CDT 2021: Day 16, Bursum Road to CDT Mile 345.1

You say the walls are closing in on you, child

A snowy morning in the forest

Sometime after midnight, light snow began to fall. It continued until the early morning hours.

By the time I exited my tent, the snowfall had stopped. Only about an inch had accumulated, but it was enough to make my tent sag a little.

DateWednesday, April 28, 2021
WeatherCloudy and chilly, with occasional snow or sleet; heavy snow later
Trail ConditionsGravel road for all except the last mile
Today's Miles20.4
Trip Miles247.6

When I discovered who had arrived at our campsite last night after I went to bed, I knew she wouldn't appreciate the snow. It was Baguette. She is from Alabama and has said she doesn't like cold weather.

She told me on our train ride to Lordsburg she especially doesn't like snow. That seemed odd, considering all of her hiking achievements.

For one, she thru-hiked the PCT the same year I did. That was the year of near-record snowfall in the Sierra. Although I chose to bypass the Sierra until after the snow had melted, she didn't. She braved those conditions and was able to go all the way to Canada.

Snow on tents at a campsite

Guru made us pancakes for breakfast, and that gave us a chance to learn more about him and why he was a trail angel.

He said he worked as a software developer. I was excited to learn he recently worked for Gatsby. This website you're reading now was built by me using that open-source, React-based framework.

Guru told us about his van, which he and his dad converted after he finished a thru-hike of the PCT in 2018. When the van was ready, he lived and worked in it while traveling across the country.

He stopped on the CDT to do trail magic on his way to take a new job in Arizona.

Walking on Bursum Road

After thanking Guru for his kindness, Baguette, Zigzag, and I began walking at 8 a.m. We were still following the Gila River Alternate. The rest of the way on it today would be on gravel roads.

The sun was shining brightly when we left. Though the temperature hadn't warmed up, I hoped it would soon.

A snow-covered cattle guard

The only place where snow had accumulated on the road surface was at cattle guards. The metal grates are sometimes slippery, even when they are dry. Covered now in snow, I had to step gingerly as I walked across them.

Dark clouds move in

Despite my hope, the temperature never warmed up. The sky became cloudy and turned breezy in the next two hours. Sleet fell in short intervals.

Nearly all of this morning's road walk was in open terrain. There was little to block the wind and sleet.

A view from Gravity's lunch stop

A large tree stood alone where Bursum Road intersected with O Bar O Canyon Road. I decided this would be a good place to stop for lunch, and when I got closer, I realized Baguette was there.

Walking on roads helped us to make good time. When I stopped, I was surprised to find the spot where Zigzag and I talked of camping tonight was just 6.6 miles away. It seemed likely we could walk farther if the weather didn't turn bad.

The official CDT trail was on a nearby ridge just two miles away from my lunch spot. I should have had a good view of the ridge, but it was mostly obscured by the weather.

The Gila River Alternate would continue for another 11.4 miles before reconnecting with the red route.

Clouds ahead with falling sleet

Never mind not being able to see the other trail. The weather on the trail I was walking looked bad ahead. I gave up any hope of being able to open up my tent to let it dry out.

Soon after I finished my lunch and began walking again, an employee in a State of New Mexico truck stopped me to ask if I needed any water. I later learned he did the same for Zigzag and Baguette.

Heavy snow begins to fall

The gravel road deceptively made me think I was walking on flat ground. It actually made a substantial climb and descent, it was just so gradual I didn't realize it.

We started this morning at 8,100 feet above sea level and climbed 400 feet in the first two miles. The road then gradually dropped to 7,500 feet.

Not far beyond where the state employee stopped to check on me, the road began another gradual climb. This change of roughly 1,600 feet became more noticeable as the road entered a wooded area. After a lull in the weather, snow began to fall.

Just when I noticed Baguette ahead where she was taking a break at the side of the road, a herd of elk darted across the road. We were both startled by this sight.

Baguette said Zigzag had just left. He told her he planned to stop at Dutchman Spring, which wasn't far up the road.

Zigzag waits in the snow

As promised, Zigzag was waiting for me at the spring. I arrived there shortly after 3:30 p.m. By now, the snow was falling in large flakes.

We talked about when we wanted to stop for the night. The weather made us want to stop sooner rather than later. We couldn't find a good place for our tents near the spring, though, so we had to continue up the road.

Dutchman Spring

Dutchman Spring was contained in a corrugated, galvanized metal pipe sunk into the ground. When I opened a metal plate covering the pipe, I was a little taken aback by the distance of the water from the top. It was nearly a full arm's length deep.

I knew I wouldn't fall headfirst into the pipe, but I couldn't keep that thought from crossing my mind. It seemed like a horrible way to die and I shuddered just thinking about it.

Dundee, Sand Pig, and Trip

Just one more mile remained before we reached a parking area. This was where the Gila River Alternate finally intersected with the CDT red route. The last time we walked on that trail was Day 7.

When I arrived at the parking area, Zigzag was talking to a hiker named Sand Pig, who was waiting for some friends to pick him up.

Zigzag continued on, while I stayed behind for a few extra minutes. Sand Pig's friends arrived soon after that.

I learned that Sand Pig's friends had trail names too, Dundee and Trip. They hiked the Appalachian Trail together in 2019.

Trip asked me if I wanted any food, but I declined. I figured I wasn't far from finding a campsite. She was persistent, though, and asked me three or four more times if she could make a sandwich for me.

I finally relented on the condition that she also made a sandwich for Zigzag. I figure we would both appreciate not needing to cook dinner tonight.

Much heavier snowfall

As soon as I began walking again, snow started to fall heavily. By the time I caught up to Zigzag, we were in blizzard-like conditions, with at least an inch on the ground in just 30 minutes.

The time was only 4:30 p.m. Zigzag had been scouting for a place to pitch our tents, but the accumulating snow made that task difficult. We had little choice but to settle on the first spot that was at least marginally suitable.

When we finally found a site, we had difficulty keeping our tents to stay up. Snow piled up on the grass and our tent stakes wouldn't hold securely to the ground. There weren't many rocks around to help anchor the tent corners.

With a lot of effort and frustration, we finally got our tents to stay up. I then only had to go back outside once to reset one of the tent pegs.

Once we were finally settled in, we enjoyed the sandwiches Trip had made for us.

Snow continued to pile up on my tent. I had erected it so quickly and poorly, it sagged everywhere under the snow's weight. I needed to hit the tent walls regularly from the inside to knock off the snow. It would then collect around the bottom, which closed off ventilation.

A couple of times in the night I had to open gaps in the snow around the vestibule to get more air. It became harder to keep the snow off the sides and they began to close in around me. This made me feel claustrophobic, and that's a reaction I rarely have.

You say the walls are closing in on you, child
All your friends have put you in exile
Bad luck seems to follow you all around the world
You can't seem to find no peace of mind, girl
You will take a chance to seem so bad

You're standing there with tears in your eyes
There's too much going on now, now, now
There's no time to cry


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.