Monday, March 27, 2023
Elevation gain/loss: 4289′ gain, 6478′ loss (corrected)
I was awake at 4:50 and just decided to head out. My tent and sleeping bag were damp, which I found surprising given the lack of water in the area but I think the area received rain in the last 5-7 days so the ground had moisture. I was on trail by 5:25. Maggie passed me as I was packing up, and I passed her a mile later. A few miles in, I dropped my pack to walk an extra 0.5 mi to a water source to filter a few liters.
I met Juice and Diehard earlier in the morning; they were still hanging out around their campsite, waiting for their friends to catch up. As the day heated up, I was warned by a 2′ rattlesnake to keep my distance. Thankfully, it alerted me when I was ~20′ away and I could easily back up and give it space. Once I backed up, it relaxed and headed off of the trail and away from me very quickly. It was a hot day, hitting 70 degrees actual and 80 degrees in the sun.
I passed by the water cache outside of Kearny, where there were dozens of gallons of water, along with a dozen Smart Water bottles and two bags full of electrolytes. I took a few LMNT packets to tide me over through the hottest parts of the next few days, helping stretch my water further.
When I got to the road crossing nearby Kearny at 2pm, I walked over to the public works building that offers potable water from a spigot out front. There were two chairs and a table, so I was able to relax in the shade for a while. I’d hoped to get a pizza for dinner delivered to the spigot, but when I called, they informed me that they don’t start delivery until 4pm. I set my gear out to dry in the sun and drank 2L in the shade with my feet up. As I rested, I saw a hummingbird hovering nearby! I hung out for an hour and then pushed on, intent on making big enough miles today that I could cruise into Superior tomorrow where there’s a trail angel to help hikers get into town.
As the trail wound around the foothills, we paralleled the Gila for at least 8 miles. FarOut thought it was flat and it very much was NOT. The river was running fairly high and the bugs were starting to hatch in earnest, though they weren’t bad compared with what I’m used to in the northeast. I crossed paths with Swept Away, a GET hiker, close to sundown; we gave each other recommendations on possible campsites coming up.
When I finally decided to start looking for a campsite, I ran into some trouble. The area along the Gila was very full of cows; every wash I stopped at, thinking I could possibly camp there, I found a dozen cows. They were spooked by my presence, so I kept going, looking for somewhere peaceful without that cow dung stink.
After pushing forward a bunch of times and struggling to make a decision, I finally stopped at 7:20pm at a flat gravel pad off-trail just big enough for one person as dark descended. It was surrounded by bushes and a tree on one side and the trail on the other. It seemed cow-free. I started setting up my cowboy campsite and as I inflated my air mattress, I heard cows grazing nearby. They were a stone’s throw away, separated by the bushes. I hoped they’d leave me alone and finished setting up.
As I ate dinner, a helicoper flew by directly overhead, washing me in warm dusty air from their rotors as they flew up the canyon, presumably to check on the cows. I settled into my bedroll, and drifted off to sleep as I kept my ears sharp for the sounds of approaching cow hooves. I woke up at least 3 times in the night to yell at approaching cows, to keep them away from me; I just didn’t want to be stepped on by cows in the dark. My sleep was decent, considering the frequent waking.