Lake Superior Hiking Trail Map

An Abrupt Ending on the Continental Divide Trail

I never thought I’d say I was lucky to be hiking in 27°C on day one of the Continental Divide Trail. I’m a 22°C man – that’s my favourite temperature to hike in, not too cold and not too hot. It’s not unusual in the New Mexico desert for it to hit 40°C during the day so on day one of the CDT it was a pleasant surprise to be 13°C shy of that.

It’s a barren part of the world. There is nothing man-made in sight except the occasional gravel road and a few windmills pumping water up from the bowels of the New Mexico desert. The eye stretches to the horizon over a rocky landscape where little grows except plants with either thorns or needles. The only signs of life are rattlesnakes, incessant flies that just never stop pestering, and the occasional brightly coloured bird.

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It’s difficult to describe this corner of the world if you haven’t seen it. A vast emptiness meets the eye. A huge landscape stretching away to infinity in every direction, a barren sea of green scrub, broken by white sands. Mountain ridges tower over everything, rising from this sea of sand like isolated islands.

At evening camp on day one, four border patrol trucks parked nearby, joined by a helicopter looking for a determined Mexican immigrant. They found him dehydrated and came to us asking if anyone had any electrolytes. We obliged, but surely it must be a priority for the border patrol to carry rehydration supplements, and food?

New Mexico is the best marked section of the CDT – every quarter of a mile or so a lone post rises from the sand, topped by a trail symbol. Reach it and scan ahead for the next one, eyes straining in the sun. Often it’s not visible so my walking companion (a guy called Hojo with whom I hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail) and I carry on in a similar direction, our gaze scanning the horizon for a post and watching the ground for prickly plants and snakes. Eventually a trail marker obliges, and the process begins over.

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