Friday May 6th, 2022, 0630-1800
Sapillo Creek to Little Walnut Picnic Grounds outside Silver City
I heard some strange noises coming from the nearby cave dwellings in the morning. I wondered if it was from animals or ghosts? Perhaps some early-riser CDT hikers had discovered the caves? This area was also where I first heard a Mexican whippoorwill and again, one first thing this morning. They appear to have a very limited range in the SW of the US, but I’d heard them quite a few times on this hike. I always love the sound they make. I also forgot to mention that we saw a lone javalina by the river 2 days prior…first and only of this hike. The more time I spend in the southwest, the more familiar I become with the unique plants and animals of the region. They are some of my favorites! I’m also much more comfortable with my hiking, navigation, gear, etc, which frees me to really focus on the details of ‘the nature.’ It’s definitely worth hiking through areas that I’ve hiked before, only because I see/hear/smell so many more things the second or third time around. One field I need to get better at is tree and plant identification…I’m a pretty lousy botanist.
We began a long 2500′ climb out of the Gila River valley while the temperatures were still cool. Going north before, I’d been grateful that I was going down this big change in elevation. I thought it would be a punishing climb this time around, but it felt like nothing. Our packs were light and we’d already been through much tougher ups and downs along the Rim. We also stopped a million times to talk with NOBO CDT hikers. We met a really nice Czech couple and later Germans, Brits, Dutch, Norwegians, French, and Canadians…it was so great to see my overseas peers on trail once again.
By 11 am, we’d already passed close to 25 thru-hikers. We’d again taken bets on how many we’d see this day and were again well over our estimates (45 total by days end). One hiker asked if I’d seen a lady with short blond hair go by and I drew a blank…it had just been too many to recall individuals. Everyone was cool except for an older guy that made the tired, stupid comment that we were “going the wrong way.” As a prolific southbound hiker, I’d be rich if I had a dime for ever time I’d heard this. The joke (or sometimes even serious concern) just gets old after awhile. I think it’s unfortunate that many don’t seem to have the ability to ‘think outside the box’ when it comes to hiking direction. I’m happy going any direction…the point is to be out there and having fun. Technically we weren’t even SOBO’s on this hike…we were EABO’s (eastbounders). Actually, I coined the phrase Southeastbounders or SEBO’s, since this was most accurate of our general direction of travel along the Rim. In a couple of months, I hoped to be a WEBO hiker…westbound on the Pacific Northwest Trail. I’d have covered all the cardinal points by then. God forbid the sun would be in my eyes in the afternoon when I did so…how would I survive such a hardship? (This is a laughable and completely ridiculous excuse sometimes stated as to why hiker’s should avoid going southbound on the PCT/CDT/AT).
A stop at the Regis-Tree confirmed the large numbers of hikers over the past month. This is a private registry/logbook maintained by a guy that lives nearby…Doug the Hermit. I’d never met him but knew of several that had. I’d enjoyed reading the log in 2019 to see all the hikers’ names ahead of me in and it was just as much fun to look back, seeing my name and so many others I recognized. Standing out was Picky’s entry. He’d been just a day in front, though I wouldn’t officially meet him until 2021 on the AT. I took pictures of the logbook, reminiscing about when I’d last been standing there. So much had happened in 3 years.
We continued on into the blazing hot afternoon. Since we weren’t constantly fording the river for the first time in days, I was really feeling the heat. I took every opportunity to dunk myself in the few scant pools along the way. The last of the day was sizable, with a sickly-looking bull standing guard. Seeing that there was another hiker already at the pond, I marched right past the bull, who looked at me dully and then turned away to munch on a yucca flower. Clearly this bull was used to seeing hikers. Since I was not used to sharing these water sources with anything but cows, horses, and elk, I politely asked the other hiker if he was done collecting before throwing myself bodily into it. Stellar followed right behind me. The guy was interested in our antics and we tried to impress on him the practicality of desert dunkings…this strategy has been so key to my success in hiking through the heat. It works great in Florida, it worked for the humidity of the AT in the summer, and it worked on the GET and AZT. Rather than having to take a long afternoon nap in the shade to wait for it to cool down, I simply hike on, letting the evaporative cooling of my clothes keep me comfortable. Of course this only works if there’s a large water source every few hours along the way.
We climbed up a crappy jeep road for several miles after this, which had me cursing under my breath. Hot and dry, rocky slippery tread, my shoes falling apart and with no traction… I was ready to be in town and done. We decided to take the Walnut creek alternate, which is basically just a road walk into town. I’d followed the meandering red-line of the CDT out of town last time and didn’t need to do extra miles. We were already doing 120 extra miles since officially finishing the MRT. We’d decided to stop early so as to save some money. This way we only had 2 nights to kill in town, rather than 3. Plus, going all the way into town would have made for a pretty long day. Poor Stellar was low on food and eager for town food, as was I, but one last (free) night under the stars and trees was nice as well. We’d set our sights on a picnic area, counting on the use of spigots, toilets, and even picnic tables, before conveniently disappearing into the nearby trees. All went according to plan. We were the only ones there, save for a few friendly day hikers that sat down to chat with us. It was nice to cook my meager dinner at a table, enjoying the setting sun. It was even nicer to have water on demand from the spigot. After having to find, collect, and filter water for weeks straight, this always feels like magic. It’s amazing the things we take for granted. I thru-hike to be reminded just how easy we have it in our ‘normal’ lives.
Camp was made near a creek bed under an oak (I think). I tried really hard to find a suitable Ponderosa for one last time but to no avail. We were close to the road and parking lot, which is always a risk…not in terms of us bothering anyone but rather of the late-night party-goers bothering us. Sure enough, I started hearing the sound of cars pulling up, doors opening and closing, then some really bad base speakers. Oh boy. I immediately put in my ear plugs and took some other measures to make myself dead to the noise. Problem solved…I actually slept great! Not the best but not a terrible situation for a last night so close to town.
Saturday May 7th, 2022, 0600-0800
Little Walnut Picnic Grounds to Silver City
6 miles. Done!
We were up early, eager to walk that last few miles and get started on some overdue town chores. The road walk was easy, with lots of things to look at, distracting us from our hungry bellies. I saw tons of town deer, some interesting mailboxes, and about 8 early-riser CDT hikers trying to beat the heat! This finish felt a little strange, given that there was no official finish marker to take pictures in front of. I’d felt like I’d been on a section hike for several days…which it was. For a finale, it was fun to pose in front of a pretty mural, the same one I’d posed in front of during the 2019 Trail Days. Then it was time to eat a huge breakfast at the Adobe Springs Cafe and hit up the RV park for showers and laundry. I also exchanged darn tough socks at the local outfitter (Thanks Morning Star Sports!).
The RV park was just as I remembered it…close to town, reasonably priced for a decent grass tent site, and with a nice bathroom/shower/laundry facility. We weren’t shocked to find quite a few CDT hikers there but were pleasantly surprised to run into Pinestick, a hiker that both Stellar and I had met separately in the final miles of the AT last November. I’d also met him at Copenhagen and Trail Bride’s trail wedding in the Wind River range, WY, CDT 2019. I hadn’t remembered him from that event but he remembered me. So that’s 3 times I’ve run into him on trail now. Yet another hiker reunion for this year!
We got cleaned up, machine washing all our clothes for the first time since Show Low…over 2 weeks prior. I chatted with the hikers and couldn’t help but notice that I was the only woman tenting there…and also the only one under 50. One of the guys was even named Boomer, so I joked with Stellar that we were staying at the Boomer’s Club. But who do you think passed out very early at the Little Toad Creek brewery…me of course. I couldn’t even handle my celebratory beer. At least we had over 2 full days in town to enjoy all it had to offer. We splurged on a hotel room for the second night (the overnight noise of the nearby traffic at the RV park was a little too much), enjoying the art deco ambiance of the historic Murray Hotel. I went on sight-seeing walks, visited several galleries and museums, and met lots of cool locals. I really love Silver City…it’s a very artsy, eclectic, and welcoming New Mexico trail town. I’d even consider living there.
One of our last highlights of the trip was the flight back to Phoenix. This 1 hour adventure on Advantage Airlines was the way flying should be…no lines, no TSA checkpoints, no hassles. We had a great time making friends with the other 5 passengers and self-serving ourselves chips, peanuts and beers from the complimentary drawers. We also had a great view of the entire GET route through Arizona. It was the best flight I’ve been on in 20 years. We spent anther couple days catching up with our dear friends Jon and Laurel in their beautiful home near the Tonto National Forest. I can’t thank them enough for all their hospitality and support over the years, starting with the PCT and continuing through the AZT, GET and MRT. To bring things full circle, readers might be wondering what happened to our one and only MRT companion, 925 (shorthand for hiking ‘9 to 5’)? Well, he finished the MRT of course, just a day or 2 behind us. He hitched a ride from Alma to Lordsburg and then took a Greyhound to Sedona. We got to meet up with him again as he drove by in his van, on the way to Tuscon. Our first MRT hiker reunion!
Best of luck to all ’22 MRT hikers who might still on their way and I hope this blog can help future MRT hikers with their planning. In retrospect, it was one of my favorite hikes and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’ll post a MRT summary after this. Finally, a huge thanks to Blisterfree and Tree for creating and sharing this wonderful route! It was an honor to follow in some legendary footsteps.