CDT 2021: Day 14, The Meadows to Swinging Cross Canyon

Peg, it will come back to you

Cruise Control and Zigzag at Swinging Cross Canyon

More time than usual was needed this morning to pack and get back on the trail. That's because Zigzag and I started talking to Craig, the hiker who had camped near us. The conversation quickly turned to gear and other trails we've hiked, as hikers typically do, and the time got away from us.

DateMonday, April 26, 2021
WeatherClear sky and breezy, with temperatures from the mid-40s to upper-60s
Trail ConditionsSteep climb out of the canyon, followed by occasionally rocky trail over gently rolling hills
Today's Miles14.3
Trip Miles211.1

Craig was from Florida. He said he and his wife hoped to hike the Benton MacKaye Trail this year. I had just finished thru-hiking that trail five months ago, so I had a lot of information to share.

I guess that means it was mostly my fault we didn't leave our campsite until 8 a.m.

Climbing from The Meadows back to the Gila High Route

Then again, maybe we took our time to leave because we knew what was immediately ahead of us. The first 1.1 miles of today's hike was a climb out of the canyon. The last half-mile of the 850-foot climb was the steepest.

Figuring there was no sense in wearing out so early in the day, I didn't try to push myself too hard. I needed about 50 minutes to make the climb.

Zigzag reached the top first and was already gone when I got there. Craig wasn't far ahead of me. He was heading in the opposite direction than we were going, so I wished him well before departing.

An eroded section of trail

The next hour of hiking continued to climb, though not nearly as steeply. By 10:30 a.m. I was starting to feel worn down. It probably wasn't just the climb that was making me tired.

I was also growing weary from the rocky trail, which was the Prior Creek Trail. It was eroded, likely because it is used by horse riders.

I stopped to take a short break and eat a snack bar, and I soon felt better.

A cabin owned by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game

After climbing to nearly 7,400 feet, the trail gradually dropped about 500 feet. At the bottom of that descent was Prior Cabin. A sign posted on the locked door said it was owned by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game.

When I arrived there at 10:50 a.m., Zigzag was just preparing to leave. I stayed about 15 minutes to eat another snack after he left.

A trick tank

A short distance away from the cabin was a rusted metal object that looked almost like a satellite dish. It was called a trick tank. The idea behind it is to collect rainwater, as a large funnel might, and store it in a large tank underneath.

There was no water in the tank, but I hadn't counted on finding any here.

The trail makes another rocky climb

Leaving the cabin, the Gila High Route turned to follow the Chicken Coop Trail. It made another rocky climb, this time going above 7,700 feet. It wasn't a steep climb, but the rocks slowed me down again.

The trail passes through gnarly trees

The sky was clear, but the temperature remained a little cooler than it had been. The wind was also gustier this morning than yesterday.

Clear Creek

The Gila High Route then turned to follow Trotter Trail, and soon after that, I arrived at Clear Creek. This was the first water source we'd passed since leaving Doc Campbell's Post that wasn't the Gila River. The creek wasn't a big stream, but there was enough flow to easily collect and filter for our water bottles.

Zigzag was already here when I arrived. We stayed for 45 minutes and ate lunch. During that time, a layer of clouds moved in and the weather turned more windy and chilly.

Zigzag stops to check his navigation app

Zigzag and I walked together after lunch, starting at around 2:15 p.m. The trail made another climb over a ridge. As usual, there was a spot where the trail disappeared, and we had to find our way to where it could be followed again.

Oddly, the Guthook app was much more accurate today about the track display matching the trail's path than it was yesterday.

Zigzag approaches

The ridge showed signs of a forest fire. Tree trunks were blackened, and some burnt branches scattered the ground.

A grave was supposedly in this area, though I failed to see it. It is said to be the grave of a trapper named Papineau, who was buried here after being killed by Apache Indians.

Cresting a ridge

Soon after the trail crested the ridge and began descending to Swinging Cross Canyon, a hiker named Cruise Control caught up to us. He told us he was from Virginia and had thru-hiked the PCT in 2019, the same year I did it.

After stopping for a brief conversation, he departed with a deliberate, quick pace. His trail name seemed to fit him well.

Cruise Control and Zigzag

We arrived at a large campsite near the river before 5 p.m. This was early enough that we considered collecting some water and hiking another three to four miles. When Cruise Control said he decided to stay here, we agreed to do that as well.

The campsite in Swinging Cross Canyon was ideal, except it was nearly impossible for me to set up my tent here. The wind was gusty, so I needed to stake the tent solidly to the ground. The problem with that was my tent pegs wouldn't stay in place. They were nail-style pegs, which work well in firm ground but not in the canyon's sandy soil.

When I thought I had one corner staked down, another corner popped loose. I was finally able to get all four corners anchored by piling large rocks on top of the pegs.

Soon after I finished dinner and climbed into my tent, another hiker arrived at our campsite. I couldn't tell if it was someone I knew.

Later, I didn't hear frogs while lying in my tent, as I did last night. This time, I heard turkeys gobble nearby.

It will come back to you
It will come back to you
Then the shutter falls
You see it all in 3-D
It's your favorite foreign movie


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.