Thursday, June 23, 2016
Day 9: Silver City to Tadpole Ridge
CDT hikers leaving Silver City are faced with a choice: hike the Gila River or follow the official CDT through the Black Range. For most hikers, the choice is easy. The Gila's beauty is legendary. And it provides one of the first natural water sources since leaving the border. But the Black Range, while hot and dry, hugs the actual divide. And it is the official route. And we are purists. Until now.
After our experience rationing water while hiking in the 104 degree heat in the desert, an experience that killed four people in the Phoenix/Tuscon area this weekend, we are nervous about running out of water in the Black Range in the summer heat. After over 150 miles of hiking, we have not yet passed a natural water source, and even many of the ranching sources are drying up. Running out of water in the desert heat in summer is not a risk I am willing to take. So we are heading to the Gila.
We started hiking on well maintained trail, then veered off onto a series of Jeep roads that slowly brought us closer and closer to the Gila. Red rocky cliffs towered above, and lichen covered hoodoos and other colorful rock formations filled the valley. Pines and junipers lined our trail. Gusts of wind pushed on our backs, propelling us up the canyon, even as thunderheads piled up overhead.
We cruised up the canyon at a steady pace, stopping briefly to glance at the GPS. Oops! Over a mile off track. We quickly backtracked to the invisible junction, easily missed. We pressed on, following a disappearing single track up a different canyon.
If I thought our water concerns were over, I was mistaken. Our first potential source, Bear Creek, was dry in places, and consisted of a few stagnant pools in others. We hiked past, planning to fill up at one of the other other creeks or springs listed in the data book. But the other sources were all dry. We passed dried creek beds and springs, brushing past poison ivy as we pushed on in the heat.
By dinner time I was carefully rationing my last half liter, with the next reliable source of water, a cow tank, still at least four miles away. We pressed on, following bear tracks, the only other tracks still visible in the sandy dirt.
Sierra's joyful cry alerted me there was water ahead, a small spring -- little more than a murky puddle-- next to the trail. We slowly scooped up several liters of water before continuing up the steep trail. We reached the top of the ridge just as the sun was setting, and made a hasty camp.
Posted by Heather and Sierra at 8:59 PM