Believe me, eleven days’ worth of food is heavy. As I hoisted (or rather hauled) my pack on the following morning and walked off with HoJo out of Silver City, I can only describe carrying that much weight as being like a small adult hanging off my shoulders with their legs dragging along the ground behind. Leaving mid-afernoon, we only managed seven miles and camped a short way into the Gila National Forest.
I’ve heard much praise from previous hikers about the Gila Forest. After days of hiking through dry, desolate landscapes, we rose majestically into the hills the following morning. The air cooled, and pine trees gracefully shaded us while filling the air with scent. Water was more abundant and of great quality. It was wonderful to experience a section of trail I had heard so much about.
Sam Houston National Forest Hiking Trail Map Photo Gallery
HoJo appeared to have regained his mojo, and his pace was noticeably quicker today. We pulled in the first twenty-mile day after agreeing to meet this distance each day for the next two weeks, after fifteen-milers at the start. After that, I need to be reaching just shy of twenty-two miles each day for a six-month hike. But the beauty of the CDT is that it isn’t yet completed and many different routes exist, so a hiker can make up his own route – and, if running late, take a shorter alternative.
The Gila Forest was a magical mix of green, red-coloured rock formations, crystal springs carving through the rock and cooler air. We camped high – unwisely, having been chased by thunderstorms for much of the afternoon – but we were too tired to continue.
Extra sleep proved a good idea as we descended the following morning to the Gila River and the start of a hard day. The CDT weaves through a canyon here, chasing the river. It was heads down to concentrate on the route, and we had wet feet the entire day after so many river crossings I lost count. The plan was to get to Doc Campbell’s but we fell six miles short after a tiring day with complex navigation. Rain fell in the evening as I watched, mesmerised by a vivid rainbow arching over the trees by our campsite.