CDT Day 149 — November 21
Big Hatchet Mountains to Crazy Cook Monument, CDT Southern Terminus, US-Mexico border
Dead Giveaway Camp 2.0 to We Freaking Did It! Camp
Miles hiked: 21.4
Total miles: 2716
We did it. We freaking did it! Exactly what ‘it’ is, still isn’t clear. Perhaps it never will be. Regardless of what making it to the Mexican border may or may not signify, tomorrow will be different than today. That I know. Tomorrow, I will not wake up thinking about how many miles are left, how many more days. Tomorrow, I wake up free of that daily grind. Do I want to be free? It’s time to find out! The CDT is finished, but the journey isn’t over. There is always the ‘next’. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I can figure that stuff out later. Our last day hiking the CDT was spectacular. It was challenging, frustrating, beautiful, and so fun. Every single little thing made the whole a day that I will forever cherish. The rain, the mud, the hunger. The friends, the solitude, the light. In the end, it was just another day. Is it more special because it comes at the end? Yeah, but it was cool its own right. I am grateful for that. The CDT gave us a farewell worthy of the CDT. Bigly.
Twisting tent stakes, whipping wind, flappy tent. The night was not without its trials, but I slept well, warm and dry. Crunchberry was pretty much ready to go by the time SpiceRack and I stopped snoozing. Even Rooster was out of his tent, and the sun was already doing its awesome color thing to the clouds. We packed up posthaste and rolled out with the dudes just before 7am. Nauseous with hunger, I scarfed mini muffin things as quickly as possible as we continued on the dirt road to Mexico. Dead Giveaway came and went, but nobody wanted to commit to it.
It is strange to think about now, but at this point we weren’t sure that we’d make it to the border by the end of the day. We didn’t need to make it. Our ride was showing up tomorrow morning. There was also a bunch of rain in the forecast that we weren’t sure we’d like to hike through. Mud, ick! We were going to take it one tea break at a time. It looked like we might dodge the storm altogether when the sky began to clear, but gradually, our patch of blue was surrounded by clouds boasting ominous shades of gray. I stopped to poop and by the time I got hiking again, the others were half a mile ahead and a rainbow had popped up to the north. I was glad for the solitude. I wanted to give my mind the opportunity to process this grand conclusion without distraction. Not much came up, though. I just looped the Safety Kids theme silently. The deep thoughts will come later.
I applied sunscreen to my sweaty face just in time for the rain to finally catch us. Haha, of course. The near mountains disappeared behind a dense curtain of rain. Behind me, an ancient blue Scout II trundled up the road. It turned out to be Jeffrey, the border shuttle guy, and Jolly Rancher, a cyclist that we met at Toaster House. They were coming to check out the road conditions ahead of the storm and informed me that this system would be four times worse than the last one before snapping my photo and continuing on. Well, the last one wasn’t so bad. I caught up with the others when they stopped to put on their rain jackets. I pulled out my umbrella, not concerned, but ready.
A short tea break at the last water cache followed. I filled my hip-belt pockets with the snacks needed to get me to lunch. We followed CDT signs off the road, up a gravel wash winding into the mountains, inevitably causing me to wonder if a dry riverbed was the right place to be in a thunderstorm. Definitely not, but it’s pretty wide. No way the whole thing floods. That questionable logic was good enough for me. I followed the others between mud cliffs and brushy sandbars. I felt isolated now, with my umbrella limiting my view to just a few feet in front of me. Earlier, the feeling was welcome, but now that it was forced on me, I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to enjoy Spice’s company, hear her smile, feel her laugh. I wanted to hang out with my friends. Crunch gave us a quick comedy show when he put on his second rain jacket, but otherwise the rain was bumming me out.
Crunch and I climbed out of the wash, safe and sound, onto a different dirt road. We were in the mountains now, though we couldn’t see the peaks, shrouded as they were in raining cloud. Spice and Rooster chose to stay in the wash, popping out on the wrong side of a maze of muddy gullies a few minutes later. The footing was far from certain in the ooze, but they made it back to trail with just one slip and mud-covered butt each. It was a good show.
Another wash took us back out of the mountains to a dirt road. We were on a straight line to the border now. It rained off and on and we hiked close together through creosote and ocotillo. It was beautiful with ever-changing light, but I wanted so badly just to sit and eat lunch out of the rain, which had been falling steadily for four hours now. Hangry and frustrated. Hunger was (a big)part of it, but I also started to fear that the rain would persist all the way to the end. I didn’t want to reach the end in this mood, in this weather, and the end was almost here. Maybe we can set up camp a couple miles short, wait for tomorrow?
I was asking Spice to compare her PCT finish(also in the rain) with this one when a sweep of the weather changed the rain to sun-rain, then no-rain. The sun came out next as the gray haze blew north. We sat for lunch, eating quickly and finishing the Dr. Pepper, not taking the break for granted. More rain was on the way, but the sun on my face, calories in my stomach, and sugar in my veins brightened my disposition immensely. 3.5 miles to the border. Here we go! And then there was beauty everywhere. Rainbows sprang from the ground, clouds glowed gold, diamonds sparkled in the air and across the sea of bushes.
Road turned to sign hopping as we leapfrogged one another, each person taking the needed time to savor these remaining steps on the path from Canada to Mexico. I spun in place, looking back to the hills, the cliffs to the south, the rainbow garden to the north, the flatland to the east. This place is not what I expected. More interesting, more variety, more peaks, more life, more sound, more feeling. A place will always be ‘more’. My tiny brain can’t imagine all that will be. There will always be more than I can imagine. That’s why I go. How much of my perception of this place is a projection of my inner feelings? It already feels like a dream. I’m freaking drowning in nostalgia!
I was just beginning to think that these last miles were awfully long when, there it was, 100 yards ahead, a pavilion, a signboard, and a stone obelisk grouped on this side of a humble wire fence. A smile, a whoop. A moment. The next, I was walking hand in hand with Spice. Then we were at the fence, touching it. A shared smile, a word, a hug, a kiss. Then we were at the monument with the dudes, hugging and congratulating one another. The crowning ceremony for the newest Triple Crowners came next, followed by the awkward obligatory finishing photos. 5 months to think about it. Still unprepared.
4pm on the 149thday. None of us knew what to do with ourselves after that. No more hiking. What now? Eat dinner and cowboy camp under the pavilion. Now what? Reminisce about the past, watch some Netflix, think.
This feels like finishing just another day, not the whole CDT. Not yet. What does it all mean? Need time. Animals cross this border all the time. Birds. This is just a place. A human place. We walked a long way, but just from one random human place to another random human place. We achieved a random human accomplishment. So arbitrary. There is more out there than what humans create, what humans think is important. Is the trail important? How is it important? I wish it kept going. I could keep going. I would keep going…
Plenty to think about. I made it. We all made it. WE made it. Cool.