After spending two days hiking towards the Gila River, today is the day I get to hike alongside it. And through it. Many many times.
Knowing that there were going to be lots of river crossings today, I made my first use of my waterproof socks, hoping they would be better than my regular socks when getting wet.
I left camp at 7:30, and very quickly crossed Sapillo Creek a second time. This was probably the easiest (and only dry) water crossing today.
Just a few minutes later, I reached the Gila River. It was clear this was not going to be a dry crossing. And, in fact, it was deeper than my “waterproof” socks. Water immediately leaked in from the top of the sock, and my feet were wet from the very first crossing of the Gila River. But, my feet were far better off than they would have been with any of my regular socks. Those would have soaked through instantly. At least I had a chance of not having completely soaked feet, so long as not every crossing was that deep.
I made two more crossings of the Gila before I checked where I was, and realized that I’d immediately gone the wrong way, heading downstream instead of upstream. (This wasn’t immediately obvious because of the curves in the river and the trail. It exactly following the river.) I backtracked to the first crossing and made the correct turn.
After a few more fords, I came across a duck with a dozen little ducklings. The ducklings quacked in chorus while the mother duck splashed its way up the river, trying to draw my attention away from the ducklings. I passed their hiding spot, and came towards one that had gotten out of the water and was up near the trail. It ran down the hill back to the water, tripping and tumbling head-over-heels (do birds even have heels?) down the embankment and into the water, and it paddled its way over to the rest of its kin.
There are evidently a lot of cows out here. Or at least enough to create enough cow trails that it often became hard to follow the actual trail. More than once, just as in the cow pastures south of Lordsburg, what seemed like a perfectly good trail suddenly disappeared into nothingness, and I wound up having to bushwhack my way back to where the trail was supposed to be.
The trail went through a number of different ecosystems. Sometimes it was forested; other times the plants were limited to low scrub. A couple of times the trail took me on rock outcrops above the river.
Along the way, I leapfrogged with Muenster several times. While I did see one or two other hikers today while on the trail, he was the only one I saw consistently throughout the day.
The water in the Gila River is a bit murky, with a lot of sediment. It makes me wonder how good it would be for drinking (after filtering, of course), but I never had to answer that question, since I had enough water for the day from collecting water at Sapillo Creek last night.
Given the murky water leaking into my socks from above, I was very much surprised at how clean my feet consistently looked each time I took my boots and socks off during breaks.
I didn’t see a lot of aquatic wildlife today. There were some fish, including one that was at least half a foot long, and a frog or two. I was a little surprised, I figured that there’d be more in the river. Probably the murky water made it hard to see more.
I crossed the river 56 times today. While it was pretty novel at the start, it was wearing a bit thin as I got to the end of the day.
The fords today ended at the confluence of the East and West forks of the river, and the trail climbed a hill and followed a road leading me to today’s destination, Doc Campbell’s Post.
A small store (though physically much larger than I had expected), Doc Campbell’s Post is a combination general store, hiker resupply stop, and souvenir shop. It also had a one-pump gas station, and mailboxes for local residents.
Already there were familiar hikers Plus One and Dogbite, Mr. Freeze, Simple, Tiempo, Noodle?, and Pete. Also there was James, and his white German Shepard Kera. They’d all gotten here late yesterday, and decided to zero here. I was a little surprised, but it wasn’t the worst place to take a rest day.
The store nominally was open until 4 pm, but it reopens at 6:30 for an hour or so, which is a great boon for hikers: they had frozen food that could be heated up, as well as cold sodas and ice cream. They also, very generously, allow a small number of hikers to camp on their side yard (for a small fee, which includes use of their showers).
After the store reopened, I picked up my food boxes I sent from home, and also got a chimichanga, cheeseburger, salad, and ice cream, rather than cooking my own dinner.
I managed to get the last available campsite; Muenster, who arrived a little while after me, was unfortunately turned away.
Having bought dinner at Doc Campbell’s, with my resupply, I now have nine days of food. This is probably excessive for getting to Pie Town, and it’ll mean I’ll be hiking slowly tomorrow, but it gives me “options”.
Due to some recent storms in New Mexico, there are ongoing fires. One of those threatens both the CDT and the Gila River Alternate. According to Noodle?, there is a closure (of unspecified size) and shuttle around the closure (of unspecified length). But it’s still over fifty miles ahead, so the situation is likely to change by the time I get there.
I got a late shower; one of the other hikers (Mr. Freeze, I think) left shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom for everyone to use; this was much nicer on my hair than my Dr Bronners soap would have been.
Thanks to the dry air, my socks dried out remarkably well; the waterproof inside was nearly completely dry. They won’t stay that way, though: tomorrow begins the hike up the Middle Fork Gila River.