CDT day 15: don’t believe the hype

May 19
Mileage 17
323 miles from Mexico

Wake up in the frosty morning ice covering everything and pack up as the sun struggles over the distant hills. I hear there’s major snow north of us- I wonder what Colorado will bring. I wonder what will even happen there. It’s good then that I started in May, that I’m not pushing super hard. Give that snow some time to melt!

“Embrace the brutality” is what they say but there’s been nothing about the CDT, so far, that I would describe as brutal. If I had to pick adjectives I’d say that the CDT is peaceful, calming and chill. The CDT doesn’t have the infrastructure that the PCT has, the proliferation of trail angels and the trail magic, and so it also lacks the inherent drama around those things. There is no FKT for the CDT, no comparing oneself to others in trail registers (there are no trail registers) no point in obsessing over numbers. There is no trail gossip, no two-thousand mile game of telephone where rumors spread and stories are distorted. Alternates abound, and the alternates have murky, inexact mileages. Trail markers are few and far between. Most of the time, at least in New Mexico, there’s not even a trail.

We’re just sort of out here, walking on dirt roads for no reason.

It’s incredibly freeing.

And the weather, the navigation, the planning around water, the learning to laugh when everything goes awry, the actual walking- that’s just hiking. If you’ve got a long trail under your belt, you’re in good shape, and your pack is light, you’ll do fine on the CDT. There’s absolutely nothing brutal about it.

CDT: Don’t believe the hype. It’s magical out here.

Once packed up we set out for the long-feeling flat 17 mile dirt roadwalk into Pie Town. I make the time pass by looking at the clouds, tossing my trekking poles into the air, and listening to a David Sedaris audiobook. We reach our destination mid-day and discover that “Pie Town” is a sprawling cluster of wonderfully ramshackle cabins and trailers and a handful of churches the size of tiny homes. There is one restaurant in town that’s open, the Pie Town cafe, and we crowd inside of it, our hunger radiating out from us in waves. Many burgers are eaten, and also pie and ice-cream, and a wonderful contentment settles over us. We slump down in our seats and eventually stumble down the street to the Toaster House, which is an old wooden cabin, dark and cool and long inside with only a wood cookstove for heat. The house is owned by a woman, Nita, who raised five children here. Nita now lives elsewhere but she leaves the house open for hikers. The walls are still covered in ephemera from the time this quirky ramshackle structure in middle-of-nowhere New Mexico held an entire family and I find myself walking around, touching things, wishing that I had grown up here, that this had been my childhood. There are other hikers here and in the evening we crowd the kitchen in our puffy jackets and running shorts, cooking mac and cheese on the wood cookstove. Outside the sun sets and the crickets come out. I throw my sleeping bag down on a bed in the loft. In the morning I have to hang around until 8 in order to pick up a package from the post office when it opens but hey, I ain’t complaining.

Photos on instagram