Heidenreich & Gass: CDT Thru-Hikers

Trail Dispatch: Week 3

May 11, 2000: Day 18—Pie Town, 165 miles north of Silver City. From Silver City we had two friends join us, trail angels who walked with us the whole way and took us out for buffalo burgers (even though three of us were vegetarians) at the Buckhorn Saloon and Opera House in Pinos Altos. We walked there along the official trail—marked"approximate location" on the map—which turned out to be twice as long as it appeared. It was a long day but with great rewards—Yum!

We found the trails of the Gila to be like a choose your own adventure book: each trail shown on the map had about 20 actual options, none of them with definitive markers. We had 35 river crossings in one day as we followed the Gila River north to the Cliff Dwellings. It was quite a change to be practically swimming in water all day. We were pleased to cut the wieght of 5 liters of water off our backs, but we were soon dismayed to find our feet dragging as our sneakers filled with sand.

On our way out of the Gila we were surprised and pleased to find a phone, water, and the good company of a couple members of the National Forest Sevice fire crew at the Beaverhead Work Center. After discussing prescibed burns, it was striking the next morning to see smoke billowing from a nearby hillside. A local rancher explained that it was a BLM prescribed burn that had flared up again.

North of the Gila we crossed a 15-mile stretch of an ancient lake bed called The Plains of Saint Augustine. We spent that night under an immense sky, on plains that seemed to stretch endlessly to the east—our New England eyes still baffled by the scale of open space in the West.

Now, sitting in Pie Town, we mourn a closed cafe that had been the object of our thoughts for days as we dreamed of biscuits, pie, and coffee.


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