The Gila River on the CDT
This section has been both full and fullfilling. It’s intimidating to start this journal entry, I feel like I’ve done so much since Pie Town.
I’ll start with the beginning. It was a road walk out of Pie Town. Lost, Stretch and I made decent time along the mostly flat, little used dirt road. The weather was good. We passed an animal sanctuary that had a water cache and a request not to linger. Their dogs mostly roam free, and had a tendency to follow hikers. A headache and a problem they say. A truck passing by stopped to chat. The friendly guy lives out in the middle of no place significant. He told me an interesting story about how one of his newer neighbors was recently arrested. Turns out the man had bought his property with the proceeds of a major Las Vegas gold and silver robbery. He was in the process of building his new off the grid lifestyle when the law tracked him down. The new owners of the place have erected a sign calling it “Robber’s Roost”. That afternoon thunder clouds bloomed, banged and flashed as we walked past some pyramid shapped peaks.
Second day and third.. I hardly remember. It wasn’t a very remarkable section. We walked on roads, we walked on trails. I got us beer and soda from some drunk hunters. That was nice. Lost let out a scream in camp one night. She’s a pretty quite girl so it wasn’t a significant scream. But a minute later Stretch and I definitely heard her shout “A dog’s running towards you!” It was dark, I expected something that’d be growling and biting. She turned out to be one of the friendliest dogs I’ve met in a long time. Sure, she’d been rolling in cow poo, probably eating it too, but man what a wonderful dog! She sat in our laps. She obeyed our requests without hesitation. She didn’t beg for our dinner. And come bed time, she followed us and slept right by my head. In the morning, we had high hopes of keeping her. Planned to hitch to the nearest town and buy dog food, print “Lost Dog” posters and Lost would have a new dog. But first, Lost went searching for the owner, a dim prospect considering we weren’t anyplace. But sure enough, after an hour and a half she came back dogless and sad having found the owner.
The next night, we stopped a little early. The forecast was for 70% chance of thunderstorms and we were facing dark black clouds right before a substantial treeless section. I called for a stop at the last of the trees. It was early. But keeping with our current theme, we weren’t worried about making miles. So we stopped and played cards. (I’m killing Lost at Gin Rummy.) Had to search for another campsite as it started to sprinkle. The first one had the remains of at least two gutted and skinned Elk. Thanks for leaving them directly in camp, assholes. It’s so nice to have the luxury of doing low mileage days. We’d stopped early, and we’d stopped just before it started snowing. Snow. hmmmmmm….
Dry, but cold, we packed up early the next morning. It hadn’t snowed a lot. That walk across the long grasslands towards T-Bar Canyon was absolutely stunning. It didn’t warm up for a few hours. Walking through the frozen, snow dusted grass, sun rising, fog lingering, it was one of the most beautiful bits of the trail. We were thankful that the weather had stopped us. For that and because just as it started to warm, we headed down into the Gila River. 70+ crossings? I believe it.
We hiked along the Gila for fifty miles I believe. It was a highlight of the entire trail. The river was never too deep. Above the knees at the most. The forest was mature, diverse and welcoming. The hot springs sublime. The cliffs! Thousand foot cliffs. Lots of wildlife. Other friendly backpackers.
We hit the Cliff Dwellings. I bought a book. 1491. I’m enthralled by it. We sat at Dog Campbell’s Country Store. The owner is a pretty high strung dude, and I thought the ice cream to be only so-so. But the camping at the hot springs down by the river was sublime. We hiked the Lower Gila as well. Saw two rattle snakes. Walking behind Lost, I jumped and scampered. We’d both just walked three inches away from a rattle snake. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, sitting at lunch, another rattler slithered right up to us and then got angy with *us*. Poison Oak along the trail and higher stream crossings combined for a little bit of tension filled walking.
Left the Gila. Again, a highlight. Then headed up and away, finally leaving the beautiful river. Walked through some nice forests. Split off from the CDTS/Columbus Route. We’ve chosen to take the “official” CDTA/Government approved route to the finish at Crazy Cook. Most other hikers this year are going the other way. It was interesting that as soon as we chose the official trail, it pretty well disappeared. It was really nice walking. Lots of cactus and yucca. But seriously. What happened to the trail? I spent some time building some miles of cairns for future hikers.
Camped at the end of public land before Silver City last night. Ordered pizza to be delivered to our campsite.
Saw a lot of wildlife as I said. Lots of Elk, tons of deer, two bears, three snakes, a skunk,…
We’ve got a really relaxed schedule. Plenty of time for cards, reading, sleeping while it’s still cold and being lazy in town. Some hikers rush towards the finish of the long trails, ready to be done. Not us.
I’m loving Silver City.. Friendliest people. Lamb burger at a cool, hidden cafe. Single cup drip coffee at another cool shop. On to the co-op for my resupply. I could live here.
Enjoyed reading your journal and the comparison on your blog between PCT and CDT. It’s pretty much what I observed. I made it nobo as far as Steamboat last year and will be out again nobo from there to Glacier starting July 1. Believe me the Gila was really scary with crotch high (on a long-legged 6 foot guy) swift current on the lower section S of Doc Campbell’s. The Middle and Upper were a breeze by comparison. I loved the San Juans in spite of snow and slow-going. The major difference for me between the PCT and CDT: the former was more social and even when hiking alone one is apt to meet many thru hikers; the latter has a lot of solitude.