Dyer and Riches: CDT Thru-Hikers

The Gila

May 17, 2000: Day 15—254 miles—The Gila Cliff Dwellings were well worth the detour, an amazing glimpse at an ancient culture and a sheltered resting place in the thirsty Gila Forest. After much friendly conversation and advice from the rangers stationed at the Cliff Dwellings, we shouldered our packs and headed for the Middle Fork of the Gila River. We spent an enjoyable time sloshing through the shady river canyon, relishing the novelty of abundant water for the first time in New Mexico.

We began to notice the bear sign on our third day in the Gila Wilderness. Piles of scat on the trail and footprints heading in our direction. We made an effort to crash noisily through the willows that bordered the Middle Fork, keen to avoid a surprise encounter. It was late in the day when Darryl spotted a bear on the opposing bank. We froze as the bear ambled away, turning every few steps to gaze back at us intently. Around the next crag we found why it had been so reluctant to leave. A carcass of a horse lay on the trail, surrounded by more bear scat. Perhaps the horse had fallen and broken a leg while part of an outfitting trip through the wilderness, or maybe it was the victim of a mountain lion. In the fading daylight, we decided it was wise to leave the bear its prize, and hurried onwards without investigating further.

After leaving the Gila Wilderness, water became scarce again. Two years of drought in New Mexico have left most springs dry. We chose to detour across the Plains of San Agustin, where we hiked at sunset among pronghorn antelope and jackrabbit.

Travelling north to Pie Town, we exhausted every mournful cowboy song we knew as our thoughts turned to pies. We arrived to find the Pie-O-Neer Pie Shoppe closed. Disaster! [ MORE. . . ]


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