Day 12: mile 38.4-55.3 on the Gila
Miles: 16.9 (ish)
Total trip miles: 207.3
It was another slow morning. We had decided to check out the Gila Cliff Dwellings which are a few miles off trail. But you can use yet another alternate to sort of fix that and it ends up with basically the same mileage. The plan was to stop at the visitors center at 8am when they opened check trail conditions up ahead and make sure our plan was solid. Then walk the mile or so to the Cliff Dwellings to be there when they opened at 9.
It had rained again around 2am and everything was wet. Eventually after a whole lot of whining we packed up and headed to Doc Campbell's for one last round of wifi. We killed way to much time as usual making breakfast with hot spring powered water (seriously all the faucets only have hot water) and catching up with Nightcrawler and Banana Pants. 6 days of food is super heavy to carry and no one is in much of a rush to put their packs on.
Then the 3 or so mile walk to the visitors center. We got there well after they opened and got our update. Cliff Dwelling then down Little Bear Canyon Trail to the Middle Fork of the Gila. We were warned of poor conditions on the Middle Fork and checked the weather. 40% thunderstorms today and 30 tomorrow, highs in the 70's. The real kicker, 30 degrees. Ouch, that's gonna be one cold morning.
Thanks to the visitor center I also found out that the mammal I saw the other day was probably a Coatin (who knew right?) and they were most definitely Javelinas not wild boars, I love answers.
We wasted time and ambled over to the cliff dwellings. It's only a mile loop interpretive trail but they thankfully let us leave our packs at the entrance. The Dwellings are well worth the visit. We had the added bonus of an awesome ranger who showed us pictograms, 700 year old corn and just a general tour of the place. She just retired, sold all her belongings and is starting to see the country with a 3 month seasonal ranger job as her first stop. It was all well worth the morning.
We headed back to the parking lot for a much needed snack and dried out all our wet gear. Ominous clouds were building yet again so we figured take advantage of the sun while we could.
Noon saw us truly on the trail heading towards the river. We were met with these uplifting signs.
The Little Bear Canyon Trail was an awesome surprise. Thr first few miles were surprisingly hot and exposed but with great views. As we headed down the canyon showers started but the rock formations were so cool it didn't even matter.
After everyone finally stopped taking pictures we made it to the Middle Fork. The size of these canyons and rock formations are surreal. The pictures come no where close to capturing how gorgeous they are. The trail seems to be more just a few minutes of dirt/rock trail and then a river crossing. It's beautiful but definitely slow going and rough on the feet. Thankfully the water isn't too cold. We hadn't been in the canyon long when the light sprinkles turned to full on pouring rain but thankfully it didn't last too long. Although we got showers the whole rest of the day. Definitely made for some dramatic noises and lighting.
A few miles in we stopped at Jordan Hot Springs, supposedly around 92 degrees it was perfect and probably one of the most ridiculously picturesque hot springs I've ever been too. The sun was out and life was great again.
The clouds were creeping back and everyone decided 4pm was too early to stop so off we went. I for sure felt sluggish, but it really did seem to early to stop.
So many photos for every corner I turned. This is for sure a highlight of New Mexico. I was getting tired but campsites were suddenly scarce. It took us awhile to find one but we did, and this time no procrastinating. My tent went up first thing. And wouldn't you know, right as I sat down inside it started to pour. Perfect timing this time around.
Moist started a fire and I eventually came out of my tent for a little socializing before bed. We even got another hiker to join us, Kramers (sp?) couldn't resist our fire and hikertrash talk.
It was an amazing day. Tomorrow has a few choices but at least to start it's going to be interesting. My goal is to get to Snow Lake, 22.2 miles away. The trickiest part is that my map warns me that starting in about 1.5 miles I have 85 crossings of the river to look forward to before snow lake. My feet are going to be nice and chilly in the morning!