Dyer and Riches: CDT Thru-Hikers

New Mexico Reflections
Gorp.com
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We are sitting in the ditch at windy Spring Creek Pass, Colorado. We've been trying to hitch a ride into Lake City for five hours now. Teeth are scrubbed, hair combed, and best fleeces on—we can't understand why no one will stop for us.

It is a good time to pause and reflect about our time on the trail through New Mexico. What was most striking was the warmth of the folks we met, either the people who gave us rides, invariably within five minutes of reaching a road, the friendliness of the ranchers whose land we crossed, and the generosity of folks like Shawn and Sharon of Silver City and Nita of Pie Town, who opened their homes to us.

New Mexico gave us the chance to experience a surprising diversity of landscapes, from the Deming Plain to the canyons of the Gila River to the snow on top of Mount Taylor. North of Cuba we felt like extras in a western movie as we hiked through classic cowboy country of mesas and red cliffs.

For large portions of New Mexico we did not hike on the official Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. There were many reasons for this—scenery, logistics, lack of water, lack of an official trail. The route we chose, however, has been a rewarding one.

Route finding was challenging and fun. Without an official trail to follow, we seemed to have a lot more flexibility; even getting lost resulted in new and exciting routes. And we could always follow Sarah and Adrianne's tracks if the going got tough.

New Mexico was dry; two years of drought made sure of that. But most of it is not desert. Ranching occupies a large portion of the state, and where there were cows, we were sure to find windmills and water. It took some extra planning, and it wasn't much fun packing the weight of extra water, but we managed to get across New Mexico without serious dehydration.

Still, the dusty, tawny brown landscape took some getting used to for a boy from the marshes of Essex, where drizzling rain succeeds in creating year-round greenery. At first I found New Mexico unbelievably harsh and barren, but you soon notice how even the driest areas teem with life. Lizards and insects were everywhere, and we were often amazed to find a delicate flowering cactus in an area otherwise devoid of vegetation.

Backpackers are a rare breed in New Mexico. We saw more hikers in our first week in Colorado than in the whole of the Land of Enchantment. Some of the hiking might not be considered worthy to those weaned on the high mountains, but the rate at which the view changes (even at a steady two and a half miles per hour) always kept us entertained. We traveled across some classic and memorable country.

As we enter Colorado, our gear has not changed considerably, partly due to the cost and hassle of shipping equipment across the Canadian border. We have picked up a water filter and gaiters in Pagosa, but opted against ice axes due to the early spring and lack of snow. It has been cold at night in these high mountains, and we've been wearing all our clothes. Still, we've been comfortable so far.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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