Sunday, April 29, 2018

Day 12- The One With The Cliff Dwellings

Thursday April 26, 2018
Gila River Hit Springs Campground(38.1) to Middle Fork Gila River(52.2) + Cave Dwellings Trail 16.1 Miles 

Little Bear Canyon

Oh boy, what a day! I’m not even sure where to begin. I feel as though I had three separate days. I woke up earlier than planned this morning. I guess I’m just no good at sleeping in. For those of you who know me in my nonhiking life, this statement will ring false. I usually don’t get up until after noon. Since I was up and it was freezing out I decided to start my day off by getting into the hot springs. I’m not usually a hot springs kind of gal, but hiking these trails is all about new experiences. I stayed in until the sun was fully up and the rest of the campground began to stir. It took forever to pack up because my food bag is so big. I learned how to pack a bear canister in my pack on the PCT and that experience came in handy this morning. The secret is to not put my sleeping bag into a stuff sack. I pack it loose around the food bag to fill in extra space. The weight didn’t feel as horrible as I expected it to. I thought I got a full charge on my battery pack yesterday by leaving it to charge in Jimmy’s RV, but it wasn’t fully charged. Dang it. I really can’t start if on a 7 day leg without it fully charged, so I stopped by Doc Campbell’s on my way out. I had to chill there for a few hours to get a full charge. After 2 hours it still wasn’t full, I think I’m at about 90%, but I couldn’t sit around any longer. I really wanted to see the Gila Cliff  Dwellings. I don’t know if I’ll ever be this close to them again and it seemed a shame to skip them because they were a few miles off of the trail. I was going to hitchhike, but guess who showed up at the best possible moment, my new friend Fawn. She is quickly getting this trail angel thing down pat. She drove me the 4 miles and we explored the area together. The visitors center was showing a small film detailing the history of the Mongollon people who built the cliffs. There were a few seats left, but being aware of my hiker stank, I stood in the back row. I live about 1.5 hours from Mesa Verde National Park so I can see cliff dwellings whenever I want, but you can’t walk inside those. The ancient people of the south west were so resourceful. I found the whole experience incredible. 

Cave 3 and 4 

Front door of cave 3

Entrance to cave 3

Not a bad view out of cave 4 or 5


So nice to have someone around to take my picture 

Yoda and Fawn. Thanks for being so awesome 

I had Fawn drop me back if at the Visitors Center so I could start back on the trail. It was almost 2 o’clock so I didn’t have high hopes for making very many miles. My experience from yesterday had me estimating that  I might make 8 or 9 miles before I had to stop for the day. Luckily, today was a new day. The trail was much more maintained and involved a lot less bushwacking. Almost as soon as I started hiking I was walking through some tall grass and almost stepped on a giant snake. I’ve never had a snake hiss at me before. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t poisonous. It didn’t have a rattle and it’s head was pointed like a poisonous snake. I still wasn’t taking any chances. I was glad I didn’t have to walk through a lot of that type of tall grass again. A rattlesnake would blend in perfectly and the rangers told us that the rattlers are really starting to become more active. 

Some type of hissing snake 

I really enjoyed today. It was my favorite day on this trail to date. The middle fork of the Gila is amazing. I really felt like I was walking through sections of Zion National Park. It wasn’t too hot out today and I must have crossed the river 50 times. I know I lost count around 35. 

I don’t have much more to say about my day. I wandered around and through the river all day. I got to see amazing canyons at a slow pace. A much better experience than kayaking or driving through a canyon. 
I’m just going to let my pictures tell the story of my day. 

Tons of single family cliff dwellings in the area

Crossing the Gila. It varied from ankle deep to just above my knees. The current wasn’t too bad either

Canyon and well marked trail 

Natural hot springs that have been turned into pools 

Flood debris

Not a bad days work 

Scrapes and cuts are unavoidable bushwhacking in shorts. Notice the wet and sandy shoes

Cave dwelling 

Narrow section of the river, pretty typical crossing

About as wide as it gets. I ran out of real estate on the left and crossed over to the right side for awhile 

Walls of the canyon

Part of Little Bear Canyon 

Definitely a great day

I think this is called Columbine

Part of Jordon Canyon 

More cliff dwellings

View from my campsite 

I only had one bad moment today. I guess with crossing the river so many times I became sloppy. It has just become so routine that I forgot how dangerous River crossings can be. About an hour before I stooped for the day I was crossing the river and wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I broke the cardinal rule of any water crossing, keep three points of contact with the ground at all times. I always make sure I have one foot firmly planted and both of my hiking poles making contact. The one time I didn’t have my foot firmly planted and started to move I scared a duck and it took off. That in turn startled me and I fell. Fortunately this river isn’t moving fast and isn’t deep. I ended up falling on my pack and basically sitting down in the water. My only real concern is that is where I keep my inReach. It isn’t 100% water proof and I got lazy and didn’t have it in a ziplock bag. I was also frustrated because I was soaking wet and it was the end of the day. Things turned out ok. My inReach still works, my shirt and shorts dried before I got to camp, and I learned another valuable lesson; you shouldn’t ever underestimate water crossings. 

I found a great camp spot with a fire ring and a great sitting log. Someone even left behind some dry wood. I don’t think I’ve ever had a fire while I was on a thruhike. I’ve benefited from other people making a fire, but I never take the time to do it and I’m not sure what possessed me to do it tonight. I managed to get my socks almost completely dry. That will be a huge boost in the morning. There is nothing worse than putting on wet socks and shoes when it is 45 degrees. 

Super happy that my socks didn’t melt. I even managed to get my shoes to the not sopping wet

“On the path to greatness, life teaches you to walk with stones in your shoes.”
- Matshona Dhliwayo

I’m pretty sure I hit 200 miles today. This crazy mileage has me all confused. I’ll make a sign tomorrow and we can all pretend that it was made at 200 miles 


  1. We were waiting to hear about the hot springs. 🙁. Did you like it? You didn’t mention your foot or ankle so nature’s hot and cold must’ve helped. Nice campsite! Ed noticed the m & ms. Very creative. I bet you ate them after the you took the picture.

    1. The hot springs were fantastic. I went in very early. The clothing optional after dark made me hesitate to go in at night. Those m&ms never stood a chance

  2. I loved the pictures! Really a beautiful area. I’m glad you got to see the caves. I hope you enjoyed the hot springs and the hot water helped with your legs and ankle. The cuts looked like you had been fighting. I liked the days quote. I liked the m & m’s picture. I’m with Kris, you probably ate them after the picture. LU

  3. Hey Yoda, Good to see you are on the trail again. The snake you saw that hissed at you appears to be a Night Snake. They are mildly poisonous and have rear fangs. They eat lizards and such and will raise their head slightly and hiss when threatened. Not usually seen in the daytime. Hope the thorns and sharps ease up soon as you move north. As always, loving your journal entries and pictures of your adventure. Thanks for sharing it. Steve K. from Alabama.

    1. Steve. Thanks for the info. Nobody believed me when I told them a snake hissed at me. I’m happy to hear you are enjoying my blog. Best wishes

  4. This looks like a great day! looking forward to catching up on the coming days in the Gila. (that plants is Lupine)

    1. Damn it. Lupine was my second guess. I should have gotten that one. It was on the cross stitch I got in Estes Park