Gila River Route | Silver City, NM – Pie Town, NM


April 21:Miles hiked – 8

Current mile – 169.7? (It’s confusing because now I’ve started to take alternates)
After getting into town late last night I was in no rush to get out. I slept in for a while before going out to find some breakfast and then jumping on the bus to Walmart where I needed to pick up some things. I was sitting outside eating a bucket of fried chicken while waiting for the bus to bring me back when some lady came up and offered me her change. First person to think I’m homeless so far this year! Back in Silver City I posted up at the RV park to charge my phone while I finished season four of game of thrones. Tyrion killed Tywin and I have to know what happens next but it will likely be over a week until I have service again, in Pie Town.

It’s a little after four when I finally hike out. For seven miles it’s a road walk but the further away from town I get the more rural it becomes. Eventually I pass over a grate and by a sign welcoming me to the Gila National Forest. The pavement turns to dirt although I’m still following a roadbed, but the forest it winds through is captivating. Thick gnarled trees and pine needles make up the ground. As I hike on, I know I’ll have to camp alone. I hate camping alone. Even after two thru hikes I am not too proud to admit that the dark freaks me out in the woods! Nevertheless I find myself a pristine sight with a decent sunset view and pitch my tent for the first time in trail to add a little extra security. As the sun falls a strange bird comes out to sing an eerie song as I close my eyes and let myself drift away to sleep.

“The night is dark and full of terrors”
High of the day – Tywin Lannister is dead

Low of the day – Camping alone
April 23:

Miles hiked – 20

Total miles hiked – 189.7
I wake up unscathed by the creatures of the night and let myself sleep in a bit as it’s quite chilly outside! I know I’ll be in the forest all day so I’m not worried about having to break for a while around noon. The trail continues along the forest service road until I reach bear creek five miles in, the first strongly flowing creek of my hike, nearly 200 miles in! Before this it’s been water caches, cow troughs, and tiny trickles.

I break here for far too long and just know that I won’t be making many miles today. The next five miles are gorgeous and full of water but again I feel the need to sit down under a tree for a while. Not long after I’m surprised by Treeman and a section hiked named Mike! People! We talk for a while before they head on with me packing up not far behind. From here the trail becomes steep and rugged, much like I remember the AT being in New Hampshire and Maine! The climb lasts for miles which slows me down even more and by the time I catch the others again who have plans of only hiking another two miles I am totally beat. Their plan sounds good to me, and I won’t have to camp alone again! They hike on while I filter water, with plans of camping together in two miles. In one and a half miles I reach a dirt road that my guide says to cross, but on the other side there is nothing. I turn right down the road which has me paralleling the trail but I’m still getting further away, so I bushwhack into the woods to try and find trail. This is where I became lost for an hour while the sun was quickly setting! Luckily I eventually popped out right back where I first encountered the road and turned right again, this time continuing to follow it until finally I see a cairn and a sign pointing towards the Gila River in two miles. I stop at the first clearing I see on top of a ridge and even though I’m alone again (the others must have gotten mixed up as well) it is a beautiful spot with the sun setting right before me. This trail has shown me time and again that it’s going to be a lonely walk, and I think I’m finally starting to accept that.
High of the day – eating breakfast at a beautifully glowing stream

Low of the day – getting lost when it was nearly dark!
April 24:

Miles hiked – 18

Total miles hiked – 207.7
Something must have bitten me overnight because I wake up with a fat lip which feels very strange along with with sunburn I’ve got going on there. Treeman and Mike pass by while I’m packing up, they had gotten totally confused as well and just decided to set up camp and find the trail this morning. I make oatmeal with flax seed in camp, I rarely ever make breakfast in camp but it’s definitely a nice way to start the day. The trail leads down a mile to Sapillo Creek and then the Gila River, which I’ll be crossing hundreds of times in the next few days. The river twists and turns through a canyon, with rock cliffs rising high on either side which make me feel encased in the wilderness. I hike the first few miles of the river with the others but we soon all lose each other as we find our own preferred spot to cross. There’s really no trail here, just follow the river upstream! It’s an amazing experience but slow going, I’m barely covering over a mile an hour. On top of the river crossings there is deep sand that I must walk through on the banks and tall weeds to push aside. It would be nice to make it to Doc Campbell’s today but as the day goes on it seems unlikely. Then, for the first time on the CDT, shit hit the fan.

I had been doing so well with my phone during this section, but on a long land stretch I pulled it out to check where I was and by second nature put it into my pocket. Not five steps later there’s a river crossing and I step in to realize it’s the deepest one yet, up to my waist! I look in my hip belt pocket and realize my phone isn’t there. Fuck. I scramble out of the river and reach into my pocket, pulling out my dripping and now glitchy phone. I try to dry it off but by the time my case is off the screen is black and that’s the end of it. I have my maps still but I’m no pro at orienteering, and without my GPS App I don’t know what I’m going to do. There’s really only one thing I can do, follow the river upstream. I hike on for the rest of the day cursing my mindlessness and wondering what I will do. I’m in the middle of nowhere out here. I need to get back to silver city, but I don’t even know if the road at Doc Campbell’s leads to silver city let alone if it will be an easy hitch! I had just started to get into my groove and now the only thing I felt was defeat. 1 for the CDT, 0 for YB. It’s getting dark but I keep walking, clueless as to where I am or how far I have to go. Then I see a gate, that go to be a sign of civilization right? I can hear cars, and I turn a corner in the canyon to find highway 15. I made it without my gps, the hardest part is over. I walk down the road to Doc Campbell’s store which I find closed so I head to the campground where I find Treeman, BreadNButter, Mike, and another hiked who’s name starts with a d?

Six dollars for camping and natural hot springs along the river are enough to lift my spirits for the night and put my troubles out of my mind until the next morning.
High of the day – ending the day with other hikers and hot springs

Low of the day – don’t make me type it again..
April 25/26 –

Being on trail really restores your faith in humanity. I expected this whole dilemma to be a huge ordeal but after a morning soak I was picked up by the first car I saw and brought all the way to Silver City, where I was driven to the verizon store and taken out to lunch by my ride. She was a real hippy chick who had converted a trailer into a tiny house with her boyfriend in Colorado. LIFE GOALS. Then while I was walking around town I met a pastor named Tony who said he could get me a discount at the comfort inn, 50 bucks for a room, computer, laundry, pool/jacuzzi, and continental breakfast. The phone was an expensive mistake but how could I turn that down! The next day I got my phone early from the guys at UPS who let me into the destination facility hours before they opened. I went to the visitor center to set it up and was greeted by the friendliest lady at the desk who told me to make myself at home. I was telling her about my predicament and another girl named Nikki overheard and offered me a ride up to Doc Campbell’s the next day! I checked into the RV park and got to watch more GoT sooner than expected. The trail provides. Onward.
April 26:

Miles hiked – 11.5

Total miles hiked – 219.2
Nikki picked me up right and early this morning to get me back to the trail. She wouldn’t accept gas money and even bought me breakfast! Thank you so much if you’re reading this! Doc Campbell’s wouldn’t be open for another two hours so I got dropped off at the hot springs to kill some time and ran into Molly and Testament who I met at the border when they were hiking southbound! They’re planning to go down to silver city for trail days, and while I would love to do the same I’m ready to hike! Two zeros so early on definitely makes you stir crazy, especially when they weren’t wanted.

Once the store opens I pick up my first box and sort through it outside at a picnic table in the shade. Everything I could have dreamed of was in there, I did well! It’s seven days to Pie Town so once I had all my food packed up my pack was stuffed to the brim, but surprisingly didn’t feel too heavy. Luckily I don’t have to carry water because my time along the Gila River isn’t over just yet.

The first four miles out of Doc’s are a road walk, but I’m just happy to be hiking again. Eventually I make it to the Gilla Cliff Dwellings, the home of an ancient tribe inside caves in the cliffs. The walls and architecture are extremely impressive and even more impressive are the pictographs here and there along the cave walls. The site has been extremely well preserved, it was a nice change of scenery from what you normally look at on a national scenic trail.

To get back to the Gila I take an alternate to the alternate which has me hiking through little bear creek slot canyon. The trail is narrow between enormous walls of rock on both sides, so cool and something I’ve always wanted to see. After two miles I make it back to my old friend, the Gila. I’m hiking along the west fork now and the cliffs along the river are even more prominent, while the river is lower and calmer than the lower Gila. After only a couple miles and about 15 river crossings I make it to Jordan Hot Springs, a natural hot spring in an idyllic setting above the river. It’s not super hot, only about 90 degrees, but it’s a perfect spot to relax and end my day. After my soak I make my first fire of this hike while I cook dinner. It’s nice to have the place to myself but once the sun is down and I’m about to go to bed I’m happy to have an overnighter roll up to provide some extra security. Six days till Pie Town! Such a long stretch but I’m thrilled to be in a place that feels just as remote as the Sierra and rivals it’s beauty in its own kind of way.
High of the day – exploring the cliff dwellings/seeing pictographs in a natural and real life setting

Low of the day – realizing I didn’t try the homemade ice cream at Doc Campbell’s until after I left
April 27:

Miles hiked – 20

Total miles hiked – 239.2
It was surprisingly not too cold this morning considering I was in a canyon which usually trap all the cold air overnight. I was packed up by 7 15 ish, but the overnighter who had shown up late last night came up to eat breakfast and we ended up talking for nearly two hours! It was nice to have someone else to talk to on trail, as most of the other hikers I’ve encountered have been in town.

Once I start hiking I immediately cross the Gila again, the first of over fifty crossings today. My pinky toe blisters are hurting especially bad after being constantly wet for the past few days, and the rugged rocky terrain doesn’t help them nor does it contribute to mile slaying. It’s not so bad when I’m on the trail and the way is paved, but these moments are fleeting. As soon as I bushwack onto the path it leads straight back into the river and is lost in the forest on the other side. By noon I’ve only hiked five miles and by three only ten. At this point in the river I begin to see trout and huge tadpoles, as well as long stringy noodles of slime containing tiny black pods, eggs of some aquatic life form. I turn a corner and a heron swoops down from the cliff into the water. There are all sorts of caves embedded in the cliffs, and the rock formations the river has formed into the walls are quite interesting. Tough hiking out here, but the Gila is an absolutely unforgettable place unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It just goes to show there’s still a lot of this world left to explore.

It’s getting dark by six due to thick cloud cover rolling in. It’s supposed to rain in Pie Town tomorrow but I’m hoping I’m still far south enough that it won’t affect me. I’m pretty tired but there’s not much of anywhere to camp so I’m forced to carry out my goal of twenty miles where I find a nice little spot in the pine trees along the river. I had planned to make a fire but I’m way too beat! Only six miles until Snow Lake, the source of the Gila River and while I’ll miss this scenery I’m excited for the hiking to hopefully get a little easier again!

High of the day – I was given a butterfinger this morning by the guy who camped with me last night. I used to love butterfingers as a kid but got sick of them and didn’t eat them for years, then last year in Washington on my birthday Sweetpea gave me a king size one and it was delectable!

Low of the day – slogging on wanting to camp but not being able to find a good site, common problem on the CDT so far!
April 28:

Miles hiked – 28

Total miles hiked – 267.2
The cloud cover is still thick when I wake up, so I pack my things accordingly expecting a wet day. The Gila is freezing this early in the morning as I’m still crossing it over and over but it’s only six miles to Snow Lake, the source of the river. The slow miles of bushwacking continue and eventually I check my gps and realize somewhere along the line I started following the wrong river and so I must bushwack straight up the sheer ridge about 1000 feet and then back down to reach where I’m meant to be. The Gila alternate has been absolutely gorgeous and unique but taxing, and I’m pretty eager to reach the end of the river crossings. The final miles are quite nice however, with nice trail leading me through a meadow along the river filled with pine trees. It reminds me of one of my favorite days on the PCT, when I walked naked and swam in the Tuolumne River with Wonder Woman through Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite on the summer solstice, AKA hike naked day. Reminiscing is great, but this trail is truly becoming beautiful in its own right and I find myself comparing it to the others less often.

I finally reach Snow Lake, the first lake on trail, and am pleased with the change of scenery. I’m higher in elevation now, with rolling green hills surrounding the water. However glorious it may have been, the sky was black now, and I quickly sought out refuge beneath the inning of the pit toilet (after taking full advantage of it of course). The game warden comes by and tells me it’s supposed to be like this for the next two days, with some lightning and super cold temperatures. With this info I contemplate my life situation, very tempted to call it a day and sleep in the safety of a bathroom even though it’s only ten and I’ve hiked six miles. For some reason, the water jugs at cache 22 on the hat creek rim section of the PCT pop into my head. Whoever had left them there had also left a message on each jug.

“Because you are brave!”

“Because you are bold!”

“Because you are strong!”

I don my rain gear and walk on.

Now done with the Gila River, I follow a dirt road which makes the miles go by twice as fast. The sky is becoming black in every direction I look and the wind blows in strong gusts that push me side to side. The CDT is legit scary. After a few miles I leave the road and follow a creek up a golden valley to a small pond, where I take my last break for the day, one long enough only to grab a few snacks and keep walking. I climb into a saddle and begin another road walk high up on a plateau with no trees to block the fierce and constant wind whipping away at me. Far ahead of me I see light but following me at the rear is a black hole dying to suck me in. I hike on hard and fast, not even thinking of breaking even after I reach trees which takes seemingly forever. The sun peeks its way in and out as I hike along Bursom Road through beautiful thick forests. I wonder am I running from the clouds or am I chasing the sun, or is that a ridiculous question because they both more or less mean the same thing?

I reach where I had planned to stop at twenty miles but there is no water and I have only a liter so I must walk on. The road takes me up over a mountain and then way down to the plains where once again there are no trees. It’s long and flat, I can see far ahead into the distance but it seems like I’m making no progress. I don’t know where there is going to be water, but I know I have to walk until I get there. I actually begin to hope for rain to create a small stream for me. That is, until the rain does come like bullets, mixed with hail and more fierce wind. I hike through it telling myself it will stop soon, and sure enough it does. It’s cold, and I’m tired after over twenty miles. Finally I can see the road leading down into a canyon where there is a strong flowing stream. I reach it and set up camp in the first spot I can. The sun actually starts to peek out and all is well.

As I’m writing this a day late, I’m sorry to tell you my dear readers, all was not well.
High of the day – crushing miles again after slow going in the Gila

Low of the day – nature is scary
April 29:

Miles hiked – 12

Total miles hiked – 279.2
I wake up many many times throughout the night to hail against my tent, absolutely freezing despite wearing every layer I have. When day finally comes the sky is actually blue and I spend extra time in camp to dry things out and charge my phone in the few patches of sun there are. I finally hike out around nine thirty still wearing most of my clothes.

The CDT is hard. I remember dreaming about being back on the trail over this past winter, basking in the sun and swimming in lakes, meeting interesting people and forming unbreakable bonds, feeling carefree and invincible every single day. The CDT is none of those things. There’s never an easy day on this trail, every day it throws a new hurdle your way, and every day you must adapt and embrace these challenges. When there is sun it’s brutally hot and when there’s not it’s bone chillingly cold. There are no lakes let alone streams, and there are no other people. I’ve not seen another thru hiker since Doc Campbell’s, not another human being since the hot springs. This trail is not fun, but it is rewarding. I’ve always said and truly believe that anyone can hike the AT or PCT, as long as your committed to just keep walking. This is not the case on the divide. Not just anyone can hike this trail, and even though I’ve only just begun I feel that I’ve truly done something of extreme significance. Only about 2600 miles left to go.

I rejoin the official trail six miles in and begin to walk on more volcanic soil. The sun is still out but there are big puffy clouds that give me bad vibes. I hike on unsure of what to expect, and with each miles the clouds get darker and dark. At 12 miles I hit a pond and hike on uncertainly only to turn around a few tenths of a mile later. I’m glad I did too because as soon as I started to pitch my tent the hail came down in buckets and the temps dropped just as low as they had been last night. It’s only two when I’m all set up and the hail/snow continues all afternoon. I made plenty of miles yesterday so it’s actually kind of nice to be confined to my tent with my book and food(although I’ll need to crush it to pietown cause the latter is running low!). By sunset, the storm finally blows past and I take a short walk up the trail to appreciate the golden glow of the returning sun against the winter wonderland that had formed in the past few hours. It actually feels like it got a little warmer and I’m gonna pass out early tonight in hopes of normal desert weather returning tomorrow!
High of the day – having a cig during golden hour outside in the freshly fallen snow after being confined to my tent for hours

Low of the day – wondering if my tent would hold up to the storm, it did well!
April 30:

Miles hiked – 23

Total mileage – 302.2
Another night spend shivering awake, counting down the hours until the sun would rise again. When it finally did, the sky was clear and blue, but the wind continued to be persistent. I packed up early and got moving with all my clothes on to try and build up some body heat but the wind was relentless. The trail was beautiful covered in white though and once the sun was shining it wasn’t too bad. I follow a ridge up to 9000 feet where I walk for quite a few miles, taking a break for breakfast and to dry my tent in a thicket of trees once it’s warm enough to do so. I get cell service for the first time in days and check the weather.. clear! It’s the nicest day I’ve had for the past two days so the walking is nice, especially up high in the mountains where there are nice views. I begin to descend way down through a forest of pine along the side of the mountain, it feels very PCT-like and again I’m stuck reminiscing about wearing Hawaiian shirts and painting rocks in a strangers driveway. The CDT is much different, but I’m starting to fall in love with it all the same.

Around two I run into the first people I’ve seen since the Hot Springs, three dayhikers, and then another thru hiker at the first road crossing in days! His name is Huff and I sit and enjoy human interaction for a while before heading on down the Pie Town road walk alternate, 40 miles down a dirt road! I really don’t mind the dirt ones though, especially when they’re as remote as this one was! The miles come quickly and I even hike a few more than planned, eager to get to town as soon as possible! It’s been a stretch!
High of the day – finally reaching the Pie Town alternate after a tough section of true wilderness

Low of the day – again, freezing all morning!
May 1:

Miles hiked – 30

Total mileage – 322.2
The morning is cool but the sun shines bright at the top of a peak where I’ve set up camp. I pack up and continue down the road for a day of mindless walking. I’ve left the desert again and am back in the mountains, eventually making it to the summit of Mangas Mountain at 9000 feet. There is a fire tower which was unfortunately locked but also a lookout cabin which was open and contained a full kitchen, water, a desk and a mattress! The view wasn’t too shabby either, if only I had made it here last night! I spend way too long enjoying this place even though I have plans for a big day, not getting out until nearly one.

I hike consistently for the rest of the afternoon, not needing to stop for much as the road walking is so effortless. Back down in the valley I walk through farmland dotted with the occasional ranch. As I’m heading on a car comes up from behind me and stops to let out a nice old cowboy who offers me two beers and to chat for a while. With two beers in me after 7 days on trail I’m feeling pumped to walk even though the sun is setting and decide on my first night hike this year. I stop to eat dinner as the last day of light shines down and then get my headlamp on for a long walk. I can hear coyotes in the distance, and as I get nearer they sound like the wildest pack of dogs ever! I consider stopping so I don’t have to get any closer, but both sides of the road are fenced off.. private property. I walk closer and closer until the yelps are right next to me and I’m sure at any minute I’ll be chasing off a pack of coyotes but then I round a bend and see a huge sign, “Animal Rescue Facility”. There is another sign above a jug of water, “CDT Hikers, please don’t linger as the dogs will bark!”. Quite a sigh of relief and I continued on, now having already walked much further than planned. It’s getting frigid outside but I figure I’m warmer walking than I would be camping so I decide to hit my first 30, which will leave me only four miles to Pie Town in the morning! I find a pretty nice spot tucked away under a tree and dream of town, which I’ve been waiting for for days.
High of the day – getting two beers from a cowboy in the middle of nowhere
Low of the day – being super tired after a long stretch
May 2/PieTown:
Miles hiked – 4

Total mileage – 326.2
I’m so pleased with my campsite from last night, I woke up to the sun shining brightly right onto me which made for a pleasant pack up. I quickly crush the four miles to town but the closer I get I realize Town isn’t really much of a town. There are three restaurants that sell Pie, and Nita’s Toaster House. The Toaster House is a donation based hiker hostel owned by Nita who doesn’t live here anymore but leaves it unlocked for hikers and bikers. There is everything here, food, water, laundry, shower, and although I’m the only one here every single bunk has a pack on it! I find all the other hikers at the Pie Cafe, and in total there’s ten of us! A nice guy named Jeremy ends up inviting us all over for dinner and it’s quite a night filled with plenty of southern quotes from Jeremy, who comes from Kentucky. He reminds me of Napoleon!

“You wanna be the kind of man who has a gun that the government don’t know about”

“If you wanna save 15% on car insurance go to gieko, if you wanna lay the fuck down and go to sleep you come here”

“I only got about a pound of weed but we’ll get you all as high as we can”

The list goes on and on. Pie Town. Embrace the vortex.
High of the Day – feeling like I’m back in a town on the PCT

Low of the day – no low!


4 thoughts on “Gila River Route | Silver City, NM – Pie Town, NM

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey! I googled what this stretch was like because my son (Cam… or known as “classic” on the PCT in 2015) is on this stretch right now. I found your blog! It’s comforting to read your journey with your highs and lows. I will be looking forward to reading them all as you post them and live through your experiences as you are a few weeks ahead of Cam. Stay Strong!


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