Canada to Mexico 2019
June 20 – November 5
2,706 Total Miles Hiked
139 Days Total
25 Zero Days
114 Hiking Days
Total Average Miles Per Day (including zeros) – 19.46 miles
Average Miles Per Day (without zeros) – 23.73 miles
It’s been just over a month since finishing the trail, but it feels so much longer. In a way, I think that’s a good thing. My main complaint with life as of late is it seems to be going by too fast. So when short periods of time feel as though they were much longer, that’s a win in my book.
Before I get into my post trail mental state, feelings, observations, etc. I’ll give you a quick rundown of the events following the completion of the hike. After getting back to Lordsburg I split another room with Jetpack and Fuzz. We would only be staying that night, since Jetpack was catching a bus at 7pm the next day and I was catching one a little after midnight the same evening. Fuzz would be hiking back to the Gila River Canyon and camping out for the winter as a hermit. No I’m not kidding, and he has done exactly that since last I spoke to him.
Waiting for the Dog
At around 4:30 pm on November 6th, we both headed over to the McDonalds down the road (the Greyhound pickup spot) and waited for our respective buses. I would be calling McDonalds home for the next 7+ hours. Jetpack caught her bus without issue or delay and we said our goodbyes. She was on her way and only had to ride her bus to Albuquerque with a short side trip to Las Cruces. However, my 34 hour bus adventure was just beginning…
After way too much time in the McDonald’s (as midnight was approaching), I was the only person left in the restaurant. It was 11:30pm, and the employees were shutting everything down. I asked them if this wasn’t a 24 hour McDonalds. They said “No.” I asked a male employee if the Greyhound would still be stopping there even though it was closed. He said the bus would be going to a “Pilot Gas Station” 2 miles away. The McDonalds used to be 24 hours, but since it changed, the midnight bus now picked up at the Pilot Station. I thought this was odd… since my confirmation email had specifically given the McDonalds address. He assured me the bus wasn’t picking up there anymore. I took his word for it and offered him money to take me to the Pilot station since time was running down. He accepted my $10.
The Dog Giveth
So he dropped me off at the Pilot Station with around 20 minutes to catch my bus. The pickup time came and went and there was no bus. I began to get anxious and thought perhaps it really had stopped by the McDonald’s. I asked a gas station employee if Greyhounds stopped here and they said “Yes.” So I continued to wait. The bus ended up being more than an hour late and didn’t leave until 40 minutes after arriving. So already, my bus was 2 hours behind schedule. What’s more… the bus had stopped at McDonalds expecting to pick me up, and when I wasn’t there, the driver had cancelled my ticket. This was very distressing to hear at first. However, after a few minutes of messing around on some device, the driver informed me that she had reinstated my ticket and I was good to go.
And, The Dog Taketh
I’ll spare you the details of bus shenanigans, as I’m actually going to write a novella about this little bus journey. The short of it is… I eventually arrived in El Paso where I had an hour and a half layover instead of the scheduled 45 minute layover. This put me 3 hours behind schedule. When I finally arrived in Dallas, I had missed my connecting bus and had to be put on an entirely new bus schedule. This entailed me waiting in the bus depot for an extra 3 hours.
After catching the Dallas bus, the rest of the journey went off without a hitch, so to speak. Of course there were countless interactions and altercations between other bus riders, Greyhound employees, and myself – and I look forward to eventually sharing those stories with you.
As you might suspect, the first place I went was to see Katana. Little Dog is the queen of nonchalant and never overly affectionate. However, when she finally smelled me and heard my voice, her little butt couldn’t stop wagging and her ears stayed pinned back in excitement; no whimpers though, which hurt my feelings (just kidding). After copious amounts of pets, Little Dog was soon fast asleep in my arms as we took a nap on the couch.
I spent five days home in Navarre before catching a flight back up to Kalispell, Montana to reclaim my long lost van. There was snow on the ground when I got there. I was sure after five months of sitting in a storage lot (exposed to the elements), I was going to have to do a bit of maintenance to get the ol’ gal up and running. It had spent summer, fall, and multiple snow storms outside already. As a result, I was expecting to have to swap out (or at least jump) the battery, re-inflate the tires, and who knows what else. It was dark and freezing when my Uber ride from the airport drove me by the storage facility. I was braced for the worst, but I’ll be damned if the thing didn’t fire up on the first turn of the key; the battery hadn’t even been disconnected! The tires and tire pressure were fine too. I literally got in and drove it off the lot without having to do a damn thing to it – after nearly 5 months. Ford Econoline Vans… you have my respect.
I took eight days to drive home, stopping in Bozeman, Montana to see my friend Maggie, and then swinging into Fort Collins to pick up none other than Dale (Chipp’n) himself. I was keeping good on a promise I’d made to take him down to Florida if we were still in touch by the end of the trail. We took 2.5 days to drive from Fort Collins, Colorado to Chattanooga, Tennessee where I dropped him off to see another friend from trail while I drove up to Virginia to visit Schweppes and his family. Schweppes had finished his second thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail back in August. We were both eager to share stories from our second long hikes on familiar trails. I spent two days with him and his family before heading back south. On my way, I scooped Dale back up from Chattanooga and continued on to Florida the same day.
I stayed at my friend Charlie’s house and kept the van parked in his driveway. I slept in a spare room with Katana, while Dale slept in the van. We continued this arrangement for two weeks before I flew to Australia on December 5th and Dale flew back to Colorado to run out his Visa. It was a pretty eventful and busy two weeks. I feel like I haven’t had a full day of rest since finishing the trail.
I now write this from Australia where I am visiting my parents for the holidays (they live here temporarily). Katana did not come with me because it requires 8 months of vet appointments/paperwork, 3 weeks of quarantine in country, and about $3,000 to get a dog from the states to Australia. It was absolutely not worth that trouble and expense for the time I plan to be here, despite how much I would love to have brought her along.
Katana did amazingly while I was gone! She stayed with my friend Alicia, whom she has known her entire life. Alicia also has Katana’s little brother, “Kuruk” (his name means “Bear” in Pawnee). They’re not blood related. Katana is 6 years older than him, but Kuruk grew up with Katana from the time he was a puppy. They get along famously, and are nonstop playing, wrestling, and chasing each other. I believe Kuruk understands she can’t see, and is very gentle (if not teasing) towards Katana – despite being more than 10 pounds heavier than her. Katana on the other hand… holds nothing back against Kuruk and will whip his little butt every chance she gets.
I took Katana out for some walks on the beach while I was back (but no hikes). While she was fearless in her romping, her listening skills had definitely taken a hit. I’m the only one she really listens to, so I can’t blame Alicia for not working with her in my absence. The only commands she truly respected since I’ve come back are “Stop” and “Careful.” She still stops on a dime if I make that command, and slows her roll and becomes more cautious if I tell her “Careful.” As far as sticking nearby me or coming back to me as soon as I call… that dropped off to a very hard hit or miss. I could also probably chalk that up to her being really excited to be out and about. Alicia has a really big backyard for both dogs to go nuts in, so she doesn’t take them on many outings. This is also because Kuruk is a terror that moves at a million miles per minute – much like Katana used to do before and during part of our AT hike.
All in all, I don’t think it was a terrible separation for her. I’m sure she missed me, but her life was far from dull and was wonderfully enriched by the presence of Kuruk. I honestly felt bad separating the two of them as much as I did while being home. I do have a short hike planned (less than 500 miles) with Katana when I get back from Australia; then another short hike after that with her in May; and then a HUGE journey that isn’t quite set in stone yet for next summer. So 2020 will be the year of Kyle and Katana to make up for my absence this year.
I didn’t sustain any major injuries on this hike. I rolled my ankle hard several times, but nothing that lasted or caused me pain for more than a day. After my 72 mile day in the Basin, my feet were messed up for about 2 weeks (but nothing that stuck). I bled countless times and sustained numerous cuts, punctures, and scrapes (with no long term issues). I did have some mild plantar fasciitis that would crop up on road walks sometimes, but not bad enough for me to adjust my mileage or take any extra breaks. It was more of a mild inconvenience. There were structural aches and pains in various joints, but they were all random and didn’t last for any prolonged length of time. I didn’t get sick beyond some allergies in southern Colorado. For the most part, I felt fantastically strong and healthy for the vast majority of the entire hike.
Since finishing the hike, I have had absolutely zero residual pain anywhere. This has been a trend throughout all of my thru hikes – each one has hurt less than the previous one. I had a ton of pain after my AT hike. I had some pain (but not as much) after my PCT hike. I didn’t have much after my first CDT attempt. I had a lot of neck and shoulder pain after my Florida Trail hike, due to carrying Katana so extensively. My feet were pretty sore from all of the road walking as well, but no real structural or joint pain. A month after this most recent CDT hike… I’ve had absolutely no pain whatsoever, despite hiking this trail harder and faster than any other trail previously. It defies logic – at least to me. I would think that as I continue to get older and put my body through these long hikes, that I would feel a gradual degradation of my joints and muscles. However, it has been just the opposite. I feel I am only getting stronger with the accrued time and distance being put on my body. It’s wonderful not having to worry about long term damage building up. Perhaps I may reach a point when I feel everything beginning to degrade… but as of right now, things are only getting better and stronger. So long as I maintain good walking mechanics, keep my load on the lighter side, and take care not to injure my joints (by doing anything overly stupid or strenuous)… I could see myself doing this into my elder years; like some of the other senior hikers I’ve met on the trails – granted I’m lucky enough to live so long.
As far as how I’ve faired mentally and emotionally since finishing the hike… I’ve been mostly great. The hardest period of time was the 5 days between getting back from trail and catching my flight back to Montana to get the van. Those 5 days were filled with a depressed boredom of not being in the regular trail routine I’d been accustomed to for months. I felt restless and without aim. Once I got back on the road and was hanging out with fellow hikers again, being away from trail was much easier. Since those initial 5 days, I’ve been almost completely distracted from thinking about anything but the present moment because I’ve been doing things and going places – nonstop. Without a doubt, that is the key to post trail depression – to keep yourself busy and active.
In another breath, my case is unique. Most people finish a trail and have to go back to work pretty soon after. They are left with nothing but time on their hands to day dream about the life they just left behind. If that were my case, then I could wax poetic for paragraphs on end about how depressed I am and how much I miss trail life and my trail friends, etc. I acknowledge my unique case of making a living by living this lifestyle.
I wrote briefly before, in one of the posts before this one, about how my life has become nothing but a series of hikes and adventures. My “real world” is the hiking and traveling and doing things I want to do (for the most part). It’s when I’m not doing those things that I feel like I’m living outside my “norm.” I feel bad I can’t give you something juicer to chew on.
Descriptions of dramatic emotions, post trail revelations, strife, angst, and difficult mental and emotional obstacles make for so much better reading than simply being “just fine,” – post hike. I have thousands of friends on social media who are part of the hiking community in one way or another – many of them long distance hikers, including newbies, veterans, and future hopefuls. My social media feed is saturated with posts, pictures, articles, and blogs about hiking. Although I don’t read or look at absolutely everything, I do look at quite a bit of them. I especially enjoy reading other people’s post thru-hike thoughts – the newbies in particular. There’s usually a lot of longing to be back on trail – nostalgia, sadness, revelation, heartfelt words about their trail companions, contrasts between their old life, new life, trail life etc., how their new life has been ruined in only good ways, and many other emotional anecdotes regarding adjusting to post trail life. I understand all of what they are saying and could relate to all of it at one point in time… but not anymore. I don’t have many post trail revelations these days – I’ve already had most of the major ones, and those have been written about and published already. I won’t beat a dead horse. Having said that, it doesn’t mean I get nothing from these hikes anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth. What I continue to glean from these experiences is far more nuanced than the life altering, earth shaking revelations I had in the beginning. Those major lessons have been learned and applied, and have gotten me precisely to where I am now. The more nuanced ones I will save for future books, as I can give them more context and meaning than I could in a simple blog post. I continue to move forward, grow, and learn in ways I previously didn’t know, understand, or care about – and I will continue to live and adventure in this manner until that is no longer the case.
Status of Gear
I’ve had my gear dialed in pretty solidly since the PCT, and have only continued to get more efficient and accustomed to discomfort. I have almost no complaints about my gear this year. My pack was the best I’ve ever hiked with (and will post a more in depth review of it later). It was not a specific brand, but a totally custom pack I commissioned to have made from a friend. I take pride in starting and finishing the trail with most of the gear I began with; that was the case for this trail. I ended up having to get a new hiking shirt when I accidentally bear maced myself in Wyoming. I couldn’t get the mace off, even after washing it. Plus, it was contaminating other clothes, so it had to go. I ripped a pair of baselayer long underwear and replaced those with a Wal-Mart brand. The pair I ripped was $90, and the Wal-Mart brand was $12. I’ll be honest with you… there was no difference in comfort or warmth – so food for thought. I sent some cooking stuff home and picked some up. I lost a pair of American Flag shorts and ordered a new pair. I destroyed a different pair of hiking shorts through normal use (the crotch wore a hole) after less than 500 miles, so I won’t be using those again. The reason for having multiple shorts was because my thighs were too big at the beginning to wear my super short American Flag shorts without them rubbing excessively. Once they’d slimmed down, it was “Murica!” all the way. I picked up some new hiking staffs, but most importantly…I triple crowned my original staff that I made before the Appalachian Trail that now has more than 11k miles on it! I have no idea how I managed to not lose or break that thing over all this time and distance. As of now… it’s retired.
My biggest gear gripe is my sleeping bag. It was only 30 degrees, which is pretty lean for this trail. I really thought I could make it work, and did make it work. When I hiked in 2017, the trail had been insanely hot. This year it was the exact opposite… cold and wet during the summer. If the sleeping bag had been a true 30 degree, I would have been fine, but it lost its loft so quickly and became so inadequate – I won’t be using that brand ever again, despite mostly rave reviews within the hiking community. I’ll be going with a smaller, older, and trusted company next time.
As a direct result of the sleeping bag being inadequate, I picked up two more mid-layer in the form of Melanzana fleece hoodies. Granted, I would have bought both of them regardless of my sleeping bag, but probably would have sent them home. As it were, I kept them both and used them both throughout southern Colorado and most of New Mexico. On the nights I didn’t have to wear all of my layers, I used the extras as a pillow, which was a great bonus.
I ditched my hammock as soon as I got into Colorado, in favor of using only a tarp or cowboy camping. In the end, I used my tarp less than a dozen times through Colorado and not once through all of New Mexico. This was a personal record – making it through an entire state without erecting a shelter even one time. In the future, I will carry only a tarp and renounce my hammocking ways, at least on the much longer hikes, or on hikes through very wet locations. The reason for moving away from a hammock is because I truly enjoy cowboy camping every opportunity I get. The extra space and weight I save from carrying just a tarp allows me to pack out more creative food choices – including Katana’s food.
I am not an ultralight snob, and do not even weight my gear anymore. I couldn’t tell you what my base weight or total weight was for this hike. To be honest, I’m not even curious. I’ve played that game in the past, and while it was fun at first… I’m over it. I take what I want which meets the threshold of my current comfort needs, and not much more.
In closing this gear section, I’d like to give a special shout out to my umbrella. On no other hike have I ever began and finished with the same umbrella, in an undamaged state – usually not even my second or third umbrella. On this hike… my umbrella made it all the way! It’s a miracle! I used the hell out of it and it still finished in one piece. I’ll post the brand later in a gear review post. The funny thing is that it wasn’t even an umbrella I ordered. I ordered a different one and Amazon sent me my current one by accident. It didn’t hurt that it was twice as expensive as the one I actually ordered. However, it was a little bit bigger and heavier than what I would have liked. As a result, I didn’t even use that umbrella for over two years but finally decided to break it out for this hike. Best accidental umbrella decision ever!
As mentioned above, I have two shorter hikes planned with Katana upon my return from Australia. I don’t like to announce things until I’m already doing them, or right before I begin them – so you won’t know about them specifically until they’re pretty much happening. After the hikes, we’ll be taking a major road trip to the location I plan to spend the summer next year.
In between the hikes and driving, I will be writing and finishing both the Florida Trail book and CDT book about this hike. I will also be working on recording audio versions of my current books. I’m going to try and post more regularly on the blog – articles about various subjects, gear related posts and what-not. I’m also going to try and start uploading some videos to YouTube. Nothing fancy, but it is an avenue I have completely neglected. In the time since I’ve been hiking, it has EXPLODED and been saturated with long distance hiking content. So, I might as well cast my voice into the abyss a bit.
I look forward to sharing the upcoming adventures with ya’ll! As always, thank you ALL, from the bottom of my heart. It is you guys who make it possible for me to continue living the dream I never knew I had!
In the meantime, is there any content or subject matter you would like me to address or write about? I know there’s endless content out there from other hikers on every platform, but I’d be happy to give my take or spin on some of them. Don’t hesitate to ask!