“Do I need to cache water for the first section of the Continental Divide Trail?”
This question was a big concern of mine before starting the CDT.
Assuming you are beginning your hike at Crazy Cook, the first 85 mi / 136 km of the CDT is a scary place for thru-hikers (especially those out on their own for the first time).
The short answer to the “do I need to cache water” question is “No, you do not have to cache water for yourself in the New Mexico Bootheel.”
That is, you don't so long as you're willing to part with $10.
The Water Caches
Yes, it's true, there are five water caches (basically bear boxes) between the Mexico border and Lordsburg.
These boxes exist for the express purpose of storing water for CDT hikers. You can either pay to have water cached here or you can cache the water yourself. If you choose not to do either of these things, then there is a very good chance you will run out of water and die alone in the New Mexico desert.
If you're wondering, “WHAT IF SOMEONE STEALS MY WATER!?” then don't. Nobody is stealing your water (that is, except maybe that asshole who didn't do either of the two things I mentioned above).
Paying For Your Water
If you are arranging your own transport to Crazy Cook, then you can have water cached for you by the CDTC Shuttle for $10. This means that you will have 2 gallons / 7.5 liters of water cached and waiting for you at each of the five water cache boxes between Mexico and Lordsburg.
You can pay for this service (and select when you will be hiking through the Bootheel) here.
Honestly, if you're arranging your own transport to the border, you should just pay the $10 for this service. It's an excellent deal (I would have probably paid $30 for this) and it will save you a lot of time and unnecessary driving around the desert.
Water Cache Locations
If you have arranged your own transport to Crazy Cook but somehow can't afford $10 for the water caching service, then you can cache your water on your own.
The CDTC has a rough map of the water cache locations here, but it really isn't too helpful.
The following map shows the location of the five water caches and the (driving) route you would need to take to visit them all on your way to Crazy Cook Monument.
- Water Cache 1: Mile 14.1 (01_141WT)
- Water Cache 2: Mile 25.9 (01_259WT)
- Water Cache 3: Mile 45.4 (02_194WT)
- Water Cache 4: Mile 58.3 (03_127WT)
- Water Cache 5: Mile 78.2 (04_198WT)
Hiking The Bootheel
Even with the water caches, hiking the Bootheel is a challenge.
That being said, it's never wise to put your faith 100% in what's ultimately going to be the slightly outdated information from strangers and so you should probably prepare for the maximum waterless stretch between caches.
The distances between the water caches (assuming no water between) is:
- Border to Water Cache 1: 14.1 mi / 22.7 km
- Cache 1 to Cache 2: 11.8 mi / 19 km
- Cache 2 to Cache 3: 19.5 mi / 31.4 km
- Cache 3 to Cache 4: 12.9 mi / 20.8 km
- Cache 4 to Cache 5: 19.9 mi / 32 km
- Cache 5 to Lordsburg: 6.8 mi / 10.9 km
Drink plenty of water out there, friends.
And please, don't die.