Monday, November 29, 2021

Day 20: Cliff Dwellings and a Naked Hiker

May 10: The morning was cold... oh, so cold! I laid around in my sleeping bag pretty late trying to stay warm, but I also wasn't in a big rush either because I wanted to take a side trip off the main CDT to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and those didn't open until 9:00am. So I slept in late.

A whole heap of other hikers arrived in the morning--I'm not even sure how many hikers were now hanging around Doc Campbell's anymore. But more problematic was one guy who showed up reporting that he had been on a day hike with his elderly father and brother and got separated from them at about 3:00 the previous afternoon. They had only planned to be out for the afternoon--definitely not prepared to spend a night in the woods--and he was understandably a little worried.

Hikers! Hikers! Everywhere!

Doc Campbell's hadn't opened yet, but there was a house behind it where the folks who run it live and they came out to start the process of calling out a search and rescue team. I should point out that our cell phones didn't work out here--there was no signal for anyone to call 911--although we were able to get a slow wi-fi connection from the store.

Pez, Evenstar and I eventually headed out to continue our hikes, hoping that the father and brother would be found okay but not knowing anything definitive as of yet. (Later, we heard that they were found and in good condition, so a happy ending!)

The road walk would continue out from Doc Campbell's.

Pez and Evenstar didn't feel like walking the mile or two off-trail to check out the nearby cliff dwellings. Pez's knee was still causing him issues so he didn't want to use it anymore than necessary, and Evenstar's blisters were still causing her issues and adding extra miles to the hike held no interest for her. So I diverged from them, promising to catch up again later in the day.

The walk out of Doc Campbell's was along the road, as was the walk to the cliff dwellings. Lots of road walking today! Not very interesting or exciting, but I couldn't say the same for the cliff dwellings themselves! I left my pack at the entrance with a park volunteer providing help and information to visitors to save myself the effort of hauling it around the mountainside, then headed up the loop trail to the cliff dwellings. Due to COVID, they made the loop a one-way trail and didn't allow us to enter the cliff dwellings, but we could see walk by them and admire them from the exterior.

Which were absolutely awesome. Amazing, even! Very cool.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings were awesome!

Then it was back to the entrance where I retrieved my pack and started the walk back to the trail. I had only made it about a half-mile down the road, though, before a vehicle pulled over and offered me a ride. Since I wasn't actually on the CDT at this point, I said sure! Take me back to the trail! I was perfectly happy not having to hike an off-trail road walk.

Due to COVID restrictions, we weren't allowed into any of these. =(

The ride only lasted for a couple of minutes since I probably wasn't more than a mile from the CDT where I had gotten off, but I sure was happy to cutout that otherwise unnecessary walk. It was also, I realized, the first time I had been in a motorized vehicle since my mom threw me out of the truck 1.5 miles short of the Mexican border. The terrain raced by at dizzying speeds!

Back on the trail, the road walk continued a bit longer. The driver offered to take me further, but I turned him down. It was still a road walk from here, but this was official CDT trail. That I couldn't skip.... *shaking head* 

I put on my pack and continued the hike, eventually reaching a trailhead another mile or two further down the road where I finally returned to a real trail following the Gila River upstream again. My feet had been dry all morning since I was on the road or the cliff dwellings, but now that the trail was back on the Gila River, my feet would be wet the rest of the day with countless river fords.

Indeed, trying to count the crossings was seemingly impossible, but I came up with a strategy: I would take a photo at every point where I had to ford the Gila. Then, later, I could just go back and count the water photos for the day. That is how I know I forded the Gila River a whopping 48 times today.

Back on the Gila River, which I'd have to ford 48 times this afternoon.

I had noticed that the further upstream we got, the less water was in the river. That was to be expected as tributaries made the river grow larger and larger the further downstream one went, but we were hiking upstream. It was expected to get smaller and smaller the closer to the source we got.

Along the river valley, the views were awesome! Absolutely stunning scenery and well worth the visit. The wet feet got old, but it was very much worth the trouble.

Late in the day, I caught up with Evenstar and Pez as they were taking a break, and we hiked near each other the rest of the way to camp. I had planned from the beginning of the day to reach Jordan Hot Spring with the hope of soaking in it all night long, and that was where we ended up.

Pez decided that he wanted to camp alone and watch some Netflix shows on his phone and continued on a bit further, but we expected to meet up with him again the next day. Perhaps while he was still breaking down camp since he didn't seem like much of a morning person.

I used what was left the daylight to set up camp and cook dinner, and as the sun set, I headed over to the hot spring. It had been filled with a few hikers when I first arrived, but it was now empty of people and I had the pool of water all to myself. So I stripped down naked and jumped in. It felt wonderful!

Jordan Hot Spring was a wonderful place to soak for two hours during the night! =) I took this photo when I first arrived at the campsite when it was still being used by other hikers. I did my soaking later in the evening.

I wound up soaking in the hot spring for about two hours. The hot spring felt wonderful, but my only minor complaint was that I wished it were an extra 5 to 10 degrees warmer. The water temperature was somewhere in the low 90s, if I recall correctly, which felt just a little cooler than I would have preferred. It still felt great, though! Don't get me wrong. I also liked that the hot spring had a pebbly bottom rather than being a muddy mess.

After a couple of hours, though, I was ready for some sleep. I dried off quickly--it felt pretty darned cold as soon as I stepped out of the hot spring--and I put my clothes back on before returning to camp and calling it a night.

Thus ended my 20th day on the trail.....

It's a beaver dam! Never did see a beaver, though.

A few hikers, at one of the many river crossings we would do....

I found this little guy between my campsite and the hot spring.

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.