Day 4: The Only Tree in a Sea of Bones

Throughout the night the stars grew brighter, the air crisper, and the calls of the coyotes in the valley grew lonelier as all the sounds of the desert quieted down. We woke up minutes before the light from the dawn sun bent around the horizon.


From the warmth of our sleeping bags, we deflated our sleeping pads and rolled them up into their stuff sacks. Laying back down we grabbed our hiking clothes and shimmied them on in our bags. Next, we reached for our socks, two days used and caked in a blend of sand and dirt. They had dried over night allowing some of the sand to fall off, most of it though would just become part of the sock until we have the chance to do laundry. The sun was a little bit higher now but still below the mountains, and all that was surrounding us were still shadows.


We went through our morning routines of brushing our teeth, drinking lots of water, refilling our bottles from our water bladders, grabbing snacks for the day and stuffing them into our waist belt pockets, putting sunscreen on, putting Glide on, and finally eating breakfast. Once everything was packed up, we threw our packs on our backs and started walking. For how flexible you have to be out here for anything that may happen, there are routines.


We walked down from the bald and into a valley along a dirt road winding through a cluster of rolling hills. The sun was rising higher and was then right above the hill where we slept. It was the golden hour and appropriately everything that was just masked in shadows was now flooded with golden light. About 3 miles in, we reached the top of a saddle looking down into more desert plains below. We could see two hikers weaving their way through the brush, and we started our descent. Walking through the brush, we caught up to the hikers and went past them into taller bushes  and very sandy sediment. It was red sand, and as always, it coated our shoes and socks.



We hiked our way towards our fourth water cache snaking through valley to plain to hill to eventually a road crossing. Past the cache and after we refilled our water and changed out our socks, we walked a long stretch through flat, desert farmland decorated with bleached cow bones and giant skulls. Navigation got tricky in some of these parts due tall brush hiding the signs from view. These miles seem to be endless. The sun was growing hotter and shade was becoming harder to find.


Around 12:30pm, the trail provided us with the most perfect Juniper tree and the coolest shade. Best of all it was not too far off of trail. Our steps got quicker almost turned to a run. We headed straight for the shade and when we got there we gave it the snake/critter check before plopping down and throwing our shoes and socks off. We sat there until 3:00pm.

The lunch menu was no different than the days before, flour tortilla with peanut butter. We rehydrated and even added electrolyte tablets to our water. The day was hot but we wanted to add at least 7 more miles to our day. So we packed up, and we put our shoes back on and started walking into the blazing sun. The trail signs led us through more ranches and had us hoping over rusty barbed wire fences or finding holes in them to limbo through to the other side.


Garbelly and Thor veered off of trail at the sight of a group of horses in an adjacent field then proceeded to call them and then pet them. M.E. kept her feet moving in the direction of the trail with her mind set on camp. To everyone's relief, we were headed in the direction of Pyramid Peak.


As we got closer, we started feeling the weight of the day, but a pep was out back in our steps with yet another change of scenery. This time we were leaving flat ranch land and entering hills with boulders of volcanic rock. We found camp here. We had the view of Pyramid peak in front of us, hills behind us, and a view of the outskirts Lordsburg in the valley below. The "hiker hobble" was in full force.


We set up our tent among small bushes off of the trail, made dinner, got ready for bed, and then laid down where our only view was of the stars above us. The sound of burrowing owls surrounded us, and like that we were asleep.


 Cheers to the trail and all those trailing thoughts.  

Garbelly & ME


Don't let the algae fool you, that's some of the best desert water we have seen so far. 


Photo by Thor (Taylor Thornton) 

Day 0: Nashville to Lordsburg

On Tuesday, we began this crazy adventure of ours. No, we did not actually start counting miles, but after 22 hours of traveling we sure felt like it. To catch a 6:50am flight from Nashville to Phoenix, we arrived at the airport around 4:30am. Right at the ticket counter we received our first trail magic in the form of 2 Southwest LUV vouchers (aka $50 flight vouchers). Thank you so much, Rachelle!! Getting through security was a breeze and before we knew it we were loading the plane. The flight was easy and was made even easier by sleeping through most of it.

Once we landed in Phoenix, we scurried to the baggage claim, fingers crossed that our bagged homes made it in once piece. Both times we saw the lump of black trash bags and tape appear from the tunnel we celebrated and were relieved. We rushed to the closest trash can and began ripping the shell we had sleepily created earlier that morning away from our packs. Fortunately they were in perfect shape. We threw them on our backs and immediately transformed into hikers, not just weirdos who wear button-downs, short shorts, tall socks, and brightly colored trail runners for fun. To all the eyes watching us walk through the airport, it all made sense now....maybe.

After meeting up with Thor, a great friend from the PCT, we took a series of long Lyft rides to pick up fuel, extra water bladders, and a much needed lunch. We had 8 hours to kill before time to take the Greyhound bus, but we struggled to fill all the time so we found ourselves 4 hours early to the bus station (we would not recommend this). By complete coincidence, we went up to the ticket counter to find out that due to Daylight Savings our bus actually left at 5:10pm. This was the second trail magic we received, not necessarily from anyone in particular but it would have not been fun to miss our bus...

Our bus to Lordsburg arrived, and we hoped on board, first stop Tucson. For the next 7 hours we drifted in and out of sleep as the smells and sounds came and went. When midnight rolled around, we were dropped off 2 miles down the interstate from downtown Lordsburg where the Greyhound station was located and our hotel. We were the only 3 passengers to get off at Lordsburg, not to our surprise. We asked a man with a border patrol car and uniform what the safest way to get back to town was. He showed us the way, and gave us a gentle warning. "Do you guys carry?" he asked. We shook our heads no. "Well everyone else here does, so be careful," he said grinning. Thanks. We started the 2.4 mile road walk to the hotel. Arriving to the hotel at the early time of 1:00pm, we opened the door to our assigned room to find no sheets and the mattresses stacked up over the room. We tried again. This time we opened up the door to our new room with fresh sheets, sat our bags down, jumped on the bed and then we were graced with a much needed sleep. 

Wednesday fortunately did not come too quick. After getting 8 hours of sleep, we woke up well-rested but slammed by the fact we had not had dinner. We took care of that by going across the street to grab a large French Toast breakfast. We were taken back by how many border patrol trucks we saw around town. We were not in Nashville anymore.

Our one goal for the day was water. So much water. Oh, and mail home our first package filled with things we figured we could live without especially with the 6L of water we were going to have to carry for the first stretch. We also stopped by the hardware store and the grocery store, where we will be resupplying at in about 5 days. Then we (mainly M.E.) napped for a beautiful 3 hours. 


As you are reading this, we will be somewhere between the boarder and the 85 miles back to Lordsburg. We will be in the desert, where as the woman at the front counter at the Econo Lodge said, "everything that grows here can bite". BUT we will have started our hike of the CDT, and that is an amazing thing. 


It seemed that throughout the entire day of traveling the moment that brought us out of the traveling mindset and brought our focus back on all that surrounded us was the sunset that we experienced while on the bus. 

Ethan- As a kid my favorite book had been The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. The book was about a boy who each night around the same time painted the colors of the sunset. I marveled at the brilliance and beauty of the illustrations in this and searched for these same colors in the sunsets of Southern Illinois. My childhood's sunsets were stunning, yet they lacked something that I couldn't place. Tonight, in the barren desert bus ride through Arizona, I realized that only in the desert did these colors exist. As if the sky was reflecting the colors of the blooming cactus rose, the sky was a perfectly blended water color painting of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples that existed no where else.

Peppered among the the still sea of scrub brush and sand, giant metamorphic ships sailed thousands of feet into the sky. As the sun set behind these towering giants, it appeared as if the bottom half of the sky had been ripped right off leaving only uneven silhouettes.

While on the road we were able to see the desert from a slower, more detailed perspective. We still passed by too quickly. For most people, these interstates existed solely as a way to travel across this vast expanse as fast as possible. The distance between point A and B. On the other hand, we yearned for the tangible feeling of uneven earth under our shoes and fresh air filling our lungs. 

M.E.- There is so much beauty here regardless of the inconvenience of the city. Somewhere in between Phoenix and Tucson, the sun set brings purples and peaches to the distant solitary mountains. Desert plains occupy the absence of the mountain's height with their vastness, and tall Saguaros stand like men silhouetted against the dusk. A golden light is pouring into the giant windows, and as I look around taking it all in, the women next to me thinks I keep looking at her. Her dark brown skin is colored with golden light. She seems to be crying as she keeps wiping under her eyes. Is it too narrow minded to think that we are both taken back by all this beauty in this moment? The beauty of the desert surrounding us, the paint-like colors, and the simplicity of riding quietly in a bus with strangers. 


Cheers to the trail and all the trailing thoughts. 

Garbelly & M.E.