And the river is gone for good.
I slept in slightly, but managed to get on the trail by 7:30. I talked to John for a moment, an older CDT hiker who had camped nearby. He didn’t look close to being packed up, and I didn’t see him again.
The trail in the upper part of the canyon crossed the river less frequently, often preferring to climb up a steep embankment and back down again on the other side of a river bend. I had some flashbacks to the Snake River in Wyoming.
A couple of miles down, I passed a pair of old guys packing up. I took a break shortly beyond them and one caught up to me. They were leaving off at Snow Lake.
An hour or so later, I started climbing over the canyon wall and up to the constructed berm that kept Snow Lake from draining into the Gila. As I walked around the reservoir, I could see a car parked in front of a pair of privies. I assumed that was theirs.
But instead of going there, the trail spit me out at a privy in the campground, next to a spigot and an old guy with a truck who was checking on it. This turned out to be Carry, who maintains the water cache at Dutchman Spring and acts as a caretaker for parts of the national forest. He could see I was tired, so he came to join me in the shade behind the privy where I intended to sit and make my lunch. He gave me some snacks he keeps around for hikers. I ate the meat stick and cheese stick right away.
The clean water from the spigot was the coldest water I had drunk since starting hiking this year. With lunch and the privy and the shade at midday, I spent another two hours just hanging out after Carry left. I didn’t swim in the lake–it was too muddy–but I did dispense some of that ice cold well water onto my shirt.
On my way out in the afternoon, I was stopped by a woman in a forest service truck who wanted me to know there was not much water ahead (she was wrong) and that the forest service had amended the fire restrictions banning canister fuel as well (something the various parties responsible have been disagreeing about and giving inflicting information on for days). I just decided to pretend I hadn’t heard that part.
The trail went down a side road and up an open and rocky canyon. There were some pools of water in the mostly dry creek bed along the way, and I had to cross three barbed wire fences before I reached the cow pond where I was aimed. Thanks to the heat, I made several breaks in the shade along that three mile stretch.
I took a break under the solar panels powering the well pump at the large pond. I got an extra liter of water to make sure I would be good until my next source 13 miles and most of a day away. Then I climbed the steep hill out of the canyon and onto the road. Many miles of road walk were to follow.
A rocky dirt road crossed a high grassland, mostly devoid of trees to filter the strong west wind. The only shade for miles was the tree I stopped at to cook dinner around 6:30, and I still had another couple of miles to go after dinner before reaching the tree line and the climb into the hills along Bursum Road.
The forest was half burned out on the right side. There were trees standing, but all the undergrowth was ash. My feet were absolutely killing me on that long slow climb as the sun faded away. I knew I already had enough miles and could stop pounding the blister that had just formed on the bottom of my left foot, but there just wasn’t a good place to camp anywhere along the climb.
At the top of the hill, I spotted a slanted dirt patch on the burnt side of the road that had clearly been used for tenting before and decided to just go for it. I stopped some fifteen minutes earlier than I had been and went ahead setting up my tent in the slanted sandy patch. I was already headed off to sleep by 9:30, a new record for ending a hiking day so far.
Trail miles: 18
Distance to Highway 12: 37.2 miles