Bare with me here, I’m typing and posting all of this from my mobile device. Forgive all spelling and grammatical errors as I’m typing most of this from my sleeping bag at the end of full days of hiking. Also this is my first time utilizing a mobile device for creating the blog posts as well so if they look all jacked up its because I’m essentially clueless how it works at this point. I won’t be posting pictures in the blog this time but I will be to the Facebook page. I will incorporate pictures in the future here when I get more familiar with posting from my mobile device.
Also, since service has been spotty and I can’t post more frequently, I don’t know a better way to post this other than to just give you everything at once. Sorry.
Saturday, April 12, 2014 9:43PM
On The Eve Of Crazy Cook
This morning I woke up from a peaceful sleep under the moon and stars at a natural hot spring between El Paso and Hachita New Mexico. This is called cowboy camping. Essentially you do not need to set up your tent in the desert because there is no fear of rain almost ever. It saves you time and energy to not have to worry about setting up and tearing down. It was a great way to spend the night before traveling to the CDT Kickoff event in Hachita. Getting in the hot springs and having a good soak, sucking back on hoppy IPA’s straight from the growler.
The day before, my friend Thomas Mckune flew in from Philadelphia to join me on the trail for this hike. A pretty remarkable story is how he got here. To make a long and interesting story short and slightly less interesting, he quit his Manhattan job of 8 years with a French bank working in international equities, or something crazy to that effect which I know NOTHING about. He quit that job because he wanted more out of life. Of course I fully encouraged this and am proud of his decision. But really I find it terrific that there are people as “crazy” as me out there who are willing to the take chances in life. The day before he was telling me that his nerves and adrenaline were so through the roof in anticipation that he thought he was going to vomit. I told him to shut up and pull the trigger already. Sadly, he never puked. But see that, in my opinion, is what makes me believe that he made the right decision for him and his life. It is my belief that it’s the route that scares us the most that is the choice we should make. That’s what life is about. Feeling alive. A little puke never killed nobody.
For the record, Tom had been in silent protest of his job for the past 6 or 7 months and has a very magnificent beard. Cupple this with the short brimmed style hat that he has and he is damn near the spitting image of Fidel Castro. So a new hiker was born today, I dubbed him “Fidel” and everyone including him loved it.
Our ride from El Paso to Hachita was made possible by an old hometown friend whom I hadn’t seen in a decade probably. Chris Benoit. A lawyer who has bounced back and forth between there and Mexico City for the last 5-6 years. Upon Chris learning of my desire to hike the CDT a few months ago, he immediately offered up his home and a ride to the start of the trail. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned, this is good people. Huge hearts like this just somehow seem to find their way into hikers lives like this. We need people like this to make our missions successful and somehow someway they always come out of the woodwork from places unknown. I haven’t hit the trail yet and I’m experiencing the trail magic all around me all time time. It fills your heart to the brim and makes me feel like I’m spilling out with goodness. This only affirms my life choices. His wife tagged along as well and she was just the most awesome and hilarious person. All together, the couple days with them and the drive to New Mexico were about as perfect as I could have drawn up. Even though there are incriminating videos of me singing Destiny’s Child in the truck on the ride there.
Upon arrival in Hachita, the very small community came out in a big way. We honored the life of local trail angel and World War 2 veteran, Sam Hughes. His daughter and grandkids offered some beautiful words about his big heart and his passion for helping out hikers in this region. I didn’t even know the guy but they made me miss him. It was understood that if he was still alive, I would have been honored to know him. Much like many of the trail angels I know from my Appalachian Trail hike last year.
After that it was time to introduce Warrior Hike. All of us stood up individually as they called our names and then I went up and gave a brief speech about Warrior Hike and how we are all honored to be are part of it. At this early stage in the game I probably am the best person in the group to deal with the public as the other guys are just getting their feet wet. But I conveyed to the and encouraged them that they should grab the make whenever they feel comfortable enough. But that I’m also comfortable managing public relations if that is too overwhelming for them. After that we feasted like pigs, as is hiker tradition. After the community center cleared out from all the town folk and visiting guests to be there for the occasion, we made it our lodging for the night. I’m reporting all this to you from the tile floor with and handful of other hikers snoring away.
Anyways, more on Warrior Hike later. I’m tired and I wanna go to bed. Up early to travel a few hours down dirt roads to the start of the trail tomorrow. Crazy Cook Monument (more on this later also).
3,100 miles to Canada.
My arm pit smells. But just my right one.
Sunday, April 13, 2014 8:32pm
CDT Day 1 – The Send Off – 14 miles (approx)
We got there at 11am after a long and bumpy 3 hour ride. There were a handful of people who volunteered to drive all of us to the start. Teresa Martinez is the CDTC director and she has coordinated so much for not only Warrior Hike but for all the hikers of this year’s class. She has such a warm heart and is obviously very selfless in how she goes about things. She was in a vehicle with some hikers and there were 4 other vehicles filled. I was in a vehicle with a man from Tennessee who’s trail name is Radar. Also in the vehicle was Fidel, Andrew (a WHer with no trail name yet) and a Triple Crown hiker named Snorkel. She was just along for the ride and has been helping Teresa with things to get things going during the kickoff weekend. A very nice girl who is very much into hiking as much as possible. As it turns out she hiked with a friend of mine on the Pacific Crest Trail a few years ago. David Gantz who is a friend and coworker of mine from when I lived in State College.
Once we got to the Crazy Cook Monument everybody piled out and we had our photo moments with the only thing worthy of a photo, which is the monument itself. Group shots and single shots happened and then everybody took off. I hung back alone until they were all out of sight. I wanted to have my moment with the monument when no one else was around. I waited until our rides rolled out too as I said my goodbyes to them all. I started getting really excited inside and began to feel the true anticipation of the journey. It hadn’t truly hit me until then. I began to have a dialog with myself about how awesome this whole thing was, is, and will be. Wow. It had begun. There I stood right on the Mexico border. Only one way to go, North. Canada. So I walked.
After a couple of miles I caught back up to the pack. Things were going great. Hydrating fine and energy and spirits were good. At mile seven things were still good. Started getting a few hot spots which was surprising because these were not brand new shoes. I had hiked plenty in these before. By mile ten I knew I was developing blisters. The trail was incredibly rocky today and I think that had a lot to do with it. Gonna duct tape them up in the morning and put some new socks on. Pray they don’t get worse because the last four miles of the day were brutal on my tender feet.
I wasn’t alone as most everyone was complaining about tired, sore, and tender feet when we all made it to the first water cache. Plenty of water to drink and cook with tonight and to top off in the morning. I drank 5 liters today which I don’t feel was enough. Going to try and go with 6 liters tomorrow.
Everyone is still in high spirits as we made it 14.3 miles to the first water cache. Trail was surprisingly well marked but tomorrow we will be doing some cross country hiking without a marked trail supposedly.
I worry about all the prickling things on the desert floor as my air pad lays on top of it. Cowboy camping tonight. I have my ground sheet down but I still worry.
Monday, April 14, 2014 8:35PM
CDT Day 2 – 16 miles (approx)
Today was a good day in a lot of ways. And a bad day in a lot of other ways. The good outweighed the bad.
Woke up to a beautiful sunrise this morning and took my time getting ready. I had a horrible sleep as my back was killing me from the airpad. I just couldn’t get comfortable. Not to mention that the 40-50mph wind gusts made it even more impossible since I was cowboy camping. I ate a couple of cereal bars and a spoonful of peanut butter and packed my gear.
My balance was slightly off because I was babying my feet with each step I took. They were incredibly sore from the first day and I knew that it was only a matter of time until certain hot spots turned into blisters. Once you accept that as an inevitability it makes it easier to push through the pain. It doesn’t hurt that my days in the Marine Corps helped with this type of mentality. The going was slow to start the day as there as absolutely no trail, unlike the first day. It was all cross country with vertical 4×4 posts very few and far between. It was a guessing game sometimes to find the next one but I always trudged on in a general direction of where the next one probably was. Up and down through small washouts and little ravines. Everything was rocky and everything wanted to stab you and grab you my legs have dried blood all over them since I’m wearing shorts. The going was very slow. Slower than an average day on the AT by far.
After about the first 5-6 miles I stopped for a siesta. A siesta is an mid day nap to beat the boiling sun and to inspect my feet. They had been killing me since basically I started that morning. I knew when I took my shoes off I was not going to like what I saw.
After hobbling over to a shade spot under a shrub in the ravine, I kicked the shoes off to discover several blood blisters. Broke out the knife and began performing surgery. Blood, puss, and yellow-clear liquid oozed out while I squeezed through the puncture holes I made. Stung pretty good but oh well. Let them air out for the next hour while I feasted and relaxed. Slapped some duct tape on them, popped some Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and blew that possible stand.
In hindsight (which I will observe tomorrow) I should has stopped for a siesta an hour or two later because the next 5 miles to the next water cache was during by far the hottest part of the day. Temps were in the mid 90s and it was boiling. Luckily I packed a GoLite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella and I rigged it up to the shoulder strap and sternum strap and myself some shade while I walked. Genius move.
Once arriving at the water cache I kicked shoes off again. Repopped blisters, ate and made moves for another 4-5 miles by dusk.
The moon is full tonight and I’m told there is suppose to be a lunar eclipse. Cowboy camping again. Thinking about bouncing my tent forward once I get to Lordsburg on Friday. Life is so good!! Loving this landscape.
Tired. No airpad tonight. Hopeful for better sleep and healed feet.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:15PM
CDT Day 3 – 16 miles (approx)
Blister day. Ouch.
So this was the first day that my feet really started giving me serious problems. I popped my blisters at camp the night before in hopes that they would air out over night and dry out. Boy was I in for a big surprise.
But before all that let’s talk about trail names. My trail name is, of course, Jabba. I will save that story for another time. Four of us Warrior Hikers had just woke up and were working on normal morning things like head calls and breakfast while the topic of trail names were being discussed. Redneck and I were specifically talking to each other about Andrew and how we had to get him a name. Redneck got his name basically the first day from Fidel on account account that his neck was so sun burned that it was bright red. Not to mention the fact that he is from North Cackalacky and Ablabama. So we are in mid discussion about him getting a name when we hear the most ungodly sound of a snot rocket shooting out of Andrew’s nose. It sounded like an entire universe snot and boogers came exploding out. For all I know this is how the big bang theory really happened. Redneck belts out, “Well how about Rocket!” We kind of stopped stopped for a minute and all laughed about it but never really all agreed that that name should stick. So we went about our business and broke camp.
So I’m hiking along for about a half an hour with Redneck and (still) Andrew when I am realizing that I still can’t put any weight on my left heel. Usually it takes me 10-15 minutes every morning of hobbling along the trail until my feet numb up and I can start walking like an actual human being again. This doesn’t seem to be happening yet and I decide that I must stop and take a look at my feet and medically tend any issues. The other guys go on ahead and I plop down in in the middle of the trail to perform open foot surgery. Shoes come off and low and behold my heel is pulsating like a living organism. I pull out my knife and disinfect it while cleaning the surface of any part of my feet that the knife might touch (other blisters as well.) Apparently the blood blister that had formed the day before (under a callus mind you) had sealed it self and had begun growing a science project inside the pocket that I had previously drained. I take my knife and begin carving away at the callus until I reach the culprit of the pain. Out comes what would make most onlookers lose their lunch, or want to. I won’t describe it in detail but was substantial. I jam some antibiotic ointment Inside of it and any other blisters that needed it, slapped some gauze and athletic tape all over the place so I can get back to hiking with a tolerable amount of pain like any decent hiker would.
My efforts were rewarded with the ability to push the fight and hike on. It was surprisingly less painful, for now. I eventually catch up to the other guys at the top of a hill and they were taking a break. I was all bout it. Told them my foot surgery story and then Redneck proceeded to talk about a concern of his. He informed us that there was blood in his stool. Andrew then chimed in with an entire medical briefing that was rather in depth and impressive. You see Andrew is an Army Officer, a West Point graduate.
He went on to pilot Blackhawk helicopters in Afghanistan. Very smart, calculated individual. Book smarts and street smarts. Pittsburgh boy to boot so blue collar as well. Worked his ass off for his accomplishments. So after his anal analysis I look over at Redneck and then over at Andrew and before anyone can say anything I blurt out, “Jeez! What are you, his doctor or something? Ole’ Doctor Rocket over here people!” And Redneck and Andrew laugh and Redneck goes “Doc Rocket!” And so he was Andrew no more. Doc Rocket had officially been born.
The rest of the day was slogfest as Doc Rocket and I pushed 16 miles to Route 9 where there was a water cache so we camped there for the night. Feet killing. Redneck never showed up which was puzzling.
Watched a beautiful sunset as the moon rose a little bit later. Woke up in the middle of the night to change sleeping positions to catch the beginning of the blood moon lunar eclipse. I laid awake for about 90 minutes and watched in awe as it materialized before me.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:33PM
CDT Day 4 – 21 miles (approx)
I started this day with no plan for how far I was going to go except to go at least as far as the next water cache which was 13 miles. That all began to change throughout the day as my feet continued to bark at me for walking on them in the hot, sandy, dirty, desert. You see, feet don’t like dirt and heat when you have a pack on your back. The dirt and heat with the extra weight is what has been causing these blisters. I quickly realize that what my feet need Is a break.
Around lunch time I break under the only shade tree that I had seen for mikes. My feet thanked me for it. I laid out my ground sheet and my small foam pad perfectly within the confines of the shade bubble. I ripped off my shoes and socks and all my clothing except my boxer briefs. Laid everything out in the sun to dry while I prepared my lunch. Yellow fin tuna in olive oil covered in cheetos and wrapped in a tortilla, my favorite. I laid there and relaxed and felt the breeze coop my sweaty skin. I could have laid there and taken a solid 2 hour siesta and would have been completely content. Something stopped me from doing this and at the time I just felt like it was too hot and I was too far from water to linger there too long. 13 miles between water caches. Not the furthest I had gone so far between water fill ups (22 miles) but in this heat I wasn’t trying to mess around.
I started to get ready to go and no sooner did I put my clothes back on but a hiker I had never seen before comes walking up the trail. We exchange greetings and get to chatting. A nice fellow in his 50s from Taos in northern New Mexico. He introduced himself as “Miles” and I assumed that was his trail name. He informed me that he was a section hiker and trying to finish his miles of the CDT in New Mexico and that he was going from the start up to past Silver City. Once he was completed with this section he’d official have 1,000 miles. We walked together and chatted for the next 7 miles or so all the way to the cache. At which point I proceeded to take a 2.5 hour break and we separated because he was trying to put down some distance. He hit it after a small snack a water top off. It was fun chatting with a fresh face and I genuinely liked the guy. But what he did was give me an idea.
During our hours walking together he told me that he was trying to make it to Lordsburg by the following night. Lordsburg is the first town you come across on the CDT. It is anywhere from 85-92 mikes from the start of the trail depending what route you take or whose maps your going off of. For me, at this particular point in time, getting to Lordsburg the next day not only felt impossible but also reckless. My hiking schedule didn’t require me to get there until Saturday while averaging 13ish miles a day. But as I sat there with my feet up, airing out, bandaged up, popping ibuprofens like candy for the pain, I thought to myself and had an epiphany. “If I make it to Lordsburg tomorrow evening then I will have TWO ZERO DAYS with which to rest my feet!” I began doing the math while looking at the map and determine miles and speed and when I’d get in to town and how long my breaks could be. What I determined was that if I walked 8 more miles that day (21 total) it would be put me within one days shot of Lordsburg at another 21 miles. Now, my feet didn’t like this idea but luckily my feet don’t make the decisions around here. I do. My thought process was such that if I got into Lordsburg two two days ahead of schedule that I could give my feet and body two full zero days to mend me dad recover from the brutal first stretch. Back to back 21 mile days. Not exactly the way I anticipated my first week going. I didn’t think I’d be banging out 20+ mile days until after the first couple weeks. That’s what happens out here though, you try and have a plan and then it all goes to shit before you know it. Don’t make plans out here.
So the decision was made. Told the feet to SITFU and the death marching began. 8 more miles. Figured I’d be hiking until around 10pm at the slow and steady pace that I had been trudging along at. I left the water cache around 6pm. That’s around the time where the most brutal temps start to subside. And boy was I glad that I waited. Because the next 8 miles was across completely flat and exposed desert. Not a glimmer of any shade or break from the sun. Starting this section 3 hours earlier would have been extremely hot hot and painstaking.
10pm rolls around and not a moment too soon because I felt like I was walking around on bloody stubs. Which really isn’t too far out of the question since the day before I pulled off my sock and it was covered with blood.
I set up my ground sheet and sleeping bag and get settled in for the night. Right before putting my head down I feel something tackling my neck. I didn’t really think anything of it because it could have either been my hair or the collar of my shirt. I brush my hand over the area and definitely felt something there as I brushed it off me. I grab my headlamp and turn it on in the direction of where I was brushing. Low and behold, what appeared to be a camel spider (thought they only existed in Iraq, at least that’s the only place I’ve ever seen then before) was sitting there directly next to where my head was about to be laying. I went to reach for a rock that was sitting beside it to crush it with and the moment I made any move for the rock the spider went up on his back 4 legs in straight up attack mode. This thing was enormous. The size size of a medium plate. I grabbed the rock swiftly and dropped the bomb on the poor little fella. After that it was lights out. I had no patience to be paranoid of others. Sleep was well deserved this day.
Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:16PM
CDT Day 5 – 21 miles (approx)
There isn’t a whole lot to say about today. The mission was to get to town. Was hoping to make it to the Best Western no later than 8pm. The death March commenced yet again. Shorter breaks meant more walking in the brutal heat. I will say though it is definitely true what they say, ” Yeah but it’s a dry heat!” Add any humidity to these temps out here and I feel it would be more difficult.
I ended up LITERALLY HOBBLING into town around 630pm and my good buddy Fidel had an ice bath waiting for. I spent the rest of the night systematically icing different parts of my body to aid in the healing process. A bed and a pillow under my head. This was truly heaven. Pizza was on the way, a supreme and Hawaiian. Life is good.
Friday, April 18, 2014
CDT Day 6 – Zero Day (90 Total miles approx)
I used today mainly to recuperate but also also to lock down my pack weight situation. I started the trail fully knowing that when I got to Lordsburg that I would be ditching certain pieces of gear. I have never done extensive backpacking in the desert like this before and wasn’t sure exactly what pieces of clothing or gear I would definitively be utilizing. This is also where I had my maps sent to for the sections north of Lordsburg. I only carry what maps I need for the sections I’m hiking as not to have any dead weight. The rest of the maps I bounce forward to meet me at the next town and and this process repeats itself. I hope to shed 10 lbs of weight and better plan out my food situation. Last time I over bought and had entirely too much food. Which was never a problem on the AT because my feet weren’t an issue. However now I believe that it is imperative to have as light a pack as possible to help alleviate some of those issues.
Ice, rest, food, beer and TV. Just what the doctor ordered. Tomorrow I will ship stuff out.
Also tomorrow Warrior Hike has a bit of support. A gentleman is driving his RV down along with his wife and parking it at the KOA campground to cook us up some steaks and have some beers with us. He is a veteran himself and was at the kickoff event in Hachita last week. A nice gentleman. Looking forward to it.