Day 20: Gila River Trailhead to Gila River Canyon

Twilight Sky over Dale's Butte

Days like yesterday will happen. Part of the challenge in completing something like this is being able to bounce back and not only keep going, but also remember why you’re on the trail to begin with.

The weather this morning had me thinking it could possibly rain. There were some heavy storm clouds to the north with many of the clouds above trying to break up. I didn’t mind though. It kept the sun off of me and kept the air chilly, near a borderline cold breeze that persisted through the day. The sun poked out here and there, but not very often at all. It was a great change from the constant clear and hot.

I eagerly hit the trail at a great pace, hoping to be in Superior the next day. As my breakfast was consumed by my body, I began to slow down a bit, feeling a lack of energy. I was able to maintain a decent pace, but certainly not a quick one. At the same time though, I needed to keep a quicker pace because if I didn’t get to Superior by the end of the next day, I’d probably get way too low on food. Quite the conundrum I put myself into. It’s not to say I didn’t have any food. I had a granola bar early on, plenty of nuts, enough peanut butter to last me through the next day, a healthy amount of granola, and enough leftover to last through the next day. I’m just not eating as much as my body is craving. Of course this all added to the challenge of bouncing back from yesterday, but I was still upbeat.

At a rest break midway through the morning, I noticed fighter jets flying through the canyon. It’s now the third day I’ve seen them flying in the area. As one passed me by at a high velocity, the canyon walls reverberating the thundering whoosh, a small drop of what I assumed was water hit my hand. Fearing it might be rain, I looked at my solar panel in expectancy of another to make a mark. None came however. In the end, I concluded the only logical event: the fighter pilot spit on me.

Sonoran Desert Mountains

Most of the day was spent hiking through the Gila River Canyon. It’s a large canyon lined with rocky desert mountains and classic Sonoran Desert vegetation. The trail varied from high overlooks to twists and turns deep in the trees along the river, through forests of cottonwood, mesquite, and other trees I didn’t recognize.

Finally the trail cut north heading up to Alamo Canyon. At 0.3 miles up, I expected to find a fork to get more water, but that was because I read the description wrong. The fork was back 0.3 miles, and then 0.3 miles up a wash. Since I was out of water, I had to backtrack.

After the lengthy ordeal, I was on my way up into a side canyon of the Gila River Canyon and it wasted no time in exploding with fantastic views that only got better the deeper in I hiked. Jagged peaks formed by what must have been catastrophic geologic processes created a fortress of a rocky canyon. Higher and higher I climbed just as the sun was starting its golden descent. Saguaros silhouetted against golden rocky mountainsides ascended the rugged mountains nearly to their peaks. Had the peaks not been sheer cliffs of rock hundreds of feet high, something would have grown there. Though steep, the climb wasn’t fazing me at all. It was just what I needed to remind me why I was out here. Higher views yielded more and more dwarfing vistas until the trail dropped down into a wash. Here I found a decent campground, but not quite right. I chanced heading up another very steep climb to see if anything was higher up, not knowing if I would regret leaving behind a cozy campsite, knowing I quotient m wouldn’t backtrack. I crested a saddle and found the perfect campsite nestled in between all the surrounding peaks with phenomenal views in all directions. This’ll do just fine.

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