CDT 2021: Day 3, Silver Bell Mine to Coyote Hills

Calling America

My campsite last night was on the edge of the Little Hatchet Mountains. This range extended north of the Big Hatchet Mountains. The first few miles of the trail today would weave in and out of the contours of these mountains.

Historians are unsure how the mountains got their name, though some older maps call them the "Sierra de la Huachita," a Spanish phrase for "mountains of the orphan girl."

Since leaving Crazy Cook, I have been hiking in a region of New Mexico called the Bootheel. It is the southern-most, most isolated, and least populated region of the state.

The Bootheel is roughly 1,500 square miles in size, which was added to the U.S. by the Gadsden Purchase Treaty with Mexico. In all, the $10 million purchase added nearly 30,000 square miles, which included the entire southern end of Arizona. When the treaty was ratified by the Senate in 1854, it was the last time territory was expanded in the contiguous U.S.

By making the purchase, President Franklin Pierce hoped to create a viable route for a southern transcontinental railroad and resolve conflicts that continued in the region after the Mexican-American War.

DateThursday, April 15, 2021
WeatherCloudy, gradually becoming mostly cloudy; gusty winds at times; temperatures from the mid-50s to low-80s
Trail ConditionsLong road walks and flat desert traverses
Today's Miles13.4
Trip Miles47.6

I thought I was efficient when I started packing this morning, but I was still the last hiker to leave camp and was five minutes later than yesterday.

The weather began much like yesterday, with an overcast sky and gusty winds.

Walking along the edge of the Little Hatchet Mountains, I could look across the Hachita Valley. On the other side were the Apache Hills.

What appeared to be a lake was in the lowest part of the valley, but there was no water there. It was just a flat, dried basin called a playa.

I didn't expect to get a cellphone signal, but I took my phone out of airplane mode anyway to check. Surprisingly, I got a text message from Verizon saying, "Welcome to Mexico."

The border was now about 14 miles away. Apparently, I connected to a cell tower on the other side.

The trail followed a gravel road for most of this section. I passed Sunshine, who had stopped for a break. He didn't take long before catching up and passing me.

I found an unexpected water cache just before 9 a.m. There was a little water in one of the jugs, so I was able to top off my water bottle.

The trail left the gravel road, and I had to begin sign-hopping again, as I had done for much of yesterday.

The terrain was a little more rugged, though. As I looked ahead to find the next metal trail marker, I also had to keep an eye on my footing on the uneven ground.

When I arrived at the next water source, Baguette, Sunshine, Top O', and Zigzag were already there. This was a large cow tank. Besides drinking water for hikers, it provided a little shade. Crocs and Colleen arrived a few minutes later.

I stayed there for a break but didn’t need any water.

After Zigzag and I left the cow tank, he told me about a possible alternate to take that was not far ahead. He said Crocs had told him about a ghost town that was off the main trail, though Zigzag was uncertain of its location.

Crocs was talking about the former town of Hachita. It was really just a mining camp which was called Eureka when it was started around 1875.

The name was changed to Hachita in 1884. It grew to about 300 residents but then dwindled to just 25 people by 1890. A new town, also called Hachita, was started a few miles away in 1902 when the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad constructed tracks.

Thanks to the many alternate routes on the CDT, a governing principle of the trail allows hikers to make their own adventure. This came to mind when Zigzag brought up the ghost town, and we decided to go off-trail and look for it.

We scanned the terrain as we walked, hoping to see at least some remnants of a ghost town, but by the time we arrived at State Road 9, we still hadn't found anything.

We turned and headed west on the highway to reconnect with the trail.

As we walked along the highway, a U.S. Border Patrol truck slowly drove by on the other side of the road. I'm sure the officers were eying us before they realized we were just CDT hikers.

The truck was on a gravel road that followed parallel to the highway. It was graded regularly so Border Patrol officers could look for footprints in the sand. This allowed them to check for the direction of travel for people entering the U.S. illegally.

Doggone and Taxilady were at the trailhead where the trail intersected the highway when we got there. They were preparing to take Baguette and Thirteen to the only store in Hachita.

Taxilady said she would come back for us if we also wanted to go to the store, and we gladly accepted her offer.

The Hachita Food Mart was small, and mostly sold snacks and a few groceries. Most of the customers going in and out were ranchers and Border Patrol officers.

A U.S. Calvary post was built near here in 1917 to house more than 400 enlisted men and 40 officers. They were assigned to protect the border against raids during the Mexican Revolution.

The town grew to more than 750 residents during this time, but its prosperity didn't last long. The camp closed in 1922. One of two railroads that stopped here ended service in 1934. The other one stopped in 1961, and by 1970, only about 30 residents remained in Hachita.

We didn't need to resupply yet, but going to the store was a chance to buy a cold drink and some extra snacks. We hung out there for a while and relaxed in shade from the building while using the store's WiFi.

Taxilady said she would drive us back to the trail after she took Thirteen and Baguette. Then a local trail angel named Tim kindly offered to drive us.

We were walking on the trail again by 3:15 p.m., with plans to go at least as far as the next water source.

The trail followed another gravel road over easy terrain. It made a gradual climb toward the Coyote Hills.

A cow tank was 4.7 miles from the highway. Before we got there, Top O' passed us. He was soon followed by Thirteen and Sunshine.

This was an easy section of trail, though we were walking against a strong breeze.

We weren't tired because of our extended break at the store.

After walking another half-mile or so, we came upon a tent pitched in a ravine. I didn't know whose it was until I looked ahead and saw Baguette. She decided this was a good place to camp out of the wind.

Zigzag and I thought it was too early to stop, but we stayed to chat with Baguette while she prepared to cook her dinner.

Doggone was at the cow tank when we arrived there. He started walking from the highway after we did, but somehow we never saw him pass us on the trail. We laughed about this because we couldn't figure out how he did that. We could only guess that he somehow found his own alternate.

Doggone decided to move on, but Zigzag and I chose to stay at the cow tank and cook our dinner. The large tank offered some shelter from the wind.

We didn't want to camp there, though. It wasn't a great spot for that, and ranchers don't want hikers camping where their cattle get water.

Besides that, we wanted to make up for some of the miles we lost while going into Hachita.

Crocs and Colleen arrived while we were cooking our meal.

For a time, our decision to keep walking seemed like a mistake. We couldn't find any flat spots along the trail that were protected from the wind.

Then at about 7 p.m., we saw Top O' stretched out under a tree. This appeared to be the only spot for miles with some protection from the wind, so we decided to stay there too.

Top O' and I cowboy camped under the tree. Zigzag thought a nearby ditch would be a little more sheltered. Either way, we were in a breezy spot.

When I woke up later at 9:30 p.m., however, the wind had died down.

Calling America (can't get a message through)
Calling America (that's what she said to do)
Calling America (that's where she has to be)
Calling America (she left a number for me)
Calling America

From "Calling America" by Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra)

Comments

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