Gila Wilderness, NM (July 2018)

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On Fourth of July week, I hit the road for a solo hike in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. It was a long drive from Houston but well worth it. I arrived about mid-day and parked at TJ Corral (horse corrals). Taking trail 729 towards Little Bear Canyon, I quickly realized my pack was too heavy. Lesson learned! I left behind some non-essential items and kept trekking on. Instead of continuing down into Little Bear Canyon, I headed toward The Meadows which are further up river. My plan was to get the elevation gain out of the way on the first couple days and then enjoy a down stream trek for the remainder of the trip.

I set up first nights camp at the top of a hill near Little Bear Tank. The view was nice...

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I made it to the Meadows around 11pm the next day. I enjoyed the view for a while before beginning the 1,000' decent into the Middle Fork canyon.

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There's a drastic contrast between the higher elevation and the river canyon. The higher ground was very dry and I saw hardly any wildlife. The river canyon on the other hand was like an oasis. There were birds everywhere and it wasn't long before I saw larger mammals such as rodents and even elk.

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The most striking feature of this area were the rock spires. They towered hundreds of feet above the river. It was sometimes difficult to spot them because they blended in with the cliff backdrop.

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On the second to last day, I made it to the Jordan Hot Springs. The warm water was nice after hiking for three days. There were a few other people hanging out there and I made the terrible decision to drink whiskey while on the trail. The next day was miserable and I'll never do that again!

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In all, the 4 1/2 day hike was roughly 27 miles with 1,100' elevation gain/loss. Not the most strenuous mileage but I thought I did ok for someone who lives at sea level.

Thanks for reading!
 
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#2
Thanks Garrett!

Very nice. I remember a great backpack in the Gila Wilderness myself. Much of what I hiked got burned last year. Did the burn affect your route? This is critical recovery habitat for the Mexican grey wolf, aka Lobo. Did you see any :) I mean did you hear any update on their status? Their reintroduction is not going very well.
 
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Thanks Garrett!

Very nice. I remember a great backpack in the Gila Wilderness myself. Much of what I hiked got burned last year. Did the burn affect your route? This is critical recovery habitat for the Mexican grey wolf, aka Lobo. Did you see any :) I mean did you hear any update on their status? Their reintroduction is not going very well.
I did not see any evidence of fire. Maybe the fire was on a different stretch of river? I read about the wolf introduction during my web research before the trip but I didn't see any. I saw lots of bear foot prints and the people I met at the hot springs had seen a Black Bear cub the day before. Other than that, I didn't see any predators. Plenty of food for them in the river canyon.
 

Kmatjhwy

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Thanks for your trip report and photos. I did a hike back in here many years ago. And how much do I need to make a return trip. Also know about the fires that burned in this area and guess that is one reason I have not returned. Thanks very much for posting!
 

Miya

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#5
Ooow hot springs are on my bucket list for 2019. Great share! Sounds like a fun trip!
 

b.stark

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#6
This brings back some good memories. Spent 5 days doing a loop that covered some of the same ground in 2009. It was my first introduction to backpacking in an arid environment and caught me underprepared in a few ways. Learned from the experience, though. Wouldn't mind making it back down, but it's a long way from here and has just never been high on the list.
 
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This brings back some good memories. Spent 5 days doing a loop that covered some of the same ground in 2009. It was my first introduction to backpacking in an arid environment and caught me underprepared in a few ways. Learned from the experience, though. Wouldn't mind making it back down, but it's a long way from here and has just never been high on the list.
I'm glad I'm not the only one to have been caught under-prepared. It was embarrassing having to leave behind gear. Haha! But looking back, every other hike I've been on was at a higher elevation where the temperature was lower. The temperature makes such a huge difference. I also learned that making clean water as you go is much easier than trying to carry water in containers. Hope you can make it back to Gila one day. But I don't think I'll be doing the 14 hr drive anytime soon!
 

Jackson

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Awesome first trip report! Heck of a drive, but looks like it was well worth it.
 

b.stark

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I was unprepared for the super cold nights (we hiked in march) and the long stretches without water sources (back then I only ever carried a liter at a time). Bought a better sleeping bag once we got back home!
 

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I'm glad I'm not the only one to have been caught under-prepared. It was embarrassing having to leave behind gear. Haha! But looking back, every other hike I've been on was at a higher elevation where the temperature was lower. The temperature makes such a huge difference. I also learned that making clean water as you go is much easier than trying to carry water in containers. Hope you can make it back to Gila one day. But I don't think I'll be doing the 14 hr drive anytime soon!
Please tell me you went back afterward to pick up said gear? :)

Art, the area that burned was a little farther downstream of Little Bear Cyn, just upstream of the Cliff Dwellings visitor center.
 

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Please tell me you went back afterward to pick up said gear? :)

Art, the area that burned was a little farther downstream of Little Bear Cyn, just upstream of the Cliff Dwellings visitor center.
I did not go back for the left behind items. I've called the visitor center a couple times but no one has turned in the items. It's all good. Nothing irreplaceable.
 

LarryBoy

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I did not go back for the left behind items. I've called the visitor center a couple times but no one has turned in the items. It's all good. Nothing irreplaceable.
Hmmmmm how to say without coming across like a jerk...

One of the foundational principles of our outdoor ethic is "pack it in, pack it out". Anything and everything we pack in (sleeping bags, water bottles, snickers bar wrappers) must be packed out, no exceptions, no excuses.

Why can't I just leave stuff out there? It's called littering. It's disrespectful to both the land (and the landowners, that is, the public at large) and to fellow hikers. That stuff doesn't disappear out there. It stays out there, decays, turns into a mess, gets into our watersheds, and is unsightly. Plus, animals will get into it if it's scented or sweatstained, habituating them to humans and creating nuisances for other hikers... or worse. As they say, a fed bear is a dead bear. I've had habituated marmots try to drag off my trekking poles to lick the salt before - the result of careless hikers before me not securing their sweat-soaked items.

But what if I'm a day and a half into a four day trip, and to turn around and carry all that stuff back to my car would mean bailing on my route? It stinks, but if I need to bail on my route, I need to bail on my route. At the end of the day, preserving the land and treating it, as well as my fellow hikers, with respect is more important than whether I achieve my "objective" on a given trip.

But surely someone else will pick it up. If I say that, I'm essentially asking other people to carry my stuff for me. Would you approach a random stranger and ask them to carry your backpack, on top of theirs, back to the trailhead? No? Because that's what I'm asking if I just leave items along the side of the trail. Their choices are either a) walk past obvious litter, thus perpetuating the litter problem, or b) go above and beyond, adding to their own pack weight, to curb the litter problem.

But won't someone else need/want/appreciate my stuff? Think about it - did you bring less stuff with you, expecting to pick up some freebies along the trail? Or did you bring everything that you need with you already? Chances are, it's the latter, and everyone else did the same thing. We all have everything that we need out there, and then some. Nobody wants those extra items.

In summary, there is zero excuse to ever leave items behind in the backcountry. I carried them in, I'm therefore equally capable of carrying them out. Yes, it stinks to bail on the intended route when you drove ten hours from Houston, but that's what it means to be a responsible user of public lands. It's not optional. It's not merely a "best practice". It's the law. It's a moral absolute.

I say all of this not to shame, lambaste, castigate, or paint a scarlet letter on you or anybody else... rather I say it to educate. We all need each other to hold us accountable. In a different thread, Joey called me out for a pretty elitist attitude just the other day, and he was right to do so. Hopefully this is a learning experience and I look forward to reading plenty more of your Trip Reports! :)
 
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Hmmmmm how to say without coming across like a jerk...

One of the foundational principles of our outdoor ethic is "pack it in, pack it out". Anything and everything we pack in (sleeping bags, water bottles, snickers bar wrappers) must be packed out, no exceptions, no excuses.

Why can't I just leave stuff out there? It's called littering. It's disrespectful to both the land (and the landowners, that is, the public at large) and to fellow hikers. That stuff doesn't disappear out there. It stays out there, decays, turns into a mess, gets into our watersheds, and is unsightly. Plus, animals will get into it if it's scented or sweatstained, habituating them to humans and creating nuisances for other hikers... or worse. As they say, a fed bear is a dead bear. I've had habituated marmots try to drag off my trekking poles to lick the salt before - the result of careless hikers before me not securing their sweat-soaked items.

But what if I'm a day and a half into a four day trip, and to turn around and carry all that stuff back to my car would mean bailing on my route? It stinks, but if I need to bail on my route, I need to bail on my route. At the end of the day, preserving the land and treating it, as well as my fellow hikers, with respect is more important than whether I achieve my "objective" on a given trip.

But surely someone else will pick it up. If I say that, I'm essentially asking other people to carry my stuff for me. Would you approach a random stranger and ask them to carry your backpack, on top of theirs, back to the trailhead? No? Because that's what I'm asking if I just leave items along the side of the trail. Their choices are either a) walk past obvious litter, thus perpetuating the litter problem, or b) go above and beyond, adding to their own pack weight, to curb the litter problem.

But won't someone else need/want/appreciate my stuff? Think about it - did you bring less stuff with you, expecting to pick up some freebies along the trail? Or did you bring everything that you need with you already? Chances are, it's the latter, and everyone else did the same thing. We all have everything that we need out there, and then some. Nobody wants those extra items.

In summary, there is zero excuse to ever leave items behind in the backcountry. I carried them in, I'm therefore equally capable of carrying them out. Yes, it stinks to bail on the intended route when you drove ten hours from Houston, but that's what it means to be a responsible user of public lands. It's not optional. It's not merely a "best practice". It's the law. It's a moral absolute.

I say all of this not to shame, lambaste, castigate, or paint a scarlet letter on you or anybody else... rather I say it to educate. We all need each other to hold us accountable. In a different thread, Joey called me out for a pretty elitist attitude just the other day, and he was right to do so. Hopefully this is a learning experience and I look forward to reading plenty more of your Trip Reports! :)
Larry,

You are right. This was my first multi-day backpacking trip and I made more than one mistake. First, packing too much weight. Second, drinking on the trail which made me less willing to go back for the items. Accepting free booze while on a strenuous hike (for a Houstonian) was a terrible mistake. I made it back to my Jeep at 11pm and vomited several times on the last couple miles. At the time, I did not feel I had it in me to go back to get the items that were several miles into the trail. I felt 100% spent and was on a crunch for time to make it to work Monday morning.

I sincerely respect the over arching values the hiking community holds. It's a great gift to enjoy a pristine environment with no human evidence and I want to do my part to protect that. Leaving behind items won't happen again.
 

LarryBoy

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Ah yes, the infamous quadruple whammy. Altitude+aridity+ardor+alcohol (weee! that's alliterative!). I once had a single IPA on-trail and 20 minutes later was completely sloshed (thru-hiker metabolism is kinda crazy like that). And I was on a rocky, steep section of trail in a pouring rainstorm. I had to just sit down for a while and wait for my body to metabolize the beer. Course, turns out that the beer wasn't intended for me to drink it, but that's a whole nother story :)
 

Dreamer

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Great first trip. Nice to be out and away for a few nights. Hope you have many more. Lots to learn out there. It is nice to pick up trash/junk in the wilderness whenever one can. Makes me fell really good. The micro trash is easy. Larger items can be a burden and I’m way more likely to take on something big on the way out. Lots of junk out there. I lose things every once in a while, we all do. This year I came across a stash of five gallon buckets, two of them full of trash, way high along the Divide in the Winds. One of the people I was with remembered then from six years prior. The weather was bad and we were well loaded. Anybody want to go on a trip to help take them out?
 

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