207 miles from Mexico
The Gila game is as such: walk in the water. Walk on rocks. Walk in deep sand. Climb over a downed tree. Walk in the water. All while in a glorious canyon that pens in the sparkling river, pink rocks rising up in the slanted light, forgetting about miles and just trying to dance with the shifting, convoluted surface of the earth. Wild roses and blooming solomon seal and croaking bullfrogs. Also poison ivy. Lots of poison ivy.
But before all of that, the cliff dwellings of the Mogollon people- the park doesn’t open until nine and so we have a slow morning and I tell myself to relax, relax. It’s not all about the miles. At nine we walk up into a beautiful narrow canyon to deep-set caves, black with thousands of years of soot. Forty people lived here around 530 C.E., before moving on. Since then it’s been occupied by all manner of humans, doing who knows what. There are stone walls, fire pits, rooms for storing grain. Rooms for ceremonies. The people ate acorns, squash, corn and beans. They traded chocolate and macaw feathers with the people of what is now Mexico. They were short.
By the time we get on the trail it’s noon. A half day for us. The Gila game is a slow one and after seven miles there are tepid hotsprings and we tarry there, letting the salt slough off, picking up rocks from the gravelly bottom of the pool, looking for crystals. After the hotsprings we’re sleepy but the cathedral-like magic of the canyon enchants us and we play the Gila game until seven, when we find a nice campsite just as it begins to sprinkle.
Photos on instagram