Day 19 – The Gila Middle Fork

May 10, 15.4 miles / 208.1 total hiked

We took the Little Bear Canyon trail to connect to the middle fork of the Gila. This was a nice break from the river crossings and ended in a cool slot canyon as it joined the Gila.

We skipped about 6 miles of the Gila by taking this route and it is amazingly different from when we climbed out to go to Doc Campbell’s. The cliff walls are much steeper and the river bed much narrower. You really feel “down in the canyon” through this section and because a river bank often quickly turns into a sheer cliff wall right down to the water, we find ourselves making crossings even more frequently (75 total for today).

We had just finished our umpteenth crossing for the day and as we approached the bank heard the distinctive sound of a rattlesnake. We both looked for it but Gina was the first to spot it – sitting right on the trail just beside the cairn marking our river exit point. It was a nice sized snake, in full strike posture, rattling away. We carefully climbed out about 10 feet from it and made our way around him. Unlike most of the snakes we see (we’ve seen a number so far) that slither off as soon as they detect you, rattle snakes don’t seem to give up their ground… they go into full defensive mode and you go around them.

When were ready to make camp, we happened to be in a section of nothing but sheer walls on both sides, no trail, and some rough river bed so it took some time to find a small sand bank we could camp on.

Peak of the day: Crossing mile 200

Valley of the day: Being ready to camp but having to go on another mile before finding flat ground