It begins again!
I didn’t sleep all night. I did try, but it wasn’t working. I didn’t want to employ any chemical help because I needed to be functional at the airport early, so I got up in the middle of the night and had a big breakfast, showered, then just watched some shows until it was time to leave.
My dad drove me to the airport as the sun rose. I checked my pack easily, finagling a way to skip most of the line. And then getting thru security with TSA pre-check was a breeze. I was at my gate with over an hour to spare.
I was one of the latter group to board and carried no bag. I sat next to a couple watching anime on a tablet, but as soon as the flight started my lack of sleep caught up to me, so I didn’t watch any movies–just a 3 hour nap sitting upright. And neither of those two ever had to go to the bathroom, so I wasn’t interrupted either.
It was still early in the morning in Albuquerque and I was starting to get hungry. I walked out to baggage claim first to get my bag, only to learn there was no food available outside security in the airport.
I didn’t have to be at the gate for my next flight until 12:30. I had already found the gate, and it was outside security off the main departure terminal. They did check-in and baggage check at the gate right before the flight, so I had to hold onto my pack until then.
My best option to combat the hunger was a 15 minute walk into town to eat at Waffle House. It was a very busy Waffle House with an actual wait both for seating and food. But nonetheless, I was served and ate within 45 minutes. I left for the airport again at noon.
Back at the gate, the rest of the passengers of my flight were already there–all four of them. Two of them were CDT hikers themselves, Lumberjack and Bucket. They approached me and we started talking. And then we were together for the next 5 hours.
To begin with, the plane was an 8-seater prop plane with the chillest crew. The fight safety lecture basically amounted to “stay buckled and yell if you need something.” Luggage was strapped into the tail with a cargo net–no cargo hold. The seats were arranged in groups of four facing each other with controls to move them out into the aisle and rotate to see each other, like a train. It encouraged social interaction, and the space was small enough that everyone could chat. In short, it felt like flying in a limo. There were even sodas we could just grab out of a drawer if we wanted them.
So we did nothing but chat the whole hour flight. We folded out the tables from the walls and played a couple of games of hako. We looked down at the plumes of smoke from the wildfires as we flew over them. We watched the plane swing back and forth through the cockpit window as we descended into the tiny county airport, then complimented the pilot on a perfect landing before going inside the terminal to wait for our bags to be rolled in by the porter.
Turquoise was waiting outside in her car to give us a ride into town (as planned). It was not a short ride–the airport is a half hour from town, but the chat was mostly about people from the area that Lumberjack and Bucket knew but I didn’t. They had spent a lot more time in town the previous year (being on a similar hiking plan as me) than I did, and met a lot more people, some of whom lived in the area.
We stopped in at the LuLu Motel, which was not only the cheapest in town (despite being quite clean and modern) but was also right down the street from Walmart, so I could check in and drop my bag, then drove another 2.3 miles into town to where Lumberjack and Bucket would be staying with friends. I was there mainly for the Gila Hike and Bike, which seemed like the best place to buy small fuel canisters. After we all did some shopping, L+B met their friends who were out walking their puppy and kitten on the sidewalk and dropped their bags at their house. Then the friends went their own way while we went to a late lunch/early dinner at Adobe Springs, widely regarded as the best food in Silver City.
I ordered a Relleno burger with a side salad. It took most of an hour for the order to come (though we had beer to pass the time), but when it did it was clear why. The burger was a mess that covered an entire plate. Perfectly cooked burger, cheddar cheese, a whole fried chile relleno, a deluge of red and green chile sauce, and two eggs over easy, wearing the upper bun like a hat way too small for its head. They called out a “knife and fork burger” for a reason. I had to actually eat some of it before I took its picture just to neaten it up slightly.
Yes, I ate the whole thing and the salad in one sitting. I was pretty hungry. And after I finished all that, I wasn’t hungry again until morning.
You might think I was too stuffed to walk after that, but no, I immediately set out alone on the 2.3 mile walk back to the hotel. It was mostly uphill and took most of an hour, but it wasn’t too hard. My plan was to empty my pack and immediately set out for Walmart to buy my food for the hike, but I made the mistake of sitting down in the air conditioning for 3/10 of a second, and immediately felt the weight of lack of sleep pressing me down. So I noted that Walmart would be open at 6am and went straight to sleep instead.
Come back tomorrow to find out about my lazy first day heading up to the Gila River.