by Diane Spicer
Gila Wilderness dayhiking opens a door into a vast rocky, remote world populated by a mind blowing array of flora and fauna.
Where is this dayhiking treasure?
It's not easy to get to, and it's definitely not easy to forget.
Let me explain...
If your eyes are trained to equate hiking with thickly forested hillsides watered by abundant rainfall, or alpine ridges to glacier covered vistas, the Gila will transport you to an entirely new paradigm of hiking.
Water is the key to this land.
Lack of it: Dry, dusty, hot trails that make you thirsty.
Too much of it: Carved canyons and creek beds that might be dry the day you hike them but won't be when a thunderstorm rolls in.
Just enough of it: Follow the murmurs of a gentle creek; see how far your explorations can take you in a day.
And river crossings? Don't look for any rock hopping across icy cold water.
Instead, wade across and enjoy evaporative cooling on your hot feet. Ahhh!
People have been traveling this land for many, many generations.
The cliff dwellings (below) are eerie, thought provoking and give you the tingles if you sit down and really think about the gutsy people who not only built them but raised families in them.
Get ready to learn some new plants, too.
And the wildlife spotting opportunities are fantastic.
Bear, cougar, and deer prints are not uncommon in the mud along creeks or on the soft sandy trails.
Wolves have been re-introduced, so it's possible to spot their tracks.
If you're a birder, this is the spot for you!
Most things are spiny, prickly or sharp edged, so be mindful of where you place your feet and hands.
Wear long sleeves and pants, even in hot weather, if you want to guard your epidermis from sharp things and ultraviolet radiation.
The air can be single digit humidity, so coat your nostrils with petroleum jelly (a thin layer, don't get carried away).
Drink, drink, drink water and consider adding electrolytes to prevent lethargy or cramps.
Remember that you're at high altitude, even when you're on a relatively flat trail. Watch for signs of altitude sickness: feeling wiped out, headaches, nausea, irritability, trouble breathing.
Snakes are a definite possibility in sunny as well as shaded areas.
Some are non-poisonous, others like rattlers will deliver venom in amounts to make you sick.
You will spot lots of poison ivy along the creeks; long pants will protect you from it in areas where you have to scramble around washouts or debris piles.
Forest Service roads to trail heads are generally in good repair, but you don't want to be on them in thunderstorms.
Some areas have burned recently, making travel through them hazardous in windy or wet conditions.
If you'd like some general information about this area, the Forest Service is the place to start.
Feel free to shoot me an email and I'll share what I know about this fascinating place to experience seriously digressive dayhiking.
If you're looking for an unusual, remote place to explore, consider the Gila!
It might be your gateway into bigger adventures on long distance hiking trails like these.
Gila Wilderness Dayhiking
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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