It wasn't easy returning to the trail after yesterday's zero day.
|Date||Thursday, April 22, 2021|
|Weather||Sunny, with temperatures from the mid-40s to mid-60s|
|Trail Conditions||Road walking for several miles, then sometimes rugged trail|
I'm normally anxious to get back to walking, and maybe starting out seemed difficult today because it took longer than normal. Zigzag and I were slowed by some obstacles. Admittedly, they were of our own making.
After waking up at 7 a.m., we didn't need much time to check out and begin walking through Silver City. We soon split up, though, because we had different ideas of where to eat breakfast.
Zigzag wanted to pick up some items at a grocery store, while I had my eye on a breakfast burrito at Don Juan‘s Burritos. I told him I'd meet him at the store, then stood behind cars in line for the drive-up window.
I carried my burrito to the grocery store, and by the time I arrived, Zigzag was ready to go to the post office. I had nothing to mail, so told him I would eat my burrito and wait until he returned.
Thinking I would listen to a podcast while I ate breakfast, I reached for my earbuds but couldn't find them. They were nowhere in my backpack. I could have left them in the hotel, or maybe they fell off my pack when we stopped the night before last at the brewery.
That shouldn't be too much of a problem, I thought. I'll just buy another pair.
The grocery store and two other stores I checked sold earbuds, but none had a lightning connector for my iPhone.
Zigzag came to the rescue, though. He had a spare pair and said I could borrow them until I found a replacement.
We had a long way to go on paved streets to get out of Silver City. There were no markers or signs to point the way, but we were used to that by now.
Zigzag and I elected to take a seven-mile route called the Walnut Creek Alternate. This one is routinely used by thru-hikers, so much so that it is marked in the Guthook app. The app shows the alternate as a brown line on the map, and we began referring to it as the brown route.
About when I walked past the city limits, I was stopped by a man in a pickup truck. "I’ll bet my last dollar I know where you’re headed," he said. This seemed like an easy guess, but I think it was just his way of being friendly. He asked where I was from, and that was all he wanted to know.
Doggone caught up a little farther along Little Walnut Road. His pack was light again today because Taxilady would be picking him up soon. They planned to move their trailer later to another campground farther north.
We continued on the paved road to where it ended at Little Walnut-Gomez Peak Day Use Area in Gila National Forest. We took a break there.
When we began walking again, the trail followed a gravel road. After going a couple more miles, we had an unexpected surprise. It was more trail magic from Cheshire Cat. He was serving slices of fresh pineapple.
We also got to meet his dog, Stella. I knew right away she was named for the song "Stella Blue" by the Grateful Dead.
Marco Polo and Tinkertoy, and a hiker I had not yet met named Tom, were there too.
Doggone, Zigzag, and I then continued on the gravel road. Before long, it crossed a junction with the "official" CDT route. This was shown in red on the Guthook app. By now, we were referring to it as the red route.
After crossing the CDT, we picked up the route of the Gila River Alternate. From what I could tell, thru-hikers use this alternate more than any other in New Mexico. One reason the route is so popular is the river provides a reliable and plentiful source of water, which obviously is in short supply around here.
The scenery is said to be some of the best in the state. We'll get a chance to judge that for ourselves tomorrow.
Taxilady arrived to pick up Doggone, and Zigzag and I continued on the road. We began to make a few climbs, but because the road was graded, it wasn't much of a challenge.
We didn't have to go far, however, before the road turned into a roller coaster of steep, short ups and downs. One descent was so steep my feet slid on the gravel but I didn't fall down.
There were several Parry’s agave along this part of the trail. These plants live for 10 to 30 years. At the end of that span, they grow a 20-foot tall stalk that bears 20 to 30 branches, with each one holding hundreds of flowers. This is said to be a spectacular display, but none of the plants I saw today were blooming.
The farther we went, the rougher the road got, with more ruts and more rocks.
We passed a large sign that warned of dangers from a fire that swept through the area the year before. That happened closer to the river, though, and we didn't pass any of the damage today.
We saw Joe again at 3:45 p.m. He was filtering water at Bear Creek. Zigzag kept going, but I stopped to take a break. A log bench was nearby, and I sat on that to rest for a few minutes and eat a snack.
At this point in our hike, Zigzag and I had walked more than 140 miles, and today was the first time we had to cross flowing water.
Tinkertoy and Marco Polo arrived while I was resting, and they decided to camp at that spot. It would have been a good spot for Zigzag and me to stop too, but the time was just 4 p.m. and we wanted to put in a few more miles today.
The terrain was looking more like a real forest. Instead of just a scattering of a few taller trees among some scrub oaks, there were several tall trees. It was enjoyable to smell the juniper and pine trees.
Most of the fragrance came from alligator juniper, a smaller tree that is common to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Mexico.
I saw a couple of signs that people used to live in this forest. The trail passed a cabin that had rotted and fallen in on itself. A short distance farther was a broken-down animal stockade.
A small arrow made with sticks was the only navigation aid showing where the trail turned from the road. Zigzag missed this turn, though he didn’t get far ahead before discovering his mistake. He was back at the turn when I got there.
A short time later, we met a hiker named Cyclops. He told us he also missed that turn and walked about two extra miles.
The farther we went, the more rugged the trail became, even where it followed a dirt road again. There were a lot of rocks and boulders on and around the footpath. Some were stacked as cairns.
When we came to a stream, we found a hand-written note held in place by some rocks. The message offered some helpful information about a better water source and a camping spot just ahead.
We figured the note was probably written by Doug the Hermit.
Before long, we found more of Doug's work. He had constructed a hiker registration box on the stump of an old tree. A sign gave it a dad-joke name, "Regis-tree."
Regretfully, we didn't get a chance to meet Doug. He lived nearby and by himself, which of course, is why he was called a hermit. He has lived in this forest year-round for more than a decade.
People who have met Doug say he may be a hermit, but he's friendly and out-going. He seems to enjoy talking to hikers and doesn't shun people.
Doug has told hikers he prefers to live on his own and off the land. Despite the hot and arid climate, he has figured out how to grow enough food to survive.
The time was getting late, now past 6:30 p.m., and instead of looking for Doug, we decided to leave him alone and move on.
Along the way, we saw more cairns, and I wondered if Doug had put these here to help hikers. Without them, this section of trail would have been much more difficult to follow. It crossed hard rock, so there wasn't a worn footpath.
At 7 p.m., we arrived at the water source mentioned in the note we found on the trail. The next reliable water source would be about 2.5 miles beyond the campsite. We didn't need to filter much more than what was enough for tonight and breakfast.
When we found the flat space a short distance away from the water, Joe and Tom were already camping there. We set up our tents, then climbed a rock outcropping to join them for dinner.
Almost ablaze, still you don't feel the heat
It takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a living, we all gotta eat
But you're here alone, there's no one to compete
If mercy's in business, I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true
"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.