Friday afternoon after picking up a passenger in Tempe, picking up Wendy and Lilo, exchanging a passenger at Sarae's, getting some last minute groceries AND after driving the frontage road to get ahead of a traffic jam on the I-10 we finally got away from Tucson after 2:30ish. Once we got past Willcox, it was all new territory for me
We made it to Silver City, walked the dog above the Big Ditch
, had a leisurely dinner at Jalisco's, filled Tonto with fuel and then headed on the very tight and windy road to the Scorpion Campground in the Gila Wilderness where we set up our tents in the dark and cold of night.
In spite of all the warm stuff I had brot, surprisingly it was a chilly nite in the tent for me. I don't think my sleeping bag is living up to the +20 degree rating at all (it only got down to the low 30s); it's VERY frustrating when you spend nearly $200 for something that doesn't work right; surely I can't sleep THAT cold.
DAY ONE -
The next morning we gathered everything up and after a short discussion a few of us hiked to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. It seemed like we raced through them. Ruins take time to see, feel and absorb
but apparently the rest of the folks didn't feel that way. But I guess we really did need to keep moving it along since we still had the main hike ahead of us that involved a couple miles of an uphill climb.
We shuttled the vehicles and finally hit the trail at 9:30ish. The first of the uphill seemed to go pretty fast until you get slightly past the meadow area where you slog it out on a gradual ascent for a couple miles before reaching the Pass at 2.5 miles. I was glad for the slightly overcast skies. The rest of the group took out like they were running from something (me?)
but Wendy and Lilo hung back. I was hardly taking any pictures either.
After a short break at the Pass we headed down into Little Bear Canyon which was fasinating right off the bat. This is a nice little canyon that's fun to enjoy at a slower pace cuz there's a lot to see. I guess other folks see things faster than me
cuz once again I ended up at the back and was the last to arrive at the junction with the Middle Fork (about 4.5 miles from the TJ Corral TH). Here we enjoyed a leisurely lunch. This was nice so at least we got to soak in the view before heading up the stick of this lollipop route to Jordan Hot Springs.
Once again, everyone took off and Wendy, Lilo and I meandered along the trail being awestruck by the TALL canyon walls and admiring the trees and change of scenery
as we made the 15 water crossings. In one area we heard this screeching as it echoed down to us. Wendy looked up and spotted a hawk going toward its nest. I didn't get to see this
. She used my camera to try and zoom in on their location (sad to say I still can't see the nesting area in the photo; hopefully Wendy can).
We continued on and eventually reached the springs where folks were already enjoying the warm water. They directed us back to where the camp was, we changed, joined them in the spring, went back to camp, had an incredible fajiata dinner
that we cooked with many stoves due to the fire ban and then after some Irish drinking songs
retired to our tents at hiker's bedtime. I was using a new sleeping pad with an R-factor of 4. Along with being at a lower elevation than the night before, I was plenty warm
DAY TWO -
The next morning I woke with a headache
left over from the nite before and in short order it became a migraine. After breakfast I popped an Immitrex, gathered my stuff and asked if I could hike ahead to the junction so I could get a jump on the day and be able to enjoy the trail and take pictures
. You know how it is, when it's time to hike out, it's like horses back to the barn and I knew with this group, I wouldn't stand a chance in keeping up if I wanted to take very many pictures. However, I did have the keys to the shuttle vehicle so they couldn't totally abandon me
I took off around 9:05. I enjoyed my solitary time walking to the junction even tho I spooked myself a couple times. I have a very vivid imagination and can be quite the scaredy cat so it didn't take much to get my heart to pumping a couple times
. It was an absolutely beautiful morning. Even with the pics and movies I took, I kept a good pace at 2.3MPH and arrived 2.85 miles later at the junction around 10:15AM just as two of the hikers showed up behind me. The rest of the folks came along very shortly. We had a quick lunch here before we started on new territory down the Middle Fork.
I was still bound and determined to take a photo at each creek crossing as I had done the previous day from the Junction to JHS. This hike back to the Visitor's Center TH is quite fascinating as well. There's lots of changes in topography. Your feet never get tired because the constant creek crossings provide instant relief
. A couple of the girls hung back with us for about 15 minutes but then as usual, Wendy, Lilo & I were alone again. There are some meadows, caves, and cool trees along the route. We got to see old and fresh beaver-cut trees. In one area, just as you think you might be done with your river crossings as you head up and over a hill, there's the water again.
We did run into quite a few folks at a junction and then we encountered the rest of our group at the Gila Hot Springs. From there it was like we were sucked into a wind tunnel as the canyon walls were no longer there to protect us. It was quite something. But even along here, the topography had a lot to offer. I know it's been a good day when I really didn't feel my backpack toward the end; plus today I had re-tied my boots in the morning and they fit much better
. I was pleased.
We arrived at the TH around 2, shuttled vehicles, found some good deals in the 15% off "free entry parks day" Visitors Center and then headed to Silver City. We stopped at the Overlook to take in the Gila Wilderness and after a jaunt thru Pinos Altos looking for a lunch spot to no avail, we ate at Isaacs in Silver City. The food and service were great. Once again in Tucson I did some passenger exchanges and finally arrived back home at 11:30. (FYI - it was a windy drive most of the way)
to Sarae for putting together the trip and thanks again to my mentor Wendy for being in the mood for a leisurely hike after your Royal Arch adventure.
DAY ONE -
The Ruins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vg8zecvbaH0
Hike to JHS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRobFmJEx8M
DAY TWO -
Hike back to Middle Fork: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuQKwyykBZc
Hike from Middle Fork to Visitors Center TH (and if you like Jethro Tull, you should enjoy this): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnAAwGaJaVE