CDT NM 4th Section

Day 6: Middle Fork Gila River at Swinging Cross Canyon

I woke up with the wild birdsong alone 5:40 and immediately started work on writing the previous day’s long blog post, filling in the details from the outline jotted down in the last few moments before sleep the night before. It took an hour and a half to finish, and so I didn’t get back on trail until 8am.

I assumed the trail would continue to be relatively easy, but it did get a little more wild with the crossings becoming more frequent. The cliff walls slowly got shorter and the river smaller over the course of the day. The multiple options for trails and crossing locations, steep rocks, and deadfalls all increased in frequency. As such, my pace was limited.

I saw more people than I had been. I passed a southbound hiker on a cliff overlooking a steep rapids. I tried to tell him about the cool snake I found but he wasn’t interested in chatting. (You can see a picture of the location below, but the guy took so long to start crossing I ran out of patience to get him in it.)

Later in the afternoon, a long line of horse riders passed me going south at a river crossing, one telling me there was another hiker two hours ahead of me, the sort of claim I never take at face value. But late in the evening, I did pass a campsite with two packs sitting in it, and I set up camp for the night in a place where I could see lights through the trees of other campers. So despite the fact I spend most of the day alone, there are others around.

With the tall canyon walls receding and the trees getting less tall or thinner, it is still brutally hot in the canyon at midday. But this time, I was by the river when that torturous heat came, so I spotted the first reasonably deep place I could get in the river and spent maybe an hour there wading around and kneeling in the soft gravel bed 2.5 feet down. There were plenty of frogs here too, but more fish than further downstream. There was a school of more than a dozen carp all at least a foot long, and I could watch them rooting through the dirt if I stayed back in the shade.

I was overall disappointed with the progress I had made by supper time (and the fact that I had to pass by the best swimming hole on the river without swimming sawdust I hadn’t reached it early enough in the day), but I felt like I had put in work. In order to avoid having to stop again in the evening, I ate my large family size rice sides. Eating the heavy stuff from my pack should make it easier to make up lost miles the next few days. Likewise, I’m still trying to find the balance with how much water to carry and when. It costs time collecting it when I stop if I don’t carry any, but it costs speed lugging it around if I carry too much. And if I fill the collection bag, it still leaks.

Anyway, it’s not the kind of good problem I’m going to have in the future. It’s my last night in the river. I’ll be heading out of the canyon for a boring roadwalk and a much drier canyon starting tomorrow. If I get lucky and see a truck heading my way, I will absolutely hitch part of that boring section.

Trail miles: 13.3

Distance to Highway 12: 55.2 miles

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