After 2 days of rest in Silver City, it was time to leave and get back on the trail. I was happy to get out because I was starting to feel a little too comfortable with my soft bed, unlimited TV and showers whenever I wanted. I wasn’t on vacation. I was thru hiking, damn it, and it was time to go. During my shopping at Walmart, which is the only place to shop in the last couple of cities, I bought a large piece of cardboard to help us with our hitchhiking. I used the term Sunday had used before but with a twist: “Hikers to Emory Pass.” This way people would know that I’m a hiker and not homeless. Also, stating specifically where I’m going might let people know that they won’t have to take me to Florida or something. A smiley face wouldn’t hurt either…
After deciding to just go right outside of our hotel, we took our spot on the road and started the hitching process. I took off my hat, cleaned up my shirt, put on a big (but not cheesy) smile on and held the sign. Two and a half hours later, we got a ride by a lady who was only going to the intersection of the road that would take us to Emory Pass. She wasn’t from New Mexico so she didn’t know if riding in the back of a truck was legal or not, and at that point I didn’t care either, so I hopped in. I kept a low profile just in case the cops drove by and just laid back and watched the clouds go by as the wind whipped passed me and gripped my hat so it didn’t fly away. After about 10 minutes, we were at the intersecton saying good bye when another person that had seen us earlier asked us hop into her van. It was only 10 seconds between hitches, which was fantastic, and gave us hope we might get to the pass soon. We rode in the van with a woman and her son to the last intersection where any car passing us would be going to Emory Pass. Surprisingly, it took another two and a half hours to get a ride up to the pass. During that time, the sun beat down on us with no break.
Another hiker came out from the corner of the road toward us and told us he was a CDT hiker who was headed back to Gypsum, CO. Apparently he had no maps and was hiking the CDT with only a road atlas which I thought was crazy! He got a ride with us and ended up going all the way to Santa Fe with the lady and her kids, who gave us a ride. Once on Emory Pass we hit the trail and hiked the 5 miles to the top of Hillsboro Peak lookout in about 3 hours, due to of the long switchback trail that kept going on forever to the 10,009 ft summit. At the top was an unmanned fire lookout tower, a cabin for the lookout person and a cabin that was free for all people to enjoy. We settled into the cabin for a great night of playing cards. It had a small room with bunkbeds, wood stove and a great porch that looked east. I sat on the porch for a long time, gazing over the open basin below and the distant views that it provided. That night we had the most amazing time eating and playing poker using rocks as poker chips, by the light of my headlamp. It was truly a great moment of the trip so far and will not be soon forgotten. That night the wind howled non-stop, as I lay snug inside the creaking cabin safe from the elements.
The next morning we headed out, winding around the mountain, up and down several of the saddles that the route traversed. You could tell that the area was not well maintained, as trails fading into nothing and junctions pointing us in directions we didn’t think a trail could exist. After a long lunch, we made our way down a newer looking trail, looking for the road we hoped to join up with. The trail was faint, but was covered with cairns, as if a drunk person had placed them as a joke to the unknowing hiker. After several hours, we finally reached the road and began our 15 mile hike down into Mimbres. With no real camping available in Mimbres, we stayed that night 5 miles outside of town, happy to have gotten a signal on my phone where we watched Gilbert Godfried standup comedy, which was a great change of pace.
The following morning we awoke to a gorgeous sunrise of orange, pink and yellow that lit up the mountain and everything around us. We made the 5 mile walk to town, ready to hit our next trailhead. It was next to the Forest Service building that also held our desperately needed water supply. Half way to the building a truck stopped next to us and asked if we were hikers. We were easy to spot I guess, looking smelly, beaten and wearing packs… no real place to hide. Steve was a Mimbres local with a seasoned face and a hand-rolled smoke hanging out of his mouth. We told him we were CDT hikers and started chatting. He asked if we wanted to go to his house and take a shower and use the internet. Under normal circumstances I would think twice about this type of situation, but being stinky and thirsty we agreed and made our way to his house, which was only a mile back the way we came. We showered and chatted with Steve, who had actually built most of the trail in the area. In his 30 years in the valley he had been everywhere, he said, working with scientist and the forest service. He was a great guy and I was happy to have met him. After that, we hit the trail, but not before stopping at the Elk X-ing Cafe to destroy a quick burger.
Heading up the Allie Canyon trail we saw our first CDT marker at the top. It only took 200 miles to see our first marker! That same day we met up with the offical route that the Crazy Cook hikers take and were happy to finally had made it to the lower Gila River. It was like entering an oasis with all the water that we could drink. Beautiful flowing water that wasn’t a nasty stagnant cow tank. A paradise you just wanted to jump into and never leave. We stared down into the canyon and were excited to finally make it to the Gila River.
We walked the next one and a half days on the lower Gila keeping a look out for petroglyphs, dwellings and mountain lions from all the prints that we had seen on the river banks. This also started the river crossings, which for me was welcomed because of the cool and crisp feeling of cold water on your feet and thighs, at times. We wound back and forth across the river to banks of drier ground, only to cross again. Any time our feet started drying it was time to get them wet again. This is where lots of mesh comes in to play and can make or break your feet. Why you would wear water proof shoes or anything like that I don’t know. We made a nice camp in the canyon and listened to the first rain that night from 3 am until 7 am, when we crawled out of our tents. We reached Doc Campbells after just over a day in the canyon and were happy to be there. It was time for our resupply boxes and hot springs to warm our cold feet and aching bodies. Next was the Middle fork of the Gila and a whole other story….