Leaving Doc Campbell's and an amazing nights rest, I walked a road to the Gila Cliff dwellings where I was greeted by many friendly older volunteers. On the way over I found a place that had old cave paintings. I still had to wait 30 min for the cliff dwellings to open, but I had already walked a couple miles out of the way so I stayed. I was really glad I did. I ran up the trail to the dwellings and began exploring myself, when one of the volunteers got up to the area and asked if I wanted a tour. I accepted immediately and she provided me with fascinating info on the different people that had used them, geology, etc. Turns out the surrounding gray rock was rhyolitic tuff. After the detour I decided to take a trail down back to the Gila River that was "recommended by many" and "resembled Zion national park." I got going down the canyon and the farther down I went, the closer the walls became until I was in a lively slot canyon with water trickling down the sides and vines growing all around. It was that same gray rhyolite I had been seeing previously. When I got the bottom it junctions with the Gila River where the Gila opened up to its most impressive views yet. The canyon walls were now directly in the river, towering hundreds of feet high with sharp, high pinnacles everywhere. I stepped into the river and began enjoying my surroundings. And the day conditioned like that, around every corner I would see something new that I would have to run up to and not only look at, but feel, as I found myself backtracking many times because I hadn't touched the rock to feel it's texture and quality.
the next day was another day in the Gila. I would be doing another 20ish miles to get out of the Gila, then past a large reservoir, then into the Gila National Forest . The day started early with chilly River crossings. Get to the end of an embankment, step in water, cross, look for trail, slosh through the soft sand of the trail with soaked running shoes, get to the end of an embankment, repeat. although the Gila was like nothing else I had seen, it got a little old after a bit trudging through water and sand all day. Luckily, after seeing many bear prints, I rounded a corner and I large brown bear (in color, but obviously a black bear) shot across a large log as I fumbled for my go pro to get the video. He was a scared little one. The day was actually a little stressful because I got lost a couple times. Usually what I do is I follow my maps, but if I feel I'm off trail I will pull out my CDT app and check where I am via the GPS, but unfortunately it wasn't working so I found myself exaggerating distances and directions to get where I needed to go. It was harder navigation too because of the lack of topographical features on my maps. I found myself realizing I was a bit lost twice, then making a decisions to change my direction, then overcompensating and literally running down a road a bit to see if there were any signs. This was the first time in my life that I actually needed to read a map correctly, or I could have found myself lost in rolling tree covered hills hoping to be headed the right way. in the end, i found my way both times, and as stressful as it was, it was also a great learning experience. I made it to camp at about 8 30 and began to set up my tarp. I knew it would be a poor place to camp and I saw a storm rolling in, but I was done hiking so I stopped there and pitched my tarp. I spent the rest of the night curling to the end of my shelter to avoid the rain drops as the wind blew them straight on my face. Needless to say, it wasn't the best night's sleep.
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise of the clouds clearing out. Although I hadn't slept much I was glad to be dry and I was happy the storm had rolled through mostly. I made my way up a forest road where I got service and saw that the rest of the day would be rainy and snowy. Once again I got confused with the map set and which roads to turn on so I followed my app through the trees on a ridge and down the mountain. I hadn't seen anyone for a while, but just before I started the road walk into Pie Town I saw Iceman and we chatted for a bit. The rest of the night to where I went to camp it was raining off and on as my feet felt like platform shoes with all of the dirt stuck to the bottom of my shoes. I got to a calm meadow and made a perfect tent pitch under a tree and thought to myself "I'm not going to let what happened last night happen again."
5 30 AM and intermittent snow is drifting onto my face. Really? I thought I had pitched my tarp well, but such is the CDT. You can't expect the wind to blow in only one direction, but all directions. I didn't really mind it though, it was snow after all which I prefer to rain always. I got going around 6 and began the road walk climb up to mangas mountain. This area was such a treat. Snow continued to fall, I conitinued to climb and I reached an open meadow that was freshly blanketed with 3 inches of snow. The sun started to peak out and I just stopped to appreciate that moment. A moment I literally had all to myself. The higher up I made it, the colder I got until I began descending down to the flat section that would lead me to pie town. I got rather bored here and began to jog the downhills on the rolling hills. A rancher stopped to talk a couple times and I peeked into his car and saw three separate rifles at arms reach. I asked him if he was hunting and he said "no, this is just my regular arsenal." A few hours later and I was in Pie Town. 35 miles by 5. There were a few hikers at the free hiker hostel called the toaster house which was very nice to come to and be able to relax and reminisce. My plan was to sleep well, wake up, go to breakfast then hit the trail for a half day.
I slept in til about 730 on the foam mattress on the floor. I got my things together for the next while and went to breakfast with ED and Threshold. Bacon, eggs, toast, hash browns. At about 11 30 I was hiking with the plan to go about 20 miles. It was mainly a road walk so I turned on my audiobook that I recently downloaded "paths of glory" and the miles flew by. I walked with JD and Porsche for a while. Porsche had a really sparky attitude and was very pleasant to be around. she reminded me of the ultra marathon type. Then I walked with Greywolf for a bit before arriving at the Thomas Ranch where the 83 year old couple offered us all water and a place to camp. We even went inside their metal warehouse converted into a house and chatted. Anzie was a real nice lady. Always laughing and had the most wrinkles I've ever seen. She pulled up her pant leg and put it next to my bronzed leg and said "now what's this?! I need to get out more!" Greywolf noticed I was itching to leave after a bit, so I cruised on and ended up hiking another 15 miles to make for 30 miles on a day I intended to be 20 or 25. For my final miles. the sun was setting over the most expansive plane I have ever seen and the only words that came to my head were "life is good."
In the morning I walked up armijo canyon, then to sand canyon. I came up to a lake and saw a bear eating something in the water. it took him a while to notice me, but when he did, he just stared at me then took of running. 10 minutes later I saw another bear shoot across the trail 100 yards in front of me. I never expected to see so many bears in the desert of New Mexico. later on I walked a road until a giant Mesa top that again looked like southern Utah. The trial went along the rim and popped out with a view of a natural 125 foot arch. Not going to lie, it was a bit anticlimactic having done a hike in Canyonlands just weeks before. I saw Sam and his friend who I don't remember his name and hung out with them for a while. Sam sewed his own quilt which was cool. they were good company. After the Mesa top, I crossed lava rock called the "malpais" (badlands) for 8 miles and caught up to Lily and John. This was the first couple I had seen that was totally ultralight. They had it all: no hip belts, running shorts, old hats, and even altras. I knew we would be friends from afar. We talked a lot and John admitted he knew about me already. It was funny to hear that from someone. A couple years ago John biked the west coast then hiked the entire pct after. The CDT is lily's first thru hike. We hiked the rest of the night together and nerded out on gear and things before choosing a campsite at dusk. We set up our tarps and went to bed.
In the morning, Lily and John got ahead so I hiked one for an hour until I caught up. We then hiked the rest off the 15ish miles into Grants. They were such good company. John and I bounced ideas off each other about future hikes, Lily talked to me about map making, and it was so enjoyable. We went through Zuni Canyon and were amazed by sculpted sandstone the whole way. In Grants we ate at a Pizza Hut buffet where a very nice and funny South African man paid for our meal. We parted ways after that and I got picked up by trail angel Carole Mumm who took me to the post office and brought me my resupply. There is something constant I always notice in trail Angels. Yhey don't do this because they have to, but they do it because they actually want to. It is so evident in their attitude and general kindness. She dropped me back off at the Pizza Hut and I began walking. "30 miles will be fine for resupply days," I told myself and ended up going 33. Not too bad. Luckily I found a group of 4 other hikers at just about the time that I wanted to stop. Funny because yesterday I passed a sweet lava cave a few miles before when I intended on camping and though to myself "the good campsites never arrive when I need them." Well, tonight it did.