Monday, December 16, 2013

Doc Campbell's to Silver City, New Mexico: CDT 2013 (November 22-24, 2013)

 "You got here just in time," a man said to me as I entered Doc Campbell's store, just outside of Gila Cliff Dwelling's National Monument.
"Why is that?" I asked, "Did a truck just arrive delivering fresh goods?"
"No," the man replied as he walked towards the coffee machine. "Winter storm's a coming, going to drop at least 8 inches of snow around these parts. It's supposed to be a three day event."
 I had been agonizing the last few days about which route I was going to take to finish the CDT. I kept waking up in the middle of the night wrestling with what to do. The reason I was having trouble deciding was because my old roommate had offered me my old room in Northern California for the month of December. I accepted the offer, knowing that this development was a fortunate event which would allow for the possibility of a smooth transition from trail life back to working life after the CDT was finished. Unfortunately, it created a deadline, something I had hoped to avoid. If I finished the trail the way I preferred, it would be mid December by the time I got home, probably not enough time to transition peacefully. Also, I wanted to visit my sister, her husband, and my nephew in Austin after hiking the trail. There was no way I was going to skip that opportunity since I rarely get to see my family these days. Also, I screwed up my resupply, only sending three days of food to Doc Campbell's, when I should have sent seven. I heard Doc Campbell's resupply options were limited. (As it turned out, Doc Campbell's had plenty of food to resupply.)
While in the Gila, I eventually came to peace with my decision. I was going to supplement the four days of missing food at Doc Campbell's store, also buy some extra snacks at the Gila Cliff Dwellings Visitor Center, and then jump onto the Columbus route which would bring me into Deming in about seven days. If executed properly, I would be home no later than December 10.
 Plans are always tentative on the CDT. Sometimes uncontrollable events are the ultimate factors in making a decision. Hearing about the latest snow storm threw a "wrench in the wheel" of my plan. Then another event occurred ultimately shaping my decision. My resupply box that I sent from Grants did not arrive at Doc Campbell's store. On top of that, a couple more locals warned me about the dangers of the upcoming storm along with the terrible conditions of the trail along the south Gila river. Ultimately, I decided it would be best to road walk the 40 miles into Silver City, get a hotel room and decide what to do next from town. This decision would also save me a couple days, bringing me home sooner than expected.
 I started the road walk on the afternoon of the 22nd. The hike from Doc Campbell's is a gruelling, 7 mile ascent. By late afternoon, I was at least 2,000 feet higher than the Gila River below. It was freezing cold and extremely windy. The storm was getting closer. Thankfully after the seven mile ascent, the road began to descend and by the time I set up camp in the evening, I was back at a more reasonable elevation, in a sheltered location. Snow began falling the next day. By the time I reached Silver City, the town was covered under a thin white blanket. I hunkered down in a hotel room for the next two days as snow continued to fall, eventually dropping several inches. I was glad not to be camping in those elements!
During this time, I decided that I was going to road walk all the way to Deming, certain that the Black Mountains to the east were going to be covered with snow, making hiking difficult and frustrating. As much as I wanted to stick to the trail, I also needed to prepare for life after the CDT. Road walking to Deming would give me a little more flexibility with how to approach the transition phase.


  1. Shots of roads, going off into the distance, are always great photos. You think about all the places that road can take you. Glad you took the road route and made it to the Motel 6 before the snow got too thick.

  2. I agree Skyhiker. One of the great things about some of those southwestern roads are pictures with no vehicles!