Thursday May 5th, 2022, 1000-1800
Gila Hot Springs to Sapillo Creek
I woke and packed early, but not so I could hike. My only priority was getting another soak in the springs. I felt pretty warm in my tent, but found my dress frozen stiff outside…it was only 30 degrees. I had to dunk it in the hot water just to be able to change into it. I decided that I needed to invent a hiking robe for such circumstances. None of the CDT hikers opted for a morning soak… probably because of the cold and also because they had thousands of miles left to hike. I had less than 50 miles and 4 days to get it done. It was nice to not be in a hurry. I lingered for a long time, letting the sun hit the valley before venturing out of the pool. What a great treat for finishing the MRT.
On top of that, we had another fun day hiking on the Gila ahead of us. We’d be going south on the CDT Gila alternate for the remainder of our route. As such, we’d be seeing lots more hikers. In fact, we passed so many just walking the road to the river that we bet a beer on how many total we’d pass for the day. We both guessed numbers in the teens and by noon, had already surpassed 20, so we decided we could fudge the rules to bet higher. I guessed 32 and was still low. By the end of the day, I think we’d passed more than we’d even counted. The last couple of miles on the river don’t have one defined trail, but are rather a series of cow paths. I walked several sections where I saw no footprints and suddenly tons again. Junctions and river crossings that were obvious to us going south might have been less obvious to the NOBOs, so some were going different ways. I’m pretty sure we passed close to 40 hikers this day. Such numbers are more analogous to the PCT and AT. Polling some of them, it sounded like many had jumped on the CDT after they couldn’t get permits for the PCT. There were also many international hikers (a demographic that had been absent the past 2 years due to the pandemic). I for one was very happy to see the return of my international peers, as I got my start as one on Te Araroa. I enjoy the variety of cultures and ideas this brings to the trail.
I didn’t bother counting all the river crossings but it was a lot. They were all very easy, especially compared to 2019, when the river was running much higher after a huge snow year. I took the opportunity to dunk myself several times, effectively cooling myself to a comfortable hiking temperature all day. How great it is to hike along a river when it’s hot. I met one hiker that wasn’t so keen. A man with a dog had come to only his second crossing and the dog was not into it. He had to put her leash on to lead her across. I petted her just before this and she looked at me with a face that cried out “please save me!” Her feet also appeared to be hurting and I knew the river rocks would probably make them worse. I’ve noted that something specific about the Gila water really dries out my skin, making it itch and burn (also probably all the poison ivy along the river). I purposely carried lotion this time, just to counteract the effect. Poor dog, I hoped she’d get some rest at at Doc Campbells.
As we were going the same direction as the river, we contemplated inflating our Therm-a-rests to float down instead. It was very tempting but in the end, I didn’t want to put a hole in my mattress. The river was pretty shallow in places and had lots of snags. I also wasn’t sure how I would steer my makeshift craft. I’ve always wanted to try this…maybe next time. We made it only as far as the last Gila crossing for camp. Again, we weren’t in a hurry and figured we’d save the 2,500′ climb out of the valley for the next morning. This gave us the opportunity to search for some nearby cliff dwellings. We found them easily and they were super cool, with artifacts like pottery shards and grinding stones strewn about. I was surprised that others had left the artifacts be, as I was sure to do as well…take only pictures, my friends. Three visits to the Gila and I’ve been able to explore new sites every time! Camp was in a nice flat spot near the creek. It was a great ending to a chill day.