Friday, November 26, 2021

Day 19: Doc Campbell's Post

May 9: The morning was cold. Too cold. Argh! I definitely didn't feel like getting out of my sleeping bag this morning, but a few cows woke Evenstar and myself up by around 6:00 in the morning or so and we eventually got hiking an hour later.

We immediately forded the Gila River--no surprise there--and five minutes out of camp, we discovered hot springs on the side of the river. Hot springs! If I had known about those the evening before, I would have easily walked the extra 5 minutes and soaked in some hot springs during the evening. They were located on the shore of the river, draining into the Gila.

Hot springs! That shallow trough of water on the right side of the river? Yep, that water is hot!

The one thing I could tell myself, at least, was that they were shallow, muddy hot springs which were less than ideal. But still, I was a little disappointed that I didn't have a chance to soak in them. And now, I didn't want to stop to soak in them. I had miles to do!

Throughout the day, we forded the Gila countless times. Literally countless. Neither Evenstar nor I tried to count the crossings, but one thru-hiker we met had been counting them and reported 47 crossing so far. The Guthook comment reported 57. Which was right? Both? Neither? We didn't know, but it was a lot. Our feet never dried the entire day.

The last mile or two of the day, the trail reached a road that we followed into town. Well, okay, not really a town. More like a convenience store known as Doc Campbell's Post. Evenstar and I made it shortly before the store was scheduled to close, so we picked up our maildrops which consisted mostly of food that would get us to our next resupply point.

I also splurged for some ice cream and a cold soda. Yum! Yum! =)

Doc Campbell's Post, our home away from home for the night.

Pez showed up a bit later, a little after the store had already closed, and it was good to see him again. His knee was still giving him trouble, but it didn't seem to be slowing him down at all and his spirits were still high.

We set up camp behind the store since they allowed us to camp there. There was a bit of confusion on our part if we were supposed to pay a small fee to camp. I thought there was one, but when I paid for my maildrop, ice cream and soda, I had told them that I planned to camp in the back but it seemed like they hadn't added any fee for that. On the other hand, another hiker said that they were charged five or ten bucks or something. I didn't lose any sleep over it, though. I did tell them I was planning to camp there, after all. Not like I was sneaking around trying to avoid a fee.

Later in the evening, a couple of more hikers arrived as well and the five of us set up camp in back chatting the rest of the night away.

One ford down, another 50 or so to go....

The last couple of miles of the day had us leaving the river valley and following this road to Doc Campbell's.

Pez shows off his tan lines.

Has this been a problem? Well, it was okay for us to loiter and camp behind the store, but not in the parking lot.

They do have an unusual clientele here!

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Day 18: Hello, Gila River!

May 8: Evenstar and I woke up and hit the trail. It was an easy trail to lose, despite my fancy GPS gear and we quickly lost it a couple of times. It ascended steeply, and even in the cool morning air, I was sweating bullets going up. It was a lot more rugged and difficult than I had expected, and in hindsight, I was glad I hadn't done it yesterday afternoon. It would have been even more hot and it might have ended up causing me to hike into the darkness since my original goal from yesterday took a lot longer than expected.


Evenstar stuck close to me, relying heavily on my GPS. How did people hike this trail before a GPS?! It was the question of the day.

Near the top of the ridge, I got a decent cell phone signal and checked my messages. Addie wrote that she needed to take another day off due to a rash on her legs, so she'd now be two days behind us. I still hoped she'd catch up again at some point, but it might be awhile. Two days would be hard to catch up, and I couldn't slow down since I had planned out my food carefully all the way through Grants about two weeks away.

Then the trail descended steeply toward the infamous Gila River--infamous because it was legendary for the number of times the river would have to be forded. The good news was that long water carries would be a thing of the past for the next few days. The bad news was that our feet would be wet all day long for the next several days.

I joked with Evenstar every time she forded the river to watch out for the Gila monster. Of course the Gila monster would haunt the Gila River, right?

I took a two-hour break here. Lovely spot for a rest!

We took a long break at a side creek just before it merged with the Gila. I wound up taking a two-hour break--largely during the hottest part of the day. It was such a long break, I had to move my rest spot because the shade moved so far. Once we reached the Gila, Evenstar felt confident navigating on her own again without the help of my GPS and left before me. You'd have to have a pretty bad sense of direction to get lost along the Gila! Basically, the rule was you just follow the river upstream for the next several days.

While stopped for a break, a man with three pack mules loaded with trail gear passed by. He was clearly setting up a campsite for trail workers somewhere nearby.

I finally ended the two-hour break when I lost my shade for a second time and rather than moving, I just packed up my groundsheet and continued onward.

Once again hiking alone, I reached the Gila River several minutes later and admired it's shimmering waters for the first time. It looked about knee deep and moved at a steady rate, but it certainly didn't look dangerous. I had heard that at certain times of the year, it could be positively scary. I hadn't heard anything about it being a problem this year, but who could know for certain before seeing it with my own two eyes?

Mostly, I was amazed at how clear the water looked! I had seen the Gila River before when I thru-hiked the Arizona Trail and it was a muddy mess of a river. I didn't dare try to filter that water--it would have clogged my filter in a heartbeat. It was also considerably deeper where it crossed the Arizona Trail than it was here. It looked like an entirely different river! I knew it was the same river, though--just much further upstream and very close to the river's headwaters.

My first steps into the river caused me to gasp. That water was cold! But I quickly got used to it after several seconds. Once my feet were already wet, subsequent crossings didn't feel quite so shocking.

According to a Guthook comment, we'd have to ford this river a whopping 57 times. We didn't realize it at the time, but this comment was completely and utterly wrong. In the end, we'd end up fording closer to 200 times, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself. It turned out that it was just 57 crossings before Doc Campbell's Post. Neither Evenstar nor I realized this just yet, however.

I caught up with Evenstar limping down the trail a couple of miles later, and we hiked together for another couple of miles before setting up camp alongside the Gila.

Evenstar's husband had mailed her a Mountain House dessert--raspberry crumples--but it was meant as a serving for four people, so she shared half of it with me for which I was very grateful and still am. =)

And this ended our 18th day on the trail....

The rocks here had a little bit of a reddish-tinge, and I imagined this is what Mars would have looked like if it had trees.

From this viewpoint, I got a cell phone signal and found out that Addie would be taking yet another zero in Silver City. It seemed increasingly likely that we wouldn't see her again. =(

Horses loaded with trail maintenance equipment passed us up.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Day 17: Regis-treeing for the trail

May 7: I woke up and hit the trail at my usual 7:00am start time. A couple of hours later, I spotted my first rattlesnake of the trail. Or rather, it spotted me and started rattling loudly. It was under a tree and I was completely oblivious of it until it started rattling just a few feet away. I jumped back, then pulled out a selfie-stick that I carried just for this purpose. I attached my camera and stuck it out, practically in the snake's face for photos. The rattlesnake didn't much care for this and continued rattling loudly, but I felt that I was at a sufficiently safe distance away that it couldn't get me. And how cool would it be if I got a photo of the snake actually trying to bite my camera?!

See the rattlesnake trying to hide behind the rock?

I had trouble getting a good photo or video, though, since I wasn't able to see the viewfinder well. It was out there at the end of my selfie-stick, several feet away. I tried taking numerous photos and a couple of videos, but they were all pretty blurry or off center. In the end, I was a little disappointed with the results. I'd have to hone my techniques.

Another shot of the rattlesnake

When I got a signal and checked my messages, Pez had sent a message that he was feeling much better and planned to get back on the trail today. I suggested that he take an alternate route out of town that could cut off a few miles and hopefully he'd catch up soon.

The afternoon was hot and the heat sapped the energy out of me. Especially on the uphills. I took an hour-long break near Bear Creek where I cameled up, then took another two-hour break during the hottest part of the day next to a spring where I cooked dinner, rested and finished reading Win, my latest Kindle read.

Today I also veered off the red line--i.e. the main CDT route--to hike the Gila alternate. It was allegedly more scenic than the main route and notably shorter as well, but I wondered if the fact that the route was shorter may have influenced people's opinion of it. I wanted to do the more scenic route. I wasn't in any rush--the Colorado Mountains were covered with snow and slow and steady was my goal to give the snow further north plenty of time to melt. I wasn't looking for shortcuts--not yet, at least!--but I did want to hike the most scenic route. So I veered off onto the Gila alternate, hoping the rumors that it was the most scenic were true. I didn't mind that the route was notably shorter, though. =)

Late in the afternoon, I reached the Regis-tree, a register on the stump of a tree. I loved it. A little bit of unexpected humor, and I love puns. =)

It's the regis-tree!

I saw that Evenstar had signed the register just 6 hours earlier--I had made significant progress in catching up with her seeing as she had about a 24 hour head start leaving Silver City. I was also glad to see that she had made it this far. I often had trouble following the trail and had been concerned that Evenstar would struggle far more with basically a map and compass setup. If it wasn't for my GPS, I'm not sure I'd have made it this far. How did people do this trail before the advent of the GPS?! But at least I know she had made it this far, and that she was only six hours ahead.

I had planned to hike another two or three hours, until about 7:30 in the evening, but stopped only an hour later when I ran into Evenstar's campsite. "What are you doing here?! You were six hours ahead of me when I left the regis-tree just an hour ago!"

And she proceeded to tell me a horror story of bushwhacking for hours in the wrong direction after losing the trail and eventually backtracking to this location and deciding to call it a day. I'm not sure that she had a solid plan for what to do in the morning, but at least here she had access to water and wasn't in any imminent danger. 

I was surprised to find Evenstar already camped on the trail since I thought she was at least 6 hours ahead of me.

I went ahead and joined her campsite along Sycamore Creek, which worked out well for me since I had company for the evening. Evenstar was the first hiker I had seen since leaving Silver City yesterday. And it worked out really well for her since she could "drift" behind me following my GPS in the morning.

I took out my two bottles of bubbles and asked if she was interested. "Definitely!" she replied. So Evenstar took the extra bottle from me and blew bubbles for a bit as the sun set.

Thus ended another day on the trail. According to my GPS, I had only covered 14.9 miles.

Oh! Now they tell me! *shaking head*

Sign may as well just say, "You're probably going to die out here."

Old, abandoned mining equipment

It's the regis-tree!

See the lizard in the photo?

I stopped for a two-hour break near this spring.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Day 16: Leaving the Silver City

May 6: I took my time leaving town. Addie dropped by my room in the morning to say goodbye--hopefully just temporarily. She was planning on taking another zero day and wouldn't leave until tomorrow. Additionally, Pez had texted me that he wasn't feeling especially well this morning, possibly the side effects of his COVID vaccination yesterday, so he had also decided to stick around in town for an extra day. I'd be leaving town on my own, with Pez and Addie a day behind me, and Evenstar a day ahead of me.

I finally check out and left the motel by around 10:00am, then headed back to the post office--my fourth visit in four days!--to mail my laptop ahead to Grants, NM, which I expected to reach in 18 days. A whole 18 days without my laptop.... *shaking head* I might have withdrawals!

How could I say no to such a cute-looking mascot?

Before leaving town, I stopped at Blake's Lotaburger for lunch. The restaurant had root beer at a fill-it-yourself station, and I sent a message to Pez to let him know. Being from Europe, he didn't know what root beer was. Evenstar and I assured him that despite the word 'beer', it was not alcoholic at all. Well, I mean, yeah, you can get alcoholic root beer, but not at fast food places.... Anyhow, we had suggested that he should at least give it a try, and this fill-it-yourself station would be great. He could try a little and if he didn't like it, could fill up with something else instead. It's a very American flavor, and he needed some uniquely American experiences. =)

Yum! =)

I didn't want to leave the air-conditioned building, though, since the temperatures outside were already uncomfortably warm for me. But the trail must go on! Or at least I must, and after drinking a refill or two of my cup with root beer, I headed off and out of the restaurant and out of town.

The first few miles out of town were along quiet but paved roads through neighborhoods and other civilization, then I reached the gravel roads and the walk became more pleasant.

I missed the turnoff from the gravel road, walking perhaps 10 minutes in the wrong direction before realizing my error and backtracking. Argh! I hate that!

This was the turnoff that I missed--despite the efforts of previous hikers to install an arrow made of wood.

Then I was back on real trail with plenty of small trees for shade. Views from the hilltops were pleasant and I enjoyed the walk despite the oppressive heat.

Evenstar had texted me that it was possible to swing past a water source without going out of my way, but I didn't quite understand her directions and walked past the turn-off she had suggested. By the time I realized my error, I was in too deep heading in the wrong direction. I mean, technically, I was on the trail so it wasn't the wrong direction, but there was absolutely no water directly on the trail for many, many miles. I would have to hike 1.5 miles off trail and descend 300' to reach a reliable water source. The detour Evenstar suggested would have saved me from that effort by passing directly by the water, but I screwed it up.

The only consolation I had was that at least the views were actually pretty nice from this higher-elevation route.

Once I reached the junction to the water, I continued the 1.5 miles downhill to an awful cow tank filled with stagnant water. Yuck. But water was water, and I filled up.

The views were quite pleasant from the hilltops

I carried the water away from the cattle, finding a shady spot nearby to cook dinner so I didn't have to carry dinner water back up the hill. And by taking a long break, maybe the temperature would cool a bit before I climbed back up to the trail. It was a hot day, but late enough in the afternoon that temperatures should start falling soon if they hadn't already.

After dinner, I packed up again and headed back to the trail, complaining bitterly about the 3 extra miles I had to walk just to get water.

Back at the junction with the trail, I finally stopped to camp. By this point, dark and ugly clouds filled the sky and I felt a few drops of rain. It wasn't a real rain--just a few drops--but since the clouds looked mighty ugly, I went ahead and set up my tarp.

Near sunset, a couple of mountain bikers passed by me, but they were the only people I had seen on the trail all day. I never spotted any other hikers on the trail and didn't know of anyone within a day's hike of me. Oh, well....

Thus ended my 16th day on the trail....

There were a few miles of civilization to walk through before getting back to nature.

Then a few more miles along gravel roads.

It always surprises me when people have to be reminded not to shoot near a residence, campsite, recreation site or occupied site.

The clouds were looking angry late in the day! Notice the rainbow in the photo? (It was much more vivid in real life so the photo doesn't really do it justice, but it still showed up in the photo, at least.)