It has been said in a hundred different ways by hikers on every long trail: the people make the trail. There are hikers out here of all backgrounds, from many different places and of a wide age range. There are lots of personalities and a lot of varied reasons for thru hiking, but the trail itself connects us all.
There is a strange phenomenon that happens when people struggle together, especially in relative isolation, where strong bonds form much more quickly than usual. Out here, it is not unusual to meet a hiker and know their entire life story, highs and lows, within a few days. Hiker friendships are fast and strong, and last well past the terminus even if you only hiked together briefly.
When I started the CDT, I anticipated a relatively solitary experience. Compared to the other big trails in this country, not many people attempt to thru hike the CDT, especially not Southbound. With my expectations of a quiet hike, I have been astonished by the number of hikers attempting this trail. Even now, past the 2000 mile marker, I am meeting new hikers and forming new bonds.
As I get closer to finishing this wild beast, I become even more grateful for the other wonderful humans still migrating toward that southern terminus. The togetherness and camaraderie when we bunch up in towns is revitalizing and the friendships remind me why I am out here. Truly, even on this remote endeavor, it is about the people.
When I resupply, I look at how many miles I need to hike until my next stop and what the terrain is like to determine how many days' worth of food I will need. The more I hike, the better I get at this calculus, but sometimes I still get it wrong. On this last stretch through the Gila River Wilderness, I definitely got it wrong and my hiking partner and I ended up a bit at odds, having some severe food anxiety for days and being VERY hungry. How did it go so wrong?
Usually I make my food before I leave home, dehydrating and measuring and preparing every meal with nutrition, calorie content and weight in mind. I sort all of my food into resupply boxes and label them for post office drops along the way. Sometimes, however, things get messy. A box gets lost in the mail. I arrive on a holiday weekend and would have to wait 3 days for...
Honestly though, this hike has been worlds apart from my thru hike of the PCT. The trail itself has a very different feel, the people are different, and I am a different hiker than I was on my last journey. This hike has been such a unique experience from any of my other hikes and I am so grateful for it.