Day 11: Just south of the Gila River Bridge to a few river bends before Jordan Hot Springs, ~miles hard to count, more than 190 miles total
Frozen shoes this morning. Thankfully, frozen running shoes are much easier to wiggle into than frozen mountaineering boots.
We soon warmed up by fording the Gila, the water being warmer than the air. Two fords later we were in sunlight at the Gila River Bridge and hiking up the road to Doc Cambells Post. A golden sunny Saturday morning and quiet alongside the road. Pleasant walking. We admired distant hoodoos and made our game plan for the day.
Objectives: eat ice cream for breakfast, pack up 6 days of food, tour the Gila River Cliff Dwellings, and hike back down to the Middle Fork of the Gila River.
We found Roadrunner drying himself off at an interpretive kiosk. (Great pick Roadrunner! Interpretive signs are some of my favorite things.) Joining him, we learned we’d already crossed the Gila 65 times! (He counted.) The three of us walked over to Doc Cambells to warm up in the sun and wait for the store to open.
Pretty soon we were eating homemade ice cream for breakfast (butterscotch and coffee, YUM!). The store proprietor retired from a defense company many years ago and bought the business from his wife’s parents. This was his retirement fun. I’m glad he found an outlet to make great ice cream and is willing to help hikers with our boxes and leftover trash.
More hikers started showing up. In all, there were about 17 of us picking up our resupply boxes. A reminder that this is a big year for the CDT.
By noon, Gabriel, Roadrunner and I walked down the road to the day’s main attraction: the cliff dwellings. And the visitor center in my hope to find a lightweight book about the region (sigh, nothing light).
The Gila River and its many resources were valued and shared by the people who lived in the surrounding regions. One group of people built and lived in these cliff dwellings in the late 1200s.
Trying to imagine the life of these people and what the landscape was like more than 700 years ago. What was the nearby forest like? How did they catch water from the cliffs when it rained?
So many questions! Nor time to answer them. Especially when it’s warm out and we want to get back to the Gila. I have a half pound if interpretive material about the dwellings in my pack now, but it’s not enough to satisfy my longing for natural history and cultural information. So I have a list of things to look up the next I am in town and not blogging.
Hiking into the next segment of the Gila means we are entering our first wilderness of the trail. Aptly this first of the trail, the Gila Wilderness, was the first designated wilderness in the US (June 1924, thank you Aldo Leopold!). I’ll admit I was a bit teary-eyed as we came up to this particular sign. More so as a trail head notice told of Mexican gray wolves returning to the area! So much work and time is needed to redress the wrongs and misconceptions of the past, but I am grateful to know that in Leopold’s Gila wolves and wilderness are alive.
From the boundaries of the wilderness, Gabriel, Roadrunner and I crossed a gentle ridge that meandered into a canyon that soon became Little Bear Canyon. A slot canyon winding with high walls, hanging gardens and views upward to rocks sculpted like towers. More than once I felt we were in an elfin land from Lord of the Rings.