CDT Day 15: Mile 74 – 94 (Gila River alternative) (20 miles – 32km)

Wednesday May 1, 2019

The last few nights have been so mild that this mornings frost on the ground and frozen socks came as a complete surprise. I took antihistamines last night to help with the rash and I slept like a log. This morning the pain of the rash was reduced, so that was good. It was not so good to put on frozen shoes and socks for the last 5 crossings of the Gila before reaching Snow Lake. It was a chilly hike through more tight small canyons to make it to the lake which really should be called Muddy Waters. The landscape surrounding the lake is really quite pretty and the lake is large.

We stopped at the lake campground to have breakfast and dry out a bit before starting on a short section along a forest road, before turning off to follow the headwaters of the Gila above the lake. We followed a dried out creek bed with occasional sections of flowing water. It was hard to believe it was the same river.

As we moved further upstream towards another enclosed water body on the Gila headwaters, the canyon opened up into gently rolling grassy hills. The wind funneled through the canyon making the tall dry grassbeds shimmer in the sunlight.

We were coming to the end of the Gila.

Despite the discomfort of the cold wet feet, I’m so happy that we did the Gila River Alternative. It was something quite special to be able to walk over 70 miles along a river bed. And the canyons carved by the river were unbelievable. We were simply overwhelmed at times.

Leaving the river for the last time we climbed out of the catchment and hiked for a couple of miles along an exposed grassy plateau. We were at 8000 feet in elevation and it was shimmering grassland as far I could see. An occasional small tree punctuated this landscape. Snow covered mountains of the Mogollon Range were in the distance behind us. This probably explains why the wind felt so cold. It seemed such an incredible contrast to the river canyons we’ve just exited.

The grassy plateau looked quite beautiful in its starkness. The lightgold colour of the dried grass shimmered in the sunlight and made a rustling sound as the wind blew along the plateau. We were walking along a jeep road which must have been a private ranch, although no cattle were in sight.

The jeep road turned into a gravel forestry services road which we followed for about 10 miles before calling it a day. The gravel road walk was through pine forest. The road went up to 8500 feet and then it went down to 7500. Not much more I can say about it. It just had to get done. We we stopped by the roadside to camp. Tomorrow we tackle another 11 miles on the same gravel road before we rejoin the CDT.