The Last of the Gila River

Just before Gail Tank (G_816 R)
Day 18 – 5/8/17
Miles – 19.4
Total miles – 247.4
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It was a very quite night, with no wind through the trees. We slept soundly thus we woke up a bit late. Not liking to be late for our days hiking, we packed quickly and headed out. Mama Raven said she is happy to announce that she is finally feeling improvements where she fell on her hiking pole in the chest. She can sleep more comfortably and her breathing does not hurt like it did. She said still hurt when she laughs or sneezes, other than that she is fine. When we got out of the tents this morning, we were surprised to find cloudy skies. At first, we rolled up and down small ridges for several hours, through a sparse pine forest, until we came to a very picturesque Clear Creek. The we stopped to filter 4L of water. We needed enough to get to Snow Lake. After our break, we hiked down to the Gila River.
The Gila River High Route crosses the Gila and climbed back on top of the mesas. For no good reason, we decide to walk the river. We wanted one more day of slogging through the river. It was a bit easier than several days ago, because there were long straight sections that had good trail. We crossed the Gila 23 times today.
As we were taking a break at the turn off for Snow Lake, we heard thunder not too far off to the south. Quickly, we started hiking again toward the campground at the lake. However, before we could get there, the rain started. Mama Raven and I  put on our pack covers and took out our umbrellas. Bling and Joon were up ahead hiding under a tree. We reached them and everyone put on raincoats. A strong gust of wind hit us, ripping the umbrella from Mama Raven’s hand and blowing it into the lake. Bling, being so agile, quickly ran down the steep boulder lined edge of the lake to grab it before the umbrella sailed across the lake! The wind was blowing so hard we all had to close our umbrellas so they would not get hurt. We stayed under the protection of the tree until it let up. Eventually, after the wind let up a bit, we hiked to the shelter of the bathrooms in the campground. Sadly, the campground was not open yet for the season and thus the water was not turned on and we would be unable to get water. Nonetheless, all was not lost, they had  trash cans, and we could at least rid of our trash. This simple little task is a big deal for thru-hikers.  Snow Lake’s water was an unappetizing brown, so we decided to hike to a lake five miles ahead and hope for a better water source.
As we write this in the warmth of our tent, it keeps sprinkling on us. We hope that this is all it does and that we wake to blue skies.

Mama Raven’s song of the day:
Curiosity by Ben Cocks
(My mind always wonders to Bling when I listen to this song)

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Gila River High Route

No Name Canyon (GH_0137)
Day 17 – 5/7/17
Miles – 14.0
Total miles – 228.0

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Since we were going to visit the Cliff Dwellings, we slept in 15 minutes. We ate and packed most of our gear, then, leaving the packs in our tents, we walked over to the Gila River Cliff Dwellings. However,  access to the caves was blocked by a locked gate and did not open until 9:00. If we had known, we would have slept in even later. We decided to wait the two hours since we would probably never be here again.  Leisurely, we walked back to our campsite and dried the tents from the nights condensation. As we waited, we read some of the park signs around us. There was one wall with pictographs. Then, a short walk up the canyon we were camped in, was a small three room cave dwelling that we crawled through. At 8:45, we packed up and hiked to the ranger station. A ranger was just beginning an orientation talk and then she walked us up to the cliff dwellings. She had interesting information to tell as we climbed up to the Dwellings in the caves. What is special about this park is that it is only location that allows visitors to walk inside the cliff Dwellings that are over six hundred years old. After an hour or so we returned to the ranger station. We talked with the volunteer about water conditions for the Gila River high route. She called the park head quarters to find out if their is any water available. The answers was yes and at several locations.
We have decided to alter our plans a bit. Instead of walking up the Gila River for the next 28 miles, we will take the Gila River High Route. Mama Raven would have dry feet and will cut about 8-9 miles off.  Perhaps we can come back another spring and hike this portion of the Gila River we will be missing? It seems to be a favorite section for hikers who do the CDT and thus we are disappointed to miss this piece of trail?
We finally hit the trial at 11:30. A very late start but it was worth it to walk amongst ancient Indian dwellings. The trail pulled us up West of the Gila. We stayed pretty high, around 7000′, so the day did not get too warm. We hiked through pine and juniper. Right now we are camped in a pine forest with grass growing throughout. Joon spooked several deer this afternoon.
We return down to the Gila in about 7 miles, then we will have to decide if we finish the high route or splash the remaining eight miles to were we exit the Gila.

Mama Raven’s song of the day:
Hey Na Na by Katie Herzig

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Doc Campbell’s

Lower Scorpion Campground (GH_009 R)
Day 16 – 5/6/17
Miles – 16.4
Total miles – 214.0

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We had a good night’s sleep by the river. Nobody wanted to get up. For the most part, today was a repeat of yesterday’s river walk, with 41 crossings. The only real excitement came when we ran into two rattlesnakes. Bling and I had climbed out of the river and we were pushing our way through a stand of willow. Mama Raven and Joon were just entering the trees when Mama Raven heard a rattle. She froze, pointed in the direction of the snake, and called out. Bling turned and saw movement of a second rattler. Both were a light green. The only rattler with that coloring is the Mojave Green. Not a good rattlesnake to be bitten by. The snakes moved off and we continued on. Bling and I must have come very close to them in the dense understory and did not see them.
Hiking in and out of the river was very slow work. We were making horrible time. We only went 12 miles in 8 hours, very slow. We did make it to Doc Campbell’s before it closed. We got our box, some food, and drinks. Additionally, we were able to dump trash. As we were working on our box, a strong wind came up, blowing our supplies around. That is when we noticed a thunderstorm to the south. We moved everything around a corner, out of the wind just before it began to rain. The wind blown rain did not last long because the main part of the storm was well South of us. We finished packing shortly after the store closed. Our biggest problem with Doc Cambell’s was situated on a hot springs. Therefore the only water that came out of any water pipes was very hot water. Instead, we decided to forgo the hot water at the store and hike three miles to the visitor center that has cold water. Now what to do after the visitor center? Camp at one of the RV park or walk up to the free campground near the Gila River Cliff Dwellings. We opted for the free campground. As we hiked the 3 miles to the visitor center, a second thunderstorm started to rain on us. This lasted only a few minutes and we hiked on. As we were getting water at the visitor canter, a third thunderstorm rained on us. We quickly put our gear under the eaves of the building for protection. Before we continued on our CDT adventure, we will visit the ancient Indian cliff dwellings tomorrow. As we walked to the free camp ground, we saw an area with ancient Indian rock paintings. Also, we stumbled upon a javalina, which is a wild pig.  A decision has to be made tomorrow if we will take the Gila River high route or the low route where we would have to do over a hundred river crossings. The doctor who saw Mama Raven’s feet back in Silver City, warned us to keep her feet dry as possible.  With all the crossings of the Gila River, that was going to be impossible. Most CDT hikers take the Gila River to avoid the dry high route. In the morning we will make our decision.

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Gila River

Somewhere alone the Gila River (G_0262)
Day 15 – 5/5/17
Miles – 16.3
Total miles – 197.6

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We got up, packed, and walked up to Doug’s house. He wanted to show the kids a few things. He had a fire in his wood burning stove for his company.  First project was how to make yacca stands into thread. Next, he showed us how to make a needle from an agave spine. Lastly, he showed us his collection of Indian pottery, arrow heads, scrapers, punch tool, a stone needle, and a stone used to straighten arrows that he found in the area. We had a great time with Doug however it was time to get back to the task of hiking.
The first part of our days hike was a big steep up. As we got to the top, it became exposed and very hot. We were all tired and in need of a rest at the top. Our climb up was almost straight up with no switchbacks. After the exhausting up, we had six miles of down with lots of switchbacks  We dropped as quickly as our feet would permit. Downs are never easy on good feet, they’re murder on hurt feet. Mama Raven was looking forward to getting to the Gila River and cooling off her feet. Right when we got to the Gila, we had our first two river crossings. We all switched to our river shoes and walked out into the cool water. If felt wonderful on our hot feet. After crossing the river twice, we dryed our feet and put our hiking shoes back on. According to the map we had about, 1.5 miles before our next crossing. About 100 yards later we were forced to cross it again. The map lied. Mama Raven’s feet hurt walking on the river crocs so she crossed in her hiking shoes. Bling just wore his river shoes and Joon and I wore socks with river shoes. Each Raven had their preference. That was our foot wear for the rest of the day. Only a few times did water level get above my knees (Papa Raven), and the current was not too fast. We crossed the Gila 16 times today. We camped on a sand bar. Not a bad place for the night. Tomorrow we will get to Doc Camballs and our next food drop.

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Unexpected Encounter

Hell’s Canyon Spring (G_0099)
Day 14 – 5/4/17
Miles – 17.4
Total Miles – 181.3

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The plan: get up a little before six, eat breakfast, walk to the Snappy Mart by 6:45, catch the bus, ride it to the stop closest to where we hike out of town, and start hiking. It was a good plan except that we forgot to get four small juice bottles bottles for our morning carnation instant breakfast.  We try to get replacements at each food drop because the milk residue in the bottles begins to sour after a certain amount of time.  Thus we had to go to the store and catch the next bus,  one hour later at 7:45 . Unfortunately, this meant one hour less hiking, such us life.
The walk out of town was not hard, but it was another road walk. However, unlike the walk, into town, which was barren and bleak with a few juniper trees and no shade, the hike out of town was a great deal more pleasant. As we headed north out of town, there were not  only junipers, but also oak and pine.  Finally we were in a true pine forest. Toward the end of the paved road walk, we meet Pony Black Sheep, who was dressed completely in black, including his backpack. He was walking into town. He lives up a side valley in a tent.  He told us about a stream that we were coming up to, so we followed his directions and found a pleasant location for a break. There have been so few streams on our trip, we wanted to take advantage of it.
Our route out of town is the Walnut Creek alternate. This cuts a few miles off of the normal route and it is a little easier. When we got to the defined trail, we crossed it and started another alternate, the Gila River Alt.  This Alt will led us over to the Gila River and then we will follow it up stream for several days. We will cross the river over 200 times.
About mid day, we reached Bear Creek which is the first real stream we have encountered the whole trip. We walked upstream for 1.5 miles then stopped to do the one thing we have wanted to do the entire trip, soak our feet.
A quick Mama Raven foot update, her new shoes are working. The men’s size 8 shoe is wide enough to not squeeze her foot. The not fully healed blister between two of her toes did not bother her because we have put a cotton ball spreading her toes apart so the two toes will not put pressure on each other. Slowly, the infected toe is healing. She is taken antibiotics for the infection. The extra padding and support of her new shoes is helping the pain in her heals and balls of her feet.  The huge blister at the bottom of her left foot is drying up. Chest pain is still causing discomfort.
After leaving Bear Creek, we climbed and contoured toward a spring. The spring was not there. Instead there was a set of pools. We filtered water for everyone. Just as Papa Raven was finishing up the last bottle a man walked up. He stated taking to him about getting water. Come to find out he lives just a short distance from where we were. There are no roads back here. He lives in a small 10’x20′ single room cabin. He has lived here for 18 years, year round. Only once a year he leaves for a food resupply. Some people refer to him as Doug the Hermit. We got to talking with him and he showed us his garden and house. We ended up camping near by and we ate our dinner in his cabin while we talked. In the morning, he is going to teach Bling and Joon how to make sewing needles and thread from agave plants. His soul interest is being self sufficient, and getting closer to God.  Doug genuinely is a sweet human being who has learned how to be truly joyful for what he has. He is at peace with himself and sees himself not separate from the rest of God’s creation but part of it.  His hugs have more heart to them than any hug  we have ever felt. Loneliness is not a problem for him. A stray black cat named Ambrose has adopted Doug.  He also has a pet squirrel named Emily that likes to follow him. The javalinas, foxes, deer, and other wildlife like to visit him too. A talented writer needs to come and interview him and write his story.  Our encounter with him was very special.

Mama Raven’s song of the day:
“Wild World” by Drew Holocomb and the Neighbors

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Silver City

Silver City (06_454)
Day – 11, 12, and 13 – 5/1/17, 5/2/17, and 5/3/17
Miles – 0
Total miles – 163.9

Monday
Today’s big job was to see a doctor and get some antibiotics for Mama Ravens foot. It took awhile to get there. The buses only pass by a stop once an hour and we missed our first one.  We ended up walking to the urgent care. We were at the urgent care center for about four hours. Bling and Joon stayed in the hotel room. Since it was mid afternoon when in got out of there, Catwater took the kids to McDonald’s for lunch. Mama Raven stayed off her feet the remainder of the day. Catwater, Bling, and Papa Raven went to dinner together.

Tuesday
It was sad morning, Catwater hiked out today. We will miss her. With any luck, we will see her up the trail. Affectionately, we have named her Auntie Raven.
We had to get to Walmart and a few shoe stores to look for new shoes for Mama Raven. So in the afternoon, we all headed into town. Every shoe store we went to did not have wide shoes. We did find a men’s shoe that might work. We decided to order a shoe through New Balance, which is known for wide width shoes. Unfortunately, we will not get them until ten days from now. By the end of the day, we could tell Mama Ravens feet were not ready to be hiked on, thus we decided to stay another day.

Wednesday
Mama’s Ravens feet were feeling better but they were not up to par.  She still is fighting infections.  She and I headed back into town to pickup a set of Superfeet inserts for her Altra’s shoes and see if that helps. Although at the last minute, we decided it was foolish to continue wearing her old shoes. In no time, her feet would be bad again. We decided to go back to one of the outfitters in town were we found a men’s shoe that may work. In the afternoon, Papa Raven and the kids went swimming while Mama Raven got the packs ready for an early morning departure tomorrow.

Bling’s Blog – Silver City

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Within ten miles out of Lordsburg, we were up in the mountains with trees around us and out of the barren desert. I like being at higher elevations. There are trees. It is cooler and there are views. My hiking is the strongest I have ever done. Usually my mom is in the lead with me behind her followed by Joon and my dad.  My mom has always said that one day I will be faster than she is, and I guess that day is now. The weather has cooled off a good bit since our first days of hiking. In fact on our last full day of hiking in this section, it snowed.  When it hit the ground it would instantly melt. On the day into Silver City, we had to walk five miles down a sandy wash, where we passed by lots of cows.  There were many baby cows. My dad and I went to a water trough to check out the water and we came across another dead cow.  This is becoming a normal scene in New Mexico. After the sandy wash, we had a thirteen mile walk on a busy road. Sometimes we were able to walk on the shoulder, where it was softer on the feet, but most of it was on the asphalt.  My feet hurt really bad. I do not like road walking with a heavy pack! We have decided to take a few days off here to heal the feet.  We call these zero days, because we have hiked zero miles. The first two days were relaxing, but now on our fourth day it is very boring.  My mom and dad say we are leaving tomorrow, no matter what. I hope so.
I have learned that Silver City is where the outlaw Billy the Kid lived for several years until he was put in jail and escaped during the mid 1800’s.

List of hikers we met and where they are from:
Numbers – unknown

Animal Sitings:
Rattlesnake – 1
Racer snake – 3
Cows – many
Dead cows – 5

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A Long Road Walk

Silver City (06_454)
Day 10 – 4/30/17
Miles – 18.1
Total miles – 163.9

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Our camp was in a very good location. We were protected and had no wind during the night. This was the first non windy night we have had since we began on April 21. The morning air was cool because we were in a deep valley. This was going to be the last morning that The Ravens, Catwater and Dassie would be together as a group. Daasie would be hitching to town so she could reach Silver City sooner to resupply and leave.  Dassie only has to the end of August, to hike as far as she can on the CDT.  After, that she has to go back to work as a mountaineer youth leader in Switzerland. Thus, she does not waste her time walking a road.  She wants to make it as far as she can, in the time she has. She will be missed, especially her powerful and affectionate smile that beamed faithfully from her even when no one else had the energy to. We all started out hiking the 5 miles to highway 180.  The first spot we found that sun shine through, we all stopped and claimed a spot in the sun.  We stood there a few minutes, basking in the warmth of the sun.  There was one water trough near the mouth of the valley. Bling and Papa Raven had to stop and check it out. We had read a report about it and wanted to see if it was true. Yep, there it was, one of the three reported dead cows. This one was one of the more fresh ones we have seen, it still had skin. That make five dead cows.
We got to highway 180 and the daily misery starts, a 13 mile road walk. One of the more dreaded tasks a hiker has to do is a road walk. Walking the black top is hot, brutal on the feet and boring. We had a little luck on our side with cool day with a gentle wind, that kept us somewhat comfortable. Our feet on the other hand took a beating and they were all really hurting.  At one point a young couple , stopped their car and gave us oranges, bag of popcorn and a couple packages of “Stingers”.  Their names were Wilderness and Cheetah.  They hiked the CDT last year and where headed home after “Trail Days” in Silver City. One never knows when trail magic happens. After many miles later, we walked into Silver City and went straight to the hotel. After a round of showers Bling, Joon, and I joined Catwater for dinner. Mama Ravens feet hurt to much to walk to the restaurant. Her feet have swollen a good deal and her toes and bottom of feet are starting to look like freshly ground hamburger meat.  After our dinner at a local restaurant, Papa Raven stopped by McDonald’s for a smoothie and a burger for Mama Raven.
We will be taking a zero here. We need to get some antibiotics for Mama Raven’s infected big toe. Catwater with be taking a zero also, Dassie will be hiking on.

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If you combined hail and snow, what would you have?

Spring and tank (06_275 R)
Day 9 – 4/29/17
Miles – 21.3
Total miles – 145.8

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Sometime around 3:00 am, the wind let up making it easier to sleep. Annoyingly, tents make so much noise when it is windy it makes for a long night of little sleep.  It was cold when wet got up at 6:00. It is very dry in southern New Mexico so our tents easily dried overnight. Everyone collected in the rec-room to fill water bottles, and they have coffee for those that drank it.  After the sun was up, we started hiking back to the trail. Today’s trail was not difficult.  As we slowly dropped in elevation, we rolled down and over many small hills. The toughest part of the day, other than blisters, was the weather. It started out cold and stayed that way with the wind blowing most of the day. At one point, the sky cleared, but in no time, the gray clouds collected over us again. For the most part, they were East of us, down wind. However, as the day went on, the clouds started to form above us. Mid morning we could see it raining to the east and in the later afternoon a large rain storm raged for hours north of us. Finally, a mile from where we wanted to camp, it rained over us. Originally, it started out as rain, but quickly turned into a cross between hail and snow. Some of it was like clumps of snow that looked like small bundles of hail. If you touched one, it would fall apart into individual snow flakes.  Whatever it was, it came down thickly.  It dropped down in waves. The ground was to warn so it melted right away when it landed. It “snailed” for only ten minutes.
The hiking to our camp was down a river bed. We took a small side canyon back a 100′ and found a large flat sandy area, perfect for camping.
As Papa Raven cooked quasadillas for dinner, Bling said that he had Gateraid for us.  What Gateraid? Looking in his tent there he was sitting drinking a Gateraid. Where did he get that? He informed us that it was sitting by the edge of the trail and he carried it, wanting to surprise us. He did.
We will be getting into Silver City tomorrow, a day early. We need some time to let our feet heal.

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We got above 8000′

Burro Mountain Homestead (06_071 R)
Day 8 – 4/28/17
Miles – 19.2
Total miles – 124.5

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It was cold and windy when we woke up this morning. The sky was covered with light and dark gray clouds. This was our first morning on our trip that we were slow to get out of camp.  We were stalled by preparing Mama’s Ravens feet to hike: Band-Aids, Neosporian, tape, and toe caps, which is an item Catwater gave us to try.
The day began slowly working our way down the east side of a range of mountains, as we dropped in elevation, we hiked out of the trees. About noon we came upon some beautiful and unexpected trail magic. Someone had put out a cooler with fresh fruit, sodas, beer, cold water. Also, there was vegetables, cheese and crackers, and the fixings for a PB&J sandwichs. The Ravens, Catwater, and Dassie enjoyed the special treats. All of us were grateful for whomever left it. After eating, we started a climb, gentle at first and steeper as it went on. We were on our first big climb of the trip so far, a 2000 foot elevation increase to the top of Burro Mountain. Because our endurance is not strong yet, it took longer than we wanted it to. Nonetheless, we reached the top in the mid afternoon and took only  a short break because it was cold and very windy. The wind blow all day and some gusts, on the mountain edges, were upwards of 50 mph. After leaving the top, we dropped, quickly. This was also the first big drop off the trip and we lost all the elevation we gained during the day. As we hiked down, it sprinkled very lightly.
All of us have been trying to figure out if we should go down to Burro Mountain Homestead, which is a campground that offers free camp sites, showers, water, and coffee to CDT hikers.  It is a mile off of the trail. Mama Ravens feet were done for the day and she did not want to go any farther, so down to the Homestead we went along with Catwater and Dassie. As soon as we pitched out tents and all of our gear inside the tents, it started to lightly rain.  However it stopped shortly after but then started up again.  This pattern continues even as I write this. To add to the fun, we have been hearing lighten on and off, all around us. I hope this breaks before morning. I do not look forward to hiking in the rain especial with strong winds, that makes it hard to use our umbrellas.
The condition of some of these campgrounds we hike to is unknown. Sometimes they are very crude and others are immaculately clean.  Burro Mountain Homestead was the latter.  It is a real treat to find places like this.

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What Did We Find Today?

Cow Camp (05_222)
Day 7 – 4/27/17
Miles – 20.3
Total miles – 105.3

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Trees! That is what we found today.
We got up early, ate breakfast, and started hiking by 7:00. We walked out of town with Catwater and Dassie along a highway for about 2.5 miles. Next, we crawled under a barbed wire fence to find the trail meandering through an expansive cow pasture. Because crawling underneath barbed wire fences occurs several times a day, we are becoming experts at the task. We spent the rest of the morning walking southeast and slowly moved up toward a mountain range to the east of Lordsburg. Just about the time we got to the mouth of the canyon, the wind can up good and hard. Back toward Lordsburg we could see the beginnings of another dust storm. Lucky for us, we hiked up and away from it. As we approached the valley that we would hike up, the sparse vegetation changed. More and more plants were around us and large junipers started to appear. Over the next few hours as we climbed up the valley, we even began to see oaks. Even though the day was cool and windy, we took a break in the shade of a big oak to simply enjoy being underneath a tree. Papa Raven walked up to a water tank just to check it out. We did not want to get water here because two weeks ago another hiker found a dead rat in it. The water trough was clear with algae growing in it. Next, Papa Raven climbed the windmill and crossed one of its structural members to look in it. Other than the water being a little green, it looked good.
Cows surrounded us, especially baby cows. It was cute to see the mama cows running away from us while the babies just stared at us trying to figure out what we were.  Mama would moow for them and the babies would run and skip to their moms.  We headed on to Co Op windmill.  The Co Op windmill is the first one we found that we could get water straight from the well itself. Everyone talked about staying here for the night or hiking two miles to Cow Camp. Pushing on won. At cow camp, we were surrounded by tall trees that could protect us from the hard wind.
The place that Mama Raven’s pole hit her is still bothering her and her feet are not doing well. The favorite shoe of thru-hikers is Altra because of their wide toe box. Mama Raven, who has notoriously wide feed decided to try them on this hike. Yes, they are wide, but not wide enough for Mama Raven, especially with all the extra swelling her feet have done in the heat. We might have to take a few days of in Sliver City to let her feet heal and look for new shoes.

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