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Split & Two Step
Begins: May 1, 2017
Date: Sun, May 14th, 2017
Start: Gila River Alternate mile 27.6
End: Gila River Alternate mile 41.3
Daily Distance: 13.7
Trip Distance: 214.3
Hours Hiked: 6.5
Daily Ascent: 1470
Daily Descent: 1138
Max Elevation: 6578
Entry Visits: 314
Journal Visits: 36,804
Guestbook Views: 620
Guestbook Entrys: 57
Wrong turn off the Gila - Day 14
Wrong turn off the Gila - Day 14
We were concerned with the 41F temperature my watch measured as we started to eat breakfast just after 5:15am. Walking up the canyon in the shade, crossing the chilly water, and then walking all morning in the cold did not sound appealing. As we put on our cold, wet socks and slipped our feet into our cold, wet shoes, our concern seemed justified. But minutes after our 6:30 start, clothed in an extra shirt and our rain jackets, we waded across the Gila River for the first time today and felt only a small chill, mostly emanating from our bare legs.
We found some long sections, sometimes up to fifteen minutes of walking, in the sand and scrub-covered bars in the curves of the river. We moved quickly through these, but after the third crossing Numskull and Dirty Bird caught up to us. They were soon out of sight ahead when More Cowbell and China Rock caught us. After exchanging pleasantries they vaulted ahead. We kicked our walking gears up to the highest available and tried to keep them in sight. More Cowbell seemed particularly proficient at finding the trail hidden in the sand, rocks, and frequently occluding brush. As we rushed forward we had to take special care to avoid the poison ivy that grew thickly along the sides of the path, and often lay in the path we intended to take. Ugh!
For the first three hours we followed China Rock who was following More Cowbell, with Numskull and Dirty Bird sometimes ahead, and sometimes behind if they stopped to clean the sand and rocks, which all of us were gradually accumulating, out of their shoes. Each time we emerged from the water our feet felt like lead, weighed down by water weight, but soon we had "squished" out most of the water and sprang forward.
Just before the three hour mark, were relieved to see More Cowbell standing by an old broken trail sign, waiting for China Rock to confirm the branching trail was not the right direction. We walked up and I immediately dropped my pack and took off my short-sleeve shirt. At about 8:30 the sun had crested the canyon walls and our concern of the morning chill was long past. We all had a quick snack break, and talked about our plans after today's resupply stop. Two Step was determined to continue up the Gila, the other two were considering taking the shorter high route. By the time we had finished our snacks we had outlined the pros and cons of each: shorter, more water, faster time out of the water, poorly marked high trail. On and on, and no decision was reached.
We again followed More Cowbell out of the break. With only 1.5 miles to Highway 15 and then a one-mile road walk to our next resupply, Doc Campbell's, we were feeling quite good. We had a ten minute walk on dry land, and as we reached the next crossing we saw him head up the hill on the far side of the Gila. We made our 23rd crossing of the day and headed uphill with both of our leaders well out of sight. A sign said 1.25 miles to Highway 15 - everything seemed OK. Our pace soon slowed as we climbed uphill, and it took us about fifteen minutes to realize we were off our chosen river path. We debated what to do, but in for a penny in for a pound...
We struggled for 35 minutes up 1100ft to reach the highway. We had climbed out of the Gila River valley, adding an extra 1100 feet of climbing and two additional miles of road walk. Once again off trail, and I suspect it's not for the last time...
By noon we had reached Doc Campbell's. We immediately bought a pint of homemade ice cream each (butterscotch), quickly found our two resupply packages, and Two Step started sorting through our food. As a side note, Doc Campbell is a real guy, and has the reputation of having a short temper with the campers. While his instructions are somewhat abrupt, he answered every question we had, supplied us with tables to sort through our resupplies, was available to help with showers and resupply packages, and sent us off with a smile and the recommendation "Don't get lost too often". Better advice I can't imagine. I rank him as a trail angel, even if he rejects the appellation out of hand.
I connected to the super-slow internet and tried to post the last two days of our journal. They looked like they may have successfully sent, but there wasn't time to check. I grabbed a quick shower with wonderfully hot water and afterwards removed most of the sand and rocks from my shoes. Two Step then took a quick shower, while I talked to More Cowbell and China Rock.
All of us want to see the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. It is about four miles down the road from Doc Campbell's, two of which are the actual Gila River CDT alternate. Two Step and I decided to hike to, and see, the visitor center's displays and video today, and then afterwards stay in a free campground (Scorpion Campground) about halfway to the Cliff Dwellings. More Cowbell and China Rock will spend the night at Doc Campbell's and spend a longer portion of the day tomorrow studying this archeological treasure, since More Cowbell has a background in Indian history.
We set off for another hour-long road walk, and made it to the visitors center a little after 3 o'clock. The center was small but chock full of well-organized, neatly presented historical information, and the video was a virtual tour of the site. We spent over an hour taking in the sights, and then thanked the volunteer docent as we left the center.
A final half hour road walk brought us to our home for the night at Scorpion Campground. Joy of Joys! There are picnic tables to sit on. After two weeks of sitting on rocks and decaying ant infested logs in our campsites, solid seating at a picnic table is absolute luxury. We found Numskull and Dirty Bird already camped across the way from us. They appear to be planning the same strategy that we are for the morning. Since the monument doesn't open until 9:00am, we will be able to sleep in tomorrow. Bad for miles, but it will make for a relaxing evening.
From the CDT,
Split and Two Step
Split And Two Step's CDT Adventure
The Continental Divide Trail is a national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada via New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This unfinished trail can potentially span up to 3,100 miles. Learn more: www.continentaldividetrail.org
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