Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rivers, Roads, and Volcano Poop

Grants, NM  396.5 miles, 130 switchbacks

This last stretch we have had a bit of everything.  Cold rain and snow hit us in the Gila River area, lots of sunny, warm stretches of road pounded our feet to death, and gnarly lava rock that looked like volcano poop kept things interesting.
Sopillo Creek as it flows into the Gila

From Silver City we took a road northwest into the depths of the Gila National Forest.  The first morning we followed bear tracks in the beautiful Little Bear Canyon, which was just a preview of the Gila River.  From Little Bear we climbed up and around the Devil's Garden with incredible granite formations and apparently a hermit (who we missed) who had been there 14 years.  In late afternoon we dropped into the Gila River.

The next few days were my absolute favorite section of New Mexico.  There were no bridges so we had to cross the river by wading, but the water was warm.  There were high sweeping walls and the river meandered back and forth.  There were a few areas of hot springs, which when we go back we would like spend more time near.

First mile on the Gila River
After a few days of the lower Gila we got to Doc Campbell's where we had a box waiting.  We packed for 9 days of food to get us to Pie Town, only to find out that it takes 7.  We opted to cut our 20+ mile days down a bit so we could eat some food weight.  The Upper Gila seemed a completely different canyon.  The walls narrowed and got higher so it seemed like the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  The last day in the canyon huge thunderheads rolled in.  The clouds were so big that they created their own cirrus clouds on top.  That is a storm.

After a few cold nights, open plains, a fire lookout tower, and brutal roadwalk we made it to Pie Town and Nita's Toaster house.  Nita still lives in town, but in a different house and has left this one open to hikers and bikers.  There was food, clothing and little mementos tucked in every nook and cranny.  We stayed with 7 other hikers that night, and it was fun to swap stories and see some other crazies doing this.

Crossing number 4 of 194
Sara and I left early the next morning on the worst road walk yet.  We made 29 miles of nearly straight ranch road.  Fortunately we saw some mountain lions to break up the monotony.  The lions kicked up a rabbit and accelerated faster than any creature in this, or any other world has a right to be.  After that our only entertainment was a curious donkey at a water spigot and Sara trying to herd cows.

The next night we camped at the edge of El Malpais lava field, which fortunately meant we would be crossing this black surface in the morning.  The first 4-5 miles of it were incredible.  There were huge walls of lava, with ripples and old river beds to break it up.  The last few miles were much tougher walking as it became less of slab walking and more big chunks of cinders.  At the end of that section there was a table under shade though so we were able to get our feet up and let some blood drain out of them.

Flowers that only come out at night
The rest of the way to Grants (20-30 miles) was on roads.  Crossing over I-40 was a fun experience because that is the road to Flagstaff.  Although not technically north of home, it feels like now we are getting to that point.  Grants is also one of the few places that we have been before.  The last time we were here though Mt Taylor was covered in snow and we were about to race up it.  Now we can take our time and there is no snow.  The idea of going up a mountain this weekend is pretty exciting.

My dad just brought over Zeno and some extra gear we need.  Zeno is still looking pretty stiff so we are going to see how the first few miles go out of town, but if he is still limping we will unfortunately need to send him back home.  We will find that out this afternoon.

Now it is time to hit lunch and get back on the trail.  


  1. WOOT!WOOT! Glad to see you two are having an AMAZING ADVENTURE together! And that you are safe and healthy. I hope Zeno feels better this next section but was glad to see that you have so many friends and family able and willing to reunite all of you and rescue him if needed. Happy Trails!

  2. Go go go! You're doing something I have always wanted to do but likely will never be able to. I'm following your trip with great interest. A fellow Flagstonian... Flagstaffian... Flagonite... oh whatever. Enjoy!