CDT Day 13

15.5 miles hiked, camped in the Meadows on the Gila middle fork alternate
It’s still cold when I open my eyes, but at least I’m able to lie in bed in denial for a while as the dwellings don’t open till 9am.
It’s grey and cold outside and once I’ve finally sat up, shoveled some granola in and put on all my layers I peek out from my tent to assess the other campers around me who assembled during the night.
As I’m walking back from the loo (actual pit toilets! Luxury! No cat hole digging this morning!) a lady asks if I’m thru hiking. We get chatting and it turns out she hiked the CDT 13 years ago!!! That’s seriously badass. No cushy apps and smartphones to tell you where to go, no facebook groups to answer your questions, not even internet sites to help! Just a bunch of maps, a chunk of creativity piecing trail and road walks together, and equal amounts crazy and courage. She stayed with Nita who owns the Toaster House (where I’ll likely stay in Pie Town) – she was taking in hikers back then too!
The Gila Cliff Dwellings is a “National Monument” (a protected area) with the main site being 5 natural caves in the mountainside that were converted into about 46 rooms around 1200-1300 by the Mogollon people.  The mountains around the area form lots of little alcoves and caves naturally, and I get excited everytime I see a little nook  – “could that be a home???”. I want to be an explorer and discover a hidden cave. Hiking through the canyons with these caves above makes the mountains feel like they have eyes- not in a creepy way, but in a “I am so small in the context of history and these mountains have seen so much” kind of way.

 

The visit is a mile loop with a little information room at the front. I spent a lot of time talking to the volunteers at the site – each one really interested in my hike and I’m really interested in their jobs! It’s really cool to add this little snippet of history into the hike.

I get the latest weather information from the guides as I am not keen on getting stuck in more lightning.  There is only a 50% chance of rain this afternoon, so I have a good little window to make it into the middle fork of the Gila River, which they say is the most impressive route of the area. I march on and down through a canyon to join the middle fork – bumping into some horse riders in the process who have lost their dogs 🙁  I keep my eyes peeled – poor things got freaked out by the storm and took off. I finally arrive in the middle fork…  it doesn’t disappoint. Huge towering canyon with giant pillars staring down at me. I’m in a cathedral with equal amounts saints and gargoyles staring at me. These mountains definitely have eyes. So so tall, I crane my neck to look and my camera gets nowhere near to capturing what surrounds me.  I soak it in instead. You’ll just have to come hike it for yourself.

 

Lots more river crossings, but the river isn’t as deep in this section. Still more scratchies, but not as tall and thick. It starts to get warm and I think about what silver linings there were with the last couple of days being so cold and stormy. For one, I didn’t have to look out for snake——RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE! As soon as that thought enters my mind I jump in the air like a cartoon as a giant snake lets me know I’m way too close and to please back off. Actually he’s not saying please – he’s waving around telling me to p*ss off in no uncertain terms.

Walking through is not just a physical effort but mentally taxing. Look for trail, is that the trail?, I see a cairn, ouch ouch scratch, eeeps scary looking three leafed plant, is that poison ivy?, poison oak?, must remember to look that up again, splish splash, SNAKE!, are those dog tracks?, a WOLF track!, where is the best place to cross, oops went too far and now I’m stuck, climb down or backtrack?, splash splash splash, don’t slip!, photo!, that photo sucks, better photo!, splash, where’s the trail?

Heeeeellllooooo hot springs! The horsey people are enjoying lunch next to the jordan hot springs and the water is so beautifully clear. I strip down to my underwear, only self conscious for about .2 of a second as I step in and feel my muscles say “thankyouuuuuuuu!”. Not a super hot hot spring, more like a nice warm bath which is just lovely.  I soak for about 20 minutes and then see some clouds moving in so I jump out so I can dry before it gets cold. Even thought the water is only warm, it’s cooooooold when I get out!

I march on for a little while, playing leapfrog with a section hiker who seems determined to stay in front of me even though it’s evident that I’m walking faster. An annoying driver who is going just under the speed limit, forcing you to pass them only to have them speed up again as soon as you are in front.

I’m a bit worried about where I’ll be camping as the banks are covered with scratchy scratchies, then I arrive in the area called the meadows with soft grass (boo for condensation, yay for comfy under my mat) and call it a night.