and he instantly told us the middle, red route was the best of the three options which was also what Ley suggested too. Then the guy offered to pack the beer cans out too!!!

 

The well oriented shady porch

 

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Warner Springs Resort had closed down completely leaving only the Post Office open, but the town pulled together and provided a wonderful store-at-cost in the community center, making it a fundraiser for the local school system as well as offering cheap meals, camping space, and music.  The music was three old dudes, two on guitar and a sax player who somehow managed to smoke a cigarette and play at the same time, between puffs holding it in his fingers hitting the right buttons.  The showers were too steep for me though, I’m not going to pay $10 for a shower.  I washed my socks in a sink though, that’s good enough for now.

Random girl helping out: “It smells like a bunch of hobos in here”

Hiker whispers to another hiker: “yeah that roaming herd of smelly hobos!”

The other hiker: “They just keep coming out of the bushes!”

Main problem though: no booze and it’s Cinco de Mayo.  We got a few tall boys from other hikers hitching over, but that was it.  Inspector Gadget claimed to need a ride for cigarettes (practically the only thing they didn’t sell) and got us some more beer and a small bottle of whiskey.

We left at 6:45 p.m. after dinner (which I dug through the hiker box for) and began drinking as soon as we were back on the trail.  Take one and pass-it-down-the-line style.  We lost Joe and Peter to a room in Julian but we picked up Shags and Scallywag.  Since Scallywag didn’t partake in our fun, he became the designated hiker.

On the way out of town, we walked through a horse pasture and then near a high ropes course which we managed to sling Ari up into as he sketchily hopped around up there.  He made it down ok and we continued on, watching the moon rise several times as we ducked in, out, and around small hills.  Each time we oo’ed and aw’ed and drank another beer.

By the time we got to the creek five miles in, we were doing well and even better when we found the campfire of two Canadians, a Belgian guy named Waffles, and a guy from North Dakota along with a few other randoms.  We made ourselves a little Cinco de Mayo party there.

In the morning, many weren’t doing too great, but we all eventually got moving.  The trail twisted over and over the creek many more times than the map showed and through some chilly areas until it began to climb and climb and climb.  I took my usual 7:30ish break to take off the wind jacket and to put on sun screen.  Luckily, I was not too hung over, guzzled water and kept pressing on for a nice 12 miles before lunch at trail angel Mike’s house, where one of the main water sources was a large tank.

On the way there I leap frogged Gypsy (an older Australian woman) and Hamburger (an older German guy) a few times and passed Neon and On-the-go. The sun blazed and all I could think about was getting to Mike’s for water and shade.  Right before the junction, I ran into a two foot long snake sunning itself across the trail – not a rattler, but looked similar without the rattle.  At the junction, on the back of the sign post someone wrote “Mike’s, shade, water, awesome.”

About a quarter-mile off the trail, I walked over to the water tank with Gypsy and Hamburger to read, “Free food and beer for PCT Thru-Hikers, come down if you dare to awesomeness.”  It was meant for the Cinco de Mayo party the night before, but we explored and there were plenty of leftovers.  Two vegans were even visiting and gave me a veggie burger!

Eventually, everyone came rolling through, got food, relaxed etc. Until we felt rain drops as we started to leave. Rain? In the desert? Really?  It wasn’t looking too terrible from the side of the ridge we were on but Hop-a-long and I reminisced about ridges and Colorado thunderstorms.  Our logic here was that we could scurry over the ridge and head down the other side before it got bad, plus the trail did not run on top of the ridge as the Colorado Trail did all the time, it just contoured it, went through a saddle, then contoured down the other side.

That we did.  We picked up the pace and made it through fine to a deathly stillness on the other side of the ridge, where we put on a layer, only to get rained on, then hailed on.  Magically, after a bit, it all cleared up just dandy.  We meant to get 25 miles in, but at 21 we were pooped and camped with High Life who had not been hung over and hike 27 from Warner Springs.

The morning was slow, but the sunrise was pleasant.  We found water at Nance Canyon and in the cache right after that.  I cooked there since I could grab water.

The next 9 miles were rough.  The sun came out blazing and it became ridiculous.   At one point I began hallucinating snakes that were really just tree branches on the ground, until a two foot rattler that laid directly across the trail answered me and made me jump around it.  I managed to dig my phone out for a picture while it began to slither into the bushes and coil. Aat that point, I decided it was time to go.

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