Twig Adventures

AZT Day 22: Hello Gila River, Again

October 28th, 2019

Mm 507 to mm 540.1

Distance in miles: 33.1


I wake up a lot during the night because the wind is rustling my tent. But I don’t mind because the view out my window is so lovely. I just gaze at the stars and fall back asleep. It’s so warm that I can’t even put my feet inside my quilt’s footbox at first. It’s nice to be this warm, though.

While packing in the morning, I’m able to take off almost all my layers. The early morning is very pleasant but I worry that I will be suffering from the heat later on. One consolation is that we’ll be following the Gila River for about 15 miles today. I can jump in the river to cool off if necessary.

Ah the Gila, my old friend. I followed her all the way to her headwaters back in early May on the CDT this year. I waded across nearly 200 times, up to my waist at a few points. The Gila is where Relentless and I first started hiking together, after he had been sick, dropped by his first traimily and had lost his tent. I sat in hot springs alongside the Gila and felt the sting of frozen underwear, socks and feet on chilly mornings. I enjoyed the relief of the cool water in the hot afternoons. In short, I have many fond memories of my time next to the Gila and today I get to add more. Same river, different state, thousands of miles in between. This is the lowest point of the trail at 1700′.

We meet a lady just as we get into the valley. She’s trying to boil water on an alcohol stove and looks like she might start a fire, the way the flames are flaring. We chat with her for a bit and she seems to have a handle on everything else. We begin our way up the river and it’s not long before I come across some javalina. A sizable boar crosses the path and then turns to face me as I come by. He has long bristly hairs on his back, which stand up as he starts to get defensive. I stop and look back at him, letting him make the next move. He grunts and runs off into the bush. Nice piggy.

The trail continues to be very good today. It winds in and out of the river basin, climbing high a few times to avoid some bluffs. I run into HotSauce, Shortcut, and Homeless Guy, who all got dropped off by the van to hike this section northbound. I guess one or two will hike south and give them the keys when they meet.

All morning I’ve been looking at the train tracks across the river. While the trail has made some pretty big dog-legs, switchbacks, and ups/downs, those tracks have run flat and straight. Just before the trail climbs 400′ over a bluff one last time, I see that the train tracks cross the river to my side. I’ve not see any trains in all this time so I decide to take a shortcut and walk the tracks. I like walking train tracks. There’s a railroad right behind my parent’s property that I used to walk, collecting cool rocks when I was a kid.

I’m only on the tracks for a mile but I walk fast since I don’t want a train to come by. There is plenty of room to get over, I just don’t want anyone to see me. Too late, there’s a truck coming with those adapters that make it possible to drive on the tracks. I get way over and the driver just waves as he passes. Whew, I thought I might get yelled at for being on private property.

I make it back to the trail and sign a registry at the trailhead. Then I walk a short distance to the bridge where we’ll cross the Gila for the first and only time on this route. All along, I’ve felt an urge to wade across multiple times, just out of habit. But dry dusty feet are the order of the day in Arizona.

The Gila doesn’t look as nice it does in NM.

Before crossing, I head up the road to a municipal building where there’s a spigot set-up for hikers. There are even chairs in the shade, so I sit for a break. Because of my sneaky little short-cut, I’m way ahead of Stellar and have 18.8 official trail miles done by 11 am. I enjoy the shade and then start to get a little too cold. I know I’ll be very hot in the afternoon, so I wet my arm sleeves and buff before I leave.

Just as I’m departing, Stellar arrives. I try to convince him that I’m just really fast today but he’s figured out my short-cut by my lack of footprints…can’t fool an experienced thru-hiker. The gig is up and I just have to smile and shrug my shoulders while confessing my sins. I figure I’ve earned a few short-cuts after all the miles I’ve walked this year.

As I get back to the trailhead, a police vehicle pulls up and a deputy waves me over. Oh I’m so busted I think! The man in the railroad truck must have called to complain about a woman hiking on the tracks. But I’m not in trouble. The deputy is looking for a woman hiker in distress and wonders if it might be me. Apparently the lady we met in the morning signaled for help sometime after we saw her. I give him information about where we last saw her and what she looked like. Hope she’s ok.

The rest of the afternoon involves a slog up a big hill. I carry extra water because I’m suspect of the only 2 water sources ahead. It’s a good thing I do because the first trough has disgusting water, along with a dead cow next to it. The water smells so bad that I don’t even want to put any in my container. The next trough is empty with a pipe dripping only the tiniest amount. It would take days to collect any water.

I hike another few miles and pitch my tent in a small wash where the sand is flat and clear of prickly plants. Stellar catches up but is running low on water. He collected and filtered some from the dead cow trough but is reluctant to drink it. It smells bad even after filtering. He wants to hike another 2 miles to see of he can find water at a further trough, which may very well be dry or disgusting too. I say don’t bother and just give him my extra water. It’s my penance for taking the short-cut. So it goes in this parched land.

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