Day 9 hiking the Continental Divide Trail

So, here’s the deal. I very much appreciate all the support you blog readers give to me. I have a transcriber, John Clark, who posts photos and emails from this hike to my Trailjournals site. I connect when I can, which is rare here. I have decided to offer additional posts to this WordPress blog when I am at a Wi-Fi spot a a residence or a motel. That’s all I got. There are battery issues, and little energy left to even write some days.
When I finish hiking, all my focus will shift back to the blog again. Hold on! In the meantime, go to Trailjournals and follow the adventure.
My Trailjournal site is

Emory Pass to campsite on Bear Trap Creek
16 miles.
Finally had a day when the hiking enjoyment outweighed the aggravation. Word class hiking was the norm most of the day. Lots of ledges, cliffs, side slabbing hills, wildflowers, and plenty of water flowing that culminated in a primo campsite on pine needles in a grove of ancient trees.
Louis wanted to have a fire, but there is too much dry vegetation laying all about and the wind is still gusting strong.
We are in the Gila Wilderness, the first of the National Wilderness areas, enacted in 1924. It is huger 3.3 million acres huge, inconceivable vistas that go 40 miles or more with no habitation.
After begging more water at the Pass, or “trail strong arming” as Train described it, we tackled the 1800 foot climb to Hillsboro Peak (10,000′).
I felt stronger today and was not so exhausted with the climbs.
Hillsboro has a active fire tower on it with a cabin for the ranger, and another crew cabin that was left open for hikers, that we enjoyed.
I read a book about fire spotter culture that is excellent – Check out Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. They have a chapter about this tower.
We all had at east 5 quarts of water, and were prepared to go 24 miles with no water if we had to.
I misjudged my food plan and am coming up short, on reduced rations until tomorrow when I can pick up a food box I sent to myself.
Here’s what I ate today: breakfast was a can of Coke, an orange, a half apple that I shared with Louis, a half banana, and 1/2 a peanut and butter sandwich. I had a cliff Bar for a mid morning snack. Lunch was 6 Triscuits, a Three Muskateers bar, and a Myoplex protein drink carton. I had an Almond Snickers bar for afternoon snack. Supper was a package of pre-cooked rice with a packet of Kentucky Fried Chicken barbeque sauce, and the last two of my Mom’s date nut bars. I had a cup of sweet tea to drink. Not enough, but I am not complaining.
We started seeing water in East Canyon, which relieved our water worries.
Really sweet feeling of fatigue tonight. I hope to sleep well. I was able to finally call my wife Marcia and my mother Isabel today. I get all emotional speaking to them, and miss them both. Things get real when you are outside walking in the wilderness all day. Little things in life grow huge and are treasured.


Hiking the CDT: Day 4

Day 4
Slack pack of 6 miles from N of Deming back to Deming

Today we welcome a guest entry by General Lee. I asked Lee, Train, and Louis to submit their own entries for occasional posting here. Lee was the first to come through. If you are in touch with any if these guys, encourage them to write and tell them what you want to hear about so that you can appreciate their own points of view !

From General Lee:
A parched, bleak barren plain is what we behold as we take our initial steps north-bound on this most challenging of endeavors. We are in the wasteland of scrub brush, cactus, and dirt.
The wind gusts upward to 60 MPH and it is unrelenting. Grit is blown into every crevice imaginable- nose, ears, mouth, are all encrusted with sand. The squall is blinding; mountains that are 4,000 feet higher directly a ice the horizon are completely blanketed in a haze of dust.
We’ e seen more wildlife dead than alive. Nothing seems to survive this unforgiving, foreboding environment at all. And all the while we are under the watchful eye of big brother- Border Patrol strictly surveys the scene for miscreants misbehaving. Still we feel fortunate for the opportunity to even be here in the first place.
We are in the elite echelon of our unpopular sporting event and openly embrace the brutality of this environment and the uncountable, interminable challenges the lie ahead.
MeGaTex is perpetually prepared to ” get ‘er done and still have fun”.

Back to UncleTom:
We slacked 6 miles today, thanks to Keith.

20130420-202922.jpgHe had dropped the Czech Express, AKA Lester Burnham, off at the Mexico border earlier this morning.

We needed this easier day to heal up from the past three days of heat, thorns, unrelenting sun, and sand storms. Extra sunscreen, aloe vera gel, ice, and ibuprofen need to be put into active duty right now.

Hiking the CDT: Day 3

Day 3
White Dome tank to American Inn, Deming
20 miles
The freakin’ road walk of 15 miles put the hurt on MeGaTex today. We got off to an early start, hiking by 7:30 AM, and enjoyed the gravel road walk that put us up past the Florida Gap and onto the long hot road walk back to Deming.
Tonight, Louis has severe stiffness in his Achilles’ tendon, Lee has the same complaints. My feet held up, but I have some toe pain. Train is unscathed, attributing his fitness to working around a 400 degree oven for the past 9 months pivoting his core in sweltering heat.
I absolutely love the El Mirador Mexican restaurant across the street. Lee and I got here first, and after a hot shower we headed over there where I had a bowl of pozole and tamales with red sauce.
Mesquite thorns went right through the soles of the trail runners of the other three guys. Only I was unscathed, due to the hard Vibram soles of my New Balance boots.
We found a golf club head, a Santa chalice, a golf ball, and a dime on the shoulder of the roads.
Louis had no long shirt and his arms are baked to a red crust.
The oddest sight today was a big dead horse laying on a trailer towed by a pickup truck rolling through town.
I joined Keith for Italian food. I had a big salad with grilled shrimp. We may take advantage of a slacked walk tomorrow. It is satisfying to negotiate this first segment.
Despite maps and a GPS, we were misguided twice in 3 days. Pretty challenging conditions out there.
Tomorrow we start heading up to some mountains.


Hiking the CDT: Day 2

Day 2
Near Willie Pritchard’s to water tower
18 miles

20130420-081135.jpg “Would you like to spend more time relaxing in a motel tomorrow or surrounded by and on top of cow shit?”, asked General Lee. At this point we had just kicked cow shit aside to sit in a small patch of shade on the side of an ancient rusting water tank.
So we got up off the ground and trudged out 5 more miles this after noon.
Much better day today, but we are all tired and Louis had sprouted a blister on his little toe. There is nothing to do around here but walk all day. Around noon we aimed for the shade of a telephone pole in the middle of the parched desert.
The vastness of this dried up universe is astounding. I am afraid to put on shorts, I don’t want sunburned legs. The grit is everywhere.
We see no one out here. We passed a woman walking her two dogs this morning on the highway after we left our campsite and she told us only 10-12 hikers pass by this route every year. No exactly a popular hiking destination. There is no conceivable reason anyone would be going here except to say they walked from the Mexico border on the CDT. Every hour or so we have to crawl on our stomachs under a barbed wire fence.
We took water out of troughs for cattle, ignoring the thousands on dead wasps and bees floating in the green algaed- up tanks. There is no option if you want to stay alive.
We camped on hard gravel half mile off a jeep trail that led to more solar powered water sources.
I heard the sound of a pair of owls in the night where it got down to 35 degrees.
The wind finally stopped. Every part of my body aches.

Hiking the CDT: Day 1

Day 1
End point approx 4 miles west Willie Pritchard’s approaching Route 11
Mileage 22

20130420-080528.jpg“There is no escaping it,” said Louis, as we pondered our fate on our first day of walking. We later learned that I-10 and Route 11 were both closed due to sandstorms and high winds.
I raised doubt as to the wisdom of holing up a day and waiting for the worst winds and sand storms to pass but Lee put the Kabosh on that plan.
D-Low coined the term ” Embrace the Brutality” in reference to the CDT and we had a hug with it today.
We started hiking at exactly noon and just made it to our campsite as the sun was setting. Inside my Tarptent everything is covered with fine grit-my hair, tent floor, even the threads of my water bottle. The winds were incessant, reaching a peak around 5 PM when gusts up to 50 MPH lifted the sands off the bleak desert and drove waves of visible sand at us, peppering our faces , eyes with tiny rocks. Thank God we all had sunglasses. Also , the force of the gusts pitched us around a bit. The roar of the wind in our ears drove us nuts.
The humidity here is exceedingly low, possibly in single numbers. Despite walking quickly with a pack that had 4 quarts if water, I never raised a sweat. Consequently we drank copiously, our first resupply at a cemetery on the outskirts of Columbus.
We saw not one sign marking the trail. Lee punctured both his Thermarest air mattress and his three quart Platypus today. There are huge thorns and needles everywhere, dead and alive.
The end of the day was close to a disaster. Yesterday Keith drove out into the desert to stash 4 quarts if water under a bush on the side of a jeep road. I had marked it as a GPS waypoint. The problem turned out to be finding it in the middle of a vast desert where everything looks the same in all directions as far as the eye can see. We followed our map but the water cache was off the route. I had been practicing with the GPS at home but not with this function, and it took us too long, but we did finally find it, just as the sun was setting. So we were exhausted, and the wind was now a very cold wind and it was getting dark. It was too windy to cook.
Lee and Louis slept cowboy style (no tent) in a shallow sandy draw, and Train and I put up our tents. The stakes were small and not holding mine, so I had to tie the tent to a small bush to keep it from blowing away. I ate my granola and dried milk for supper and collapsed into my wonderful, glorious safe cocoon of a tent.

Texas and New Mexico Welcome MeGaTex

Made it to our launch pad at the American Inn of Deming, NM in style.
I negotiated three plane flights to finally reach El Paso , where I was greeted by General Lee and Emily , our new trail angel, as I stepped off the plane.
Soon we were at her in-law’s house where we met her father-in-law and her husband Mike.

20130417-055628.jpgEmily is the daughter of my good friend Joe. They have been living and working in El Paso for the past seven years.
I was pumped to see TraIn and Richard Wizard (Louis), already at the house, who were dressed in the same hiking informs as I remember. Louis appears to be wearing the same green collared shirt that I recall from the PCTA IN 2010. Our hiking group of four is back for action.
Emily served me a fresh plate of Mexican that was definitely a cut above what we get in Maine. Then our little caravan of two cars meandered along the agricultural areas skirting Mexico and New Mexico where we saw miles of pecan trees and freshly planted onions.
The humidity here is between 5-14%, temps are in the 80’s, and there has been just 1/4″ of rain since Jan, making the desert a powder keg for possible fires.
High wind and fire danger advisories are posted for the next two days, with tomorrow the worst.
Here’s the weather report for tomorrow:
“A high wind warning means a hazardous high wind event is expected or occurring. Sustained wind speeds of at least 40 mph or gusts of 58 mph or more can lead to property damage.
A blowing dust advisory means that blowing dust will restrict visibilities. Travelers are urged to use caution.”

After Emily and mike treated us to green chili cheeseburgers at Blake’s Lotaburger, the welcome baton was passed in order to obtain local wisdom and support in the form of Keith Schwarzer, AKA El Coyote, (575) 494-4357,, who visited us at the motel with cartons of food and gear that I shipped to him last week. Keith helped us kindly and thoughtfully here in Deming, and his hiker services should be supported.
Keith will be shuttling us some 56 miles south to the Mexico border tomorrow morning, for the most reasonable cost of $25 for the four of us. We’ll be able to also stash water in a useful spot on the way down. There are no natural water sources for the next 200 miles of trail. We’ll depend on solar- powered wells and stock tanks to stay hydrated.
I met with Keith at the little Mexican restaurant across the street from our motel, where he pointed out
numerous details and improvements to our navigation that I wrote onto the printed Columbus route maps.
After being awake for 20 hours, our auspicious and welcoming first day was greatly appreciated by MeGaTex, the name for our traveling band.
The lights are off, room is strewn with hiking gear and empty boxes, and the long walk has begun.

Getting ready to leave blues

“You are going to come back as a feral individual. I know that’s going to happen”, said my wife Marcia yesterday.

The last three days before my thru-hike attempt of the CDT were anxiety-producing and tiring. There is no downloadable list for life extraction.

My departure punch list grew daily, and I definitely saved the best and worst for last. The best was when we split up a pile of dry firewood for Auntie Mame to use on these last cold spring Maine days. The worst was cleaning out the composting toilet at the Hobbes camp. At least I am getting quicker at it. Definitely a rubber gloves situation.
Another unique chore was applying a couple of thin layers of Shoo Goo to the exposed toe stitching on my New Balance hiking boots.

I believe I’ve stockpiled enough to get me through, thanks to my brother Roy and New Balance.

I’m dealing with three flights to El Paso Today. I just learned that my Maine Driver’s license expired. I didn’t have that on the checklist. Soon I won’t be Tom Jamrog, and will revert to my trail alter ego, Uncle Tom.

Is the unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach my fear of the open trail ahead or is it perhaps me already missing my rooted connection to my family, wife, friends, neighborhood, and the little black dog’s perpetually hopeful eyes?

Part of me is embarrassed to whine about having to deconstruct the life I’ve led for the past three years to haul a relatively small backpack of objects across America where I’m likely I to spend some portion of the next 156 days being lost.

Who am I to grumble about how difficult it is to walk away from a good life, when most people are struggling ?

There are deep threads holding
Us where we are right now.
Freedom extracts it’s price.
I hope that I have enough
Inside to see me through.
What will
I be like if
I can keep walking
across America
for 5 months?

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

I’ve received numerous comments from my post about the arrest of Christopher Knight, now dubbed “The North Pond Hermit”. Here’s an update on his continued resistance to connecting to a society he walked away from decades ago.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Police
Photo courtesy of Maine State Police
The link brings you to additional new stories about this most unusual situation.

‘North Pond Hermit’ a ‘model prisoner,’ bail set at $5,000 — Augusta — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Still slipping and sliding in the Camden Hills

8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head
8 mile loop hike from Carriage Rd. trail head

The day was dry, but the footing was often wet, but I made it up and around with nothing more than wet feet on today’s training hike.
The mandatory picture from the top of Mt. Megunticook shows the remains of snow along the edge of the plowed Mt. Battie Road.

Enough Said
Enough Said

Two miles of trail from Ocean Lookout back to the top of Megunticook and then down the Ridge Trail to Jack Williams Trail (JWT) is still covered with appreciable snow, and even ice floes on the descent to the connector to JWT. IMG_1473 I didn’t have traction devices with me and had to switchback along the untrodden snow to get down from the ridge.

It’s a mixed blessing to be walking in the Park this week, with more snow predicted tonight, April 12.

Donn Fendler film getting closer to becoming a reality — Bangor Daily News

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine, By Alex Barber — Just like the lost boy atop Mount Katahdin in 1939, two filmmakers are in the midst of a long journey with an uncertain outcome. Waterville, ME native Ryan Cook hopes his project turns out with a happy ending, just like the person whose story he’s telling — Donn Fendler.

On July 17, 1939, 12-year-old Fendler was separated from his family and became lost on Mount Katahdin. He emerged from the woods nine days later after the search for him had made headlines across the country.

via Donn Fendler film getting closer to becoming a reality — Mid-Maine — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

<–check out the full story, with video trailer.