Total Miles: 2396.7
While Lordsburg floated into the distance behind us, we were swallowed by the great wide open now surrounding us. Not a tree in sight, not a cloud in the sky, and not a breath of the wind that, until now, had been a constant companion to help offset the afternoon sun.
Beyond the pavement at the edge of Lordsburg, volcanic rock, sand, low shrubs and cacti set the stage for all of the miles that would come after. The trail, too, had changed, back to the cross-country style of Montana with sporadic posts marking the route. Near them, the wear of the trail would become visibly distinct from the surrounding soil, only to then evaporate the further we moved past them—a cycle that would repeat itself dozens of times throughout the day. Our only other companions were the free grazing cows and miles of barbed wire fence, including the one that sliced my leg while climbing over it. A gill flap-like gash at the end to match Ace’s from day one.
Making our way ever southward toward the boot heel of New Mexico, the immediacy of the rapidly approaching end is a difficult reality to comprehend. From afar, it's easy to imagine that these last few days are a nostalgia-filled, slow moving celebration all moving toward an inevitable culmination. But the reality is more complicated.
So well ingrained are the daily mental and physical habits, all geared towards nothing more than making another day of decent progress, that it's difficult to step outside those habits and appreciate the conclusion while it's happening. In just 60 miles, our little train of two will come to a jarringly abrupt end. With as little fanfare as it began, it will all be over.
I'm not sure how I feel about that fact, and truth be told, it's been the same on all of my hikes. There's happiness at reaching the end after such a long journey, and being able to celebrate, put your feet up and relax. But part of me has always felt that no small part of those feelings are simply because that's what you tell yourself you should feel. How are you supposed to feel when you do something you love and it comes to an end? It's a question I still don't have a good answer to.
What I do know is that as strange as the mix of emotions at the finish can be, the satisfaction of the experience only grows with time. With enough space, reflection comes more easily, as do the lessons it gives rise to. Before long, the desire to do it all over again becomes inescapable—an addiction to challenge, to perseverance, to the trail and to its freedom.