CDT Update Two: Lordsburg, NM

Deb hiking on the Continental Divide Trail.
Deb hiking the Continental Divide Trail.

We have now hiked the first 85 miles of the Continental Divide Trail from Crazy Cook to Lordsburg, NM. It’s been a great adventure so far with plenty of beautiful scenery. It reminds me a little of the Anza Borrego area in Southern CA. The terrain and vegetation is somewhat similar and the CDT is often a cross country route like many of the trips I made in Anza Borrego with my Sierra Club friends.

The CDT section in the New Mexico bootheel often crosses vast flat areas between small mountains. The land appears to be mostly BLM grazing land leased to ranchers. Almost no people live out here. Hikers share the water in the occasional troughs and solar windmills with the cattle. Except for three border patrol agents off in the distance, we saw no one except for a few other hikers the past six days.

The actual trail, much of the time, is not a trail at all. Often it is just posts every few hundred yards or few tenths of a mile marking a cross country route. Hikers can follow the posts or pick their own route as they see fit.

They may have the largest jack rabbits in the world here. You see lots of them, especially as you hike early in the mornings.

Early one morning we spooked a small herd of antelope that galloped off with amazing speed.

Odd things happen on the trail too. On our last day before reaching Lordsburg we were taking a break in the shade of a small bush. We had taken off our shoes and a bee landed on my sock clad foot. The bee walked around on my sock for about a minute and then fell dead on the ground. I’m not sure what that means.

The CDT has been hard on our feet. It must be the combination of heat, dirt, and rocks. Deb has many blisters and I have one. We plan on taking a day off from hiking tomorrow to give our feet time to recover.

It’s not just our feet either. The small hiker box here at the Econolodge has two pair of discarded shoes. After only 85 miles of hiking they are not worn out, but caused so much discomfort hikers decided to give them away. Another hiker was waiting in the motel lobby for the 3 pm UPS delivery of new shoes. Everyone’s advice here is to stop and shake out sand and small rocks sooner to keep abrasions low. And sweaty socks don’t help either.

Our CDT Adventure Begins

Deb hiking past an Ocotillo on the CDT.
Deb hiking past an Ocotillo on the CDT.

Our day began in Lordsburg where we caught the early morning shuttle run by the Continental Trail Alliance. The shuttle makes starting the Continental Divide Trail much easier since there is basically no other way to reach the southern terminus of the trail at Crazy Cook (in the boot heel of New Mexico) unless you happen to have a friend in the area with a high clearance vehicle. The last part of the road is pretty bad. Ten other hikers started with us, which is a large group for the CDT. We departed Lordsburg about 6:45 AM, arrived at Crazy Cook about 10 AM, and began hiking about 10:30 after some picture taking at the monument.
On the first day we hiked 14 miles of the CDT which was some cross country (marked by occasional signs), some abandoned roads, and some following dry washes. I’m glad to be wearing more supportive hiking shoes (instead of trail running shoes). Deb complained a little about the roughness of the trail, and walking on tennis ball size rocks in places or loose gravel does slow you down, but it was nothing compared to what we faced the next day.

PS – Our sincere thanks to our friend JJ for driving us to Lordsburg so we could begin this hike.

RV life

Camping in Goliad State Park.
Camping in Goliad State Park.

A blog post from Deb:

So, how do we rate our RV life to date? We give it a 6 out of 10 so far on the adventure scale. The weather has been somewhat cold, rainy, or overcast most days ever since we left California, and that accounts for the lower score. We did have a few sunny days, near 70 degrees, in the McKinney Falls state park and in the Goliad state park. Still, when that wind blows across the flat open land, we shiver in the bright sunshine. That is why we are headed even further south, to the Gulf coast. We want to explore the islands before working our way back to family in Austin sometime in February, just in time to finish those taxes!

Our daily routine hasn’t changed too much from our time in the Idyllwild cabin. We lounge around in our comfortable bed until one of us (usually Lon) jumps up to turn on one of the heaters. We have been using the gas heater only in the early mornings since it warms the RV up quickly. We also have a small electric heater that sits on the floor which we use the rest of the day when necessary, if we are hooked up to electricity. In the evenings when we are watching over-the-air TV or a show on our iPad we are comfortable with blankets and pillows arranged on the dinette seats and turn on that small heater periodically. If it’s an extra chilly night, the floor heater may run all night on a low setting, but that is not the norm. Our down comforter is amazing even if Deb struggles to hang onto her share of the bedding every night.

Meals are the same too. Lon uses a Coleman gas grill outside to cook our meats and veggies. Deb finally learned how to use the convection microwave a few weeks ago by making pita pizzas one night and baked chicken the second time (when it was too wet outside to grill.) But we tend to stick with minimal-cooking techniques which the microwave handles easily. And after all the holiday pies we’ve eaten lately we really don’t need to try to bake more treats for a while. We brought a lot of packaged food that was left over from last summer’s Colorado Trail backpacking trip. It’s still mostly left over. Dining out or buying fresh is much more appetizing to us.

We boon docked (without hookups) some of the days during December, but none so far in January. Lon’s sister Holly gifted us a Texas state parks pass, a wonderful gift to have in Texas where the state parks charge daily per person entrance fees in addition to the RV site camping fee. Using it, we stayed in McKinney Falls state park in Austin for 2 weeks over the holidays. The upper falls portion of the park and some bike and walking paths are still closed and under reconstruction until February, but it was nice to get back into our exercise routines while staying there. Lots of walking, jogging (Lon), and bike rides. So far in January, we’ve stayed at two private RV parks along the San Marcos river: Pecan Riverside RV park in San Marcos, and Riverbend RV park in Luling. Both nice enough parks but lacking good walking or biking trails along the actual river (towns missing the point !) So we have resumed staying at state parks: three nights at Goliad state park where we enjoyed trails again and touring some historic sites and biking into town in time for the monthly farmer’s market and some tasty award-winning jalapeño soup at the local deli. Yesterday, we traveled to the Texas gulf coast and found the lovely Goose Island state park, which promptly welcomed us with another chilly afternoon and now a downpour. Winter time in Texas……

The RV is running great for us, surprising us with 10 mpg when we expected less than that. We have noticed that the mpg seems to go down slightly when we travel with an empty fresh water tank, which seems illogical. Of course we use Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices and are paying mostly under $2 gas. We like that. When we left Austin, we took the RV in for normal maintenance service in nearby Buda and came out of there much lighter, wallet-wise. We are learning from our experience and from other RV blogs that normal RV maintenance is a major budget item. Luckily we are not experiencing any significant problems with our RV. We had the fluids and filters changed and the “slop” in the steering wheel adjusted and the brakes serviced and inspected. We have recently noticed damp carpets under the floor mats but think that is from condensation forming inside the RV at night (sounds just like a tent problem….) Lon is doing most of the driving, but we are not doing big miles and we make a lot of stops on the way to wherever we are going. Deb has driven the RV exactly twice and has not yet backed it up nor tried to level it over blocks when parking it at a camping site. Lon took to leveling like a pro. But we needed some lessons before our communications skills were working for the backing up parts. Deb remembers all the proper hand signals from long ago from helping her dad back the boat into the garage every week….maybe Lon never had a boat?

We are mostly traveling back roads, at 55 mph, and avoiding the bigger cities for now. We both think we made a good choice in our RV selection. We made really good selections when choosing our traveling partners too.

-Deb

Cuero, TX and the DeWitt County Courthouse Clock Tower

On the road to Goliad, we stopped for a break in Cuero, TX. The RV was parked next to the DeWitt County Courthouse and we were eating lunch on the RV steps when the Courthouse maintenance man walks by and lets us know the Courthouse is open if we want to go inside. They even give tours of the bell tower. Who could pass that up?

The 1896 Courthouse was restored in 2007. It is beautiful inside and DeWitt County doesn’t mind showing it off. We stopped by the County Court office and signed a liability release form and then up up up to the very top of the building we went. Elevators and stairs and a circular stairway and through a trap door and then we were at the very top of the building checking out the clock and the bell tower. A very interesting and unexpected day.

Fort McKavett

Fort McKavett, Texas.
Fort McKavett, Texas.

We took a short six mile detour off the highway for an interesting visit to Fort McKavett. It turns out everyone was preparing for the Christmas program later that day. Decorations were being made in the traditional way they might have been back in the 1860’s when the fort was a remote military post during the Texas Indian Wars.

It was fun to watch Cody Mobley shooting wet plate ambrotype photographs of reenactors dressed as a dragoon and a citizen inside the restored barracks decorated for Christmas.