Total Miles: 2244.2
By the time we'd laid our heads to rest last night, the official CDT was miles away. Turning away from the Black Range, we'd opted instead for an alternate that would take us along the course of the Gila River and today would grant us our first glimpse of it.
To get there, we strolled through a morning of gentle open grasslands beneath a sky that portended a change to the surplus of sunshine we've enjoyed for weeks. Behind us, a rapidly approaching winter storm was on its way with predictions of temperatures dropping by as much as 40 degrees. Racing our way as far south as fast as we can, the trail behind us in central and northern New Mexico is in for the real fun: a foot of snow or more to go along with those icy temperatures. A storm eerily similar to the one I mentioned in this post; one that exacted the highest price from Stephen “Otter” Olshansky.
Before leaving Pie Town, we knew that—barring a miraculous change to the forecast—we would be in a race to minimize our time in the coming storm. One more long day today would serve to bring us only 16 miles from our next resupply stop where we could hunker down to ride out whatever cold, rain and snow might be in store.
While the clouds and wind slowly began to build throughout the day, our first amazement was in coming to a cow pond that served as the headwaters for a small stream. Upon arriving at its banks, we realized it was the first flowing water we'd seen in over 250 miles. Wells, cow tanks, troughs, spigots and caches have been all we've known in the time since.
By early afternoon, we'd began a gentle descent of Aeroplane Mesa on its way to the canyon through which the Gila River courses. Along the way, one tuft of green became two, and the number of shrub-like trees began to multiply into the distance. Somewhere down there, the Gila runs through it all, the lifeblood of the landscape that surrounds it.
Setting aside the literal connection to Norman Maclean’s celebrated novella, A River Runs Through It, as we descended toward the Gila I thought of Maclean’s artful descriptions of growing up in Montana, with fly-fishing and the Blackfoot River forming the connective tissue to his father and brother. Perhaps my own version of the story would more appropriately be titled, A Trail Runs Through It, the small winding path through the woods and mountains being the connection both to my own father and to the understanding of my own life. To embrace such a connection is to also be haunted by it.