Saturday, May 9, 2015

Day 10: the Lower Gila

Day: 10 mile 14.5-35.3 Marie Hot Springs (on Gila Alt route)

Miles: 20.8 (but definitely more in real life!)

Total trip miles: 187.3

I woke up knowing it was almost 24 miles to Doc Campbell's, my next resupply. This is my favorite kind of place to resupply, I think it's sort of a convenience store/resort type place. It's a town day with only half stress. Because all I can do all day is get my package of food, eat homemade ice cream, sit in hot springs and check wifi. Silver City was awesome but I spent half the time walking around. Compact little places are the least stressful town days. Originally I thought I might try to camp a mile or so outside of the resort, then I found a hot spring only three miles away. It was perfect, 21 mile day and then almost a whole day off. 

When I woke up no one else was moving and I felt guilty but backpacking gear is so crinkly and loud! By the time I left Thatch and Rafiki looked like they were almost ready too and Bigfoot and Moist were still in their sleeping bags. So I was guessing my hike would be another solo one. 

It started out great, steady downhill in a creek canyon through forest. The trail was super rocky and even when it was a road I found myself tripping all over the place for the first miles. The trail got steadily steeper, it's hard to explain but right now I tend to walk 2.5-3 miles per hour. I was barely getting 1.5, but as I descended into the canyon I could see the Gila River. I had finally looked at my map and it looked like once I reached the river I would be following it the whole day. 

Rocky steep trail

Elevation profile heading down (courtesy of Guthook app)

I finally made it down and was so excited. I've been hearing about this section for ages and it's totally worth the alternate. The rocks and the river are so different than the first 150 miles. They are amazing in their own right. 

And so I spent my day crossing back and forth over the river. My feet were wet all day and I easily crossed over 20 times (later this week it will be 85 in a section!). The whole thing is beautiful with towering cliffs, lush green trees everywhere and I even got ominous clouds to occasionally give me some shade. 

One of the highlights of the day was accidentally scaring a group of I think Javelinas (or wild pigs?). I came around a corner and saw one, it grunted and then like a porcupine it's back seemed to totally poof out and it went leaping away, I was so surprised when at least 4 or 5 others started grunting and puffing out and headed towards the hills. It was a great day for lizards and butterflies too. 

But I'm not going to lie, it was tough going. There was some trail but often it was just wandering along very rocky or sandy areas full of spiky bushes and tree branches hoping I might see a cairn marking the trail. In the beginning the water crossings were usually only ankle to knee deep. After my lunch break they tended to be crotch deep, thankfully not too cold at all. It was fun and exciting but I was feeling the miles. When I got to where the hot springs should be I collapsed and peeled off my wet shoes. After a nice break I went searching. Across the river up under to cliff I found them. They weren't particularly hot but they were still pretty nice. I'm tired and happy to be done hiking for the day. 

The wind is starting to pick up and the ominous clouds are still lurking, plus I'm camped in low spot. 
Something tells me I'm not making it through the night dry. But hey, I have plenty of time to dry stuff tomorrow. 

I propped my neon pack on the top of the riverbank so the folks right behind me might stop if they were looking. Turns out it worked perfectly, first Moist, then Bigfoot and even Thatch said they saw the pack and crossed the river to check it out. The only one who missed it was Rafiki, oh well. We'll all have hot springs tomorrow. 

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