CDT Day 139: Doc Campbell’s to Gila River – Finally Hot Springs Camp to A Campfire is Born Camp
Miles hiked: 9.1
Total miles: 2515.4
Gila crossings: 34 (224 total)
It is my pleasure to introduce a new member of the crew. Campfire, the person formerly named Clarissa who hosted us way back in Lake City, CO on Day 107, hopped on the trail with SpiceRack and I to discover the mysteries of the Gila and explore beyond on the section to Silver City. As I learned yesterday, the Gila is a challenge in the best conditions, which eluded us today. However, Campfire took it in stride despite some sketchy river crossings in the dark, and inspired us to end the day with a delightful campfire, something Spice and I have intended to do since the beginning. It’s great to have both Campfire and a campfire on board.
No need to wake up early this morning. No alarm. I was awake around 6am anyway feeling well rested, but still ‘face tired’, if that makes any sense. I tried to make myself useful by starting a fire, but failed miserably without anything but damp leaves to use as tinder. Spice brought over a pizza box and, boom, fire. I finished off my granola, which represented the last of my food, then the three of us enjoyed a final soak in the hot springs before packing up and driving the short distance to Doc’s, where we had business to attend to.
Crunchberry and Rooster where milling around with hungry looks in their eyes. Holding the pizza that Clarissa had brought them from Silver City out the window as we drove up, whipped Crunch into a shuffling frenzy. Hilarious. I bought a bunch and ate a bunch of food(salsa, beans, and hamburger buns) from the store while Spice and I cut up our resupply box and gave Clarissa’s gear a shakedown. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched with amusement as Crunchberry prepared to fill a gallon-zip loc with his pizza, put one slice in, eat the rest, then eat that one slice, leaving an empty bag and no pizza. This just happened, I don’t think he thought about it at all.
When all was ready, we loaded our packs into Clarissa’s rented pickup and drove up the road I walked last night to the Gila Cliff Dwellings for a shot of touristy culture. The free entry was pretty cool, but the actual dwellings were cooler. I was impressed and left positive that it was one of the cooler sights of the CDT. Although the physical structures were dope, it was when Spice asked us to share our thoughts that I felt the sense of sadness and abandonment that will stick with me. It was a ghost town and I imagined that I could hear the echoes of laughter and life from a time when children, parents, families, friends, lovers, enemies, outcasts, heroes, artists, engineers, poets, farmers, people called this place home. They have been forgotten, and someday, so will we.
I left Spice and Clarissa at the road, then drove back to Doc’s to hang out while they walked back so Spice could count those miles. I ate more even though I was still stuffed while chatting with two more hikers whose life paths intersected with mine for a brief moment. The ladies showed up in under an hour, then it was time to hike. We put on our packs, then got back on the road.
We lost the trail immediately upon leaving the road to return to the Gila, but were still too fresh to be annoyed. Bushwhacking through the dense willows was still novel and the first river crossing elicited a rush of excitement. The Gila had doubled in size since I last saw it, as the Middle and West Forks combined forces a few miles north. It was deeper and wider now, though still pleasantly warm after a sunny morning. We quickly found the trail on the other side and managed to cruise for a little while. Clarissa and Spice chatted behind me, I noted the shorter, yet still spectacular, cliffs and wider canyon. I was struck by the variety of flora within smelling distance. Sycamore, ponderosa, oak, cactus, sage, and creosote. The stunted desert scrub intermingled with water-loving giants. The sun caused the orange canopy to glow. The breeze mixed the sound of rustling leaves with the rushing of the water.
The group made good time along the mostly defined trail until a break at 5pm to throw on some more layer after the sun dipped behind the canyon walls. From there the trail all but disappeared and our progress slowed to a slosh. Our GPS was unreliable at best in this changeable landscape and on more than one occasion, we chose to walk down the river rather than fight the dense bushes and downed trees on dry ground. We slowed further after darkness forced on our headlamps, but pushed on, conscious of the miles we needed to make and how early it actually was.
Clarissa was a trooper. After a particularly sketchy crossing, I considered just how uncomfortable this hiking had become. Spice and I have had many days to become accustomed to this level of lameness, but Clarissa impressed me with her good cheer and ability to take it in stride. By the time 8pm rolled around, the trail was so nonexistent that it was absurd to push on in the dark. We found a campsite with an ancient fire ring, set up, and lit a fire to help us warm up and dry out. We ate dinner around it, then settled to bed, arriving on Campfire as an excellent trail name for Clarissa, who has inspired her namesake every night and morning that we’ve seen her on this trail. That’s a good thing, campfires rule. Warm night, warm fire, warm company. More Gila adventure tomorrow. ‘Twill be awesome.