A whirlwind week and a half. The Gila river section was quite lovely. I soaked in three different hot springs and spent a full half-day pestering the poor ranger at the Gila Cliff Dwellings with questions on the site and the people who once inhabited it. She seemed to enjoy the fact that someone was really interested in the site though, and asked questions that were at least slightly informed. And I got a chance to let my nerdy intellectual side run off-leash, a rare treat out here.
Actual mountains: I climbed to nearly 10,000 feet yesterday, and have been above 8,000 feet pretty consistently since leaving the Gila. It's cooler up here, the views are lovely. I expected New Mexico to be mere "filler" before getting to the good stuff farther north. I've been pleasantly surprised.
The Sword of Damocles: The injury bug has been hitting people right and left out here. Lots of people taking multiple rest days in a row to heal up, several people ending their hikes early, and the majority have some sort of large, disgusting blisters on their feet. Some are understandable - it's their first thru-hike, they're carrying large and heavy packs, or they didn't start in great shape. Plenty more, though, are experienced hikers, in shape, doing everything right... and they're still hurt. It's tough to see people get off trail. And it also humbles me - if it can happen to them, it can happen to me. Even for the most competent hiker, there's always a chance.
Feeling strong: I'm probably approaching the apogee of my trail legs. I'm at about 700 miles for the hiking season (which my shoe let me know in dramatic fashion by having the entire toe rip out in the middle of the Gila River) and am consistently doing 20-25 miles per day. Yesterday I did my first 30-mile day ever, albeit unintentionally. There was no legal places to camp, so I kept hiking, well after dark, until I got to the lovely hamlet of Pie Town. There's a delightful hiker hostel here, a rare treat. And I'm about to dig into a large piece of Almond Joy pie. Yum.
LarryBoy on the Lam: Just south of Silver City is a brutal 12-mile roadwalk on a busy paved highway. About halfway through, I stopped for a quick snack break on the side of the road. Twenty minutes later, I was back on move. An hour later, a state trooper pulled me over - supposedly someone had seen a vagrant in an orange shirt "laying in the grass" and phoned it in (at no point was I laying down). Supposedly the cop was just doing a wellness check on me, but his inquisitive line of questioning suggested otherwise. Maximum Hikertrash Status achievement unlocked... in the first two hundred miles.