Daily Miles: 22
Total Miles: 1806
We decided yesterday that we would stop walking in the dark. Although we enjoy walking in the early morning as it turns from night to day, we realized it probably wasn’t the best idea in this area. After Old Lady Hiker mentioned seeing a mountain lion in the past few days, we remembered a couple we had met on the Arizona Trail, who said they had been stalked by a mountain lion while hiking in the dark. Additionally, a hiker that we met on the GET had been attacked by a bobcat in the dark, just before sunrise. We figured we would just have more peace of mind if we waited to start our hiking day until it was light out.
So, we set our alarm for 6:00am, which still turned out to be about 15 minutes too early. We headed out this morning with the light from the moon which is still quite big. We heard a lot of coyotes and elk this morning, which was a good reminder that there are a lot of animals around us that we rarely see.
After a mile on a dirt road, we were excited to get back on a regular trail again. The past five days have been strictly road walking, so we were really happy to be back on a trail.
Today was also different in that we had more climbing and descending than we have had in awhile. Basically the whole day felt like a roller coaster of ups and downs. Most of the time the trail was quite nice, so it was really enjoyable walking. We even saw several pairs of elk…the second pair both had really big racks and were only 100 yards away.
The day started off hazy…we could tell even before it was completely light out this morning. We could even smell the smoke. At the end of the day, we talked with a guy driving by who fights fires in the Gila National Forest during the summers. We asked him where the smoke was coming from and he told us there was a fire near Reserve, which is a town about 25 miles from the trail. The smoke was really bad today, so we hope they are able to get the fire out quickly.
In the late afternoon, we came to an area which seems to have had its own brush with fire in the past. The trees were all burned (and mostly blown over) and the trail was not in great shape. It was easy to lose the trail in a few places, but luckily the fire-damaged area was not large and we made our way through it.
At the end of the day, we turned onto another alternate, called the Gila River Alternate. It seems that most CDT hikers take this route, because the official CDT is much longer and doesn’t have a lot of water. We did a portion of that official CDT route when we hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail two years ago. We really liked our time in the Black Range, but it would have made for an even bigger food carry than the six days we are carrying for this stretch.