Twig Adventures

Day 12: Crawling up the River

May 3rd, 2019

Mm 49.4 – Gila Alt. mm 73.6

Distance in miles: 24.2


It was a long, tedious, but beautiful day working our way up the river. I slept well and was ready for a full day. The canyon walls are very high, steep, and narrow in this section, which means there are even more river crossings. But all the while I felt like I was surrounded by magnificent castle walls.

I have enjoyed several river canyons from a raft but this is one of the grandest I have seen. Too bad I was on foot and had to be looking down most of the time.

There was really good trail up to Jordan hotsprings, a popular overnight destination, but then it deteriorated. There was a lot of rocky riverbed trail, some bushwhacking through willows, and even some rock scrambling the rest of the day.

And lots of crossings. There were several where the bottom was solid rock slab covered in algae, which is in effect like walking on ice with a current pushing your feet out from under you. I finally fell on one of these crossings, but luckily it was shallow and I was able to stand up quickly so nothing got wet. Wrong Way, who I saw yesterday at Docs, had fallen in the lower section, where the river was much deeper. He had soaked his phone and it wasn’t working. The Gila can be wicked.

I was hoping to see some big mammals today but all I saw were elk footprints. They probably come down early in the morning to drink then head back into the hills. Not even a deer did I see. But there were herps! I caught a toad, who peeped for me to show it mercy. Of course I did. Then as we were crossing over some dry riverbed, there was a rattle and quick movement up ahead. My first rattlesnake of the trip (I never saw any on the PCT)! It was quick to coil and rattling a storm, all while we were still 20 feet away. We gave it a wide berth but I could see its colorful browns and patterns…it was pretty for a rattler.

I forgot to mention that a few days ago, we saw 2 bullsnakes by the river. Both were stretched across the trail and one was between 4 and 5 feet long. Without seeing their heads or tails, I knew they weren’t rattlesnakes because they were so vibrantly colorful and patterned. But they often get mistaken for rattlers, and are dispatched for that reason. Growing up, I always heard that they were good to have around because they will kill rattlesnakes, or at least chase them away, but I don’t know if that is actually true.

The day grew long but every time I looked at the map, we had barely moved. We passed a few guys, Drew and Link. Then I caught up to Open, a guy I met at trail days. It was good to see some other people..and that we were all struggling to make way. Open was going to take the high route for the last 7 miles. It sounded tempting but I wanted to spend another night on the river.

Relentless and I walked until after 7 pm trying to find as nice of a place as we had the night before but finally had to settle for just a spot. I was so tired and we had only made 24 miles. The same amount of effort would have normally put us over 30 miles. Plus, with our shoes being soaked and covered with sand all day, we had been lifting more than twice the weight with each step. Add to that all the times we had to crawl over deadfall.

Lastly, there is something happening to the skin on our legs. We think all the constant soaking and drying has led to a rash. It’s like a heat rash but we’re calling it Gila rash. It goes from my thighs all the way down to my ankles and feels like the worst sunburn. Each step at the end of the day was causing ripples of pain. Every stem, leaf or twig that brushed against my legs was also excruciating. I rubbed neosporin all over before bed, as that is all I have. Hope it helps!

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