Day 8 5/7 22 miles
Sunday morning I treated myself by sleeping in until 7 in the loft of the A Space gallery in Silver City. Before leaving town I stuffed my face at Vicki’s Eatery for breakfast then relaxed for a little bit at Javalina’s (it’s a coffee shop, get it?). Queen B and I walked out of town around 10 through a residential neighborhood before getting back up into the Gila wilderness. After a few miles we took a left and started on the Gila River alternate route that will link back up with the CDT further North along the trail. We met up with Trooper, a hiker from Pittsburgh, at a little creek in the late afternoon and walked with him for about the next 5 miles or so. The three of us camped on some flat rocks near Hell’s Canyon spring. Ironic that it is called Hell’s Canyon because due west of us we watched the sun drop into some clouds along the horizon depicting what looked to me like the stereotypical version of heaven. The version of heaven depicted on prayer cards given out at funerals. If such a place exists, this just might be it.
Day 9 5/8 25 miles
Early the next morning Queen B and I walked about a dozen miles before the Trail reached the Gila River at the bottom of a canyon. The alternate follows the river as it serpentines through a beautiful red rock canyon for miles. In all we will end up crossing the river something like 200 times. Queen B said she would keep track but lost count after 4, I didn’t even try. It’s slow going with all the river crossings but it’s been incredible. We walked for the rest of the day crossing the river countless times and dropping our packs to jump in for a swim whenever we felt like it. In the evening we found a nice soft sandy beach to camp on that even came with hot springs! There was a small waterfall into a hot pool with a muddy bottom surrounded by vegetation.
Day 10 5/9 15 miles
Tuesday I had no reason to jump out of bed too early because I was picking up a resupply box at Doc Campbell’s outpost and it didn’t open until 10. We did a few miles of river crossings in the morning before the trail reaches a bridge. That road skirts along the canyon for awhile and eventually to Doc’s store. A nice little pit stop. I ate some food, did a little maintenance and picked up a box of junk food I mailed myself a couple weeks earlier. We carried on with every intention of checking out the Gila Cliff Dwellings but the sky threatened T-storms and since it was 5 miles of road walking out of the way, and not guaranteed to be letting people in because of the potential for weather, we decided to skip it. The trail then drops back into a canyon containing the middle fork of the Gila. We found a hot spring right away with super hot water and laid in it for awhile looking up at the huge canyon walls. This day was awesome! The red, yellow and orange canyon walls were quite the sight. We continued to cross the river over and over while craning our necks to look at the walls and spires that were everywhere. The day ended with another stellar campsite just up a short path from yet another hot spring. This one a little cooler but cleaner and clearer and perfect for a good soak after a long day of walking. I swear hot springs are good for the soul. The Gila is an amazing place, borderline magical. It should be considered a national treasure. And there’s nobody here! 2 nights in a row we got a campsite with our own private hot spring, it’s unbelievable.
Day 11 5/10 24 miles
Wednesday I spent another full day walking along the Gila and we’re camped just at the edge of the wilderness boundary. This place is on my short list for favorite places ever visited, and we’ve had it practically all to ourselves. Today was the coldest it’s been so far, so less swimming in the river but we still had to cross it like a million times. And I’ve had wet feet constantly for the last 3 days so my toenails will probably grow extra long this week. Queen B got stuck pretty good in quicksand today, less than an hour after we were talking about how every kid grows up with a built in fear of quicksand. What are the chances? She lived though, but apparently she was in it pretty deep, up to her thighs and had to rescue herself a la Indiana Jones(not sure if this even happened in the movies, I never saw them). With all the river crossings it’s tough to move quickly through this section but that’s fine with me. The Gila River has been thoroughly enjoyable and I can’t believe how well kept a secret it is, I actually feel a little guilty broadcasting this.
Day 12 5/11 30 miles
It was freezing this morning when I woke up. I know this because my shoes, socks and gaiters were frozen stiff. I had no choice but to put them on anyway and start walking. Eventually they thawed out once I started walking. The trail crossed the icy river about half dozen more times as we climbed up to Snow Lake. Right as we got up to the lake we saw a herd of about 30 elk also out for a walk this morning. There’s a national forest campground at the lake and I learned from a camper there that the temperature got down to the 20’s last night. Luckily, it warmed up considerable as the day went on. The trail climbs up through another canyon and then travels over vast rolling plains(think Dances With Wolves) for about 5 miles before joining a forest road for awhile. On the forest road I met Johnny from Germany, the first thru hiker I’ve seen in days besides QB. I walked with him for a couple hours and he planted some ideas in my head like riding a bike all around the Mediterranean and hiking the Dream Path from Munich to Venice. Today was a good day, nothing spectacular, but it was enjoyable and a good day to crush big miles as we ended up going over 30 for just the second time of the hike. Best hot spring ever!!!
Day 13 5/12 30 miles
Last night I dreamt of scrambled eggs smothered in cheese. What a weird thing to dream about, that’s not even part of my regular diet. My appetite had started to increase the last couple days but I guess that makes it official; if I’m dreaming about food then my hiker hunger has most definitely kicked in. It was another cold one last night, not frozen socks in the morning cold, but still cold. Probably because we were camped pretty high, up above 8500 feet. The trail climbed up over 9000 feet this morning and for the first time I saw snow on the ground. We rejoined the official CDT from the Gila River alternate just a mile into the day and of course I went the wrong way for half a mile before noticing and had to bush whack up a steep hill to get back on track. The rest of the day went smoothly, lots of single track through pine forest climbing and dropping over and over while eventually dropping down to just below 8000 feet where we are camped near a cow pond 35 miles south of Pie Town. Walking up out of the canyon
Day 14 5/13 26 miles
Another cold morning but a really nice relaxing day. Today was mostly a dirt road walk through pine forest but included some nice climbs. We topped out around 9600 feet on Mangas mountain that even had a working, staffed fire lookout tower. I checked that out of course and spotted a wildfire in the distance. Not about to pose a threat to my hike though. The forest service worker Mike, has a pretty cool job, probably on par with being a lighthouse keeper.
Day 15 5/14 9 miles
Pie Town! My first shower in 11 days, my record’s 12 but I’ve gotta strike while the irons hot, or when my pits are smelly, or when there’s a shower available. Like today. Pie Town is this tiny little town in New Mexico with a couple of restaurants that serve pie of course and home of the Toaster House, a really cool little hostel for us hikers with toasters all over the place. It’s been 5 days and 130 miles since I’ve had any kind of civilization and now I’m about to enjoy the fruits of my labor and relax for the rest of the day. Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures of this adventure @endlesspsummerthe Toaster House
PS All My Love!!!