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Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post – CDT Thru Hike 2018

Continental Divide Trail – Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post Hike Overview

No more open desert, and more water in this section. At least towards the end of this leg. The beautiful Gila River awaits, and cell phone service is a thing of the past for us AT&T customers… it will be another 300 miles before reliable service! 

Monday April 30th – CDT Day 10

I had some errands to run this morning, including a trip to the post office to mail my bounce box to the town of Grants. I should be there roughly 2 weeks from now. I got a much later start than I intended.

Since I hitched in to Silver City on Saturday so that I could have most of the day at the Trail Days festival, I now had to get back to the point on hwy 90 where I got my hitch. Other hikers hitched into town and never went back to complete the 12.6 Mile Road walk section on highway 90, or highway 180 if they took that route, but I don’t intend to cheat! Fortunately, the very hiker friendly camp host at the Silver City RV park offered to give me a ride.

I got dropped off on hwy 90 about a mile north of Tyrone Rd just before noon. It should be roughly 11 miles to Silver City from here. Yay, road walk time.

The road walk is just as boring as it sounds. However, there was some entertainment along the way. I passed a long driveway beating to a home along Highway 90 that was lined with toilets. One can’t help but laugh at this. His neighbors must love him!

When I got into Silver City, I walked past a store that sold mattresses and guitars. Yep, you heard right. I love weird business models like this. Not sure how successful it is but it sure is good for a laugh. 

As I was walking down hwy 90, someone shouted “Famous! Famous!!”. It was hodgepodge and Swiss monkey on the other side of the street. Hodgepodge is the one who gave me my trail name back in Lordsburg. They just got into town themselves, and were running around doing errands. We chatted for a few minutes, and then we went our separate ways.

It was around 3pm by the time I made it to Dairy Queen, my lunch destination. So I made pretty good time getting into town. Just over 10 miles. 

After lunch, more Road walking. I followed little walnut rd north out of town for several miles. I passed a guy on the sidewalk who had a ranch up the road. He recognized I’m hiking the CDT and we talked for a few minutes about the trail. As I walked up the road, many cars seem to recognize me as a CDT hiker and waved. 

Several more miles of road walking before I entered the Gila national forest. Still many more miles before the best of the Gila, but no more paved Road walking and a notable milestone nonetheless. 

After walking on the trails for a while, two Mountain bikers came flying around the corner and scared the shit out of me. I quickly jumped off trail to avoid being hit.

Now back on the official CDT route, the Trail reaches little Walnut road trailhead. From here, you can choose to take the official CDT route through the Black mountains or veer west on the dirt road and take the Gila river alternate route. Almost everyone takes the river route. That’s what I’m doing as well.  It really should just be the official route. 

A car approached on the dirt road and stopped alongside me. The passengers were wondering why I had so much camera gear hanging off my pack and just generally interested in what I was doing out here. I told them I’m hiking the CDT and explained that it’s a route from Mexico to Canada. This spawned numerous questions which I was happy to answer. I enjoy telling people about the trail and hearing their reactions. It’s especially entertaining when they’ve never heard of the trail. Most people think I’m crazy! But, in a good way.

The route then follows a smaller dirt road up hill. It was around 7pm now, so I was looking for a place to set up camp. After another half hour I found a good spot and called it a day.

As the sunset, several coyotes could be heard in the distance, growing ever closer. I laid my head down to sleep just before 10pm, ready for another 140 days of hiking on the CDT! It’s hard work but the adventure ails most pains. Life is good. 

Miles – 22.7
Total Miles – 169.6  
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent 
Animals – none seen

Tuesday May 1st – CDT Day 11

The Coyotes were howling all night, and even as the Sun rose. Now on day 11, this is officially my longest backpacking trip for both time and distance. 

Not far up the trail, I passed a few people cowboy camping. More dirt road to follow, but the views are getting better. 

When I reached bear Creek, I found a plenty of water about 100 ft upstream. A Brit named Henry was camping nearby, and we both pulled some water from the stream. He had been camping with Cracker last night, who had already hit the trail. I hung out at the stream for a while cameling up. 

Even though it was a dirt road, I enjoyed the next section. Sometimes the dirt road is old and now it is a trail only. That’s what I assumed this was. Old mining equipment littered the side of the road. There were a few small stream crossings well. It was surprising to see a truck coming down the road after one of the crossings. It was a US forest service truck. The two guys in the truck asked where I was headed. “Canada”, I said. This spawned the usual questions. I am starting to enjoy seeing people’s reactions. 

Eventually I left the road and headed up Hill along a canyon. Now the trail is along a ridge top with great views. Lots of rolling Hills and mountains, Green trees and eventually red Rocks and hoodoos. Very cool. 

I stopped for lunch at the “Regis-tree”… A tree converted into a CDT register. Clever. I later found out a guy who goes by the name “the hermit” lives about 30 yards away from the tree, but I never saw him or anything resembling a place to live in the area. I’m sure he was watching me, lucking in the bushes or something.

Nice hiking for a little while after lunch. Red rocks and then a forested canyon. Now on the sycamore canyon trail, it gains some elevation, quite steeply at times. Probably the hardest climb yet.

The climbing went on for a while. Thick vegetation along the trail too, including manzanitas. I have some scars on my legs from previous encounters with manzanitas, which brought back those not so fond memories. 

When I made it to tadpole ridge, I was surprised that it was actually a canyon. It was all downhill and easy walking. Where it ends at sheep corral canyon, there was a water tank with a few hikers resting beside it. They started April 27th, and were doing 35 mile days. Beasts! Have fun with that. 

I took a lengthy break at the water tank, which had good water from a spigot. Afterwards I continued down sheep corral canyon. Easy waking downhill. After a few miles, I saw a sign for the Gila River, 4.25 miles. That should make a good camp for tonight. 

The next section of trail follows a dirt road on a ridge top. When it starts heading downhill towards the river, I was presented with the best views yet. Huge canyons and red rocks. 

The trail down to the river took forever. My knees hurt from going downhill and the rocks on the trail made slipping a common occurrence. Because of a the switchbacks, it was about 6 miles, not the 4.25 as the sign said. Liar! 

The trail goes down to Sapillo creek first before hitting the Gila. After crossing the creek it was only a 1/4 mile to the confluence with the Gila. Here I ran into Cruise again, who I had seen earlier at the last water tank. He was looking for a campsite too. There was a good site along Sapillo, but not many right at the confluence. I was also expecting there to be more hikers here, but it was just Cruise. He took the food campsite along Sapillo, which had room for multiple tents. I opted for a small spot under a tree right at the confluence. 

This spot is impressive. Huge canyon walls surrounding me on all sides, and the most water I’ve seen on the CDT so far. This is where all of the river crossings start. Basically, my feet will be wet all day tomorrow as I will have about 50 crossings or more. Definitely a good place to stop for the night. 

Today seemed long and tough. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. The only other time I’ve done anywhere near as many River crossings was also in the Gila back in 2012, on the west side in the Mogollan mountains. However, those were tiny streams in comparison. 

Miles – 21.7
Total Miles – 191.3 
Rain – no
Sleep – Backcountry tent 
Animals – none seen


Wednesday May 2nd – CDT Day 12

It was nice sleeping next to the sound of the river last night. I saw Cruise make his first river crossing as I woke up and looked out my tent around  6:30am. 

The skies looked dark and stormy, and it was noticeably cooler than previous days. I don’t have a rain jacket, rain cover for my backpack or a compactor bag for the inside of my backpack yet, as these items are in the resupply box I have waiting for me at Doc Campbell’s. I only have one garbage bag to protect my belongings from the rain. I put my sleeping bag, toilet paper and extra electronics stuff inside as I packed up. 

My campsite was only about 15ft from the Gila River,  and I needed to cross it immediately after setting off this morning. If crossing a river only once or twice throughout the day, it might make sense to take off your shoes. However, today’s hike will cross the river about 50 times, so the shoes stay on. 

Aftet the first crossing, I hardly cared about wet feet. The amazing scenery certainly helped. The river flows through a fairly steep sided canyon with red rocks. Really cool! I bet few people hike this outside of CDT hikers. 

Progress was slow at first, with numerous crossings and lots of loose sand. The wind was gusting over 40mph and the occasional rain drops could be felt. After about 2 miles, I passed the only other hikers I’d see along the river all day. 

When I stopped for lunch, I realized how cold it was as soon as I stopped moving. Lots of sand and pebbles were accumulating in my shoes from the river Crossings, so I had to empty my shoes to prevent blisters. I only stopped long enough to clean out my shoes, filter water and eat. 

Many more river crossings. Deepest was mid thigh, and the water levels are really low right now. None of the crossings were dangerous though. Some really beautiful bends and pools. I can’t stress how cool this was! 

By early afternoon the weather stated to clear. This made the hike that much more enjoyable. The middle section had less river crossings and more actual trail waking. This helped me get the miles I needed faster. 

By mid afternoon the train clouds were back. It rained for about 20 minutes but not terribly hard. Good, otherwise much of my gear and myself would be soaked. 

I saw a sign for a trail leading up to hwy 15 (1 mile) that wasn’t on my map. Otherwise it’d be Another 3+ miles to the Gila River bridge on hwy 15. This was a good climb, but a straight shot to the road. Awesome view of the Gila River in the canyon below. 

Now on hwy 15, there were some good photos ops alongside the road. Another 3 miles or so to Doc Campbell’s. I arrived around 5pm, and set up on a bench outside next to cracker, sequoia and camel. Familiar faces! 

Doc Campbell’s is awesome. They go out of their way to accommodate CDT hikers by staying open much later than their posted hours, stocking foods hikers want, accepting mail stop packages etc. Pretty much any CDT hiker passing through stops here and there’s almost always a few hanging out on the patio outside. It’s a great place to hang out and socialize. 

There are 2 main options for camping nearby; The RV park on the opposite side of hwy 15 and the Gila hot springs campground off Access Rd. I chose the latter. The campground is right on the river, and the hot springs are here too. No showers, but everything else you could want out of a campground. 

First thing I did after setting up my tent was jump in the hot springs for a soak. It felt amazing after the cold and windy day in the Gila River. Beautiful scenery and so relaxing. 

I ate dinner with the other CDT hikers next to a campfire, my first along the trail. Afterwards most of us had another soak to warm up before bed. I laid in my tent looking up at the stars, reflecting on the day. I feel so lucky to be out here. So many adventures still to be had. 

Miles – 20.9
Total Miles – 212.2  
Rain – yes
Sleep – tent, developed campground 
Animals – none seen

Thursday May 3rd – CDT Day 13 (Zero Day)

Today is another zero day. I have one planned for every resupply point in New Mexico, except Lordsburg. It was the first day I woke up to sun hitting my tent. On a hiking day, is already be packed up and gone by then. Last night was the coldest yet, below freezing. I got up in the middle of the night to take my water filter in my tent with me so it didn’t freeze. 

I jumped into a hot spring immediately after getting up. There is no better way to beat the cold! Most other hikers had the same idea. Most hikers also left this morning, few were taking a zero. 

After warning up it was time to head back to Doc Campbell’s to pick up my resupply box, get breakfast and bullshit with everyone else. Walking out of the campground, the road passes through a ranch. There was a rope across the road, clearly blocking it temporarily for some reason. I waited a minute but nothing was happening, so I ducked under it to keep going. As soon as I did that, a stampede of horses came flying down a side road. I quickly jumped back on the other side until the rancher was done moving them from the stable to the corral. 

Up at Doc’s, several hikers were hanging out on the patio. I spent several hours up here charging batteries, eating, going through my resupply box, eating, bullshiting and more eating. It’s more scenic than I was expecting, and just a cool place to hang out if you have good company.

One interesting thing about Doc Campbell’s is the fact that their toilets are plumbed with hot water. You’d think the seat is heated but the hot water warms the bowl. This is only the second toilet I’ve encountered in my life with hot water, worth noting for the comedic value. Lots of jokes about this. 

More hot springs soaking and good conversations back at the Gila hot springs campground. This place is awesome. At $8 for an overnight stay, this is going to be hard to beat in terms of bang for your buck. I highly recommend visiting whether you’re a hiker or not. If your schedule allows, you’d be crazy not to take a zero here! 

I bought some brats from Doc Campbell’s earlier which we cooked over a fire for dinner. Last hot meal for a while, with a 145 mile hike to Pie Town next. I asked if they had any skewers for sale for cooking the brats, and they suggested I buy a fly swatter and remove the swatter part. Genius! McGuyver would have been proud.

Miles – 0
Total Miles –  212.2
Rain – no
Sleep – tent, developed campground 
Animals – none seen

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