#1 Pacer’s 2022 CDT Thru-Hike: Crazy Cook Monument to Doc Campbell’s Post

This is update #1. Chris “Pacer” Ford is attempting to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) when he began on April 30, 2022. He will keep us updated every week or two with the progress of his adventure with stories and photos from the trail. Follow along with us… get automatic updates by subscribing to this blog.

Pacer’s progress through May 7, 2022

May 7, 2022

209 of 3100 miles…7% complete

Hikers I’ve met so far:

WindChime, Lauren, Chiffon, Numbers, Grand Perambulate, Mystic Jelly Bean, Cream, Tiempo, Just Right, Devon, Vista, Spurs, Muck Fichigan, Not A Chance, Brain, Squirt, Hey Bear, Apache, Trail Brain, Boomerang, Raven, Jif, Wow, Andy (Float), Chairman, Stinger, Onion, Gables, Moose, Whistletooth, Car Bomb, Pale Ale, Sprouts, Stumble Bee, Wagon (aka The Dude), Let It Rip, Mummy, Ninja.

Getting to Lordsburg, NM:

Lordsburg is the closest town to the southern terminus and is where all North Bound (NOBO) hikers collect to await their shuttle date. Getting there usually involved planes, trains, and buses. Jamie dropping me off for adventure at the Knoxville Airport (TYS) has started to feel routine.  She first dropped me off when I was 18 and headed to Air Force basic training. That was a hard day…it’s still hard knowing I won’t see her for several months, but I keep feeling the tug to stretch myself. I flew to Tucson through Atlanta and stayed at an airport hotel. The next morning, I caught an Uber to the Greyhound station and met three other hikers. The bus ride to Lordsburg took about 2.5 hours and was a sobering reminder of the desert’s desolation and remoteness…I was about to start hiking across this unforgiving terrain. A short walk across town and I arrived at the Econo Lodge where most hikers stay…food and resupply are both close by. I arrived one full day early just in case I ran into any problems. Everything was in order so I reached out to the CDT Coalition (CDTC) who operates the shuttles to the border to see if it was possible to start a day early.  I was in luck; they had one slot open…I took it!

Getting to the Mexico Border:

At 5:45 A.M. on April 30th, I set out from the Econo Lodge walking about one mile across town to where the shuttles would stage behind their new office behind the Chamber of Commerce. Along the way I met Cream, a hiker from New Zealand. The hike hasn’t even started yet, and we’re already logging bonus miles. In all, eight hikers collected up, and we were each given a trash bag to protect our packs for the dusty drive to the border. At 6:30 AM, we loaded up in two 4-wheel drive pickups owned by the CDTC; our drivers were Cal and Pete. I was in Pete’s truck with Cream, WindChime, and Lauren.  

The ride to Mexico was 3 hours so we filled the time talking about gear, other trails, how much water we’re carrying. Turns out I was the only person in the truck that hasn’t hiked New Zealand’s 2,000 mile Te Araroa Trail (commonly called the TA), and I was carrying far less water than anyone else.  I carried 1.7 liters of water to make the 14.1 miles to water cache #1. Cream was starting with 5 liters!!! A trail angel named Radar maintains 5 water caches between the border and Lordburg…a total of 84 trail miles. Just short of where we would leave asphalt pavement, we stopped at a tiny desert store that had previously been a small garage 70 years ago. We stopped for two reasons:  1) get last minute items, and 2) to meet Radar. He made each of us write down his number in case we ran into problems. Back in the trucks and onto sandy, rutted washboard roads for the next 2 hours. We stopped by each water cache and at a couple hazard areas they wanted to point out. These water caches have 30-40 gallons of water, a couple plunger tubs of sun block, and hand sanitizer. Radar is such a gift to us and our success through this tough section. We could see the small pavilion and monument in the distance. This is about to get REAL! At the end of the road was a short barbed wire fence with Mexico on the other side. It’s actually a very large chili pepper ranch. We turned left, and in 100 yards we arrived at the southern terminus at 9:40 AM. 

The Start…Crazy Cook Monument

We pulled our packs out of the dust covered trash bags and slathered on sun block.  The shuttle drivers took pictures for us and recommended checking up at water cache 1.  We were all standing under the only piece of shade provided by the small pavilion and there was an uncomfortable silence. WindChime said, “Well, someone needs to start.”  I was ready, so I passed on a few pleasantries and took my first step of the hike.   Although it was only 70 degrees at 10:00, I could feel the power of the sun. It would grow more intense over the day, constantly telling me, “I can hurt you…real bad!”  I felt strong and planned to go farther than cache 1. Time went by quick as I made good time to cache 1, but I could feel my feet taking heat and damage from the long deep sandy washes the trail followed. At cache 1, I ate lunch and aired my feet out.  Shoes back on and I “camelled” up with 3 liters of water…enough that I could camp overnight if I didn’t make it to cache 2 at 25.5 miles. My pace was slower during this hottest part of the day, but still decent.  I made it to cache 2 just as the sun went down. A good first day!  

I woke the next morning and checked myself over; no sunburn, but my feet had a few concern spots so I covered up with Leuko Tape. If I would make the Lordsburg leg in three days, then day 2 would have to be big. The morning hike was magic!  The terrain was now beautiful in cool temperatures. Short creosote bushes dominated the floor with all types of cactuses…ocotillo, cane cholla, prickly pears, and barrel…honey mesquite, yucca, agave, and many more plants with thorns…so many ways to be stabbed.  

Rabbits were scurrying around, cows were watching me, and colorful birds sang. As mid-morning temps climbed, lizards replaced the rabbits and birds. This was the time most hikers ducked into shade until late afternoon to hike again…siesta time. I decided to be one of the few that hiked during the heat. It worked well for me…be intentional to drink and take short breaks if required. Bigger miles put me out of step with the water caches, which meant I would have to source water from cattle troughs. Yep, it can look rough, but my filter cleans it right up. Also ran into a cooler of Gatorade trail magic under a big tree!  I whittled at the day and managed to make cache 4…it was a 33 mile day.  That set me up for a 26 miler into Lordsburg.  My right heal had an unusual pain as I took off my shoe.  I had a peanut sized blister!  I don’t blister…I’ve never blistered!  Well I have now.  The hot shifting sand took its toll…more Leuko Tape required. No biggie…I was long overdue.  

There are well marked sections, and then, well, not so much. That was day 3. These can be long sections where we all just follow the foot tracks like ants and pheromone trails. Eventually, I see a sign and I’m way off my bearing like everyone else before me.  Just cut a diagonal and get back on course. As I looked across the desert, I could see the horizon distorted with ripple heat waves rising in mid-afternoon. I got into an old lava bed; felt a sharp pain in my right heal. I thought I may have hit lava so hard that I might have started a stone bruise. Concerned me enough that I stopped. Turned out to be a long thorn that went completely through my shoe heal and stabbed my heal. Luckily, it didn’t go too deep, and it gave me a chance to clear several other smaller thorns I had picked up.

I did it…Lordsburg in 3 days!  No trophy, just some contentment.  I had already staged my next leg’s resupply box the first time I was in Lordsburg. All I needed to do was take a shower and a little hand washing of socks and underwear in the sink. Across the street from the Econo Lodge was a restaurant named Kranberry’s…yes, please, to a full salad bar and burger. I talked to Cookie Jar and she suggested I take my own advice (slow down to go fast) on my way to Silver City, so I decided to sleep in and get a good breakfast at Kranberry’s before hitting the trail the next morning.  

Lordsburg to Silver City:

The leg to Silver City took 3 days as well, but it was a little shorter and the terrain eventually climbed into bigger trees with shade. The road walk out of Lordsburg gave way to a long flat section that turned east across packed desert. The desert floor was so hard I couldn’t see any foot tracks and there were no trail markers. I shot a primitive bearing using my Guthook app and started walking to a distant mountain peak. An hour or so later I picked up foot tracks and trail markers. The trail was undulating as I gradually climbed, and the cloud cover was a very welcome break from the sun’s intensity.  Cookie Jar calls those cool breezes “God’s Mercy.” Made me smile as I thought of her…love you…my girl. I stopped and panned the horizon forward; turned around and looked for movement behind me…the desert was peacefully mine. A short while later, I was reminded that I’m just passing through;  my eye caught motion to the distant right.  As I studied it, I realized there were several antelope. I noticed motion all around me…I had around 30 antelope surrounding my front.  It had been over 20 years when I lived in Montana that I had seen antelope. My plan was to start looking for a camp spot around 6:00.  I saw a picturesque solo tree on a hilltop and hoped the trail would pass close by. I was in luck. It was too tempting to pass such a beautiful spot so I decided to quit early for the day.  

So glad I checked up and caught a great sunset for dinner.

My next target was the Burro Mountain Campground. Along the way, I caught up to Chairman; we met at the last cow trough the day before.  We were both headed to the campground for some snacks and water. The hiking surprised me because I found myself in a 1,700 ft climb in the heat of the day. I had gotten so used to rolling hills, I never considered an actual climb. I dropped a gear and more steadily climbed.  The trees were much bigger…oaks, pines, and junipers. I topped 8,000 ft and started dropping quickly towards the campground. A short divert off trail, and I was there…frozen pizzas, ice cream, Gatorade…simple rewards for a hot dusty day!  I thought about camping there, but the camp spots were in direct sunlight. I decided to hike another 5-6 miles and stealth camp closer to Hwy 90 for a 13 mile hike into Silver City the next day.  Along the dusty road walk, I met up with Gables and Stinger. We found a nice stealth spot tucked up a wash out of sight.  

A 6:00 start the next morning put me in Silver City around 10:00. Before I went to my hotel, I found a local Mexican restaurant for some Juevos Rancheros. I had a reservation at the Copper Manor and they let me check right in…love it when we get in early.  I already had enough food to get to Doc Campbell’s. Did my chores, relaxed and ate a few more times.

I stopped by Denny’s for a Grand Slam breakfast and was leaving the hotel at 9:00. Trail was cruisy the first half of the day. At mile 175, I came across the first natural water. Up to this point, we relied on water caches, towns, cattle troughs, and tanks. Nice to get some proper water. After lunch, the trail climbed about 2,000 ft up to 7,500 ft. Shorter climb than I’m used to, but it went straight up…CDT ain’t messing around with their elevation gain!  I was descending and headed to a water tank. Found it and five other hikers I hadn’t met yet. Earlier in the day, they met a well known hermit that has lived up here for 23 years to pray. He invited them to his hut just 200 yards away..sounded like a very nice and well put-together guy. Google “hermit CDT Gila Alternate” for more details.  I grabbed my water for camp and headed out for another hour of hiking. Car Bomb tagged along for some bonus miles and we had a good chat. 

I peeled off to find my camp…Car Bomb pressed.  

The next morning, I was approaching the descent to the Gila River and ran back into Car Bomb. Over the course of the day we did about 40 river crossings…all no deeper than mid thigh.  We had tall canyon walls on both sides of us…beautiful and shady walk. We arrived at Doc Campbell’s Post…drank some cold drinks and ate a couple burritos. I got my resupply box and bought a few things. Thinking about just keeping on, keeping on, instead of a ZERO.

Gila River

Trail Tale: 

I was headed to a cow water tank that Guthook comments said was dominated by bees, but the shade was good. I got there and the comments were spot on. Honey bees buzzing trying to get water too. Hundreds lay dead in the surface water along with gobs of other unsightly things. Well, I needed water, so I started dipping lime Gatorade colored water, filling my bladder. I held it up to the sun and it was rough with several bugs swimming around in it. I used my Sawyer Squeeze filter…crystal clear..magic!  I went ahead and filled my other bladder. Along comes two hikers: Wow and Andy. Wow is from Australia and Andy lives in Canada, but is from Scotland. We said hellos. Andy has never hiked a long trail, so he doesn’t have a trail name yet. Wow, like me, has hiked the AT and PCT. Andy also has a YouTube channel called Andy Hikes…he wants to learn and teach others about hiking. Andy walks over to the tank and said, “I’ve seen this tank on YouTube!” He pushed down on the float and out comes clean water from the pipe above. I had just filtered some really grubby water and felt like a big ol’ dummy. I asked Andy if he had a trail name yet…he had one he was considering. I suggested a trail name for him…Float. I think he might take it. Check out his YouTube channel and see if he picked up that trail name.  😀

Until Next Time,



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