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CDT NM 3rd Section

Day 4: Gila Springs Campground

In great contrast to yesterday, I woke up feeling everything. I took a naproxen then dozed for another hour, finally starting to get ready at 5:40, getting just enough water for breakfast from the river, and finding the trail by a little after 7.

I didn’t have much hope to reach Doc Campbell’s to see if they had any trekking poles for sale before they closed at 4, but I set it as a goal anyway. I intended to stay there anyway, so might as well push hard and spend more time at the destination.

As I began hiking, smoke hung low in the canyon, both clouding the view and invading my nostrils, but as the winds changed toward the afternoon, the smoke cleared up.

Throughout the day, I didn’t carry much water with me, just getting it from the river where and when needed, using the reduced weight to increase speed. At my first snack and water break, I noticed my water collection bag was violating Katadyn’s No-Leak Guarantee. There was a tiny slash near the mouth and water was steadily running out of it. Not having any caulk available, I put a large glob of super glue over it and waited for it to cure. It didn’t leak again.

Aside from pushing through bushes with the broken pole on my back actively trying to catch on every branch, the trail was pretty easy. Mostly level and easy to find. On a couple of occasions, it crossed the river at annoyingly deep places where I would have to hike up my shorts to keep the contents of my pockets dry. I would have to keep messing with them when they got wet anyway because the wet cloth irritated my inner thighs like fire.

At my last afternoon break, I noticed my knife was missing when I left. I know I had felt it in my pocket earlier when hiking up my shorts, so it must have fallen out while I was messing with my shorts to keep them from rubbing my legs. I put on extra speed in the next four miles, knowing I would be hiking without a knife unless I made it to Doc Campbell’s before they closed–they do not open on Wednesdays.

Just before reaching the highway and the bridge, a mule deer came loudly stotting up the opposite bank of the river as if fleeing from me. It reached a place where a steep rock outcropping stuck out into the river, and rather than jump in the river, it tried to jump up the rock wall. It made one mighty leap halfway up, couldn’t find any grip on the rocks, then stretched and slid back down to the bottom, before looking at me like “Oh no, you’re still watching me!” and running back the way it had come. It’s nice to know famously athletic creatures are also capable of such epic fails.

I just barely made it to the Post. I had hoped to hitch the last mile up the road, but there was almost no traffic in that direction. Just one van that blew past so fast I didn’t even know it was coming before it was gone. But I still walked into the store at 4.

Only to be told they open again for hikers at 6:30 and at 8:30 the following morning too. Ah well.

I thought I scored a victory with a spare trekking pole from the hiker box, but it was broken too. All in all, I bought 3 cans of root beer, a hot pocket, a bright orange knife, new trekking poles, and 4 limes. I drank one root beer and ate the hot pocket, signed the register, then hitched a ride down to the campground. Ten bucks for a campsite right next to the river and the hot springs, within range of wifi and next to a trailer with a power strip inside. No showers available, so I rinsed off in the river, even though there wasn’t even a hole deep enough to swim. I had walked through deeper water on the trail already. Then I took a little twenty minute soak and changed into my dry clothes, hanging the rest in the sun.

When Allen the host arrived, he told me about the springs. It came out of the wall of the canyon 300 yards up the river, and was 140 degrees by the time it traveled down the pipes to the campground area. It was potable and flowed at the same volume year round, being a deep thermal spring not fed by the rain. I collected spring water to cook dinner, pitched a tent while it cooked, then went to the trailer to write and nap until dark.

Or rather, I made the mistake of looking at Twitter to find every parent I know increasingly afraid to send their kids to school following another mass shooting. Probably one of the best things about hiking is being disconnected from the news cycle.

After dark, I grabbed my towel and headed back to the pools for a late night soak. I joined a couple in the farthest, largest, hottest pool. We chatted about gear and outdoors stuff for at least an hour before I went back to my tent sometime after 11. It was my latest night so far, but I had no intention of leaving at the crack of dawn anyway.

Trail miles: 14.4

Distance to Highway 12: 86.7 miles

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