Day 17 – Getting Our Feet Wet
May 8, 13.2 miles / 185.2 total hiked
We camped last night next to… wait for it… an actual flowing stream. Yes, the first flowing ground water we have seen (except for a small trickle in Silver City) since starting. It was so nice to see clear flowing water!
I was not sure what to expect from the Gila river. The conditions vary greatly depending on the weather and with the very low snow and rain levels this watershed has seen recently the Gila was very mild mannered. This is in great contrast to 2013 when it experienced devastating flooding that wiped out much of the trail and the amount of large trees and debris very far from the river’s edge gave a sense of what took place.
This is the lower Gila, in a few days we will arrive upstream at a convergence point of several Gila forks and hike up the middle one. As we do that, the river channel will get narrower and the cliff sides steeper.
We tentatively made our first crossing around 8:00. Not bad at all – the water was comfortably chilly vs the foot numbing ice cold Sierra crossings. Hmmm, no actual trail on this side, so we bushwhack until the river bank turned into a cliff wall. 8:05, back across to the other side. Cool, a bit of trail here. 8:06, well that trail did not last long… should we cross back to the other side? 8:10 – crossing #3. No trail but it looks better on this side than the other side so we head up stream. 8:15, ok now the other side looks easier to traverse so back across. Nice, there is some trail here.
And so it continued for a total of 47 crossings for the day. We eventually got into the groove and learned to feel when it was time to cross. Occasionally there was even a rock cairn indicating “this would be a good place to cross”. The pattern became cross, climb up the bank, trudge through deep sand for about 50 feet (so your wet shoes pick up about a pound of additional sand weight), transition to rounded unstable river rocks doing their best to twist an ankle, and eventually (maybe) find some actual trail to hike on for awhile until it either disappeared or ended with another river crossing.
Peak of the day: Not carrying any water and having unlimited water whenever you wanted it
Valley of the day: Trudging through sand with wet shoes