Twig Adventures

AZT Day 22: Hello Gila River, Again

October 28th, 2019
Mm 507 to mm 540.1
Distance in miles: 33.1

I woke up a lot during the night because the wind was rustling my tent. But I didn’t mind because the view out my window was so lovely. I just gazed at the stars and fell back asleep. It was so warm that I couldn’t even put my feet inside my quilt’s footbox at first. It’s nice to be this warm. While packing in the morning, I was able to take off almost all my layers. The early morning was very pleasant but I worried that I would be suffering from the heat later on. One consolation was that I’d be following the Gila River for about 15 miles, so I could jump in the river to cool off if necessary.

Ah the Gila, my old friend. I followed her all the way to her New Mexico headwaters, back in early May on the CDT. I waded across nearly 200 times, up to my waist at a few points. 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. I had many fond memories of my time next to the Gila and today I got to add more. Same river, different state. This was the lowest point of the trail at 1700′.

I met a lady just as I got near the river. She was trying to boil water on an alcohol stove and looked like she might start a fire, the way the flames were flaring. We chatted for a bit and she seemed to have a handle on everything else. I begin my way up the river and not long after came across some javalina. A sizable boar crossed the trail and turned to face me. He had long bristly hairs on his back, which stood up in a show of defense. I stopped to watch, letting him make the next move. He grunted and ran off into the bush. Nice piggy.

The trail continued to be very good. It wound in and out of the river basin, climbing high a few times to avoid some bluffs. I ran into HotSauce, Shortcut, and Homeless Guy, who all got dropped off by their van team to hike the section northbound. One or two were hiking south and would pass them the keys when they met.

All morning I was looking at the train tracks across the river. While the trail made some pretty big dog-legs, switchbacks, and ups/downs, those tracks ran flat and straight. Just before the trail climbed 400′ over a bluff one last time, I saw the train tracks cross the river to my side. I hadn’t seen any trains all morning, so I decided to try a little shortcut. I like walking train tracks. My parent’s property sat next to a track and I used to walk it, collecting cool rocks as a kid.

My shortcut utilized the tracks for only a mile, so I didn’t figure the risk of a train coming by was very great. There was also plenty of room to get over, I just didn’t want anyone to see me. Too late, almost immediately, there was a truck coming with those adapters that make it possible to drive on the tracks. I got way over and the driver waved as he passed. Whew, I was worried I might get yelled at for being on private property.

I made it back to the trail and signed a registry at the trailhead. Then I walked a short distance to the bridge that crossed the river. Before crossing, I headed up the road to a municipal building where there was a spigot available to hikers. There were even chairs in the shade, so I took a break. I completed 18.8 official trail miles by 11 am…much in part because of my short-cut. I enjoyed the shade and wetted my arm sleeves and buff before leaving. I knew it was about to get very hot.

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

As I got back to the trailhead, a police vehicle pulled up, the deputy waving me over. I figured I was busted, going to be charged with trespassing! The man in the railroad truck must have reported me for walking on the tracks. But I wasn’t in trouble. The deputy was looking for a female hiker in distress and wondered if it might be me. Apparently the lady I met in the morning called a relative for help later in the day. I gave the deputy information about where I last saw her and what she looked like. Hope she was ok.

The rest of the afternoon involved a slog up a big hill. I carried extra water because I was suspect of the only 2 water sources ahead. It was a good thing I did because the first trough had disgusting water, along with a dead cow next to it. The water smelled so bad that I would have permanently contaminated any container used to collect it. The next trough was empty with a pipe dripping only the tiniest amount. It would have taken days to collect any water. I hiked another few miles and pitched my tent in a small wash where the sand was flat and clear of prickly plants.

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