Soaking up the Gila

Day 12: from a few bends before Jordan Hot Springs to further up the Gila River, hard to know how many miles

We started walking as the sun lit up the cliffs more than 500 feet above us. A few birds call but the river is slow moving here and mostly quiet. This morning we set out to find Jordan Hot Springs.

Our maps recommend a soak and to appreciate the view. We’ll do so if we can find the place. Horsetails and lush dense foliage are the first hint of the springs. Soon muddy ground and a stream of warm flowing water lead us on a likely path. The air is warm and smells faintly of a hot spring.

Brother Bear and a few other hot springs soakers are camped above the pool. But we have the warm blue tinged waters to ourselves. Surrounded by live oak and box elder. Rocks overhung with flowers and canyon grape. A view toward the river of towering buttresses and cliffs starting to glow in the morning sun.

We soak. Jordan Hot Springs is warm. Not too hot or too cold. But cool enough this morning to stay only so long. The river calls us to head up stream and find a sunny bend for breakfast.

The rhythms of canyon travel consume most of the day. Walk on bends above the river through sycamore, walnut and boxelder groves down cobble shores to the Gila. Cross the river. Climb up a sandy shore to a forest of Ponderosa and Douglas-fir. Hike over the river bend and descend down to the water. Repeat. Alternating cobbles for sand. Sometimes we detour due to flood debris, poison ivy, or because a rattlesnake claims the trail.

We marvel at cliffs. Pick out climbing routes on the walls above us. I am in awe of the plant diversity that is abundant in this green riparian world. We are both struck by the lack of animal sign. Few tracks and scat are noticed here. Whereas the lower section of the Gila was full of animal sign.

We speculate on the possible reasons. Is it the high cliffs that limit access? Greater frequency of human use? Result of the flood that tore through the Gila? Particularly altering this deep, narrow canyon we have walked in for more than a day.

Midafternoon. Now it is hot in the sun and crossing the river is a welcome way to cool off. We come to series of plunge pools filled with green waters perfect for a swim. The water cools us quickly. We dry out on sun warmed rocks and then hike up canyon.

Map and GPS can tell us where we are. But we don’t try to figure out how far we have traveled. By day’s end we are tired. Canyon miles. Fords and navigating the flood debris have us ready to camp for the night.

We camp amid Ponderosa and gambel oak on a small bend. Tired. Fed. We watch the stars come out. Our last night in the lush canyon of the Gila.