Day 18: Gila River Canyon

– Was hard … the sun relentlessly hot (still better than rain!), the trails were steep & rocky and from about 10:00 on, they were nearly all varying degrees of uphill.

– Was strikingly beautiful … the wildflowers were blooming everywhere, and I encountered jaw-dropping views around just about every turn. Yet another kind of landscape, unique & different than previous sections.

– Featured some excitement … I saw a Gila Monster sunning himself on the trail right in front of me! He saw me before I could get a good pic & headed back to his hole under a rock, but look closely & you’ll see him.  This is a rare sighting—Gila Monsters spend about 90% of their life under ground, and rarely seen. They’re also venomous, but notoriously slow … still, I’m glad I saw him at a safe distance! (There is a solid possibility, this was a Mexican Beaded Lizard, which looks similar. But this guy was pretty small, and Mexican Beaded Lizards are supposed to be much larger … I’m going w/ Gila Monster).

– Got even more exciting … about 2 hours after I saw the Gila Monster, I saw a rattlesnake! I got too close for his comfort before I saw him and he hissed & rattled up a storm. Gave me a serious jolt! No picture … neither of us was in the mood for a photo shoot.

– I learned about the real value of water: I used up all the creek water by 0900 and w/at least 10 miles to the next reliable water (more on that later), I had to fill water from the Gila River. I was not looking forward to drinking muddy, smelly water for the remainder of the morning/afternoon, but—water is life, so I found an access point where water was running pretty fast over rocks, and filled a bottle. I was pleasantly surprised by how clear it was (the picture below is before I filtered it)—not a lot different than most of the creek water I’ve been drinking for 2 weeks. I squeezed it through my filter, and it tasted fine … in fact it tasted better than some of the cached water that has been sitting in the heat in plastic jugs for several days!

– I came to seriously appreciate the Arizona Trail Association (ATA). They have acquired a grant from the National Environmental Education Fund to build rain water catchment facility. Essentially, a giant tank to catch & store rain water. It is enclosed and fenced to keep wildlife and livestock out (though there is an overflow trough outside the fence for wildlife). The catchment is in a particularly dry stretch of the trail, and is fantastic! I got there in the heat of the day with only 1/2 liter of river water left, and here was a gigantic tank of cool, clean water that I could get from a spigot (though it did still need to be filtered)! Huge kudos to the ATA … and sign me up to donate for another one!

All-in-all, a fabulous day on the AZT. I found another beautiful campsite (a couple of other thru-hikers have taken note that 3 days in a row, I have found primo spots, and have been teasing me as they pass by … stopping early has its perks). I am now sitting on a rather comfy rock, enjoying the sunset, and a smushed-yet-still-delectable candy bar contemplating how lucky I am.

Daily Miles: 19.6
Total Miles: 291.9

48 thoughts on “Day 18: Gila River Canyon”

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