Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Silver City to Deming, New Mexico: CDT 2013

 After two days holed up in my hotel room waiting out the storm, I was itching to get going. I had eaten enough pizza, gummy bears, and drank enough Dr. Pepper to last an entire week. I had decided to road walk 54 miles along highway 180 to Deming rather than attempt to rejoin the trail to my north or east and then hike over 10,000 ft peaks in the snow. I was yearning for the border, and by walking the highway, I would once again gain a couple more days for my transition period post CDT. I was worried about the condition of the highway as local news reports were warning motorists about the dangers of all of the snow and ice. I felt uneasy about walking along the road with the possibility of cars spinning out of control. However, by the time I started walking, the snow was rapidly melting under the bright, New Mexico sun.

 Two events stand out in my mind during this road walk. The first occurred during my first night camped along the highway. Once again, I had to settle on a campsite that felt right, which was tough to do along the highway. Eventually, I found a spot nestled behind a bush, next to a barbed wire fence, about 50 feet from railroad tracks. The reason I liked this spot was because it was slightly downhill from the highway eliminating a lot of the highway noise, and I was hidden. The downside was the barbed wire fence which did, as it turned out, put a couple of new holes in my sleeping bag in the middle of the night. Of course the railroad tracks were also a concern. One thing I forgot to keep in mind was the likely possibility of dew. I had decided to cowboy camp to stay hidden, and woke up shivering around 8:00 pm because my sleeping bag was completely soaked and the dew had frozen into a thin layer of frost on my bag. I had to set up my tarp the best way I could, which wasn't very good, just to create a roof to keep the rest of the night's condensation off my sleeping bag and the rest of my gear. Needless to say, it was a frigid night.

 Around 10:00 pm or so, I heard this low, metallic sounding hum. The humming grew louder and louder with each passing second. I woke up and could see the distant headlight of a train. Laying only 50 feet from the tracks, I knew this was going to be intense. The tracks began to shriek as the headlight from the train flooded my campsite with light. Being so used to quiet, (an almost persistent quiet that exists in the wilderness), the noise was almost overwhelming. I turned over onto my side and watched as the train passed slowly, the box cars thumping along behind the engine, firing tiny orange sparks into the darkness from time to time. The train looked and sounded like a monster creeping through the desert, as I watched it pass through the thorny branches of the bush I was camped behind. What do the deer think of this creature?! It was moments and perspectives like this which reinforced my love of thru-hiking.

Campsite on night one
 The train passed just that once during the night. I woke up to a bitter cold, frosty morning, and once again continued walking south along highway 180. Later that afternoon, the second event occurred which stands out during this section. First, let me begin by saying that an interesting phenomenon occurs when walking through the wild. Maybe it's not that interesting, but I really noticed it on this CDT hike. Without fail, animals would run away from a human being walking on two feet. Bears, elk, deer, pronghorn, coyotes, cows, raptors, birds, ducks, sheep, amphibians, lizards, snakes, etc, etc, all get out of the way when a person approaches on two feet. Drive past in a car, and they will not even shoot a passing glance. There were only three types of animals that did not run or fly or swim away when I walked past. Dogs, the one donkey I described meeting below, and this one particular herd of horses which I will describe in a moment.

Mimbres River: It was excruciating walking past this wonderful river knowing that there must be Puebloan ruins or remnants along this waterway. I could not explore due to barbed wire fences designating private property.
 While walking along the highway, I noticed a herd of horses grazing in a field about 100 yards away. I paused to take a look at them and they paused to look at me. Suddenly, the horses lined up in a row, all of them staring at me in a way I hadn't seen any animals do before.
"What's going on here?" I wondered somewhat uneasily.
Suddenly, one of the white horses started walking towards towards me and then stopped. The other horses in the line did the same thing. The white horse then began galloping towards me and the highway, and the other horses followed suite, in a horizontal line kicking up a cloud of dust.
"Stampede!" There was nowhere to go, at least I had a fence in front of me, so I stood and watched.
The horses stopped a few feet from the fence and paused for photos. A poor scrawny white donkey tried to keep up with his horse friends but was pitifully slow in comparison. I continued walking down the highway, and the horses followed. They began galloping, doing little tricks while the white donkey again tried to keep up, and then would pause and wait for me to catch up. As I walked past, they would wait for me to get 20 yards ahead or so, and then run along the fence again doing tricks, and wait for my response. I gave them a round of applause, apologized for not having any food to give them and went on my way. Eventually, the horses reached the end of their property and I said my goodbyes.

Night two: A perfect hobo camp along with a memorable sunrise along highway 180.
 Eventually, after two and a half days hiking down highway 180, Deming came into view. I put on my headphones and tuned into one of the local radio stations, playing the "latest and greatest" hit songs. I listened curiously, wondering what has happened to the good ol' days of rock and roll?!!

Thanksgiving was just a couple days away. It was cold and overcast in Deming. I decided to resupply and hit the road once again, just two days from Columbus and the end of the trail. The journey was coming to a close. Before leaving town, Indie and my brother Michael both texted me saying I needed to get some turkey somehow before continuing south. I stopped by the Kmart and picked up a turkey and cheese Lunchable, some gummy bears, and some grape juice to celebrate Thanksgiving along the trail. The end was near!


  1. Gorgeous sunrise! Thanks for sharing more tales from the trail.

  2. Interesting account- just avoid hiking near Deming during bad dust storms. Yes, most animals yield to those of us on 2 feet. The most surprising animal I have ever seen on the trail was a mountain lion. I was heading back to my camp(in Northern Washington state), in the middle of nowhere, and walking at a fairly fast pace as it was almost dark and I didn't have a flashlight along. The trail was about the width of a one lane road. Coming the opposite direction, also down the middle of the trail was the mountain lion. I moved to the outside edge of the trail and she moved to the opposite side of the trail a few yards before we passed each other.