CDT Days 12-17 Doc Campbell’s to Pie Town

Day 12

23 miles

The first few hours flew by in the Gila, morning light illuminated the cliffs and turned the river into molten gold. Pairs of ducks flushed from the lush green as I rounded bends in the river. A turkey waddled up the hillside just before a fork in the trail led me up to yet another hot springs, the best yet. A large pool, big enough for 10 people, with clear blue water reflecting on the rocks and a sand bottom full of glittering mica, or maybe it was gold.

After spending several hours there soaking and sipping chai tea, I headed out again to cross the cool river. I never did get sick of crossing the Gila, even though I crossed it 140 times that day. Each time, it was a welcome relief from the heat. The clear, refreshing water was a pleasant experience after the dry heat of the chihuahuan desert and it is full of life. From ginormous tadpoles and frogs to delicious looking fish, and diverse plant life, the Gila River was a true paradise.

For lunch, I made a recipe from some stuff floating around in my food bag that I’m calling Delicious Cous Cous. I didn’t, measure anything, it’s all to taste:

Saffron and chive cous cous
Bacon bits
Nutritional Yeast

Lemon pepper chicken packet
Fried onions
Maple sugar

This was the best day on trail so far and I think it is going to be hard to beat.


Day 13

30 miles

After about 15 more water crossings, I changed my mind about getting tired of it. I didn’t mind the river, but continuously getting in and out of the cold water was drying out my skin to the point that it was painfully cracking under the hot sun. I thought applying sunscreen would help but as soon as I put it on, I realized it was a mistake. It stung like hell on my raw skin as I hopped around beside the river shaking my hands and repeating every cuss word I could think of.


We had 38 crossings that day before leaving the Gila, making for 233 in total. I was sad to be leaving this magical place but sort of relieved to be going back to the desert.

Gunga Din, Mummy, Shadowhawk, Poptart, and I had lunch at the empty campground next to the apocalyptic looking Snow Lake. There were multiple bathrooms, spigots, and dozens of picnic tables above the muddy, quickly evaporating water. The boat launch was well over 100 feet from the current water line. Looking at the upcoming water sources, we realized it was dismal; there was a cow pond in a couple miles, then a long road walk to a tank about a quarter mile off trail, where we decided to camp that night, making for a 30 mile day.

After lunch, the trail was faint and we lost it several times. Walking off trail, every single blade of dry grass that brushed against me felt like razorblades on my sensitive skin. The sand from the river had shredded my socks as well and my unprotected feet were getting blisters on blisters.

I was happy when the road walk started and we could crank out some miles without having to route find.

While walking the road, we got to witness the recently burned trees from the recent fire. Some of the logs were still smoldering. It was a good reminder of the chance of trail closures because of fire on this trail.

We camped in an open field that night, far enough from the water to prevent disturbing cows and wildlife. The wind was whipping across the treeless valley. I got out of my sleeping bag for thirty seconds to grab a piece if trash that had blown away and when I got back in I was shaking uncontrollably from the combination of cold and exhaustion, cous cous falling off of my spoon before I could get it to my mouth.


When we woke up in the morning, one of my water bottles had ice in it. Shit, I forgot to put my filter in my sleeping bag, it’s probably no good now.


Day 14

20 ish miles

The hiker hunger has hit.


Day 15

20ish miles

Days since last shower: 7

One of the worst days on trail so far, the hiking wasn’t hard but I’m almost out of food and I really need a burger.


Day 16

16 miles

I got up long before the sun rose above the hills and started the climb up Mangas mountain, hellbent on making it to Davila Ranch before noon. I had heard that they had eggs, potatoes, onions, and baked beans there. All I had to eat during the 16 miles there was a couple bites of cheese and some fruit snacks that I had bummed from Just Right.

I got there around 11am and was exhaulted to see the makeshift kitchen stocked. First things first, I made myself a big plate of food and a hot cup of coffee. Pure bliss. Then, got myself a shower and laundry. This place was a lifesaver and I am so grateful for people like this who help us out.

Day 17

A couple miles 

13 miles south of Pie Town and I was itching to get to town.  A blue pickup rolled out down the driveway of a trailer house and swung onto the gravel road, kicking up dust behind it. I waggled my lucky thumb, and just as if I had my finger on the switch, the window rolled down. 


“You headed to Pie Town?”


No free rides. The old Navajo man behind the wheel, who called himself El Argo, wanted the same thing most people who pick up hikers want. 


“I see you walkers on this road every year. Why? Just for the challenge?” 


“Yeah, for the challenge of it, for the adventure, but really it’s the people you meet along the way, people like you. To see America slowly, to really experience it. To spend all day in nature and go to sleep dead tired, the pain, the hunger, all of it. It’s makes you grateful for all the little things, a hot shower and hot food. It makes you realize you don’t need that much, just the things you carry on your back.” 


My answer seemed to satisfy him. 


“My people used to walk down to Mexico, you know? Thousands of miles, it was nothing. But, I’m no Indian. You’ve read about the schools haven’t you? Isn’t it sad?”


He dropped me off in front of the Toaster House, the hostel in Pie Town,and wished me well. I wasn’t there more than 15 minutes before Nita, the hostel owner, offered me and some other hikers a ride to one of two restaurants in Pie Town, population 22, and a short history lesson.  When we passed the post office she said, “When they decided to bring the postal service to town we didn’t have an official name so they said ‘submit three options and we will choose one’. Well, everyone said we already have a name, it’s Pie Town but the postal service wrote a letter that said the name was beneath them and that we would have to choose something different so the town wrote a letter back, and I’ve seen it too, that said ‘then you can go to hell and take your post office with you'”. 

It took three hours to eat. I guess there aren’t enough people in Pie Town to staff the place, but the frontier famous pie was up to snuff. 

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