CDT Day 1: into the desert

Mexican Border to 1st Water Cache: 13.9 miles

We knew we wouldn’t need to set an alarm, but to be safe we set two to ensure we’d be ready for breakfast at six to catch the shuttle thirty minutes later to the US/Mexican border to begin the CDT. The coffee was the worst I’d had in awhile, and I set it aside as other hikers filtered in to the breakfast area. The nervous energy among hikers the first day is always palpable, but this morning it was broken-up a bit by CDT hikers who had already hiked the 80 odd miles from the border back up to Lordsburg. I excused myself to double check my bag, and soon after nine hikers were loaded into two pick-up trucks for the three hour drive to the border.

The stars were still out at six, but by seven the sun had risen and the landscape was bathed in pastel pinks and blues giving way to southwestern yellow and browns, dotted with cattle and mesquite as the shuttle drove towards the Animas Mountains. More than half the ride was on bumpy dirt roads, and by the time we arrived at the border I felt like I’d been through the wringer. The jostling kept my mind off my nerves, as did Garrett’s conversation with the other hikers in the truck. He has an uncanny ability to never be nervous. Whenever I tell him I am nervous, he always says “Why? There’s nothing to be nervous about.” and can generally give me a pep talk to bring me around to his point of view.

So we arrived at the border, snapped the prerequisite pictures, and headed off into the New Mexican desert. My packed seemed heavier than it should be, but I started to get used to the weight as we crossed over the shade free open plain. It was about eleven when we started out, and we decided to take a break despite the lack of shade a few hours later for lunch. Fortunately, there was a breeze and the heat was tolerable, but that didn’t stop us from taking advantage of the first spot of shade we saw a few miles later. We took a quick break, then at the next patch of shade decided we might as well take a bit of a longer break to eat gummy candy and drink more water. By this point we were five miles from the water cache maintained by the CDT at mile 14 of the trail, and were feeling good to get there by five.

We almost missed the cache, but quickly corrected our mistake and found the cache and Nemo, who’d also been on the shuttle. Shortly after Leopard and Rabbit came down the trail, and we all decided that it was an excellent time for dinner. Scree and Eric arrived as well, and it was a fun reunion to see that we all made it to the cache in relatively good spirits. Occasionally on our treks during the first few days there seems to be some competition amongst hikers; however, here it seems like everyone had left their egos at home.

We wanted to hike a few more miles after dinner, but Eric said he had accidentally hiked a few miles pass the cache and there wasn’t any open ground to set-up a tent; so we decided to stay put. We found a great spot for our tent, and settled in for the evening. For the first day, we held up well. My socks met a different fate, and developed two holes already, with a few more developing. I think I must have purchased a defective pair! Just after dark I stepped out of the tent, and I saw a tiny scorpion in the beam of my headlamp, which seemed like an appropriate start to our first night in the desert.