Introducing, The Gila

People around here simply refer to the Gila National Forest, Gila Wilderness, Aldo Leopold Wilderness, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, and the bits that extend into Arizona (which I don’t know the name of) as The Gila. Combined, it’s a huge wilderness area in southwest New Mexico, and we were able to spend some time exploring in early May.

Look at that face! That face means I am embarking on nine days of vacation in the wilderness and I could not possibly be happier!
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That night, we camped at Lower Gallinas campground, which was next to a nice (for New Mexico, which just means it was running at all) stream in the bottom of a steep valley. It’s pretty much right on the road, so I wouldn’t recommend it if vehicle noise bothers you, but it’s not like NM 152 is particularly busy at night. While sitting around waiting for it to get dark enough to go to bed, we heard a wild turkey call. Ken got a piece of grass and made some noise, and the turkey called back to him! We decided to go see if we could find it. Ken maintains that turkeys are very smart birds, but given that you hunt them by calling to them and allowing them to lead you to their location, which you then remember and come back in the morning to shoot them as they come out of the trees, I would tend to disagree with his opinion. This lovely lady called us close enough to shoot her with the camera.

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The next morning, we headed in to Silver City, where the Silver City criterion, part of the Tour of the Gila bike race, happened to be occuring. We’d never watched a bike race, so it was a pretty fun experience. The race that day was a certain number of laps around downtown Silver City, approximately a 1 mile course, I believe. We didn’t stay to see the pros at the end of the day, but we saw several races, and were in awe of how brave the cyclists were. I would not be the least bit interested in taking right angle corners at those speeds with other riders six inches on every side of me!

These guys are relatively spread out, if you can believe it!
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I love this picture because it shows the acceleration of the riders as they go down the hill.
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After seeing our fill of crazy cyclists, we stopped at a fast food joint for our last meal before backpacking food, and headed out of town a couple of hours. The last two hours or so were on a dirt road, which is normally fine in the Civic, but about five miles of this dirt road would have been better driven in the truck. Oops. All the people in trucks who we passed were looking at us like we were totally crazy. And we were. It’s a miracle we made it out to the campsite and back to civilization with the oil pan intact.

This picture of the road totally does not do it justice.
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When we got to the two creeks which we were planning to hike a loop along, we found… That they were bone dry. Hazards of NM wilderness, guess the snowpack wasn’t so good this year. Lesson learned – call the rangers station to see if they have any information about your planned route, like whether water is available, before you drive two hours along a dirt road that your car can’t legitimately handle. In depression and despair, we camped that night under a couple of cottonwood trees amongst lots of cow pies.

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To be continued…

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