Day 7, Friday May 15

Miles hiked: roughly 27? So hard to say in the Gila

I wake up to my alarm at 5:45. It’s cold, everything’s a bit wet, and it’s still raining pretty steadily outside. I didn’t sleep well last night, as the storm excited me, and the thought of my poles in the air was a bit frightening in the open field. The lightning was literally all around me for much of the night. 

I quickly pack up and get moving in an effort to warm myself. The slot canyon was really beautiful; narrow, winding and dark. It was a real treat to walk through this gem. Little bear canyon, check it. 

After three or so miles the slot canyon enters the middle fork of the Gila and the walls become wider apart and more grand. I cross the river and stop half way through. I circle around, examining the walls that surround me and this magical river flowing through it, carving its way through the stone monoliths. How did this get here, I wonder. In the middle of the desert, at 7,000 feet. So strange, so beautiful. I drink its waters and use it to bath myself a bit (I’m so stinky, like cat piss mixed with onions). 

I cross the river so many times I lose count. I ass by weekend warriors on their way back from Jordan hot springs and it’s nice having conversations with them. Soon it starts raining again, but that doesn’t stop me from taking a million pictures and really enjoying myself. His trail is so beautiful here, rain can’t ruin this scene. In fact, it makes it beautiful as it blurs the upper reaches of the Pillars above me. What a beautiful place. I see many cave dwellings that look like they would be perfect to sleep in, but it’s far too early. I promise myself that I’ll stop and camp in one if I see any after 7pm. 

After 8 or so miles I reach Jordan Hot Springs, just a hundred feet off the river. You can spot it from the steaming waters flowing down into the Gila. I climb on up and see the most beautiful, pristine waters. Crystal clear, with a fallen tree as an overhang and fully enclosed by thick bushes. A nice small waterfall of hot water consistently flows into it. It’s too good to be true. No ones around, so I take off all of my filthy clothes and set them aside as I get in. It’s hot! And my lord does it feel good on my sore legs, feet, and hips. I stay in for only a short time, fifteen minutes or so. Enough to know that if I stayed any longer I would not leave. Soon I’m off, back to my hiking life. The one where I just walk… A lot. And can’t ever relax because I need to make miles! That’s how I like it, for real. I’m in go mode, I feel good, and the more miles I get, the more likely Nathan is to see the San Juans in the three weeks he’ll be hiking with me. So I push. Slowly. So many pictures, so much time stopped in the middle of the river in silence. Just observing the surreal situation I’m in. It’s pretty neat. 

Around 7 I find a cave. It’s drizzling a bit still, and I realize my sock is torn and bloody as all get up. I noticed some sharp pain on my heel, but didn’t think much of it. Turns out all the rubbing and water rubbed it raw, and created an open wound the size of a penny. Sweet. I guess it was to beautiful to care. 

I set up my sleeping pad and bag, sheltered from the rain and think of the Native Americans who used to inhabit this area. These caves are real shelter from this storm. It’s no wonder they stayed here. I feel a sense of pride, that I’m experiencing something at least sort of similar to them. I’m out here, embracing whatever is thrown my way, and I’m staying in a natural shelter, which works better than any of the ones we carry on our backs. I think of what it must of been like back then. They were likely so tough, could survive with so little. How admirable. This has got to be the coolest place I’ve ever camped, and I feel so lucky to be here, back in time, if just for a night. This, I think to myself, is why I’m out here. 

Day 8, Saturday May 16

Miles hiked – roughly 38

I wake in the night, noticing the sky outside is clear. Sweet! I fall back asleep, and when I wake it’s windy and pouring rain. Shoot. At least all of my gear is completely dry in this cave. Hell yeah. Nothing will get me down!

I pack up and immediately cross the cold river as icy winds throw sideways rain at me. Soon it turns to hail. And shortly after its snowing on me with a freezing cold wind, and I have to navigate and cross this river dozens of times. I put my head down and just plow through. The water in my legs and shoes begins to freeze as I hike, and the snow on the ground begins to accumulate. For the very first time on the trip, I feel as if I have to embrace the brutality, as the slogan for the Cdt goes. 

I end up taking a side trail up a mountain, and realize a few hundred feet up that it’s not the right way. But it feels good to hike up. My temperature is rising. Screw it, I say, I’ll just keep hiking up and bushwhack over to snow lake, I know I can’t be more than 3 miles from it. I climb well over 1,000 feet, cross some fence, and carry the ridge till it drops to snow lake. Easy peasy. A nice little detour that warmed be up and required me to use my brain, and not just sludge through the Gila a dozen more times. It’s still snowing, but it’s relaxed a bit. I get to a small, empty campground and get 3 liters from the water pump coming out of the ground and head on. 

The next miles are all easy, and after 15 or so miles it begins to clear up a bit and I actually catch some sunshine! I see a hiker on the same old dirt road maybe 200 yards a head. I speed up and realize it’s my friend Kevin, whom I met at the CDT ruck back in March. I yell his name over and over but he doesn’t react. I get right behind him and yell his name, nothing. Alright, he deserves to be messed with. 

I extend my trekking pole and poke at his side with the metal tip. Wildly, he flakes his pole backwards in shock. 

“What the hell!!” He screams and nearly falls over! 

He begins laughingstock the shock resides and he realizes it’s me. “Yelled your name over and over, right behind you. Couldn’t resist!” I tell him. “Dude, I’m rocking out, these roads are empty!”

We hike the next 15 miles of roads together. It’s windy, but no more precipitation. We have good conversation, and it’s nice to know he’s enjoying the trail. I tell him he’s the third hiker I’ve seen on trail, and that it’s been real nice hiking with him. 

Around a bend a red jeep comes down the road. An older man with a cowboy hat comes out to greet us. 

‘Y’all hiking the trail to Canada?!’ He asks. 

‘Sure are. Trying at least!’ I tell him 

He cracks open a beer for us and talks to us all about the area and the animals around. I can hardly listen the beer tastes so good. Guns out he comes out this way every year, and the last time he saw any hikers it was jester and coyote. Had a beer with them as well! 

As the sun falls we descend a steep mountain side full of dead trees and loose rock. My body starts to complain. My knees are so sore, my hips are sore. Time to stop. We find a nice camp with a break from the wind on the saddle below. We eat dinner and talk. I still know how to converse, that’s good. Hard to believe I went hiked 180 miles of trail without seeing any other hikers on it. Crazy! It’s been real nice hiking with Kevin!

Day 9, Sunday May 17

Miles hiked – roughly 33

Kevin and I head out of camp around 6 am. We hike over rolling hills on a trail! A trail! So much lately has been on road. Soon I’m hiking by myself, as Kevin tells me it takes him a while in the morning to get up to speed. I pad a hiker named Sampson. Says he’s from Ohio, and I give him a ‘go blue’ and keep on hiking. Ohio is the worst. 

About 4 or 5 miles in I see a group of people still camped out, as I get closer, I realize it’s MeHap, Carrot and their gang of hikers! I get nervous, as I haven’t been around so many hikers in so long! I’m so excited to see all of them, but they’re all groggy and look as if they’re just waking up (save carrot who is lively and looks ready to go already). I pull some water from the cow pond nearby, and talk a bit with them. They’re hiking with track meat, spark, and Apache. After twenty minutes they’re pretty much ready, and we all hike out together! A hiking group, with friends! I don’t know what to do I’m so excited to talk to everyone. They’re all super nice, and from the sounds of it they’ve been having a great time. And I’m not surprised. The morning is tons of fun catching up with all of them. We get lost, follow imaginary trails to nowhere, take a long route rather than the shorter one, and at 2 or 3 pm we finally find spark, sitting at a nice water tank. 

“I’ve been here for two hours!” He says. We haven’t seen him since we broke camp. He went to go to the bathroom, but since he’s such a fast hiker, we all started, assuming he would catch up quickly. Sounds like he navigated the short cut around the ridge correctly, where we did not. He also took the bear creek route after. Again, we did not, adding several miles. We get a good laugh of it, and soon enough Apache, me meat, and track hap all catch up. We laugh at our blunders, and soon I have to move on. It’s a bummer, as they’re a blast to hike with, but I must get miles, and need to go further tonight on a long road walk to continue to get ahead for my buddy Nathan. I say my goodbyes and walk on, in the wrong direction. They correct me, thankfully, and soon I’m off on the trail, or, road. Road for the next 41 miles into pie town. 

I hike lat, camping just shy of a pretty good sized mountain. As I sleep, I hear the howling of a wolf. It’s much, much louder than a coyote. They’ve reinteoduced Mexican grey wolves to the area, and they’ve thrived! I haven’t seen one, but it was really neat to hear one in the woods at night! 

Day 10, Monday May 18

Miles hiked – roughly 28

I wake up at5:30 and hike. It’s on road today, an old two track. I space out, think of work, friends in Denver, badger meeting up with me and how exited I am for that. I walk by Elisabeth and Trivia, and hike an hour or so with them before hiking on. The terrain is a bit bland, and the road is on pretty open area, so It’s hard to feel as though you’re getting anywhere. 

About ten miles from Pie Town my body starts to feel terrible. My joints hurt. My hips, knees, ankles, and shins begin having random sharp pains. It’s a sign. I need to slow down. This pace, especially right off the bat, has finally caught up to me. I can feel it in my legs. I need a rest, even if it’s not convenient. 

I push to pie town, getting in around 2:30. It’s a beautiful little house with toasters everywhere. ED, peru, radar, machine gun, hand stand, and threshold are all there. It’s really great, they’re all amazingly friendly. Peru has hiked both the chain of craters route and the narrows route to grants,-‘s gives great advice as to how to meet up with badgetown, which comes in real handy. I get that all set up, call cactus and talk for a long time about the trail and what it’s been like. I knew he would love the story about sleeping in the caves. He’s sending out my next boxes and I give him all sorts of instruction a on har to put in each box gear wise. So helpful to me, making this trip so much less stressful for me. It’s good to catch up. 

Initially I planned to get ten or so more miles out of pie town. But with my body giving me all the hints I need, and the building rain clouds, I decide to stay at the toaster house. Its a great night shared with fellow hikers. We laugh and share stories well past hiker midnight. I’m happy I stayed here 🙂