Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Day 18: Hello, Gila River!

May 8: Evenstar and I woke up and hit the trail. It was an easy trail to lose, despite my fancy GPS gear and we quickly lost it a couple of times. It ascended steeply, and even in the cool morning air, I was sweating bullets going up. It was a lot more rugged and difficult than I had expected, and in hindsight, I was glad I hadn't done it yesterday afternoon. It would have been even more hot and it might have ended up causing me to hike into the darkness since my original goal from yesterday took a lot longer than expected.


Evenstar stuck close to me, relying heavily on my GPS. How did people hike this trail before a GPS?! It was the question of the day.

Near the top of the ridge, I got a decent cell phone signal and checked my messages. Addie wrote that she needed to take another day off due to a rash on her legs, so she'd now be two days behind us. I still hoped she'd catch up again at some point, but it might be awhile. Two days would be hard to catch up, and I couldn't slow down since I had planned out my food carefully all the way through Grants about two weeks away.

Then the trail descended steeply toward the infamous Gila River--infamous because it was legendary for the number of times the river would have to be forded. The good news was that long water carries would be a thing of the past for the next few days. The bad news was that our feet would be wet all day long for the next several days.

I joked with Evenstar every time she forded the river to watch out for the Gila monster. Of course the Gila monster would haunt the Gila River, right?

I took a two-hour break here. Lovely spot for a rest!

We took a long break at a side creek just before it merged with the Gila. I wound up taking a two-hour break--largely during the hottest part of the day. It was such a long break, I had to move my rest spot because the shade moved so far. Once we reached the Gila, Evenstar felt confident navigating on her own again without the help of my GPS and left before me. You'd have to have a pretty bad sense of direction to get lost along the Gila! Basically, the rule was you just follow the river upstream for the next several days.

While stopped for a break, a man with three pack mules loaded with trail gear passed by. He was clearly setting up a campsite for trail workers somewhere nearby.

I finally ended the two-hour break when I lost my shade for a second time and rather than moving, I just packed up my groundsheet and continued onward.

Once again hiking alone, I reached the Gila River several minutes later and admired it's shimmering waters for the first time. It looked about knee deep and moved at a steady rate, but it certainly didn't look dangerous. I had heard that at certain times of the year, it could be positively scary. I hadn't heard anything about it being a problem this year, but who could know for certain before seeing it with my own two eyes?

Mostly, I was amazed at how clear the water looked! I had seen the Gila River before when I thru-hiked the Arizona Trail and it was a muddy mess of a river. I didn't dare try to filter that water--it would have clogged my filter in a heartbeat. It was also considerably deeper where it crossed the Arizona Trail than it was here. It looked like an entirely different river! I knew it was the same river, though--just much further upstream and very close to the river's headwaters.

My first steps into the river caused me to gasp. That water was cold! But I quickly got used to it after several seconds. Once my feet were already wet, subsequent crossings didn't feel quite so shocking.

According to a Guthook comment, we'd have to ford this river a whopping 57 times. We didn't realize it at the time, but this comment was completely and utterly wrong. In the end, we'd end up fording closer to 200 times, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself. It turned out that it was just 57 crossings before Doc Campbell's Post. Neither Evenstar nor I realized this just yet, however.

I caught up with Evenstar limping down the trail a couple of miles later, and we hiked together for another couple of miles before setting up camp alongside the Gila.

Evenstar's husband had mailed her a Mountain House dessert--raspberry crumples--but it was meant as a serving for four people, so she shared half of it with me for which I was very grateful and still am. =)

And this ended our 18th day on the trail....

The rocks here had a little bit of a reddish-tinge, and I imagined this is what Mars would have looked like if it had trees.

From this viewpoint, I got a cell phone signal and found out that Addie would be taking yet another zero in Silver City. It seemed increasingly likely that we wouldn't see her again. =(

Horses loaded with trail maintenance equipment passed us up.

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