CDT Day 9: Mile 5.1 (Gila River alternative) + 7.7 miles (Walnut Creek alternative (12.8 miles – 20.5km)

Thursday April 25, 2019

Silver City is interesting, a small town with a population of about 10,000. It is home to the Western New Mexico University and the worlds third largest copper mine. We could see the huge mound of mine tailings yesterday before we descended into the canyons.

Silver City grew on us very quickly. It had the charm of a vibrant small town. The Palace Hotel where we stayed was so welcoming. It had modern comforts but had not lost its old world charm. It felt like home away from home. It was hard to leave and the owner/manager bid us happy trails when we checked out.

On the way out of town we passed a house flying the Australian and New Zealand flags to acknowledge Anzac Day, which is today. It is a solemn day of remembrance of Australian soldiers killed in overseas conflicts.

Before leaving town we stopped at Gila Bike and Hike shop to buy a gas bottle. Hammer loved this shop, bike and hike gear heaven. We chatted to the lovely shop assistant Erica who is running a local trail race next Sunday. The Little Walnut Mountain Trail Run is organised by a well know trail runner Kyle Scaggs (featured in Christopher McDougalls book Born to Run ) who is now a local farmer.

By midday we were finally on our way out of town. We passed Melissa, Grasshopper and Nascar – whom we saw in the brewery last night. They were hiking back into town. As they are staying in town for the Trail Days weekend they had the brilliant idea to avoid the late afternoon road walk by hitching into town yesterday afternoon, staying at a hotel and going back to the road/trail junction this morning to slack pack the 13 mile road walk. We started the CDT with Grasshopper and I’m sure we’ll see him again down the track.

We took the Walnut Creek Alternative out of Silver City. It will join onto the Gila River Alternative where it crosses the designated CDT route. The CDT has numerous alternatives which hikers may take. The Gila River alternative is taken by the majority of hikers as it is said to be one of the highlights of the New Mexico section.

The trail out of town follows Walnut Rd which I though may be a sealed road for a short section before giving way to a trail. This turned out not to be so. It was a sealed road for nearly 5 miles. Hammer was not happy, he’d had enough of road walking. A pickup going in our direction stopped and offered us a ride way back near town, but we politely refused the offer.

Just before the sealed section of Walnut Rd ended we stopped at the Little Wanut picnic area. It is the trailhead for numerous trails around the local mountains. We got some really cold water from a spigot here. It tasted delicious on a really warm afternoon.

As we headed onto the dirt road part of Walnut Road, the sweet smell of the surrounding pine forest in the afternoon sun was intoxicating. We were loving the hike now. We stopped in the shade of a tree to take a short break.

ust as we were about to leave we could hear an ATV coming towards us. It turned out to be the same fellow who offered us a ride back near town. He stopped for a chat. Norv (Norville) has lived in this area for 40 years and gave us much useful advice on the upcoming sections. He asked us to say hello to his friend Doug who is a hermit living on the Gila River.

We parted company and hiked on for another couple of hours, reaching Bear Creek about 5.30pm. It was our destination for the day. It is such a beautiful spot. Plenty of flat campspots and happily Bear Creek was flowing.

It was a most perfect afternoon, despite the 5 mile road walk.