Aloha Decorah!

In Sept we jet-set it to small town Iowa for our thru-hiking friends Tim & Nina’s wedding. We’d first met Nina as Silverfox on the PCT in ’09. Then we’d gotten to know her properly as Kombucha when she hiked the CDT with her boyfriend Tim (Hawkeye). We hiked with Tim & Nina on and off during the entire CDT. And afterwords, they continued vagabonding it – they bought a VW Van an toured all over the US before ending up back in Tim’s hometown of Decorah.

photo by Nina

And Decorah – wow, what a surprise! The town itself is charming, with a great main street that includes a local food co-op, yoga studio, outdoor store and some great bars & cafes. The hills in the distance were already blazing with autumn color and there’s acres of wild prairie, trails winding through the woods and a meandering river.

It was a shame we weren’t able to have a true CDT reunion (we are now spread far and wide – Heaps in Australia, Lost in Alaska, Yas in Japan, Found in Cali, Joker in Washington state) but Mike with a Y & Naomi were able to come. It was hard to believe it had been almost a year since we’d seen Tim & Nina and Mike & Naomi. As soon as we were together again, it seemed like we’d only been apart a few days. It was great catching up and also reminiscing about times on the trail.

the beautiful bride

Tim & Nina’s wedding captured their spirit in every detail. The ceremony was held in the dappled sunshine besides a bubbling spring.  Since they met in Hawaii (and Tim is half Hawaiian) they exchanged gorgeous leis (and hi-fives) at the beginning of the ceremony. Their beloved dog Rio also donned a lei and severed as flower-dog. The vows they’d written were funny, sincere and lovely.  Afterwords we enjoyed dinner and dancing at the historic hotel downtown. Instead of wedding cake, we munched on peanut M&Ms (which was Tim’s sole source of “nourishment” for a 100 mile stretch on CDT) and scotch-a-roos (an amazing chocolatey peanut buttery rice krispy treat that Tim’s mom makes and sent us along the trail).

The only disappointment was that our time in Decorah was much much too short. Reuniting with such kindred spirits was nourishing. We need to find a thru-hiking community in the DC area!  And  witnessing the union of two beautiful free spirits was such a joy.

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re-entry

Well it’s been just over a month since finishing our hike of the CDT.  Strangely, I was able to update the blog more regularly when we were hiking through the wilderness and had internet access only once a week at best.  Now that I have daily access to the web, I can’t find the time.

On the trail I had only three concerns:  1) walk  2) eat  3) sleep.  Yes, we did have to plan where we were going to walk (deciding our route) and do a fair bit of navigation at times, but life was simple. All we had we could carry on our backs.  Life moved at a slower pace. We were walking for goodness sake!  Think about where you’ve gone today (perhaps by car, train or bike) and now imagine doing the same activities but with only your 2 feet to carry you to and fro. I’ll be surprised if someone can report it wouldn’t significantly change their daily routine.

+ As winter approaches, I’m grateful for the roof over our heads and our warm (free on Craigslist) bed. I’m thankful I can eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies everyday, rather than the junk food we ate on the trail. It’s wonderful to be close to friends and family again. And I’m finally getting to live out some of my HGTV daydreams as we decorate our condo.  I’m enjoying being a dog owner too!  But…

– I miss the slower pace and simplicity of life on the trail.  I miss the stellar community and instant connection with other thru-hikers.  I miss being able to pig out with the knowledge that none of it would go straight to my thighs.  I miss the mountains and the unexpected sights that each new mile brought.

Our last re-entry, after the PCT, was difficult but we also knew our time in civilization was temporary. We devoted ourselves completely to work so we could earn money for the CDT. Now, things are different. We definitely want to hike the Appalachian Trail sometime in the next few years, but for now we’re putting down roots after being nomads for over three years.

¡Mexico!

Finally, the long overdue blog on our finish:

We had a nostalgic and easy 2 days from Deming to Columbus.  On OCTOBER 27th, we reunited with Yas (he’d done the hard-core cacti bushwack through the Florida Mountains that we’d bypassed).  Yas said the bushwack wasn’t too bad, but we also had to pick a dozen cactus spines out of his back from when he’d fallen on a cactus.  In Colombus, New Mexico (a town known for its 1916 attack by Pancho Villa) we breakfasted before setting off on our final 3 mile road walk.  Dan had made a star as a monument for our finish since Jonathan Ley’s maps use stars to mark out segments on the trail.  (Rather than going point to point, we go star to star… and we were approaching our final star!)

The finish was the in many ways the complete opposite of our Pacific Crest Trail finish in Canada. Instead of endless trees, there were cacti. In place of a strip of clear cut trees, there was a strip mall with a Family Dollar. Rather than solitude, Mexicans and Americans alike (along with plenty of Border Patrol Officials) milled about the streets.  But the best part was rather than an 8 mile walk to civilization and food, we just had a 8 minute stroll into the town of Palomas, Mexico.

We’d debated whether or not we should enter Mexico since Palomas is nearby Juarez which is in the midst of a dangerous drug war. But in the end it seemed safe and we were so glad we decided to enter Mexico.  At The Pink Store were treated like celebrities.  The owner shouted out to everyone (in Spanish and English) that we’d just walked from Canada and treated us to margaritas.  We dined on muy ricos burritos and fajitas as a mariachi bands played. It was the perfect way to celebrate our (approximately) 2,800 mile journey on foot from Canada to Mexico.  Naomi, Mike’s wife, had flown in for the occasion too.  Yes, The Pink Store is a total tourist trap, full of handcrafted Mexican folk art and retired American couples, but it was heavenly!  (Besides, of those retired couples bought us a round of drinks!)

It had been an amazing journey…. it was hard to believe it was actually over.

Darling Deming

10/20 – 10/24 The section from Miembres to Deming gave us a taste of several extremes. We had a day of rain and snow around Hillsboro Peak, a few days later it was burning sunshine.  The “trail” was a mix of unmaintained trail, easy dirt roads, overgrown old roads and bushwacking through cactus and prickly little plants whose burrs stabbed your feet.  Most of the rivers we passed were dry but there were windmills or solar wells every 10 or 15 miles.  Unfortunately much of the designated trail was on private land – which we didn’t realize until we came up to a fence and AFTER having crossed it, looked back to see a “No Trespassing” sign. Opps!  The highlight for me was exploring an abandoned house that was stuffed with fascinating old stuff.

When we arrived in Deming we got a great newly remodeled room at The American Inn (formerly the hideously run-down Mirador Motel) and got straight to business: watching HGTV.  I know that most people probably already know about Home and Garden TV, but as someone who rarely watches TV, I didn’t discover the channel until a few weeks ago.  It soon became a main part of our town stops… I was hooked.  It offers all the benefits of looking for a house or remodeling a room or landscaping a yard without any of the negatives – having to worry about time, money, effort, if you’ll be happy with the finished product, etc.  An entire basement is transformed from a concrete box to an inviting apartment in just half an hour.  For me, who constantly daydreams about decorating our condo, HGTV is quite addictive.

 

We climbed over, under and in between many barbed wire fences!

Still, we managed to pull ourselves away from the TV to do chores and have dinner with Keith, the Deming Trail Angel. We swapped stories and he informed us of the water situation for the next section – we only had 57 miles left till the Mexican border!  Incredible!

But not quite as incredible as Dan’s fashion sense.

Gila Hot Springs

10/18 – For a fantastic finish to our Nero Day, we went for a dip in the Gila Hot Springs and then to dinner.  At the hot springs there was some beautiful sculptures made from driftwood and found objects. It was an enchanting place.  And, our tour guide Esther had invivted us over to her and her husband’s trailer for a home-cooked meal.  It was the first home-cooked food we’d had since Yellowstone. Ester whipped up a scrupmtious vegetarian meal of lentils, veggies, wild rice, fresh salad from the garden, deviled eggs and more. It was great chatting with them about straw bail homes, York, wolves, and art. In addition to leading tours of the Cliff Dwellings, Esther paints beautiful oil portraits.  After one more dip in the steaming hot springs by the light of the moon, it was time for bed.

Dwellings + Doc’s

10/18 –

We slept in, nibbled on our few remaining crumbs and then headed over to see the Gila Cliff Dwellings. Our tour guide, Esther, was a friendly Brit who’d gone to uni in York. The Dwellings were fascinating. The were built by the Mogollon Native American people around the 1300s but only occupied for about 30 years. Unfortunately it didn’t become a protected site until 1975 so most archeological artifacts were plundered, but the adobe brick structures remain, tucked into deep caves.  The setting is superb and Esther was a very informative tour guide.  It’s incredible to me that Americans are still taught our history began in 1620 with the arrival of the Mayflower when there is a rich history that extends hundreds of years before Plymouth.

Shortly after arriving at Doc Campbell’s store, where we feasted on homemade ice cream, Kombucha and Hawkeye arrived.  They’d had some exciting bear encounters in the Gila. Then, to our surprise, Wing It and Don’t Panic arrived!  Wing It and Don’t Panic had started really moving and had already finished the trail, taking the Crazy Cook route. DP’s parents had met them at the border and they’d come back up to the Gila to see the cliff dwellings. It was great to see them.

Kombucha, Hawkeye, Yas, Wing It, Don't Panic, DnA, Mike

Gila River

Trail magic from Wrong Way

10/14 – 10/15 – Over the next few days we walked through ponderosa forests, mainly on jeep roads but we also had our first trail since before Grants.  Wrong Way met us at a non-functioning windmill with water and other goodies.  It would have been a looooooong waterless stretch if not for his generosity. We climbed Mangus and Wagontongue Mountain before descending to the lovely rolling grassland of Collins Park. Pronghorn pranced across the golden hills. Thunder and lightning were looming on the horizon when we arrived at Snow Lake on the afternoon of 10/16.  We were expecting to hunker down in the bathroom for the worst of it, but the storm passed us by without a drop of rain.  At the lake we met some friendly El Pasonians, one of whom owned a pizzeria and generously gave us coupons for 4 free pizzas! 

The Middle Fork of the Gila River

October 17th we faced 77+ crossings of the Middle Fork of the Gila River.  In the frosty morning it was torture to immerse our feet and ankles into the icy water. But as the sun’s rays finally reached into the narrow canyon, the water warmed and terra-cotta cliffs on either side were stunning.  We walked along oak and pine trees and saw lots of bear scat but no bears. But, in the words of Jim Wolf, “enough is enough,” so we climbed up the top of the mesa. Our climb was rewarded with a grand vista of the valley the fuchsia and lemon coloured fruit of various cactus.  In the evening light we descended to the West Fork of the Gila to camp at Upper Scorpion campground.

Prickly Pear Cactus