Updates

I completed my thru hike of the Arizona Trail on May 23rd and spent the past 5 weeks exploring National Parks. Read about the AZT, AT, PCT, and CDT athikingislove.wordpress.com

Everything is organized nicely and easier to find sections of the trail. Enjoy! Also you can ready about the Pacific Northwest Trail that I start soon.

The past month has been spent exploring our National Parks. I have seen so many beautiful, unique, and historical sites in such a short stretch of time. We spent many days driving around national parks taking in the scenic overlooks then doing a few miles. On some days we choose just to hike doing 8-14 a day with a daypack. It was an easy life as we went back to our van with a mattress and other camping luxuries.
Van life still is not as fine tuned as my hiking lifestyle. I loose things all the time in the van. There is never a good place to put a dirty dish pot and we always have too much trash. It is easy to fill up gallons of water at the parks then filtering. We also had the task of finding a campsite each night. Some nights the site would be clear and the evening was easy. Other times you drive farther and farther down a road to find no campsites. 
We could lounge in zero gravity chairs and drink cold beers in the afternoon. Then when the bugs got bad it was inside the van to play cards, read, or play on the phone. I have loved the freedom of having a car again. But the long lines at the parks, expensive gas prices, dozens of people on some of the hikes, and constant uncertainty of where you will be sleeping each night had us both craving a thru hike. But van life is a special and rewarding way to live. The only item we bought to live this lifestyle was a folding metal frame. We saved $100s of dollars on hotels while also spending a lot of gas. Thru hiking will be nicer to the budget. 
Soon we will be beginning the Pacific Northwest Trail. Hiking from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean for 1,200 miles. I am eager to be back in the mountains for days on end. I am thrilled to hike in Washington state again! I loved it in 2015 on the PCT and doubt my opinion of it can change for the worse. I love the idea of walking along the Ocean for 40 plus miles. This trail is going to be difficult going East to West traversing many mountain ranges. It will take 10 or so weeks to complete. I have personal goals as always for each hike and look forward to new revelations. Mostly, I am eager for new views, exploring small towns, and meeting others that share the join. Happy Trails!

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Thru. Pack

Review of my Thru. Pack
I never used a fanny pack during my first three thru hikes as I completed the triple crown. I stored things in my side pockets of my Osprey pack. My IPhone would not fully fit in the pocket so it would stick out a bit usually falling out every time I took off my pack. I stored my important documents, cash, credit cards, and such in the top of my backpack and would need to remove it every time I went into town. I would keep my sunscreen and snacks inside of my pack having to take my pack off to reach these items. 
I did not know any difference and got used to these inconveniences. This year on the Arizona Trail I am using a Thru. Pack. The creator of this pack is a fellow thru hiker that I met on the Pacific Crest Trail. He has designed a few different models of his packs and they make my life so much easier. I am currently using The Daydreamer model and one of the comfy straps. I can store my cell phone, GoPro, 3 oz sunscreen, snacks, wallet, lighter that is attached to a retracting cable so it never gets lost, snacks for the day, and still a bit of spare room. When I am in town, it is so easy to just strap on my Thru. pack or sling it across my shoulder and wander around town. My Thru. pack has changed the way I hike and organize my pack. I highly recommend checking out his website. You will be supporting a fellow thru hiker and small business owner. The pack is perfect for thru hiking, day hiking, sightseeing, or just wearing around town. 

https://www.thrupack.com



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Day 124 22.9 miles

Kid Gore Shelter to Spruce Peak Shelter (1,644.4 miles)
Woke up to the sunrise and a view that was cloud covered last night. Stunning!! I was able to drift back to sleep easily every once in a while smiling at the sunrise. Chatted with the three fellows that slept above me. They are all originally from MA but have moved. The father and two sons dedicate a week a year to hiking together. Wonderful family! The fourth guy at the shelter is considered the peeping Tom of the trail as he enjoys harassing women. Great! My new hiking bubble includes this fool. I got an early start and was off in beautiful Vermont puddle jumping. Mission today to do some big miles and get away from the creep especially since no other thru hikers were around. Pleasant hiking in the morning as I kept telling myself I’m in Vermont not Michigan even though everywhere I looked reminded me of the UP. I came to a gravel road to see Heike drying out her tent. We began the climb up Stratton together as I then left her behind climbing quickly. I was thrilled to get to top of Stratton mountain and see no one. I climbed up the old observation tower as the wind was whipping me around. The tower swayed in the window as dark clouds lingered overhead, but the 360 views were again stunning. I could see for miles as I took lots of videos and pictures. I could hear people down below, but stayed on the tower for over thirty minutes just trying to grasp how far I have come. I climbed down to talk to Heike then moved on since I got chilled. Stratton Moutain is the summit where Benton MacKaye decided to propose the creation of the AT. I can see why and am so thankful his dream came true! Nice climb downhill as I began to warm up a bit having no winter gear to wear I had to just keep moving along. Past many streams and a spot where a pond was flooded. A new path marked the reroute. I came to a gravel road that again reminded me of a familiar place. Walked at least a half a mile down the path as the wind was whipping I let my hair down. Feeling of freedom over took me as I cruised along smiling and feeling prouder than ever. The trail does wonderful things to the human spirit and I can only imagine how I will feel in Maine. I checked out the view at Prospect Rock trying to decide to call it for the night there or keep going. Since cars could drive on that road and I was alone I decided to keep going even though my heels were raw and my shoes were falling apart. Two miles later I could hear a ton of people at the shelter. Excited to be with thru hikers again I rushed down the side trail to Spruce Peak Shelter to find a group of college students overtaking the site while playing games around the fire. There were four male Southbounders that I enjoyed talking to and sharing advice. Shame that I will never see any of them again as I set up my tent away from everyone. This shelter is one of my favorites even though I didn’t stay inside. It has a sliding wood door and a wood burning stove inside. I would love to spend a night here in the fall. Anyone in? Only 2.6 miles of easy walking from a parking lot. I settled into my tent as the young kids enjoyed themselves. Oh to be a college freshman again! ❤️Sas

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Day 48 19.7 miles

Hurricane Mountain Shelter to Partnership Shelter (531.1 miles)
Since I slept in the shelter, I was able to quickly pack and be on the trail by 7. The morning start was an easy downhill that made me happy. I stopped to rest and Paperweight caught up to enjoy the upcoming climb with me. I am proud of myself since I can easily keep up with him now compared to when we first met back on day 10. We made it to Trimpi Shelter where we met KBar who is 31 from Maine. Jonathon a Virginia ridge runner showed up at the shelter. He plans to retire this year so he can go hiking. His job today included picking up trash with rubber gloves, hanging bear warning signs, getting an older man to collect duff for the privy, and chatting with us hikers. We then headed out to a site with a chest that was empty of food and drunks, but there were qtips. KBar, Paperweight, and I went to town cleaning our ears out. It felt wonderful. Mom please send qtips. We then hiked together most of the day taking breaks on top of mountains and getting to know each other.
We made it to Partnership Shelter well before dark around 5. The goal was to be there early to enjoy the free shower, use a sink, trash can, and be able to order pizza delivery to the gate at the visitor center. I let the guys shower first, but loved my long shower as I washed away days of dirt and cleaned out my cuts. We ordered a large deluxe pizza with everything on it, breadsticks, and 2 liter CocaCola. Once the food arrived we enjoyed it and some buffalo wings from a hiker as well. I decided to sleep upstairs, which included the scariest ladder climb of my life with my 30 plus pound pack on up at least 10 steps straight up. There were a bunch of people at the shelter including Mad Max with kitty, Luke, Josh.0, Remedy, Hot Spitz, Caveman, drunk German man we called Confused but his name is Danny with his huge dog named Balhu, a family with two daughters, two German women hikers, and a few others. The night was wild and included a huge bonfire and laughter. KBar let me lie in his hammock which was amazing to relax in, but I’m still unsure how much I would like it instead of a tent. It was a late night as I climbed upstairs with my headlamp on laughing about everything that happened. Great memories! ❤️Sas

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Day 85 8.2 miles

Keys Gap to campsite on Potomac River (1,021.5 miles)
Woke up to a trashed hotel room and a mini headache. Ate a lot of breakfast and drank tons of juice as we all mopped around knowing no hotel stay and crabs tonight since Eddie was flying home. I enjoyed a nice morning shower as we struggled to get out by 11. Around 11:30, we were in the car and off on the thirty minute ride back to the parking lot where we left off. Forever grateful for the trail magic the last few days and I will hold those memories close to me forever. I look forward to visiting them both in California someday. As we walked off into the woods, we were all moving slow and sweating out the booze from last night. The hiking was easy and many major milestones awaited us. We found the VA – WV border again to take more pictures. Then it was a walk under US 340 then up to walk on the road along the highway. The walk was on a sidewalk on a bridge over the Shenandoah River. The cars were backed up being a holiday weekend. We smiled as we were moving faster than the cars stuck on the bridge as people were swimming in the river. A man yelled out of his window at us asking if we started in Georgia as we yelled back yes. He yelled congrats! We then climbed back up off of the road into the woods on the way to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We made it to the side trail to climb up many granite steps then walk through a campus toward the Conservancy. Drenched in sweat we had our pictures taken in front as all thru hikers do. I am thru hiker 1,104 to make it to the halfway point. I picked up my mail drop, drank three sodas, looked through the book of other thru hikers, and enjoyed some exhibits. Very proud to have made it this far! Lots of the hikers ahead of us have skipped big sections so I feel great about my process. We then headed back to the trail towards the town. There were lots of tourists being a holiday weekend and we enjoyed the quaint town. I look forward to visiting again someday. We walked into the town taking lots of pictures and in search of the outfitter, food, and ice cream. The three most important parts of hiking the trail. We succeeded in doing all three while enjoying the company of each other. Around 8, we decided to get out of town. You walk over the Byron Memorial Footbridge out of WV and into MD. We sang John Denver’s Take me Home, West Virginia one more time as the three of us were able to walk side by side on the C&O Canal in Maryland. We decided to take the risk and camp along the Potomac River even though our books said it wasn’t allowed. We found a beautiful spot right by the river that allowed us to be blocked from people passing along the trail. Set up my broken tent in a strange way hoping it would stay up all night. We all climbed in and continued to sweat through the night with full stomachs as a sense of true accomplishment. 💜Sas

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Day 84 14.2 miles

Bear Den parking lot to Keys Gap parking lot (1,013.3 miles)

posted July 10, 2014

We all woke up a bit hungover as we enjoyed a huge continental breakfast. It took us a while to get things together to go back to the trail. Eddie’s plan was to drop us off then pick us up down the trail for another hotel night of food and fun. We finally got to the trail by noon to come across many day hikers enjoying the holiday weekend. Felt nice passing them with ease as they carried nothing on their back. Also, we came across trail magic of cold coca colas within the first mile. It was then a mission to find the 1,000 mile mark. I was looking everywhere excited for a nice marker. We found it to be written with a sharpie on a white blaze. Woo! Another proud moment that made me smile for hours even though I’m always smiling. Next mission was finding the border into West Virginia. We finished the Roller Coaster and found the border where we listened to John Denver’s Take me home country road as we sang along. Ate some snacks and lots of water singing and laughing. The hike was enjoyable even though it was warm. We walked quickly, but loved each moment. We walked across a long wooden boardwalk that was labeled as an unreliable water source to find not a drip of water by it. Just a boardwalk through the woods. Took a few breaks to rest. At one of the shelters, there was a beautiful memorial bench that I had to swing on like usual. The shelters have been beautiful lately with porches and well built each different. We found our way to the parking lot where Eddie would pick us up. It was half in WV and other half in VA. He was there about ten minutes after us and we all relaxed into the nice seats with the air on. He told us we were off to get more blue crabs, sausage, hamburg, and pulled pork. I enjoyed the back roads of Virginia and sitting in the car smiling at people eating crabs at the restaurant. We didn’t get back to the hotel until a bit before 8 to find lots more liquor, beers, a whole chicken for me since I said I didn’t really enjoy the other meats, and presents. I got ointment for a rash and Paperweight got blister bandaids for his feet. It was then a feast I will never forget. We ate in our stinky clothes as we took shots of liquor laughing at crab flying around. Spent well over two hours at the table enjoying stories and delicious food. The night was wild and reminded me of college parties, but with good quality beer and liquor and real food. Awesome way to celebrate over 1,000 miles on the trail. 💙Sas

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Day 57 18.7 miles

June 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm

Campsite to Wind Rock (658.4 miles) As I was about to leave the site, I heard someone yelling “Sas” in a Boston accent. I was thrilled to see John since it had been so long and I thought he was far ahead of me. Then I was greeted by Sparky who had got behind me. On the trail, you never know where anyone is unless you are sending text messages. The morning hike appeared to be flat on the elevation, but the rocks make it a bit tricky and slow going. Overall, Virginia has not been as flat as people described it, but the climbs have nice switchbacks which is appreciated. The rocks vary from the size of a pebble to size of a car. I enjoyed the hike catching up with John, Mike, Natalie, and Sparky. We all stopped at Pine Swamp Branch Shelter to eat lunch. John gave me a juicy apple and Sparky gave me a great apple pie. Everyone enjoyed each other’s company and Ginko joined us as well. The next part of the day was off to visit the Captains. I had been reading about it in my book for days excited to see what the zip line was all about. Paperweight and I walked toward the Captains together while reading signs along the way saying- Almost There, Not Yet, Getting Closer. We finally found the sign saying this way to the Captains. We climbed down a steep slope toward the creek to find a seated zip line waiting for us. We left our bags on the one side and got a running start to zip across about half way. A kind man on the other side pulled me the rest of the way across. So much fun! The Captains is a man’s home that allows hikers to stay for free on his lawn, use his wifi, charge phones, and drink free sodas and beers from the fridge on the porch. Sparky, Ginko, Paperweight, and I enjoyed a cold soda and beer on his nicely cut grass while checking our emails and Facebook. What a nice treat and kind person who lets hikers onto his property. If you are an AT hiker this is a must stop… Probably should have spent the night. Time to head back, but this time everyone for themselves to get across. I took a running jump that allowed me to almost glide to the other side, but I still had to pull myself the rest of the way across. The next uphill was the hardest of the day and the drinks did little to help me. Finally, we made it to the shelter to stop for snacks and privy breaks for the boys. We decided to hike another four miles to a campsite. We were disappointed to find it to be all rocks so we couldn’t go too fast. All the springs have been dry lately so we were on a water mission as well. We found a slow stream that took ten minutes to fill up less than a liter. We finally made it to Wind Rock and set up camp. It was a nice night and we all enjoyed each other’s company. I headed up to check out the sunset a bit late as clouds were rolling in. It didn’t matter to me because the views made me smile. I need some more zip lines in my life doubtful to see any more on the AT. 🌲Sas

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Grants to Cuba, NM

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This site includes pictures !! 

Day 30I drank three small plastic cups of OJ, one bagel with cream cheese, and 3 mini muffins from the free continental breakfast before the three of us went across the parking lot to Denny’s. I then devoured two French toast, hash browns, bacon, and two eggs. Hiker hunger! Hob sat across from us eating breakfast then getting back to the trail quicker than us like usual. We checked out and attempted to hitch the three miles of paved road to the post office. No luck so a long walk into town with full packs of food. I had to pee so bad, but there was no place to go for almost the entire 3 miles. We came to a city park with porta potties! Yes! I then went for a quick swing and maybe even slid down the slide once! Soon to be 30 years old and I still love a good park. We finished our walk to the post office as they mailed boxes ahead to Ghost Ranch. Then we had to walk back to the road where the trail heads out of town. Deja Vu! Luckily, we passed another park with a water fountain where we each drank a liter and filled up. We had planned on buying a liter each at the grocery store on the way out, but free water is even better. We met the high school woodworking teacher who asked for our picture for the newspaper. Nice guy! We then began another road walk past little shops and such leading out of town. 3 young girls in a car from New York stopped asking what we were up to. I think we blew their minds! They were driving up to Mt Taylor today on a road trip it appeared. We then stopped for a quick ice cream sandwich break at a gas station then moved along. The last store on our map was the grocery store where someone wanted to buy some whiskey. They told us to go down the road 100 yards, which turned out to be much longer. Success! Plenty of food, water, and a little whiskey! Back to the trail, which was along a paved road for miles. We passed two signs saying not to pick up hitch hikers. Then came the state prison where one guy asked Nightwatch if we had any drugs from behind the barbed wire fence. Never walked past a prison before on trail or actually ever. Cars zipped by as Mt Taylor stared at us in the distance. Lots of trash, bullet shells, and glass to avoid. We made it to the trailhead parking lot around 2 with 8 ish miles of road complete! We hid under a tree to find a dead coyote behind it when we went to pee. Reminds me that you never know what is lurking nearby. I threw away my trash in the cans at the trailhead then began hiking a trail for the first time today around 3pm. The trail winded up a mesa for a few miles before flattening out and giving stunning views looking down at Grants. My pack is heavy and I was moving slowly. I hate getting a late start, but that’s typical on a day out of town. I walked alone the first few miles before joining the boys for a bit. They flew along with their lighter packs. As the day drew on, we got to the point where we began the uphill climb off of the CDT towards Mt. Taylor which is the tallest peak we pass in New Mexico. Yes! Paperweight and I hiked together getting confused at a few points with so many different trails in various directions. Exhausted we continued uphill until we found the spring past 8:15 as it was getting dark. We camped above 9,000 feet and I felt the elevation as I was slow doing everything and not feeling hungry. Similar to how I felt in the High Sierra of California last year. I knew better so I forced down a meal before sleeping soundly in my tent. 
Day 31

The three of us were all in our tents as Hob arrived this morning at the spring. He may of even sang me a little wake up song. We slowly got going since it was chilly. We began an uphill climb slow and steady! It was steep for a while as we looked up toward Mt. Taylor at 11,301 feet. We could see small patches of snow as we curved around the mountain to see nice long switchbacks up towards the peak. Hob and Chocolate Chipmunk were ahead of us at least one switchback. It got chilly and windy so I added my rain jacket. Feels good to be hiking to the peak of a mountain again. Mt. Whitney was my last peak and wasn’t on trail just like Mt Taylor isn’t on trail. I struggled a bit, but going slow and steady (how I was named SAS) I made it. Mt Taylor is a volcano and behind the sign is a 6 foot whole where it had erupted so yes it used to be even taller. First volcano climb ever! The views were clear and I could see for miles. Hob pointed out the El Malpais in the distance as we could recognize the trail we had just walked even saw Pie Town in the distance. The five of us walked down a little bit to an open warmer spot where Hob shared his thin mint cookies. Me and the boys also had a quick whiskey swig on top of the mountain. We all snacked and chatted for a bit before heading down on the first patches of snow. I slid a few times using my poles to keep myself upright. It was fun and a bit nerve wracking as expected. We then came to an open area where we joined a dirt road that switch backed up to a lookout. Slow and steady we made it. Paperweight and I dropped out packs and climbed towards the lookout which also isn’t on trail. La Mosca is at 11,036 feet meaning two 11,000 feet mountains conquered today. We talked to the man at the lookout who told us there was a fire way out in the distance. He was chilly wishing they would open up the lookout soon, but it takes four strong men to open it up. He patrols three lookouts and I thanked him for his service. We took some quick picks then headed down to a lower elevation quickly warming up. The next section followed a road over some snow patches as we cruised along. No more big climbs ahead! Took a few breaks with the crew of five before getting back on a really muddy road. I was listening to a podcast when I suddenly looked back and saw something strange. A woman was driving a blue Pontiac Grand Prix with the trunk open with a lawn chair sticking out. It seemed so strange to me since the road had two deep tire marks in the mud. The bottom of the car was scrapping the ground and the seat was bouncing around. I got off the trail and was still moving faster then her car. She said hello out her window as I noticed a cane and a dog resting in the back seat. A few yards down the trail I heard what I expected to hear. The sound of her tires stuck in the mud as she continued to gun it getting more stuck. I let the boys catch up to me as we all evaluated her situation! I knew we wouldn’t be able to get her out, but we spent almost an hour attempting to help. Paperweight tried to rock the car as Nightwatch and I tried digging and wedging rocks and sticks behind the tire. She really didn’t seem to worried as she said AAA would get her out if we could just call for her when we got to or car. She did not understand thru hiking. She offered us money for our time as we said not to worry. We continued on the road for 15 minutes worrying about her and wondering when she would ever get. After passing a cattle guard, the road was more rocky and she would of easily made it. So close! We considered ways to get her help and spent 30 minutes on the road hoping a car would drive by! No luck. She got herself in a pretty bad situation! The three of us turned back on the CDT on a trail completing the Mt Taylor alternate. We walked another hour or so until we got back on a gravel road. We saw Chocolate Chipmunk wandering around where the water tank should be based on our maps and apps. She had spent over 30 minutes looking even using her binoculars. All of us were almost out of water so we continued thinking another 9 miles or so to the next source. Luckily, the water report was .6 miles off and we found the yucky tire water that would clog all of our filters! Paperweight took out his whiskey as we relaxed after a long day. A day of two 11,000 footers and a woman driver stuck in the mud. Funny day!
Day 32

Our tents were covered in condensation and getting started was tough like usual. We noticed the sediment at the bottom of our bottles understanding how our filters slowed down so quickly. Around 8:10, we wandered back to the dirt road for most of the day. Suddenly, a truck drove by and we waved him down telling him about the lady stuck in the mud. He had already talked to Nightwatch and said he would call her father once he got to town. Relief! He gave us one bottle of water to share as well. Thank you. He continued along going slowly on the road. I spent most of my time trying to find the flattest part of the trail while chatting with paperweight. Large wide open fields on both sides and mountains behind us, to the side of us, and ahead of us. Beautiful scenery and the breeze made the walking bearable as well. We stopped at a muddy pond as I decided to go down and get water in the rock canyon. It was a silly and stupid idea and I spent over 20 minutes finding a safe way down then getting stuck in the mud grabbed nasty green water. I really didn’t need any, but I like being extra hydrated. I managed to twist my knee and ankle which bothered me for a few miles. The three of us took a long break under a shady tree feasting away. We met two new hikers that started May 3rd and they were wondering when we started. 11 days before them! There are many different ways to complete a thru hike and I have found my favorite method. It is important to take zero days and explore the towns along the way. I’m in no rush! We will likely never see them again. Farewell! We made it to the water source which is half a mile off trail one way. Since I was hurting, Paperweight offered to go get my water for me. They were gone for 50 minutes and described the hike down into the canyon the best part of the day. I probably would of loved it, but I had some alone time to type my blog and rest. We continued on for another two hours before calling it a night in the trees. Lots of birds soaring overhead and a relaxed evening with good company as usual.
Day 33

I feel like I’m in a National Geographic special! The morning started off walking along a mesa on a road. After a few miles, we found ourselves at the edge of the mesa looking down over miles of desert. We took a few extra steps to look over the edge before continuing along on the trail. We came to the downhill which is a mix of steep downhill and switchbacks where only managed to fall face forward once. We dipped about 2000 feet to the bottom. The views were spectacular and even included watching two giant lizards fight with each other. All the flowers are in bloom and the smell of sage was everywhere. I slipped falling face forward catching myself with my hands only cutting up one knee. Ouch! The trail led back to a road where we took a side trip out to a water source that tasted like crap. We found a spot under the tree to hide in the shade while staring at toilet paper mixed in with cow shit. So the cows have learned how to use toilet paper or some hiker ahead doesn’t know how to pack it out. LNT! We enjoyed a nice 40 minute break before wandering back to the trail in the hot sun. I got my umbrella, but the wind kicked up and the clouds gave us some much needed shade. We cruised for miles as I listened to a few podcasts and he jammed to his music. We hiked together on and off taking a small break in the shade admiring the cows. The last bit of hiking was so exhausting of just little ups then downs along the gorgeous terrain. We were pooped and managed to lose the trail along the dirt road. We missed a right hand turn and ended up bushwhacking towards the trail downhill. A few of our options included a jump off the edge so we looked closely and found a safe route! Exhausted, thirsty, and ready to camp we came across a water cache from the Mumm family. Thank you so very much. I needed a drink badly. As I went to fill my last bottle, I did not duck enough to fill the water chained to the tree. I jabbed my head so badly into a branch it bleed a tiny bit into my hat. It hurt so bad that I cried! Ouch! No more injuries please! We walked .2 down the trail and away from the road setting up camp around 8. We hiked 23ish miles, but it felt like 30. My head ached, my knee throbbed, and my body craved rest. As the sunset, we said goodnight giving each other a much needed hug to top of a stunning day of views. To dreamland we went!
Day 34

At 5:30 am, the alarm clock buzzed. Paperweight and I got up to watch the sunrise over the mesa. Wonderful way to start off the day we moved along to the next water source which was little under a mile away where we ran into Nightwatch. We filtered and caught up on our experiences from yesterday. The three of us set off together wandering up and down toward new mesas. We walked up them down them and best of all on top of them. I love walking right along the edge peering down carefully. We cruised along busting out the miles before taking a long snack break admiring the beauty all around us. A few more hours of walking in Mesa land before our next stop. At times, you are walking on sand, huge rock formations, dirt, tiny rock bits, and other times you just hope you are on trail. We took a long break at a nice water source in a canyon. Hiding in the shade we hydrated, jammed out to music, and aired out our feet. I love this life! We got moving along slowly through the land of fragrant sage admiring a huge mesa standing before us. As expected, we slowly made our way to it before beginning a steep uphill. The trail had rebar to hold some of the rocks in place and really impressed me. Thank you to the trail maintainers and whoever designed this section! Impressive. It was a tough climb, but the view from the top followed by a nice leisurely walk atop the Mesa made a splendid way to end the day. We wandered for a few more miles before finding a sheltered spot off the trail. It spit rain a few times but we all managed to set up, eat dinner outside, and relax as the sunset. Another enchanting day in New Mexico.
Day 35

At 5:25 am, the alarm clock buzzed as I heard the boys already packing up. We camped to the left of the edge of a large mesa and wanted to hike into the sunrise. We were all on trail by 6:00 cruising toward the town of Cuba. Early mornings and late evenings are magical hours on trail. We wandered down off of the mesa towards the paved road as the sun rose. The morning miles went quickly and before we knew it we were staring at the paved road. We were exactly 9.3 miles to the hotel room from our campsite. Again, I notice the smell of town more and more every road walk and it disgusts me. It’s a common occurrence of burnt oil, tires, and gas followed up by garage littering the side of the road. It makes me appreciate the smell of nature and the beauty surrounding these roads and towns. We checked in the hotel and did the usual hiker thing. We went to McDonalds. No need to shower or anything just feasting. Lots of trays later we did the shower thing and began relaxing. I spent two wonderful hours with Hob talking about trail life, the change in hikers over the years including the disrespect along the trail, and our lives. It was a magical discussion that helped reassure me that I’m exactly where I should be and need to be. His words meant the world to me and I admire him as a father figure and wonderful friend. My three favorite men and I enjoyed a delicious meal at the Del Prado Restaurant next door. The evening was mellow as any town day should be. 
Day 36

Another zero day making it a zero in every trail town so far. Do I physically need a zero? Nope! Do I enjoy zeros? Of course! Is there too much snow in Colorado? Absolutely! Do I need an excuse to zero. Never! The three of us got our laundry done after a delicious breakfast at the Del Prado Restaurant. The day was easy followed up by a quick resupply at the grocery store then lounging in the hotel room for hours. We choose the same restaurant for dinner all ordering green chili cheese burgers. Not the best ones on trail, but they hit the spot. To bed early dreaming of the snow melting in Colorado.

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Doc Campbells towards Reserve

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Day 14
New Mexico is certainly the land of enchantment ! I woke up packed my things and before 7 was soaking in a hot pool with Paperweight and Nightwatch. Remember thru hiking isn’t only about the hiking! I am exploring the country and enjoying the perks along the way. Soaking in 105 degree water was relaxing and a wonderful way to start the day. After a nice hour of soaking, we all enjoyed breakfast together at a picnic table with the Beast as well. A group of men who are out for a few days offered us fruit and to pack out our trash which was greatly appreciated. We had planned on getting an early start, but choose to hang around until Doc Campbells opened again. So a little after 10 we were eating ice cream and drinking soda at the picnic table in front of the store. I met the first woman hiking part of the CDT this year named Hippie Long Stocking. Besides the other woman I met day one I have yet to find many ladies out here. It was a peaceful morning full of good company! We also ran into a man hiking the Grand Enchantment Trail. Sounds really lonely out there and lots of bushwhacking. A bit before noon we finally left Docs and continued walking on the road towards the Gila Cliff Dwellings. I’m really getting used to road walking and don’t mind it all. The scenery out here is unbelievable and I am falling more in love with New Mexico each day. The four of us checked out the visitor center before continuing back down a paved road toward the Dwellings. Hiking the Gila and going to the dwellings is not part of the official CDT. I learned very quickly this is a pick your adventure type of trail. My goal is simply continuous footsteps to Canada since staying on the actual CDT is not important to me as it was on my past two hikes. We could of took the official route along the Black Range Mountains, but you miss the dwellings and the Gila. The Gila Cliff Dwellings is a magical place that is difficult to put into words. I felt like I did not belong there glimpsing into a mysterious world from 700 years ago. I envisioned the ceremonies that occurred and what it would be like to grow up there. How simple a life they lived and in such a beautiful place. They build their home in the rocks and lived out of the elements with stunning views. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it! Best $5 I have spent so far on trail. I took my time letting the guys leave first and taking in the moment slowly hiking down from the dwellings. I could of stayed forever and will likely return someday. The crazy part is my day only got better from there. We choose to take the Bear Creek Canyon route and it did not disappoint. The sun was hot this afternoon and my pack has 7 maybe 8 days worth of food in it. Heaviest it has been in a long time. We took it easy pushing along taking a nice half an hour break staring at various rock formations. My pictures will do no justice unfortunately. The trail dips down into a slot canyon. I have never done anything like this before. A stream runs through the canyon into the Gila River. I felt like I was in another world far away from civilization even though we were a little over 4 miles from the road. There were small caves in the rocks and tall rocks formations of various shapes all around. A very humbling moment of feeling blessed to experience such a gorgeous place. Nightwatch, the Beast, Paperweight and I all camped together before crossing the Gila again. So dry shoes all day! The campsite was huge and the best part was sitting by the river staring up at the rocks for two hours eating dinner and chatting. Listening to the birds sing as the sun set along the Gila. We may not have done over 12 miles, but our day was full. As we all headed back to to our tents at least two dozen bats were zipping around our tents and heads. Another surreal moment that I have never experienced before. They were feasting on bugs and too quick to take any photos. Today will be one of those days I talk about for years to come. I love my life and exploring our country on foot. There is nothing more I could ever ask for. As I lie in my tent, it is drizzling, thundering, and lightning for the first time on trail and I am at peace with Mother Nature. I’m one lucky girl eager to see what awaits, but I am in no rush. 
Day 15

Today was physically exhausting and we only covered 13.1 miles. Paperweight takes too long to pack up compared to me so the bonus was I got to enjoy our awesome view while blogging this morning next to the Gila River. We got on trail around 8:15 and splashed into the river within twenty seconds. We would cross the Gila 96 times today! The trail is difficult to find at times and often you are just bushwhacking around hoping to see a cairn or a well traveled trail. The crossing are very rocky and I have no idea how anyone could hike this section without two hiking piles. Most of the time was spent moving slowly over rocks or at a crawling pace in soft sand. Also, the extra water weight in the shoes makes each step a bit harder. Sand, pebbles, mud and such seep their way in too. I do love my Solomon trail runners since they dry quickly. 3 miles into the day we made it to the Jordan Hot Spring. It is around 98 degrees we were told in town. The Beast and Nightwatch were already soaking so we joined them. Maybe the two hours spent there have something to do with the lower miles. This is likely the last hot spring directly on trail so why not soak for a while. We met two women and man out for a few days enjoying the hot spring as well and had great conversation. It was after 11 before we got moving again at a snails pace. I came out of one of the crossing and heard something slithering. It was a coral snake which I’m told is very poisonous. Scary looking guy. We also saw the largest centipede along the way too. This type of hiking is something I have never experienced. You are walking between the canyon walls with large rock formations while trampling through the water looking for a trail. You have to be super alert and careful at all times. I wore shorts today and got lots of new scrapes and cuts along the way. We also saw large trout, small fish, and lots of tadpoles. Nightwatch, Paperweight and I enjoyed a nice lunch break that lasted a bit too long. Earlier in the day I handed my camera to Paperweight to take a picture of me in the Gila and it fell to the ground. Denting the side and cracking the screen, but it still worked. I have dropped this camera hundreds of times on my past two hiked, but the rocky Gila won this time. On the 102nd total crossing of the Gila River I took an unintentional dip. It was a stupid choice to try to climb over a log to cut part of the river crossings. As I stepped down, my feet slid and I banged my knee dipping my pack under water. The worst part was my camera was not in a waterproof bag. This canon camera has been used since the start of the Appalachian Trail and capturing pictures for just over 5,000 miles of long distance trails. But the Gila River won this time. It had been acting up with sand in the lens the past few days and I think it will be retired soon unless the lens decides to magically start working again. I was so pissed at myself for a good thirty minutes! Lucky my cell phone is in a lifeproof case or I would of been in big trouble. Lesson of the day don’t drop your camera on rocks then fall into the river. I will be even lighter when I mail it home and will have to just use my cell phone as a camera for now. We were shocked when we took a break around 5 to realize we had only done 11 miles total for the day. I was exhausted and stumbling around on the rocks needing a break. I chugged a half liter of water then we got moving. Some scary moments on rocks where I decided to sit on my butt and slide. A flood occurred a few years ago washing away lots of the trail so it was tricky. Also, this section is not maintained by anyone but thru hikers. In a burn section, the guys ahead were breaking branches from dead fallen trees to make it easier for the next hikers. If I had the time, there were a few places I should of stacked rocks to create a cairn. Maybe next time. 😉 The hiking is difficult, beautiful, and worth every poke from branches or bushes. Speed caught up to as well today joining our trail family making it a group of 5 camping together. I actually ran into Speed last year in the town of Mojave,California. He looked so familiar. The trail community is a wonderful place! We all chatted until 8:20 aka hiker midnight before retreating to our tents. It smelled smoky tonight and the sky was a bit eerie. A few bats were flying around, but nothing like last night. A good day of tough hiking, a hot spring soak, low miles, and wonderful company. 
Day 16

It was chilly this morning and slipping on wet shoes and socks doesn’t make it any easier. We were on trail by 7:45 and within a few minutes began fording the Gila River for the final day. Today we would ford it 82 times making the grand total of fords to 236. Sometimes we forded at the wrong time only having to cross back since ours maps said we should of done less fording. This type of hiking is purely exhausting, but being surrounded by red clay canyons made the challenge worth every minute. A few of the rocks are covered in moss making it slick and a bit nerve wracking at times. The deepest the water ever got was to my hip once and only once did I stand up stream and side step across. I feel pretty confident in my fording skills now. My feet have no blisters or dead skin they are too soft from the 236 soakings. I managed to bust one of the tips on my Black Diamond hiking poles. Everything seems to be falling apart. Embrace the brutality is the CDT motto. I had just completed a ford and found myself on a dirt path with lots of greenery and large ponderosa pines. I saw what I thought at first was a dog running towards me. I did a double take to see a bobcat in the wild for the first time. It was beautiful, graceful, and moving quickly up the hill and into the trees. Paperweight saw it too, but the beast missed it by a few seconds. Amazing moment! Later we saw a huge bear print in the water the size of my hand. Three hikers got to watch a bear swimming in the river a few miles ahead of us. Next time. We took a long break again drying out my feet and snacking! The last few miles were exhausting and a bit confusing adding more scrapes to my legs. Already have more scratches then both trails combined and we are somewhere in the 200 mile range. We found our way out of the Gila one last time climbing up to Snow Lake. The lake looked a bit sandy, but it has a campground with running water, vault toilets, picnic tables, campsites, and fire rings. We really lucked out as we arrived Hippie Long Stocking and her friend Tiny Dancer were there with two trucks. They hooked us up! We enjoyed a PBR and later split a tall boy of Tacate. He let us use his propane stove to save HEET, gave us candy, chips, and then offered us to sleep in the back of his Tacoma truck on a mattress with a comforter and one pillow! Score! Paperweight built a nice fire with one light! It’s much easier out here than the AT to get one going. We met lots of new hikers as well. A total of 9 thru hikers camped here tonight. That’s a lot for the CDT! It was a nice evening hanging out by the fire and laughing! The stars were unreal as I saw one shooting star. Paperweight and I enjoyed the warmth of the truck and I loved the pillow most of all. What a tiring day and a wonderful way to top off the night.
Day 17

We woke up as the sun rose looking out the frosted windows of the Tacoma. We made a big mistake last night. We brought in our Sawyer filters, but did not put them in the blankets with us so they froze. I could tell since a chunk of ice was in the top when I undid the screw. Whoops. Luckily, Paperweight has backup and Nightwatch is hiking with us and willing to let us use his filter. Amateur mistake and I should of known better. I also managed to lose my headlamp in the truck I realized at the end of the day. Good thing he packed a second one unintentionally in his down jacket that he gave to me. Truck camping is nice, but I wasn’t organized like I usually am in my tent. At least, we both stayed warm! I drank 3 liters of water at the Snow Lake campground and packed out 5 1/2 liters. So much for a lighter pack. We heard coyotes howling this morning off in the distance. I still feel strong and occasionally my right shoulder bothers me after a long uphill. This has been a common pain throughout my past three hikes. We walked away from the campground a bit before 9 hydrated and loaded up with extra water. The trail follows a gravel road before climbing under a barbed wire fence. It then leads through a canyon on rocks, grass, and sand at times. We caught up to The Beast and Nightwatch at a man made lake before climbing up and out of the canyon. It was a climb for sure with 5 plus liters. We then emerged onto a gravel forest road that we would walk the rest of the day. I have grown to love this type of walking especially when you have panoramic views. Eventually, we dipped down into a pine forest that reminded me of the UP of Michigan again minus the whole elevation thing. The four of us all took a lunch break together shivering at times. I’d guess the temperature is in the low 50s, but I have no idea. I decided to zone out during this section listening to a few Ted Talks as Paperweight and Nightwatch walked together. The view was consistent of a pine forest with ups and down and lots of roads leading to neat campsites. It finally opened up and we could see the road a few miles in each directions. The three of us pushed on going up and down the gravel road until 6:30 when we hit the stream. We set up near Halfmile and his partner quickly climbed into our tent as the temperature was dropping. It was a cold evening, but I slept in shorts to help my horrible chaffing, socks, long sleeve top, and a fleece hat inside of a 10 degree liner and my REI Joule sleeping bag I’ve used since the start of the PCT. I woke up to ice on my tent, but I was still very warm. Looks like I’ll survive this hike without needing to buy a new sleeping bag. I slept through the rain storm and was told I snored most of the time. 20.7 miles total for the day.
Day 18

It was a cold start to the day as we hit the trail a bit before nine. I was wearing gloves, a fleece hat, and my rain jacket. The trail continued on a gravel road for a little more than 6 miles. Up and down all around the mountain. Lots of cows and babies wandering about munching grass. We climbed up finding the official CDT again at the point where the Black Range route comes out. It felt wonderful to be on an actual trail again. Thanks to all the maintainers and trail builders who make this type of hiking possible. I hiked off first after the three of us took a early lunch break. This area was a burn section that allowed for splendid views. At the top of the climb, the trail then dropped down for a while on switchbacks climbing over fallen trees and such. I’d compare this trail to PCT views with some AT ups and downs. I got spoiled on the PCT with the nice switchbacks for miles up and down the mountain. My legs will be in even better shape at the end of this hike. I took a break on a large rock overlooking the mountains while Nightwatch passed then Paperweight joined me and we continued hiking together. We took a 1 1/2 hour break near a pond for cows. We watched them graze along with two donkeys. We had to pack out enough water for 17 miles where we would hitch into Reserve. So we drank lots of water and I packed out 4 liters. Still haven’t need to use Paperweight’s tabs for water since Nightwatch has been sharing his Sawyer filter. The afternoon climbing was tough and I zoned out to my Ipod. As we were climbing, Paperweight spotted elk. There were three of them cautiously watching us and moving farther away from us. Beautiful creatures. I’ve already seen more wildlife on this trail than the other two and I’m not even half way done with New Mexico yet! We pushed along to two overlook points to have stunning views of mountains and desert floor. Lots of variety. We hiked a total of 19 miles for the day before finding a flat site with no dead trees hovering over us. It was warm enough to eat outside and chat for a change. The sun turned pink and the tiny sliver of the moon appeared. We are only 10.5 miles to the road leading to Reserve.

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Silver City to Doc Campbells

Day 10- Zero day number two! It was a perfect zero day too. We left the hotel to go to breakfast at The Drifter which is named the best breakfast place in the county. Hob and the Beast joined us as well. The hiker hunger has finally hit me. I devoured an Omelet, hash browns, toast, and a side of bacon. Hob and Paperweight ordered a second breakfast too… Maybe I don’t have hiker hunger just yet. Our next stop was the dollar store to grab snacks for the day and food for the next section. Then we lounged in the hotel watching junk tv and eating Dominos take out. My legs ached this morning and the rest did my body well. No hotels for a while now. 


Paperweight, Hob, The Beast

Day 11

Leaving Silver City was difficult, but we made it out after an early lunch at Taco Bell. We decided to take Little Walnut Road to connect to the Gila Alternative. Again, this trail gives you many options. We use Ley Maps and Guthook’s App. The maps are very important and show all our choices. We are all about continuous steps. All the cars waved as they drove by us and one asked if it is cheating to take a hitch. We said yes and no thank you. It was enjoyable checking out the homes outside of downtown. Again, I really like this state. We passed the first camping area to the second one a quarter of a mile up trail. Unfortunately, we had to go back to get water. We ended up taking a long break drinking water, charging our phones back to 100%, and hiding in the shade under the pavilion. We finally got moving along the gravel road. We took a turn and heading off the road onto a dirt path. Some climbing as we were able to walk side by side since the trail can be driven by cars. We came to a nice running stream happy to have natural water again as we got closer to the Gila River. We hiked a bit father and found a beautiful campsite off the trail. It was a warm relaxing evening. Everything is better once your back in the woods for a few days!


Day 12

Today was full of variety from a steep uphill climb to a stunning ridge walk staring at clay rock all around to playing in the Gila River. It is nice to be back on a trail and surrounded by natural water. We took a long lunch break at a water tank. Chatting with Nightwatch, The Beast, and meeting Twigg. Lots of great people out here, but not many women. We took way too long of a break again, but we aren’t in a rush. We had some more uphill climbing before the trail dropped down to the river steep at times and other times on long switchbacks. We could see the water for about an hour before we got down to it. We tried not to get wet on the first crossing of Siphilo Creek flowing into the Gila, but it was no use. We crossed the Gila 5 times before calling it a night. The first crossing we tried to keep our feet dry, but it was no use so we just splashed right in. The cold water felt so good on my feet as we went from water to trail to water. As we were beginning to look for a good campsite, I saw something across the river drinking and did a double take. Before I realized what I was staring at, it turned and ran up towards the rocks. It was a light colored black bear that I called a cinnamon bear. It almost blended in perfectly and took me a bit by surprise. We have seen lots of bear scat, but I was in shock to see one. Paperweight didn’t see it and may not believe me, but I know what a bears ass looks like running away. It was a bear! Later I was told about 100 bears call the Gila home. We walked a little farther before choosing a campsite under the trees. We went to get water and found 7 baby ducks floating along. All of a sudden the mother duck flew out from the grass along the river and the family scurried down stream. These moments always remind me that we are just visitors in their habitat. It was another lovely day in New Mexico!


Day 13

Crossed the Gila River 53 times making the total so far 58 fords. I always thought I wanted to be a marmot in the High Sierra, but now I want to be a bird living on the Gila River. We splashed in quickly cooling off and feeling refreshed. This is very different hiking. You are between two walls of red clay rocks wandering about. It is tiring and fun at the same time. As we got closer to the road, we saw an old mattress and other bits of trash. That’s how you know you are close to civilization. We walked a little over a mile on a paved road towards the store where we had boxes waiting for us. We made it to Doc Campbells with about 15 minutes to spare since they close at 4 not 5 like our book said so we were lucky. Two sodas, a Gatorade, and a container of homemade vanilla ice cream did the job. I actually made myself a root beer float. I also picked up my first mail drop full of goodies from mom! She’s going for her triple crown of support. We hung out with Twigg for a while at a picnic table even though the store was closed they have an outlet outside for us to charge our devices. Luckily, we were told the wrong wifi password so the world of Facebook, emails, and such did not take away from the moment. Twigg hiked a few miles up trail to a free campground as Paperweight and I decided to spend the night at Gila Hot Pools Campground. For $6 you get to camp, use their three heat controlled hot pools, picnic tables, vault toilet, water both cold and warm, and most importantly just a peaceful place. Nightwatch and the Beast joined us as well at the CDT campsite. I spent at least two hours in one of the pools in just my bra and panties surrounded by a bunch of dudes. Thru hiking has made me much more secure with myself as well. I’m comfortable in my body at whatever form it is in and I’m happy with my life! The water does magic for the body between the cuts and aches I felt healed. The views and company made it even better. Finally crawling out of the warm pool I enjoyed some tortellini with olive oil and shake herbed parmesan cheese. Paperweight is spoiling me by “cooking” for me using the hot water the campground supplies to warm up the pasta from his mail drop. Delicious and a nice change! It was a mellow evening full of happy relaxed hikers. After a day of wet feet and more river crossings then I have ever done in my life, it was a perfect ending!

 

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