Bank of the Gila River(23) to Gila Hot Springs Campground(38.1) 15.1 miles total miles: 178.1
Today’s slogan was: The Gila River, pack a sense of humor. As I expected, miles were extremely hard to come by. For most of the day I was lucky to hit 1.5 mph. I had to hike 15 miles by 4:00 because that is when the store I sent my resupply box to closed. I made the decision last night to sleep in this morning. There was no way I was going to go stomping through the river until the sun was fully up and the temperature increased. Unfortunately, my body was not really into the whole sleeping in thing. I was wide awake by 6:00. I tried to go back to sleep, but that was when I noticed a giant scary looking spider in my tent. I have an arrangement with all insects and animals in the wilderness, if I discover them in my apartment they must die. If I encounter them in their home in the wild I let them live. I tried to use a snickers wrapper(yes I ate a snickers in bed) to pick him up and throw him out of the tent. I guess I was a little to enthusiastic when I grabbed him because he was smashed in the wrapper. Sorry little spider dude! Since I couldn’t go backs to sleep after that whole debacle, I got up and slowly began to pack up camp. I dragged it out as long as I could. I had planned on starting the day in my shorts, but it was still too cold out for that. Within 10 minutes I hit my first of what felt like 100 river crossings. I forced myself to take my pants off and get into the water. With so many crossing I didn’t even contemplate taking my shoes off.
Nothing like a little unmarked crossing country hiking to get the blood pumping
My day was filled with river crossings and trying to find the trail afterwards. In the beginning I just stumbled up steep and eroding river banks and then trampled my way through the vegetation until I hit the river again. It was very frustrating and slow going. After the first couple of crossings I got into a rhythm and I was getting better at finding a trail. I felt like a hunter stalking prey. I looked for anything out of place, bare spots where there should have been vegetation, marks on the river bank, and dried footsteps in the mud. I could practically hear Bear Gryills voice in my head. It was like a game of hide and seek. As I became one with my surroundings I began to notice fresh human tracks and knew there was another hiker just ahead of me. I was surprised at how accurate I knew he was ahead of me. I thought he couldn’t be more than a quarter of a mile ahead and moving at a much slower pace. It didn’t take long before I ran down my prey. It was an older gentleman named, Nitro Joe. We only talked briefly because I was trying to hit the store before it closed. I knew that it would be tight making it in time.
Sample of the terrain after I crossed the river
A very time consuming process when I didn’t have time
I only took a few breaks today. At least one of my typical concerns, finding water, was nonexistent. Whenever I was thirsty I just filled up my Smartwater bottle from the river. Whenever I felt like taking a break I would stop and add a couple drops of bleach. Within 30 minutes I’d have drinkable water. At one point I stopped to do just that. I set my pack and hiking poles down and sat on a log. When I looked around I noticed a metric shit ton of poison ivy all around me. By some miracle I managed to put myself and my belongings down in the few places where there was no poison ivy. I’m hoping I managed to keep clear of it all day. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
I hiked my butt off for the rest of the afternoon. I could feel my pasty white legs beginning to burn around 2:30, but I had used up all of my sunscreen. I rubbed some mud on my legs and pushed on. Sometimes you just have to improvise and use what is readily available. Mud and sand were in great supply. Eventually I hit highway 15, which marked the end of my day. I had about 50 minutes to walk 3 miles to get to Doc Campbell’s before they closed. My ankle which had been feeling good all day immediately voiced its dissatisfaction. I really thought about hitching, but couldn’t get myself to do it. I hobbled into Docs at 4:03. Once again I couldn’t believe my luck. They had been having a busy afternoon and stayed open longer today. I bought 2 cups of ice cream, an ice cold coke, Gatorade, and a Mountain House meal to cook for dinner. I also picked up my resupply package. I thought the nine year old working the cashier was going to cry it was so heavy. I could barely fit everything to my food bag. I’m not sure I can fit the food bag and everything else into my pack tomorrow. 7.5 days of food is heavy. While I was sitting outside eating my ice cream and charging my electronics I struck up a conversation with a nice lady from California named, Fawn. Turns out I was planning on camping in the same area as her, a campground next to the hot springs this area is well known for. She is on a 2 month road trip. She explained that she had some extra chicken and invited me over for dinner. I told her I would try to find her later that night. The folks at Doc Campbell’s were extremely hiker friendly. Even though they have to remove all trash from the premises on their own, they offered to take mine for me. This simple act was extremely kind. I did the typical hiker trash thing of finding the closet outlet to charge my stuff, repacked all of my food, and took my wet socks and shoes off. All of this was done at the front of their store and they didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. My battery pack usually needs to charge overnight, but I didn’t want to leave it unattended for that long. I knew the place I was going to stay didn’t have electricity and I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Sunset was only 1.5 hours away and I wanted to find the campground before then. I resigned myself to losing time in the morning and coming back to finish the charge before I started hiking. I found the campground down the road with little difficulty. The campground attendant, Jimmy, got me checked into an area they reserve for hikers. Turns out it was right next to my new friend, Fawn. Jimmy has a camper setup and graciously allowed me to charge my stuff in it. This area has exceeded expectations. Everyone has been uber friendly. I decided to cowboy camp, so setting up didn’t take very long. Fawn was true to her word and had me over for dinner. I feasted on chicken, broccoli, and asparagus. The General, also known as Mom, will be pleased to hear that I didn’t have another dinner of ramen, Oreos, and m&m’s. Around 9:00 I bid Fawn goodnight and settled in to write my blog. After 30 minutes I knew I couldn’t cowboy camp. The temperature dropped rapidly and I was already chilled. I made the decision to set up my tent. I stay a good 10 degrees warmer in it and I have a feeling that I’ll need that tonight. I don’t expect another high mileage day tomorrow. I noticed on my map that I am close to the famed Gila Cave dwellings and I know I’ll lose a lot of time exploring the area. Plus my pack weighs a ton, I’m not sure what is larger than a metric shit ton, but that is how much it weighs right now. I have a feeling I will be eating a lot in the next few days.
Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post. I had my phone put safely away. I couldn’t take the risk of losing my footing and falling in the river and ruining it.
The Gila River, again
Mid river crossing
Picture of camp before I left in the morning
Hit or cold running water
One of many hot springs
“Thank you, hard taco shells, for surviving the long journey from factory, to supermarket, to my plate and then breaking the moment I put something inside you.” - Jimmy Fallon