The Gila

Damn what a section! First of all, I could live in Silver City. I know that was in the section before Doc Campbell’s, but I want to say it here some more because you really ought to visit if you love peaceful desert culture and some damn fine scenery. Love the open carry status of New Mexico, makes for some respectful (mostly) law enforcement and some exciting hippies. Silver had the best burger ever put in my mouth or any other place on my body. Four dollar burritos. Microbrews. Guns and hippies. Low rent. Pardon me while I clean the drool.

Right, “The Gila”. What a monster! Made more involving than normal by the weather. For about a hundred miles from the canyon to New Mexico Highway 12 the sun went away and didn’t come back. Crossing the loose subaqueous rocks of the Gila somewhere around a hundred times (in two days) took an immense toll on all of us (met a pair, Lily and John, both from Ohio going Northbound) and at some point I injured my left ankle. Painful and stiff, and a miles-bottleneck which is a stifling rotten mess of a bummer. I am limited to twenty miles a day – trust me, that’s slow – and at this pace and with this weather (wettest Spring down here it’s been in 15 years I hear) it could be a repeat of the snowed out PCT disaster come Montana.

Don’t want that.

But the Gila IS beautiful. Towering pillars of red and orange hundreds of feet high forming the walls of the canyon and channeling the thigh deep desert water. The rain and cold dont lessen that. And there are hot springs, goddamned gorgeous ones with water clear as air spilling out over cascades from the canyon walls. Hardly anyone out there. Perfect. And only eight miles from a road.

After a few days of the Gila the route took us across some rolling hills and open plains, pretty but with no place to fetch water, and exposed, which is bad news when lightning and madness needs only a single cloud from which to spawn, so it seems in Sunny New Mexico. No storm, though the cold threatened, and we continued into the mountains.

Bad news up there. High winds and fast moving clouds kept our eyes routinely peering for danger from the southwest skies and in the evening of our 70th or so mile in this section the fan sprayed us good for the first time. Flashes every few seconds looking up from small dip in the peaks around 8500, distant echoes, or were they? No way to know up here, not this boxed in, not unless it was coming from straight above us. Not much sleep that night for thr two of us (not a clue
where Lily and John are, somewhere North ostensibly though probably not Ohio).

Then coming downhill yesterday it was low dark clouds big gusts and frosty atmosphere. More storm anxiety walking across open fields toward the Pie Town alternate, but it was just wind cold and the wet. Used to those now, but
will never enjoy nearby lightning strikes on windmills I need to get water from.

A few miles into the alternate we camped at the base of a 10000 ft mountain so as to not tempt fate in the night. It was colder and windier still and we got a bit of a rush from setting up camp quickly in those conditions in a suboptimal somewhat exposed campsite near a large field. My gear was wet from days of rain and no Sun so I wore most of my layers to bed. All was mostly fine.

We awoke to several inches of snow on the ground with more falling and piling on, still no blue sky, and lower still temperatures. Despite all this, my updated kit did everything it was supposed to and I was prepared to push on, except that the shorter days (a little too much hot springs fun maybe) from the Gila left me short on food and I reluctantly turned back to highway 12 and Reserve, New Mexico to reload. Thank God the food
here is good. Helps nurse the pride back. I hate backtracking. What’s done is done.

Head back out tomorrow morning. After a goddamned excellet burrito, I’m sure. Love New Mexico. CDT good fun.

GilaCliffs