Day 4 – Decision Time

April 25, 3.0 miles / 45.6 total hiked

Gina’s thoughts:

We got up around 6:00 AM. I was still not feeling well. So weak, a little thirsty, and another round of vomiting before we left camp to head to the next water cache – 3 miles away. (I had thrown up overnight, as well.)

We slowly arrived at the water cache around 8:30 AM. We found a bush with a little shade near it, I unrolled my sleeping mat, then laid down. Keith disappeared for about 20 minutes, but came back with (great) news that he found a spot with cell phone reception, called the hotel we had stayed at the night before we started the hike, talked to “Radar” (an AWESOME trail angel!) and that he would be here in about 40 minutes. About 25 minutes later, we saw an SUV pull up and 2 guys got out. One guy was Scott (no trail name yet), but he was the guy that we gave water to on Day 1. He had been staying at the Hachita Community Center since Monday, recovering from dehydration/heat exhaustion. The other guy was Dion – who had rented out the center for 3 weeks this year to help out the CDT’ers. His son’s trail name is “Buddy Backpacker”. He is the youngest person ever, to do The Triple Crown (which is hike the AT, PCT, and the CDT). WOW!!! Incredible! Check it out at www.buddybackpacker.com

They drove us back to the center which was about 10 minutes away. Once again, I unrolled my mat and laid down on the floor. It was a very nice set up. A/C, restroom, kitchen, music playing in the background, and a big wide open space. It’s so great that Dion was there to help encourage hikers to NOT QUIT! That is so important. He is another example of the wonderful trail community that makes thru-hiking the CDT possible. We could not do it without their help! (Thanks, Dion!)

As I was resting, Radar and Peru (another AWESOME trail angel) showed up. She walked over to me and handed me a bottle with recovery electrolyte drink mixed in. OMG… that was the magic potion that turned me around. That bottle will be traveling with me to Canada. 🇨🇦 I can’t thank them enough. I rested for a few more hours before they stopped back to pick us up and headed to the hotel where they are also staying. Our reservation was for Thursday night, so we will arrive a day early, but that’s totally fine with me.

I am feeling better, but not 100%. Plus I have major heartburn, for some reason. I have NEVER felt like this in my life. Being born and raised in Ohio, coming out of the winter, and being dropped into this dry, harsh environment, was a complete shock to my body. I kind of expected it, but hindsight is 20/20.

Peak of the day: Meeting AWESOME trail angels. 😇😇😇

Valley of the day: Allowing my electrolytes, hydration level, and energy reserves to become so depleted that we had to get off trail… I have never felt like that before in my entire life.

Day 3 – Gina’s Struggles

April 24, 13.8 miles / 42.6 total hiked

The vicious cycle of Gina’s not eating and not hydrating gets worse.

Keith’s thoughts:

Started the day off with a nice and cool morning but by 9:30 Gina was getting dizzy, nauseous, and generally lacking any energy. She has probably eaten about 1500 calories total since we started which compounded her electrolyte deficiency. We were about 7 miles into a 20 mile stretch between caches so we took (yet another) unplanned break in the (miniscule) shade next to a runoff trench to see if she would get better.

With the promise of an actual shade producing tree at mile 36 (you have no idea how significant a small tree is out here), we decided to head there and wait the afternoon heat out and see how she was doing.

After another 3 hour break she was clearly not improving but I did get her to eat a little which helped get her another 7 miles. But an hour after sunset we were still 3 miles short of the water cache that was our goal.

Fortunately we had enough water to camp but the writing was on the wall that she would not get herself sorted out while trying to do 17 mile days to get to Lordsburg at mile 85 for our first planned break.

I’m pretty sure I avoided her issues by doing what my body needed vs wanted. That meant eating salt and olive oil loaded ramen and my various high calorie granola / carnation / protein powder concoctions plus drinking plenty of electrolytes even though I have not been very hungry due to the heat. I have actually been having the best “first few days” of any hike I remember.

When she is feeling better I may propose a rule 4 – listen to Keith, especially when what you are doing is not working out. I doubt that rule will get agreed to though. 😀

Peak of the day: Walking in the desert between 7 and 9 pm is magical… Totally different than during the day

Valley of the day: Realizing that plan A (hike to Lordsburg in 5 days) was not going to happen

Day 2 – Where Did Gina’s Appetite Go?

April 23, 15.7 miles / 28.8 total hiked:  My oh my – what have we gotten ourselves into?

Today I started to go downhill. I always lose my appetite on the trail, but forcing myself to eat a little something throughout the day is usually not a problem. This time, though, it was. Keith tried to force feed me cold stovetop stuffing, but each bite made me gag. I felt nauseous and could throw up any minute. He wasn’t sure how to read me because at home it does not take much for me to upchuck. Even a slight headache does that sometimes so it’s no big deal. Since I had no calories that I was taking in, I had no energy and was starting to feel very weak. It was a catch 22 – I need to drink electrolytes and eat, but when you get to the point where I was, doing those things would just make me want to throw up. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and rest, but that did not help my situation and I did not get better. Only a little bit worse each day. And with barely any shade around, finding a place to rest at was a big challenge.

Anyway, by around 5:00 PM, we made it to the second water cache. We were both very relieved, but especially Keith.

Giving the water cache a great big hug

Peak of the day:  Finding out that the hiker who was having issues the day before, made it safely to the water cache where we were camped. 

Valley of the day:  Feeling worse. Not having any fun. Wondering – “Why am I out here doing this??” 😪

Day 1 – The Start and 3 Rules

April 22, 13.9 miles / 13.9 total hiked

On the PCT we adopted a rule of “No Complaining” and it served us well. We are adding 2 more rules this year: 2) always be nice to each other, 3) always be having some type of fun.

Keith’s thoughts:

It costs $120 per person for the 4×4 drive to the border and 10 gallons of strategically placed water… And it is worth every penny once you travel the route.

The route degrades from interstate into 2 lane highway, to dirt road and finally into a rut and rock obstacle course. It took over three hours for the drive, two of those to cover the 28 mile off road portion. Kuddos to the wonderful shuttle drivers that brave that “road” not once but twice to drop us off!

Packs loaded and ready to go!  

8 of us started today, including Skeeter from Canada and MacGyver from the Czech Republic. We all have a goal of making it to Canada but none of us are exactly sure how this adventure will play out… But that is what makes it an adventure!

8 Starting today plus shuttle driver, Tanya

The hiking was good, if a bit warm, at least until late afternoon when Gina started to have some nausea. She often gets this on the first day so I did not think much of it even though she had ignored my recommendation to tank up on the ride to the border. We took a break while I watched a thunderstorm just south of us.

The terrain here is unlike anything we have hiked in before – a vast dead flat plain only interrupted by sharp and jagged mountains. The strategically placed sign posts and maps make it pretty easy to stay on track even though the trail quality ranges from good to none.

Although the temperature was only in the mid 80s, the intense sun and humidity in the teens makes you perspire without visible sweat – you just accumulate a layer of abrasive salt pretty much everywhere, including some places you don’t want to accumulate abrasive salt.

Replacing all that salt and liquid is a constant battle. Only 9 miles in we passed someone who was out of water and clearly struggling. We gave him a liter of water to help get to a cache 4 miles away and it took him another 4 hours to get to it. He would wind up getting a ride out the next day to recover for several days. This place is harsh and you have to respect it.

Peak of the day: Starting the hike!!!

Valley of the day: Seeing a fellow hiker struggling so soon into their adventure

T-Minus 12 Hours til Hike Time!!!

New appreciation for quiet nights out on the trail.

Gina’s thoughts of the day: Well, we were hoping to get some sleep last night, but we really didn’t. Keith called that one right. He was not surprised at all – especially when the hotel supplies ear plugs right in the room! The hotel also has a restaurant, bar, and dance club, so they put us on the other side farthest away from the activities. But they didn’t mention that right across the street from our room, was another restaurant with live music… all night… until 2:00 AM, outside. Oh well! It was Friday night and from the sounds of it, everyone (but us) had a great time it seems.

This morning we caught the 8:15 AM Amtrak train and met some fellow hikers. The train ride was so smooth and so quiet! I loved it. Looking out the window at the harsh, very dry environment that we will be hiking in tomorrow. But I am ready. Let’s do this!

Peak of the day: Very nice train ride where we met some nice CDT hikers who are also as nuts as we are.

Valley of the day: Realizing that without fuel (there is not one bottle in town to buy!), we will be eating cold dinners for the first 5 nights on trail. 😪

Keith’s thoughts for the day: The train ride provided a great opportunity to really get our heads into the game by passing through many miles of barren desert terrain and giving us a real idea of what we are in store for over the next couple of weeks.

The train stopped at a railroad crossing and literally dropped us off in the middle of the road. Only one more leg of the journey left before we actually start hiking.

Peak of the day: Getting out of civilization (Tucson) and into a trail town (Lordsburg).

Valley of the day: Not finding any stove fuel… Guess we are going stoveless for awhile.

T-Minus 36 hours

The flurry of preparation at home and work for the past 2 months is done, or at least as done as it is going to get before we start putting one foot in front of the other.

We have found that hike duration and prep time are inversely related so in general we spend little time planning the micro details (the accuracy of which is about like planning whether to take an umbrella on a walk 3 months in advance).

Instead we focus on having a rough resupply plan, where we have to send food boxes ahead, and knowing where to get / return snow gear.    That strategy worked well on the PCT.  Exception for this trip – I spent time looking at route options through Colorado to be ready for whatever late spring snow shenanigans mother nature pulls on us.  At this point the snow in the San Juan mountains is about 50% of normal, so I will probably regret not doing this for Wyoming and Montana given the near / at record breaking snow levels they have had this year.  Will do that when we get closer and see how the melt-out proceeds.

I am typing this at the Hotel Congress in Tucson (an interesting place… John Dillinger and his gang holed up here in 1934 one floor above our room shortly before they were caught).  These days it is a hotel/nightclub… and it is Friday night… and there are earplugs in the room… and I suspect it will be far from “trail grade” quiet tonight.  But it is all part of the journey to start the journey.

Tomorrow we will take a 3 hour train ride from Tucson to Lordsburg and on Sunday at 6:30AM take a 3 hour, 4×4 shuttle from Lordsburg to the Mexico border at the “Crazy Cook” monument.    At that point the real journey begins!

I remember the feeling of starting the PCT.  Looking to the north at nothing but scrubby desert and contemplating the seemingly impossible distance ahead of us (at that time our longest hike was only about 410 miles).  Encountering our first rattlesnake in a bush right next to the trail after only 10 minutes of hiking.  That was a real “what are we in store for?” moment.  About 6 days later we passed the first 100 mile marker and I thought “only 25 more of these to go, just take it in 100 mile chunks and we can do this”.

At some nebulous point the trail, the daily routine, the level of peace with truly living outside vs just visiting it all became our reality… and it was great.  Time slowed down, the sights and sounds of the natural world became our entertainment, we connected with each other at a new level, and we felt alive in a way that just does not seem to happen in the “real” world.

And that is why we are doing this again.

Peak of the day: Not having any travel issues

Valley of the day: Gina giving a $10 tip for a $15 Uber ride

Getting Closer to the Trail!!!

Today, could not have gone any smoother. (Actually, preparing for the *entire trip* could not have gone any smoother!)

First things first, though. We would like to say “thanks” to Kyle and Heather, for getting up even before the roosters 🐔, to drop us off at the airport. We truly appreciate it! We also want to thank ALL of our family, friends, and co-workers (who are our extended family), for their love, support, and understanding. Going away (once again) for another 6 months to hike the CDT, we could not do this without you covering for us and having our backs. Everyone has a very special place in our hearts. 😘❤

Flying Southwest was awesome. Our box of food, along with a few other supplies in there, arrived safely at baggage claim. Whew!) Our Uber ride with Jose was wonderful. (I was scolded by you-know-who for over-tipping him, but oh well. It was worth it.)

Spreadsheet NOT creating a spreadsheet 😉

We arrived at the (haunted) 👻 Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson, AZ a little before noon, but check-in was not until 3:00 PM. The young gal offered to watch our bags while we went out for lunch. But after 5 minutes, she gave us back our bags along with the room key. Yay! This hotel is very old – like 100 years old. Layers and layers of paint on the walls. Antique furniture. We love it. Very southwest theme. Cacti 🌵 everywhere outside. So different from back in Ohio.

Today has been very long, but successful, but it’s not over yet! It is not even 4:00 PM but TIME has begun to shift and change. We are starting to “live in the moment”. Not worrying about yesterday or the past, but not worrying about tomorrow, either. Heck! Not worrying at all about ANYTHING feels really good. And being here with my very best friend for life is like icing on the cake. I am in my Happy Place. Of course, I do truly miss everyone, but this is a season in our lives and it is temporary. “All good things must come to an end”, so they say, but our journey has only just begun. It will be Christmas every, single day for the next 6 months. What presents and gifts will we have to open?? We shall see. Not knowing is part of the mystery and surprise. I can’t wait! 😎😎🏕

Peak of the day:  Being with my best friend and everything going so incredibly smooth.

Valley of the day:  Already missing EVERYONE, it aches. 😪

Planning the hike

We’re getting ready to go!  It has been over a year since we have wanted to take this hike, but we were not sure if life and all the things that get in the way, would let us.  I even added a countdown on my whiteboard at work (it was teeny tiny in the lower right hand corner) that counted down the days until April 22, 2018.  I can remember when it said, “384 days” or “216 days”… As of today, April 17, it now says “5 days” until our journey begins.

Can you believe it?  Is this really happening??
Are we really going to do this??

Wow!  Time sure does fly!  Especially when you’re having fun. 🙂

 

Continental Divide Trail 2018

In 2016, Spreadsheet and I (Mulch), made a life goal for ourselves and that was to hike the “Pacific Crest Trail” (PCT) which begins at the California/Mexican border and ends at the Washington/Canadian border.  The trail goes through three states:  California, Oregon, and Washington.  It is 2,650 miles long.  It was such an incredible experience that we are going to go DO IT AGAIN!  But this time, this year (2018), we will thru-hike the “Continental Divide Trail” (CDT).

What is the “Continental Divide Trail”??

The (unofficial) trail  motto is “Embrace the Brutality.”  This trail is a little bit longer (3,100 miles), but has many alternates which if taken, make it shorter in length.  We plan to hike around 2900+ miles.  It also goes from Mexico to Canada, but through these five states:  New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.  In the United States, the CDT, PCT, and the AT (Appalachian Trail) form what thru-hikers have termed “The Triple Crown” of long-distance hiking.  Hmmm… That might end up being another life goal of ours. 😉

Learn more about the CDT