Trail Update: Lordsburg to Pie Town via the Gila Alternate
I’ve made it to Pie Town, NM, so I thought I would provide a general update on the highlights of these sections, as well as what is working for me and what isn’t.
After Lordsburg, there was a dramatic change in scenery in that suddenly there was shade! Trees large enough to cast that dark hiker gold became common, which was a big help and also a morale booster. The availability of shade changed my hiking schedule. I no longer had to sit out the heat of the day in a tiny piece of shade, only hiking early and late in the day. I could now hike throughout the day, which really made me happy!
The terrain out of Lordsburg also became more diverse, with more hiking over hills and into small canyons. The trail was more prominent and less elusive, and we started to climb high enough to get some real views.
I stopped in an RV Park called Burro Mountain Homestead. It’s about a mile off trail, but totally worth visiting. They are super nice, have a small shop with food and snacks, and let hikers use their activity room to microwave food, make coffee, and use the bathroom. YES, A REAL BATHROOM WITH SOAP AND A PROPER SIT-DOWN PORCELAIN GODDESS. It’s a great place to go to get water, as this stretch is pretty dry.
The day before I hiked into Silver City, I saw three cinnamon-colored black bears foraging near the trail. They took off like giant, furry, wrecking balls demolishing the scrub trees in their paths.
I walked a 24.4 mile day into Silver City. It was wonderful because I got to walk through a canyon for the first time. There were lots of cute calves in this stretch as well. ‘Tis the season to see baby animals.
The 13-mile road walk into town was a bit rough. I hiked it during the heat of the day, but I made it into town around 3:30 and was able to have a full zero in town the next day, which was really nice. I had a number of blisters that needed draining, taping, and attending to.
Silver City was a funky little town – a great place for a zero! They have a bus there that goes to Walmart for 75 cents. In addition to resupplying, I mailed a box of food and toiletries to Pie Town. On the CDT you have to pay attention because you have to send some boxes via UPS instead of through the post office. I am not sure why, but I assume it is because there is no post office, or UPS is the only supplier who will deliver a package to the location because it is remote. Lucky for me, the UPS store is within short walking distance from Walmart in Silver City.
I had a great breakfast at a dive diner called The Drifter in Silver City. I also enjoyed the food at Little Toad Creek Brewery, just down from the Palace Hotel, where I stayed. I ate so much food there both nights! They probably thought I had some kind of weird eating disorder.
I took the regular CDT route out of Silver City (there is a shorter alternate). The regular route has some very confusing junctions and turns that are easy to miss. I definitely walked some “bonus” miles. It was worth it though, as the trail was quite pretty.
I decided to take the Gila Alternate route, and I am glad I did because it was both breathtaking and packed full of fun! The cliffs, the river, and the overall beauty of the canyon make for an amazing experience. I took so many photos in this section alone. The adventure of crossing the Gila over two hundred times is not to be underrated either. I really didn’t mind having wet feet as much as I thought I would, perhaps because I was too busy walking in awe of the canyon walls around me.
Doc Campbell’s was a great place to hang out and get some luxuries, like ice cream and a cold root beer. The new owner, Mike, is super cool and went above and beyond to help us out. I got in after hours, but he swung by to check on us, let us pitch our tents for free behind the store (ask him first if you want to do this), and opened up the store whenI arrived after hours just to give me my resupply package. He opened early the next morning and made coffee for us. Mike was also just a great guy to talk with. I highly recommend stopping at Doc Campbell’s.
I went to check out the Gila cliff dwellings, which are off trail, but not too far. These were much bigger than I expected and really interesting to see in person. Myself and a few hikers then strung together the Gila High Route and a trail not in Guthook through Little Bear Canyon to get back to the Gila River. That was a really fun adventure, and a route I highly recommend. While not marked in Guthook, you can see a junction waypoint for the Little Bear Canyon trail, and the notes there explain how to follow it from the high route to the river. You won’t regret it!
The rest of the Gila was scenic overload. By the time I got to Pie Town, my memory bank was loaded with love for the Gila. I will say that the blisters I had before the Gila were not well served by days of walking in water. The hiking after the Gila was in some rough weather, which also didn’t help. On finishing the Gila, I arrived at Snow Lake. For the next four days it hailed and rained on me every day, including one full day of cold, wet weather. It made for some tough hiking, but I did what thru-hikers do and sucked it up.
The day before getting to Pie Town I ended up walking 29.9 miles, which is a lot for me! I wanted to stop earlier, but I reached a section that was barren pasture land – not a tree in sight. I didn’t know it at the time, but this section was approximately eight miles long and was devoid of trees all the way to the road into Pie Town. A nasty looking storm formed behind me, so I kept hiking faster and pushing to find cover. There was none!
About a half mile before the road, the storm was almost on top of me and it was starting to rain harder. At that point, I knew there was no happy end in sight. I did the only thing I could do: I pitched my tent and dove in. Unfortunately, as I went to set up my Zpacks Plexamid tent, I realized the carbon structure where the trekking pole slot is at the top of the tent was broken! Ugh…. All I could do was set it up as best I could. Because of this, the tent was not very stable in the wind, and so I held onto the trekking pole for an hour or so until the storm passed and the wind died down. I am not sure how the tent broke as I am very careful with it.
So, here I am in Pie Town, and I will contact Zpacks tomorrow about the tent. I need to rest my blistered feet anyway. And besides, they have a LOT of Pie for me to eat here!
What’s Working and What’s Not
I’m generally really happy with my gear choices. Having a bandanna in addition to my buff is proving to be one of my best decisions for sun protection. I tuck it under the brim of my hat so that it cascades down over my neck and ears. It also helps keep me cool.
I’m really glad I have my cooler weather clothes – thermal tights and my warm jacket. It has gotten really chilly a few nights, and one in particular where I slept in a small seam between two hills. I’m considering pants for Colorado, though it’s likely I will have to come back to hike Colorado later on due to the snow.
The number one thing that did NOT work was the Sawyer Micro. I hardly used it over the first hundred miles and it barely had any kind of flow volume remaining by Silver City. I specifically asked Sawyer if the flow rate was the same as the regular Sawyer, and they told me it was. It definitely is not. I chucked the Micro in Silver City and got a regular Sawyer. The Micro was a waste of money, sadly.
I wish I had brought flip flops for the desert and for the Gila sections. I don’t carry camp shoes, but they would have been great for those long mid-day breaks in the desert, and it would have been nice to have them for the Gila as my feet were always wet there. The ground at camp wasn’t always friendly for bare feet. I will probably pick some up along the way.
Obviously my tent is broken. I’ll let you know the outcome of that after I talk with Zpacks. I picked up a pair of dish gloves here in Pie Town. My hands were pretty cold over the last few days she. It was 40 degrees and raining. I’m going to try the dish glove remedy and see how I like it.
That’s it for my general update. I’m really excited about the next leg up to Grants, where I will be getting a new pair of Altra Olympus. Mine are looking like Fred Flintstone shoes at the moment, and all of the tread is gone from the bottom. Another hiker was joking that I leave no footprints. That’s the goal though, right?
I will try to write again soon! If you want the daily play by play, you can always check out my detailed CDT journal.
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