So I have a master plan on this trip: To actually write some sort of trail diary on a nightly basis instead of doing one (or 4) big posts after the fact. Why? Because I’m curious to see how things come out without the added time to reflect on them for a few days (or weeks). So that I can get more details down, because there are always things I miss that I remember later. And really, because I get so overwhelmed by writing these big trips up, that it’s hard to get started.
I’ll upload these with a photo or two whenever we get to a town or random spot of cell reception. I’ll do bigger photo dumps when we’re holed up in a town with actual laptops.
So that’s the plan. Let’s see if I stick to it.
Day 0 – Getting to Lordsburg
I’m actually writing this at the end of Day 1 because I got so caught up in Cutthroat Kitchen at the Econolodge in Lordsburg last night that I didn’t get around to actually writing anything. So much for plans, eh?
We woke up in Tucson less than enthused about the day. While we’d emptied our house of 90% of our belongings, somehow is seems like the last 10% take at least as long as the first 90. So we emptied, we cleaned. We had lunch at Mi Ranchito. And finally, the answer to the question that we’d been asking each other for the past week of ‘Can we go now?’ was ‘Yes.’
Alexis was awesome and drove us in the van all the way to Lordsburg. I think secretly she just wanted to stop at the road cut right before town and collect samples of the rainbow rocks. Something in the history of the geology there deposited a black layer on the rocks with iridescent rainbows. Uber-cool!
She deposited us and our bikes at the Econolodge (special rate for CDT travelers) where we were soon scooped up by the Payne brothers (our ride to close to the border the next day). We headed across the street to talk maps. As lifelong Lordsburg residents, we picked their brains about which roads crossed private land, where did the trail get sandy, and learned all about the politics of the ranchers of the land, which seems to pretty much resemble middle-school girl drama. I kid you not, it’s awesome.
We meandered back to our room, filled with NM green chile, and eventually, after watching too much food network for my own good, fell asleep. Well, I laid there, nervous for a while, but eventually, did fall asleep.
Day 1 – To the trail! And the start of the trail!
The alarm went off way too early, as in 6:45. My first thought was: This is the last alarm I have to wake up to for the next four months! Not that I normally have to wake up to an alarm, but when I do…well, it makes me appreciate the days that I don’t.
We headed straight to the continental breakfast where I proceeded to burn my waffle (this seems to be a recurring theme with me) but remedied the situation by saturating it with syrup. We also met Douglas, a Salsa rep, so we talked bikes for awhile. You meet the most random people in the most random places.
Roger, the younger of the Payne brothers, picked us up at 8, sharp. Actually, he was early, which caused a little bit of panic in Camp Ez because I was still trying to figure out how to carry 150 oz of water in my pack. It turned out okay, as things always do,
We loaded the bikes into his homemade bikerack in the back of his truck and headed south. The Payne brothers have been providing shuttles for CDT hikers and Tour Divide riders ever since Lloyd, the older of the two, ran into a tattered looking Matthew Lee at the El Churro cafe in Lordsburg, years ago.
We talked about all sorts of things, from the Payne family history in Lordsburg to the crazy Swiss hiker that they’d dropped off a few days ago.
We stopped at all of the water caches to drop water, the 85 mile stretch from the border up to Lordsburg, is water-free and 4 cache boxes exist for the hikers. With 2 gallons in each, we felt good about our chances of not going thirsty.
Roger dropped us off at the curve in the road to Antelope Wells where it goes between the Big Hatchet and Little Hatchet mountains. The last 28 miles to Crazy Cook would be up to us, the road was too bad for normal truck driving.
We watched the truck disappear, grateful for the help. Trail Angels really are the best. And then we pedaled.
The plan was to take the dirt road to the border, then ride the trail back to our dropoff point, except for the area that was in a Wilderness Study Area.
And then it was trail. No official trail had been constructed from the trail head and we feared for the worst, but wth 150 people on it already this year, it was fairly to moderately fun riding. Yay trail! It felt good being able to start with trail instead of a detour.
From there, a long, dirt road climb into the Big Hatchet Mountains. Some wash riding. Some wilting in the heat. And then a long downhill back to Cache 1, the box that we’d hit while already on the bikes. We’d dropped some weight knowing that we’d be back in <30 miles.
It felt like a victory. We were actually riding the CDT!
From there, by skipping the WSA trail, we made short work of the miles to Cache 2. The last mile or so was cross country, trailless riding…and it was mostly okay. Novel, sure, but we weren't in a hurry to do too much more of it, knowing what was coming up.
We were deposited onto the highway to Antelope Wells, the Lonely Highway, breaker of souls in the last 64 miles of the Tour Divide. Not tired and not trying to get anywhere, it was pleasant riding in the evening light.
With a quick turn back onto a dirt road, we were headed back onto the trail, having skipped 3 miles of trail less riding. It was a good life decision. As soon as we were back on the trail, eyes turned to finding camp off of the double track that we were following.
And here we sit now. Dinner stewing. Moon rising. Last of the light fading. Day 1 of many. 60 miles down, 2,970 ish to go.
So I have a confession to make: I completely forgot to pack a spare tube. I was debating on bringing one or two, had decided on one, and then packed none. I discovered this as I was unpacking my sleeping bag. Ride bikes much? We crossed our fingers that we would't be in a situation where we'd need more than one tube.
We knew that today was going to be a big day with lots of cross country, or trail-less terrain. I imagined long hikes across the desert with prickers and sand and misery.
But first, we had a dirt road ride along the Little Hatchet Mountains, the range that follows the highway to Antelope Wells on the west side. While the highway is flat, we were three miles into the foothills and the road was anything but smooth and graded. Lots of jumps in and out of washes, rubble, I had to walk a few of the downhills, Scott even got off for a few of the ups. It was a bit of a rough start to the day, especially since we were planning on easy cruising to the water cache. What's that I always say about expectations leading to disappointment?
We opted to skip a section of cross country riding that would have cut a corner and took a (finally) smooth dirt road out to pavement and made short work of the two miles to the cache.
There we debated, cross country through the Coyote Hills, or the 10 miles of pavement, much of which would be aided by a nuclear tailwind. We looked at the scraggly, brushy hills above us and the lack of trail and tested the wind direction one last time: It was a no brainer.
We decided that if there was a good alternate to cross country sections, we take it. This meant that after we finished our current detour, we were committed to the next 15 mile XC section because neither of us felt like riding 20+ miles of pavement.
I'm glad we took the pavement instead of the Coyote Hills section of trail. We got the chance to say Hi to the ponies on the side of the road. They came running to us like we were the most exciting thing that they'd seen in a month.
After filling up on water at the last cache, we pointed the bikes down the pseudo-trail. With 150 hikers ahead of us, the trail would be defined near the line-of-sight trail markers, then would peter off the in middle.
It became great fun trying to be the first person to see the next post. And really, the riding was pretty good. Nothing I’d go out and do a day ride on necessarily, but 90% pedalable. And very few scratchies. Win!
The section ended at the base of Pyramid Peak four hours later, where we dumped out on Road AZ 300. Fitting name.
We climbed easily up and over the saddle, happy to be pedaling in a carefree manner, not trying to find the next trail marker while not crashing the bike while keeping an eye out for snakes.
The road wound around cattle tanks, beautiful little hills and slowly made its way towards Lordsburg. After a short stink back on a XC section to avoid a ranch, we were back on the Old Animas Highway, taking a beeline into Lordburg instead of fiddle-farting around on another section of XC.
It was a good decision as Lordburg has excellent pizza, and we’re pro pizza eaters.
Tomorrow, we head out towards Silver City via the trail. We’re planning on taking waffles from the continental breakfast for lunch and our leftover pizza for dinner. Methinks it’s going to be a good day.