Day 5 – Wednesday May 13th
Miles hiked: roughly 15
Finally I’m able to sleep in, if only until 7:30. Better than 5:30, and I actually slept well. I have a box coming with some gear replacements, so I have half a day to hang out in the small town of Silver City. I walk and get my resupply box from the post office and sort through what I’ll need. Somehow I messed up the mileage, and overestimated the distance to Doc Campbell’s from Silver City by nearly 25 miles. Whoops.
I walk to the visitor center via the ‘official’ Cdt. It’s signed, and the visitor center has a beautiful mural on its side wall. The Cdt right through another town – this feels like the Appalachiain Trail! Again, I like it, yet feel a little underwhelmed by the whole ’embrace the brutality’ mantra those who have hiked the trail suggest. It’s only been 140 or so miles, but so far it seems pretty nice!
I catch up with some friends, eat at a hip little shop, and fall asleep in the hotel lobby waiting for my package. It arrives at 2:30, and I hit the trail soon after, walking a mile or so through town, and then 7.5 easy miles on little walnut street heading out of town. Soon I’m on a wicked two track in some little forested hills. It smells nice, and I enjoy being off the pavement of the past 20 or so miles. The hills are small, and feel much like the southern Appalachian mountain in Virginia, save the bare ground. I keep a 4mph pace the whole night, and feel good. My knees are doing much better today, yay!
As I head up a hill top I hear the rumbling of a vehicle, and around the bend comes an old 1970’s red suburban. The truck slowly churns it’s way over the rocks as it approaches me. The man driving stops, a girl at his side, and opens the door.
“The hell are you doing way out here?” He asks as unthreateningly as you can ask that question in the middle of nowhere.
“Walking to Canada,” I tel him “this is the continental divide trail.
He’s fully tattooed, and so is his girlfriend, both a bit tough looking. But they’re interested, and begin to tell me where they came from today, and ask where this road takes them. I pull out my map and show them the way to silver city on these two track roads. Their faces light up, realizing they can get home going this direction. We chat some more before he methodically maneuvers his tank down the steep, rocky path. Those were the first people I’ve seen on trail (not in town) since grapenut some 140 miles back.
I hike into the dark and run into a giant ruckus of frogs going crazy by some pooled up water on a mountain side. Loudest frogs ever. I take off my backpack and catch a few, shining light in their eyes. I them get a few pictures of the ones that will cooperate.
Another mile or two in the dark before I call it quits for the night, laying down my bag next to some old dead trees and a giant rock. It was only a half day. But it was a good half day.
Day 6 – Thursday May 14
Miles hiked: roughly 34
I rise early, and hit the trail within 15 minutes. The air is warm, and the sun is behind the hills still. Perfect. I climb a thousand or so feet to a saddle quickly, and it wakes my body right up. I love a morning climb. Always sets the tone for a good day on the trail.
The trail then descends for 10 or so miles, roughly 4k feet to the Gila River. My knees hold up very wel. Maybe they’re getting stronger?
As I enter the canyon Forged by the Gila I’m immediately amazed. Sandstone cliffs rise above a beautiful, swift flowing river with trees and foliage ringing its outer banks. Right away, I see the trail on the other side of the river. So I cross – knee deep. I continue on the sandy, wooded bank above the river for a hundred yards or so before it cliffs out into the river and I’m forced to cross again to the other side. I’ll repeat this process 47 times today before I reach a road that will take me to Doc Campbell’s, a small outpost store near the Gila Hot Springs. It’s beautiful, and the water feels perfect on my sore legs and joints as I cross.
Mid afternoon, as I’m walking in the middle of the river, thigh deep, I hear a rattle to my right and immediately I shoot myself to my left, seeing a large green snake out of the corner of my eye that is face to face with me, eye level, only 4 or so feet away. I nearly lose my balance and fall into the river with my knee jerk reaction. As I regain my composure I notice the snake is HUGE! I’m talking what looks to be three feet, and thick! It’s a black tailed rattle snake, with a beautiful green pattern on its body. He’s not coiled or looking to strike, merely just letting me know that he prefers more distance (I didn’t even see him there!) I take a few photos and move on, weary of the happening.
Not more than 20 minutes later I nearly step on a much smaller black tailed rattler. He didn’t even rattle as I got one step from him in a grassy area. Tough to see a green guy in a grassy area! I see 3 more before I’m to the road. Man, talk about really having to be on your game and paying attention!
As I get to the road I’m pretty tired, but not fording through the river feels pretty nice. I get to doc Campbell’s at 4:30, with just enough time to pack my resupply before they close. I mingle in their shade for another 40 minutes before moving on, another 4 miles of walking on pavement. I read the map as I walk, and see an alternate to the alternate, little bear canyon, which is said to have a slot canyon as it enters the middle fork. I’m sold, I love slot canyons. As I hike I hear rumbling beyond the mountains to the south. Loud roars of thunder reverberate through the valley. I quickly repack my bag and prepare for rain, which quickly follows. Soon after I’m treated to a double rainbow! A double rainbow, all the way!
I head up a mountainside and see lightning just going crazy coming my way. Shoot. I quickly set up my tarp and get everything under it as the rain begins to come down. I’m in an open field, up high, and to set up my tarp requires sticking the metal tipped poles in the air. ‘What the hell am I doing out here’, I think to myself. ‘I’m totally getting struck by lightning tonight. Going out with a bang’. I love the storm. Hail, tons of lightning, and thunder that you feel a part of. It was a powerful system. And the tarp holds up well. Not a bad night. One I’ll surely remember. Now, on to slot canyons and the Gila tomorrow!