May 4th, 2019
Gila Alt. mm 73.6 – mm 101.1
Distance in miles: 27.5
It was so very cold when I woke up…into the 30’s. Putting on wet shoes and socks was bad enough but I dreaded starting off immediately with river crossings. We had to plunge into the icy water in our first 30 steps. Then over and over again after that. I couldn’t feel my feet and my rash burned. I was wearing all my layers, including my tights. They got wet below the knees but I didn’t care. Thank goodness that there weren’t any waist-high crossings like the first day.
We only had to go about 4 miles to the end and were so happy to see the dam at Snow Lake. All our suffering abruptly ended and the sun was finally hitting the hills. There were some RVers at the campground that were keen to talk to us, noting our early start, wet shoes and frozen appearance as they sipped their coffee. We could have had some had we pressed the issue but I didn’t feel like yogi-ing. I was just happy to find a pit toilet and trash cans. The lady mentioned that there was another CDT hiker that was really struggling, so they had offered to feed him breakfast. He was still in his tent so I didn’t get to see who he was. Suddenly, I regretted being such a strong hiker, for all it got me. Just kidding.
We pressed on, enjoying the ease of some road walking. I was just starting to remove some layers and it was after 9 am. Open caught up just as we turned onto the trail up the headwaters of the Middle Fork Gila. No longer was there a river but just a few algae-choked pools. The ecosystem had also changed into high meadow with few trees…perfect elk habitat. I couldn’t believe that in 3 days we had gone from a low desert river canyon to this.
We stopped at a cow pond, the last water for 18 miles or so. I chugged water but would 1.75 liters be enough for the day? Sure. We climbed a steep hill out the drainage and then we were on a broad, flattish mesa. The mountains to the southwest still had snow and it felt like we were so high up. We would go up over 8500′ for the first time on trail.
Thus we began a road walk that lasted to the end of the day. The initial jeep road was great but then it turned into a gravelly forest service road with trucks. The marble-sized gravel and my slightly wet socks wreaked havoc on my feet. I have no problem with constantly wet feet, it’s when they get semi-dry that they seem to revolt. I could feel blisters forming exactly where I have gotten them on all my other thru-hikes…on the bottoms of my pinky toes. I guess it was just time that I finally got them on this hike.
The road stretched out into the distance. I hop-scotched with Open while Relentless hung back and then just disappeared behind. Trucks drove by, making the dust whirl. Open was ahead on a long stretch and looked like a mirage. Further up, I could see two more mirages and wondered if they were also hikers. It was a good day for podcasts.
I walked in auto mode for a long time until I finally came to a trickling stream. Open and 2 section hikers were there, plus a dog. She was licking her sore feet and I felt her pain. I had wanted to make it to a tank at the top of the road but then realized that would put me over 30 miles for the day. Luckily the stream was running for a ways up and we found a nice spot across the stream, away from the road. I spent a lot of time tending to my blisters and Gila rash before going to bed. I didn’t even have the energy to finish my dinner.
I reflected on what a cast of characters I saw today. The Ranchers and their cattle, the loggers and their trees, the hunters and their prey, and us thru-hikers, searching out the trail, a few puddles of water and a flat place to lay a tent.