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CDT NM 3rd Section

Day 3: Gila River

I got a really good night’s sleep, and the soreness was mostly gone when I woke up. Maybe it was the naproxen I took before bed, or maybe I’m just good at sleep posture.

Although the bright moon woke me a couple of times in the middle of the night, I figured it was time to get going when I woke at 5. While packing up, I got just enough water for my breakfast shake from the stagnant pool down the hill. It was covered with tiny water bugs, but I hardly scooped any, and the filter took care of them.

I also noticed a cabin up the hill but didn’t investigate. There was a CDT trail register just around the bend too, and I saw only one other name coming through a day ahead of me.

It was a mile down to Sycamore Creek. It was not much of a creek, a narrow rivulet of water, but it was cold and flowing so I stopped and filled my bag entirely before going up the canyon.

And just a little way up the trail, there was a spot where the dirt was soft and crumbling down the side of the hill. My lower foot started sliding down. It didn’t feel like an emergency, like I wasn’t going to call, but before I could consciously act, my upper trekking pole snapped clean in half.

I stopped and banged on it with a rock until I could shove it back together and collapse it to tentpole length and strapped it to my pack. I wouldn’t need to cowboy camp or find a perfect tree branch to set up my tent at night, but I would be hiking with a single pole for a while. Why does this stuff always happen on the second day out?

Right after that was the steepest climb of the day. Normally I could use both hands to efficiently pull my way up a steep climb like that, but instead I had one awkward arm I didn’t know what to do with. I couldn’t let it dangle or my hand would swell up like a balloon, so I alternated holding it up crooked and hanging it from a pack strap. Sometimes I was constantly waving away flies. Later, after a break, I carried my bottle in it.

The sun was getting higher and hotter. When though the trail leveled out a bit after a half mile, it was still another couple of miles to the gap on Tadpole Ridge where I could start descending.

Not that descending was easy. It was fairly steep and rocky. But nonetheless, I came into a parking area with lots of water just about noon, already desperate to eat lunch. I found a shaded rock and filled up and felt much better for the next hour.

Well, except for one strip of skin on the back of my neck that felt a little hot when I came out of the trees onto a road during the sun’s highest point. I didn’t realize I had accidentally gotten my hat’s neck flap ruched tucked into the brim when I put it back on. I corrected it as soon as 8 noticed, and it doesn’t seem to have burned.

After that, I had to stop every couple of hours. My shoulder straps were digging into my shoulders enough to bruise and there wasn’t much I could do in terms of how I wore my pack. The soreness in my calves was back as strong as ever. My sweaty shorts were starting to chafe my inner thighs. At one break, I took another naproxen hoping it would help.

I had hoped to reach the Gila by 3, but I kept increasing that estimate. I was barely crawling down the steep rocky switchbacks pocked with horse dung. Barely over a mile an hour.

I finally reached the river by 5, and cooled off rapidly as the trail crossed it several times. I stopped on the bank for dinner at six to eat my special pad thai, the good kind that only backpacker’s pantry makes. After such a miserable day, I deserved to celebrate reaching the river with a gourmet meal.

The Gila River Canyon is fairly flat, so between 7:30 and 9, I made up for the slow going of the afternoon by doing another 2.5 miles and making it just far enough to put me in striking distance of the Gila River Hot Springs the next day. Found a perfect flat tent site with the river flowing past and started setting up before 9.

Here’s hoping the Gila River Canyon is easy tomorrow.

Trail miles: 15.4

Distance to Doc Campbell’s: 14.4 miles

Distance to Highway 12: 100.9 miles

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