Saturday, April 19, 2014 9:30PM
CDT Day 7 – Zero Day
Another zero day, as was the plan. Body definitely needed it. I checked out of my motel and took care of sending any unnecessary gear home and bounced a few other things forward. Bugs aren’t a problem (minus spiders and scorpions) so far so I bounced my tent body forward. I’m only rolling with my rain fly, tent poles, and ground sheet from here on out until we start getting into bug country. Just dead weight as far as I’m concerned. My set up is referred to as a “Fast Fly” and it weighs less than than a pound and a half at 1 lb 5 oz. I will be trying to cut weight as much as possible as the days continue and the further north I get. I didn’t know what to expect from the desert nights so I also had some cold weather gear that I didn’t need so I shipped that home too.
We had an incident last night as Doc Rocket was walking to he KOA campground from the Best Western. I was in my room and got a knock on the door. I hobbled over and opened it to find Doc Rocket and NO2 (Rob got this name from me because so far he has had a faster pace than us blister-hobbled hikers AND he only took 3 poops in 5 days on the trail, NO#2) standing there and they asked me if I wanted to go to the emergency room with them. Haha I was like “What the hell for!?” They explained to me that Doc was walking down the dirt road to the KOA and some drunk local was putzing around with his dog off leash and attacked him. He bit his ankle and sliced it open pretty good around the heel. Great. So apparently the local tried to play it off like his dog was in the right and started becoming unruly and mouthing off to Doc while making the claim that his cousin was the local sheriff of Lordsburg. So Doc proceeded to call the state police to get this guy under control. No charges but the officer put the guy in his place and the situation was under control. But they still needed to go to the ER to get the wound taken care of. I was busy dealing with gear and repacking (and generally wasn’t in the mood to move for any reason) so I opted out to join the adventure but they got up to Silver City and had the wound dressed and got a big shot of antibiotics. We were given the use of Teresa Martinez Dodge Ram truck rental that she was using to shuttle hikers to the start of the trail and to do water caches. Never a dull moment on the CDT.
Now back to the present. Tornado time. Checked out of my hotel and went over to the KOA where some Silver City folks had left us their 35 foot RV for the Warrior Hikers personal use. Amazing people. Jim and Connie Zawacki. They have to be Zawackadoodle to let 6 combat veterans (four of us marines) to just have free use of an RV with no supervision. Haha luckily we are all squared away and no tragedy struck but it COULD have. We were sitting there mid day just shooting the breeze when literally the breeze picked up. It was around 2 and we were waiting for Jim and Connie to drive down around 6pm. They were gonna cook us steaks and have dinner for us. All of a sudden we notice a funnel cloud shoot down from the storm clouds a few miles away. We all scrambled to get better eyes on and then realized that we needed to literally start battening down the hatches. The awning was out and nobody had any clue how to work this thing haha. We somehow managed it but I don’t think we could replicate it if we had to. Maybe if our lives depended on it. So we sat there in anticipation of a tornado. I think we all almost wanted it to happen. That’s how combat vets are I suppose. Looking for any bit of excitement or near death situations. Call us crazy. And maybe we are. Well the funnel disapated and the fun was over. Just some rain and wind. Nothing crazy but the rain was definitely unexpected in the desert like that.
After that we took the truck to a local bar to catch the opening period of the penguins game before Jim and Connie showed up. Doc is from Pittsburgh and I am from Central PA and consider myself a Pens fan but Doc is diehard. He hikes in a white long sleeve Penguins shirt. So when they lose his world crashes. And they lost this day. It was only game 2 of the first round. So the Blue Jackets tied the series up 1-1.
Connie and Jim showed up and broke out the brandy and scotch. We all stuck to scotch and beer while Jim was bummed we didn’t want any of his brandy. But dinner was amazing. A full spread was prepared for us and we ate like champions. Although I always somehow manage to eat like a champion. It’s in my fat kid nature. I stuff face even when there’s no reason to. Luckily I have a reason to for the next five months.
Sunday, April 20, 2014 8:30PM
CDT Day 8 – 20 miles (approx)
Today, the first stretch was all a road walk until getting to the open desert to make our way for the mountains. Connie and Jim offered to slack us during the road walk. This was completely fine with all of us.
When I say the word slack, what that means is we either have a reduced weight pack or no pack at all. It was a few miles to get outta town so we just threw our packs in the back of their car and hit the road. As soon as Redneck (Ricky) and I started walking we realized we had to take “a sit down break”. A few things working against us here, this was Easter Sunday morning and no establishments were open as we walked through town to get to the north end, we didn’t have our packs so we didn’t have baby wipes (toilet paper means chafing), and even if we did we were walking in town and couldn’t exactly drop trow on main street. I somehow managed to block out the pain while Redneck was about to burst for these few miles. As soon as we got our packs he made a b – line for the nearest bush. Nothing like witnessing a grown man shit in the woods in this manner. You tend to get close with your hiking buddies like this haha.
We decided that we wanted to get tog Silver City a day earlier than anticipated to take advantage of the amenities that were waiting for us when we got there. Jim and Connie were putting us up there so we were gonna keep up the big miles to get there. We decided to do a 20 and a 22 to get to Tyrone Road the following evening where they could pick us up and bring is home. We would then do another 14 mile long slack pack road walk the next day into Silver City. This is called playing the system well. Judge me all you want but you’d the same thing in my shoes. If I’m gonna be walking another 3,000 miles I’m gonna take advantage of opportunities to make it slightly easier. I plan to WALK one continuous path to Canada but I’m not above a slack pack and I’m not above a hot shower and warm home cooked meal. So any of you haters out there can keep your hating opinions to yourself and bite me. HIKE YOUR OWN DAMN HIKE.
That’s about as negative or flustered as you’ll see me get. I try to keep things as light and positive as possible. I’m goof off by nature. I get my jokester traits from my Dad. He puts on a good business show in the professional world but man can he be an incessant goofball sometimes. And I would say we pride ourselves in that. Life’s too short to be too serious too much. I love a good laugh and it’s mostly at my own jokes.
Back to hiking. The mountains in the distance took all day to walk to. But once we finally got to them it was well worth the long match to get there. We started actually walking amongst trees once we got into the higher elevation. I was quite a bit ahead of the Doc, Redneck, and NO2 (pronounced like the chemical compound) for most of the day and my goal was to get to the co-op windmill in the mountains. This was to be the first water source on the whole hike that I used on trail. Everything up until this point was water jugs cached by the CDTC for hikers at road crossings. The physical windmill still stood but the water in the ground was now pumped up by a solar panel. I reached this 20 mile mark by by a reasonable time at 630pm and when I approached it I heard what sounded like a ukulele. As I got closer I realized I wasn’t crazy and saw a tent through through the trees. I walked closer and I heard someone exclaim, “IT’S JABBA!” To my surprise it was Chili and Pepper. A father and his 15 year old son. Papa Pepper and Chili Child. Some very nice people from Florida who started hiking the CDT the same day as us. They stayed at the Hachita Community Center with us the night before starting and rode out with us in the morning. We also camped with them our very first night on trail at the first water cache. So I had some company for awhile while I got water, cooked dinner, and set up camp until my friends arrived.
The others showed up around 8pm as the stopped at a water source further back and had their dinner there. This campsite was perfect. Good clear cold water, tree cover, flat ground. Perfect. Oh and cow crap everywhere. Can’t forget that lovely detail. Always cow poop. Always everywhere. And I do mean always. That’s not an over exaggeration. In fact I’m under selling it.
A solid day. My legs have felt strong this whole time. I don’t think I ever lost them from the AT. I’m just waiting for my feet to catch up and get tuned up like the rest of me.
Monday, April 21, 2014 9:30PM
CDT Day 9 – 22 miles (approx)
Woke up this morning knowing a long day was ahead of us. I’ve been hydrating and eating well so far. But I’ve heard horror stories already of handfuls of hikers this year collapsing on trail from dehydration and exhaustion from not taking care of themselves. I consider myself to be indestructible by most counts and bull headed enough to not allow this to happen. I over drink and over eat. It’s my way and it works. Others try and roll with less water than they need as to keep the weight down. Same with food. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to pack weight I don’t make any compromises when it comes to food and water. I almost always walk into town with food still in my pack. And I’m usually rolling up on a water source with water still in my pack. Call me crazy. And some do. I’m not afraid to roll with 6 liters of water between water sources, and have several times already. It’s down right hot and dry out down here and I’m not used to it. So I make sure not become a heat case myself. And in the event that someone else around me needs it, I got that emergency water in a pinch. The extra weight is good training, OORAH!!
Walking through the mountains all day was a treat. Shade was plentiful. No real canopy but shade could be found if needed for a break. For the most part I walked in the lead again. The other guys were feeling a little more sluggish today and my feet started to cooperate a but more which was a pleasant surprise. I started feeling like my hiker-self almost. Almost. Feet still not quite there but I’m close.
Anyways, the clouds were a beautiful backdrop to the green spotted mountain scenes. We were between 6-7,000+ feet for most of the day a jump from the 4,000ft range for everything up until this point. Saw lots of bear scat and you got the distinct feeling that a mountain lion could have been watching you from the rocky cliffs above you at any point through the day. I’ve been extremely vigilant in looking for rattlesnakes as I know they are all over the place out here. No sightings yet. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Only a few smaller non poisonous snakes so far, shux.
The other guys stopped for lunch around noon under a shade tree and I decided to press on since my feet were feeling good compared to most of the days so far. Ricky said he was hot and I didn’t really think much of it at the time. I went on for another hour or so and found the most amazing and perfect shade tree. Providing a perfect umbrella bubble of shade for me to rest underneath. I tore every article of clothing off (minus the boxer briefs) and laid everything out in the sun to dry. This is my lunch time ritual so I can start my second leg of the day with that drier fresh feeling. Not really but dry and stiff is better than soaked and SOAKED. While I was sitting there practical naked on my little foam mat feeling the cool shade breeze dry the sweat from my skin a noticed a gentleman walking south bound on the trail past my position. He was mindlessly hiking along solo and was completely unaware of my presence. A middle aged fellow that appeared harmless. Clearly was an experienced hiker just based on the fact that he was on the CDT and glancing at his pack set up. I decided to scare the shit out of him. And I succeeded. I hollered out, “CANADA’S THE OTHER WAY DUDE!!” He stopped and looked over at me and my yard sale of belongings strewn abou and walked on over. “You know you about scared the shit out of me”, he said. I replied, ” I had a feeling I might.” We got to talking a bit. His name was Ed Herndon and his trail name was Grinch, although I don’t know why because seemed like a perfectly kind hearted person. He asked me if I knew knew of the veterans walking the trail. I suppose I no longer have that clean cut marine corps face to go off of anymore. I explain to him that he’s talking to one of them. He says to me, “OHH so you’re the one I haven’t met yet.” Turns out he met the rest of us the night before I got to Hachita. He said said that he was from Buena Vista, Colorado and gave me his contact information and to be sure to give him a call when I’m walking through! The hospitality from strangers will never cease amaze. Never. And I will never take it for granted. I will make myself blue in the face with thank yous of sincere appreciation to anyone that offers any form of support to me as a hiker and as a veteran. Someday I will be giving back and paying it forward in a big way. Your heart can’t help but want to feel this way after this type of treatment from strangers. It’s an infection and it spreads like wild fire. I wish our society behaved this way. Helping others. Helping strangers on a daily basis. It can be as simple as talking to somebody and being kind. We’d all be a lot better off if we just opened our hearts to others.
The gentleman made no mention of my half naked condition because on the trail just about anything out of the norm is the norm out here. He pushed on and I started getting ready to hit it. I pushed several more miles until I came upon a water cache. I plopped down there and stripped again and decided to wait for the others. They showed up about an hour later and apparently Redneck wasn’t feeling so hot. Wasn’t eating enough and needed more electrolytes. I decided to find a quicker route to Tyrone Road (as was our pickup point). I cross referenced my Garmin with the maps and my smart phone google maps. I found a two track called Coppermine Road that shave s couple miles off of our total. Could tell that Redneck needed it as well as Doc whose dog bite foot was swollen. Even NO2 looked like he was feeling it. It was a hot one in the sun today and it showed on these hikers faces. Decision made. We found our own route. That’s the spirit of this trail. Create your own adventure. Unlike the purist mentalities of the AT and PCT where it’s frowned upon to deviate from the official trail, this trail encourages finding your own route and adventure at times.
We hiked on as the sun began to set behind the mountain. Redneck was with me and the other two found themselves a ways behind us but still trudging along. Another 5 miles to go. We had to stop at one point because Redneck didn’t think he could make it any further. I gave him the last of my electrolyte mix and a honey stinger honey shot as well as a bite of the ProBar I was eating. He almost threw it all up. He was contemplating setting up his tent right there. I said no way devil dog. We are making it to the link up point and it would all be over soon.
We pushed on until dusk and made it. Feet barking. Brains swirling. Doc limping. Redneck exhausted. But we made It. We got back to Jim and Connie’s and feasted on everything. Then got in the hot tub. Life was good.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014 8:30PM
CDT Day 10 – 14 miles (approx)
Gonna make this simple. We road walked 14 miles. It sucked. Road walking sucks. There I said it. I hate it. I’d rather hike up the tallest, rockiest mountain than do any road waking. The feet hate that hard flat surface and the sun is baking it all day long. Luckily there was service so I was jamming out to myself the whole time. Air drums, air guitar, signing out loud, you name it, I was getting looked at by cars passing by for all of it. What do I care??
Later that day after getting cleaned up we made our way to a local steak house. Jim arranged to have some of his VFW and Legion buddies meet us out. About a dozen and a half salt dogs from Vietnam and a couple from World War II. When we walked in the door, those that could stood up and applauded us. Now I don’t know about you or anybody else in this situation but I felt I should have been clapping for them. These are the guys that paved the way for my freedoms. I merely followed their lead by joining the Marine Corps. It was slightly overwhelming but I just dove right in and broke the ice and started shaking hands and introducing myself around the tables. Once the dust settled a came back around and grabbed an open sear next to the first vet I could. Little did I know who I was sitting next to until later in conversation. This man was a living legend. Army 101st Airborne Division. This man jumped into Normandy on D – Day. Jumped with his sniper rifle. Lost it in mid air because the pilot of his plane was dodging tracer fire and he basically fell out losing his rifle. When he hit the deck he got on the first machine gun he could find and that’s how his combat action began. Recipient of 3 Purple Hearts and 3 Bronze Stars. Jumped 50+ times in WWII. And was at the Battle of the Bulge. What an honor to share time with this man. I could have listened to him talk for hours. And I wanted to. But when your 91 you have an earlier bed time than most. I told him he didn’t look a day older than 89. I’m a smart ass. But so was he. He had the best damn one liners I have ever heard. Dan McBride Jr., this world owes you a debt of gratitude that you will never ask for but that you deserve tenfold. It was a surreal honor to have shared that time with you.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014 10:04 PM
CDT Day 11 – Zero Day
Started this day with a coffee and donut hour at the local American Legion. Met a lot of new vets as well as the ones from the night before. I got to spend more time with Dan which was awesome. They offered and paid for year long memberships to the Legion which was a wonderful surprise and treat as well. Everybody was incredible and it was a joy to spend time with these Silver City vets.
Later on after running errands to so the post office and grocery store we prepared for our next event. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition was officially designating Silver City, New Mexico as the first Gateway Community and Trail Town of the CDT. Senators and Congressman (or their represtatives) attended and spoke as well as the mayor. Teresa (CDTC director) made a point to recognize Warrior Hike and Doc Rocket spoke on our behalf. He spoke well and it was an overall pretty awesome ceremony and we were honored to be a part of the history making. Not to mention we got a police escort cavalcade to the visitor center as well as the Legion Riders escorting us. Pretty awesome.
After kissing hands and shaking babies with the locals following the ceremony and having picture time for papers and what not, we went back to Jim’s where he was hosting a cocktail party and BBQ. A good turn out of vets and others. A food spread like no other as we are now accustomed to. Hit the hay fat and happy. Getting up early to pack and hike out tomorrow.