Doc Campbell’s Post to Pie Town

April 19 Gila River High Route mile 12.4

There was frost once again on my tent this morning. I think I was warmer last night though; the hot spring soak may have something to do with that. It was so nice talking to Alan, one of the campground hosts (his wife Carla also hosts) about the area ahead of us.

So this morning when OB and I picked up some last minute items at Doc’s, we were pretty keen to get to the cliff dwellings.


I’d never seen anything like this before. There were still wood beams in the structures! The Puebloans who built these dwellings lives here over 700 years ago. Teddy Roosevelt’s cousin was one of the first archeologists to inspect the site. Looters got there first, unfortunately. I also learned that Rosevelt made this site the first national monument, way before the national park system was around. I felt a definite sense of reverence there and after we left and got on trail I spent the rest of the day thinking about how life may have been for the residents of such a place.

It was a good day for hiking, although was pack is heavy with six days of food and a couple liters of water. I drank it fairly quick and was pleased to find a small water source 8 miles in. My water filter (Sawyer Micro) isn’t so great and it is very slow, which is disappointing because Sawyer advertised it as being almost as fast as the regular Sawyer Squeeze. So I just use my bleach and that works great. Oh well. I’ll pick up a Squeeze as soon as I can.

Well, it’s getting dark and dusky, the creek is gurgling, and some kind of bird is making a very cozy sound. Off to sleep. One more thing: Alan told me last night that Prior Creek, where we are now camped, had water. When someone local tells you that a certain place has water, I trust them. And that means something, to trust someone, a stranger, with important information like a water source.

It’s a beautiful thing.

April 20 Gila River Route mile 77

I broke camp around 6:30 and had great hiking for the 9 miles to the Gila River. The high route that OB and I took proved to be a smart move. It was really nice trail, good water sources, nice camping and it was about 12 miles shorter than the river route. When we got down to the river around 11 am we had 8 more miles of river hiking to get to Snow Lake, where we were thinking of stopping for the night. I’m so glad I only had 8 miles of river hiking. It is beautiful and fun, but 8 miles was definitely enough for me. We met another hiker on the high route this morning, Max Heap from Washington state. A very nice guy and it was nice to be hiking with him. He told us about his hike through the lower Gila River canyon and it sounded pretty scary to me. I’m so glad I made the choices I did concerning that route. I don’t feel like I missed anything.

OB and I cameled up at the Gila before leaving it and hiking to Snow Lake. We decided to stop here at the campground, it’s a little early but we both wanted to rest up a bit and have a bigger day tomorrow. Some RVers gave us water, which was great since there’s no water here at the campground and the lake is very muddy. Of course we have enough but I never turn down water. It is a gift. Magic.

I saw a great blue heron today and a hawk. Some turkey hunters we ran into told us about wolf sign they saw by the Gila. This is a reintroduction area, but sightings are few and far between. I wish I could just hear one. Maybe in Wyoming if I am lucky. I am excited to make some good progress tomorrow.

April 21 Gila Alternate mile 103.9 CDT mile 352.3

Well, we thought we were going to hike 21 miles but it turned out to be almost 28. I am whipped. Water. It’s all about the water. And I got it. Today was the first time I’ve had to flag a truck down for water. The source that was supposed to have water did not. And I had 9 miles to Dutchman Spring, about a mile from where I am now. On these back country dirt roads people stop. A father and two kids gave the three of us about 7 liters. So kind. And now I will submit to sleep, it is tugging at my eyes and making my hands slow. Goodnight long trail, goodnight tent. Goodnight dusty shoes. Goodnight fading yellow bruise. Goodnight Cougar.

April 22 CDT mile 375

Back on the trail. Tomorrow I will take another alternate, the Pie Town Road Walk Alternate. There are more water sources on this route and apparently there is a trail angel who invites all hikers to come to their ranch for showers, laundry, WiFi, food and charging devices. How grand! I’ll be there in a couple of days. Tonight I am camped at another water source shared with cattle and I imagine all nature of critters who call these desolate lands home. Desolate is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. Today I took water from a water source that was more like a cow pond. I do what I need to do to keep going. Oh, and there was a dead coyote nearby. But no worries, I filter my water.

OB and Max pointed out a large herd of elk this evening right before we got to camp. I talked to some horses and I don’t think even they know they belong to someone, somewhere. The elk sure don’t. The sunset is beautiful and there may be some showers.

April 23 Pie Town Road Walk Alternate mile 20

Everything was frozen this morning. It rained for a bit and then cleared and the temps dropped fast. No worries. I was boiling water for my morning oatmeal and it warmed my tent right up. Thank you universe for modern backpacking cooking methods!

I hit the alternate after a mile or so and when we crossed highway 12 I thought about how remote this trail really is. Like nothing I have experienced before.

I love it. And I love that I am hiking with two awesome humans with whom I have so much in common.

After lunch we began a climb up Mangas Mt, up to 9,600 feet, the highest we’ve been on this trail thus far. We had decided to take a break on the side on the dirt road we were hiking on when a car came around the corner. Whoa. The car pulled up and a woman rolled down the window. OB jumped up and whooped as she said, “I found you!” Turns out Cashmere, the driver, and OB met on the PCT and she just finished the Arizona Trail and decided to track OB down and bring some trail magic. She had a good idea of where we might be because we had a signal yesterday and OB posted something on social media about where we’d be. But damn, it takes some serious talent to find someone out in this stretch of trail. Cashmere brought chips, oranges, bananas, candy bars, sodas, and some really great energy. I was so happy that OB got to see his friend and that I was there to see this pretty incredible exchange. And my first trail magic besides water! Yay! Thank you Cashmere!

I had more hiking to do so we climbed up and got hailed on and it was cold! I was happy to descend and now here I am all cozy in my tent. Tomorrow morning I’ll hit the trail angel’s house and hopefully get showers and laundry. It’s been over a week since I’ve done laundry and about a week since my last shower.

April 24 Pie Town Alternate Mile 34

Serious ice sheets covered my rain fly this morning and when I packed up I didn’t even bother to shake them off. I got a bit of a later start which was fine since I was only hiking about 6 miles or so to the Davila Ranch. A somewhat unexpected experience. I knew that it was there but wow, trail angel John really did a great job. A toilet, shower with soap and hair stuff, washer and dryer with soap, two refrigerators, one with sodas and beer and the other with eggs, potatoes, spinach, onions and garlic, condiments and more. The freezer was full of bacon and hot dogs. There were cans of beans and soup. Two propane stoves. Running water outside to drink and clean dishes. I cooked up scrambled eggs and spinach while OB made bacon. After microwaving a dozen hot dogs I chopped them and dumped them in a pot with some baked beans.

Just wow!

Once I was stuffed I took a long hot shower and dove into the internet for a spell. After laundry and lounging, it was time to get a few more miles before calling it a day. This alternate has been almost all on dirt roads so it’s kinda nice just to put on the headphones and cruise. OB, Max and I are camped about 5 miles shy of Pie Town where we’ll take a nearo (nearly a zero day) and rest. This has been a challenging stretch and I feel like I am a stronger hiker now than when I began. It’s a trend I could get used to!

Made it to the Toaster House at Pie Town! Yay! What a stretch!

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