Gila River Day 4

To go or not to go? That was the question.

The morning’s weather report again mentioned temps in the 40s, and 70% chance of rain in the afternoon and evening. Tomorrow, however, was looking drier.

When I emerged from the tent I saw Slow Ride was up and about. I went over to our morning fire and made coffee. Other folks started to trickle out of their warm dry places, but it was clear we were on a slower mode than yesterday (remember that 10:30am start??).

We started talking exit strategy. If we packed up and paddled, we would be paddling in cold wet conditions…again some folks were already cold and wet, so this option could be extremely uncomfortable, but we’d get to the cars today (we had about 9 miles left to paddle), and then be dry! Who cares if we are hypothermic if we can get to dry! So that was option 1.

Option 2 involved packing up and paddling 2 more river miles, and setting up camp again…because there were some amazing hot springs a 3-5 mile hike up a side creek from the Gila River. That sounded attractive cause who doesn’t like soaking in a hot springs when it’s pouring rain? BUT breaking down camp and setting up camp again would be a MAJOR drag. And the hike was rumored to be long and frustrating.

Option 3: stay where we were and have a layover day; continue down the river and to the cars tomorrow. Hmmmmm…

We went round and round with our choices, everyone not committing and hoping someone else would make the decision.

Where did we have to be? There was a pandemic outside. The minute we turned our phones on again we would be faced with a changed world. Did we really want to rush that? But cold and wet…but dry cars…but…

Soon it was apparent that we had waffled long enough that we’d be lucky to pack up and get on the river by noon when the rain was supposed to start. I guess we made our decision by not making a decision.

Alright! Layover day!

Turns out we all brought books, games, podcasts, snacks, music…items we haven’t really been able to enjoy all that much since we have been spending so much time on the river. We had all packed for a layover day, and just didn’t know it šŸ™‚

Slow Ride got out his maps (he had some beautiful topo maps made especially for the trip), and we geeked out over the contour lines…figuring now we had time to do some exploring.

So many places to go! So many places to see!

We decided to take a hike up to the high point behind camp. Kirk and I found creative ways to turn dry bags into fanny packs/backpacks, and we took off with Slow Ride and Mike.

Most of the way up the climb we saw that JJ and Mika had beat us to it, and were hooting and hollering from the rocky outcropping above us.

We made our way up to the top of the world, and looked out over the vastness.

The Gila is an incredible huge tract of wilderness. I had been reading in Slow Ride’s book, Gila Libre, about the previous native tribes, trappers, mountain men, and outlaws that had made this river drainage their home for hundreds and thousands of years. We were not the first, and would not be the last. But for all those people who have walked the banks of the river, very little trace is left. This area was trapped heavily for beaver and other large game when things like fur hats were all the fashion, but I was heartened to see a ton of beaver activity all along the shores we had paddled the last few days. Some things can recover.

Photo by Slow Ride (he has long arms…perfect for a group selfie!)

The first few drops of rain fell on us as we enjoyed the views, and that was our cue to start hiking back to camp.

By the time we made it down, it was time to dive into the tents. I picked up the Gila book and proceeded to finish it that afternoon. We napped, we snacked. Kirk and I played rounds of UNO. We napped and snacked again. The rain was not letting up, but finally we decided to go on a little walk just for something to do. We had waterproof gear anyway!

We walked upstream looking for cool rocks on the flood planes. We walked down stream, finding some overhangs where we could take shelter from the constant rain. The others emerged from their tents for the same reasons here and there, but we all returned to escape the pouring water.

About dinner time the rain seemed to let up a little. Woooohooo! We all left the tents, and were actually able to get a big fire going despite all the wet wood. We had just enough time to make and eat dinner before the deluge started again. Kirk was able to tell us his story of getting stuck on the John Day River last April in the second highest recorded flood in history. He spent four days in place waiting for the full sized trees that had filled the water-way to clear (the river had gone from 10,000 cfs when he launched, to 39,000 cfs). Unbeknownst to him, he was the only one on the river, and search parties had been sent out looking for him….just in case he was in trouble. Well, the story ended well. He was safe, he had to almost rescue the rescuers, and now has quite a story to tell.

In retrospect, maybe telling the story before a massive rainstorm that sounded like a freight train driving through camp wasn’t a great idea. Flash floods on a desert river and all…

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