Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Survival Skills in the Gila

On a recent trip to the Gila Wilderness, I spent three days camping at Gila Hot Springs, just a stone's throw from Doc Campbell s, icon of the Continental Divide Trail's rugged experience. When I gave him a twenty to purchase a 12 ounce bottle of orange juice, he grumbled, "Don't you have anything smaller?"
"Nope," I said, "Sorry."
Begrudgingly he took the twenty, charged me 2.25 for the juice, and counted out three fives, two ones, and three quarters.

Truth was, I needed the bottle. It would fit in my jacket pocket.
So, the point of the trip was to hang out with a friend, try some survival techniques, and perhaps scout some free camping for my new motor home.

Photos and video to follow, but bottom line, the Dakota fire pit built at Apache Creek, centrally placed under a huge tarp, worked pretty sweet at base-camp in driving rain. The holes in said tarp provided a funnel effect to collect water.  Gallons of water were collected in less than an hour.
We tested heating rocks in a blazing fire, placing them in a large kettle and bringing the sealed kettle into the tent. Although you could smell some ash, the radiating heat was quite welcome and lasted until 3 a.m.
Similarly, a large rock was heated to unbearable temps, wrapped in a flannel shirt and slid into the sleeping bag. It maintained heat until 6 a.m.
At the hot springs, I used a water bottle filled with the 160 degree water. Made a huge difference as temperatures dropped 40 degrees overnight resulting in sub-freezing temps.

By scouting the free campground at Apache Creek, off highway 12, we were able to see pictographs, Mexican Wolf ravaged carcass, pueblo ruins and ascertain the viability of lean-to shelter building beneath a massive Ponderosa Pine. A small herd of javalina hogs provided fresh sign.

I learned too, that silence is golden and if you're going to bother talking, make it meaningful. Skip the angry swearing and baby talk. Aggravating as hell.

The Hot Springs is privately owned and costs $5 a day per person, comes with 160 degree potable water rushing from a spout and three separate, immaculately maintained 'tubs'. Those few campers utilizing it like we were also were as gypsies, not certain of where the road would take them. A 40 foot blue bus was among the most interesting campers, and gave me courage to bring my 34 foot rig along those winding roads, should I decide to drive, rather than fly, next time.

Again, once I get home, I'll download photos from camera to web.
Minimalism plays a huge part in maintaining sanity among the traveler. Frost and dew fell heavily, making drying gear a process of stringing up lines. The River added to unexpected moisture there in sub-desert climes.

And like us, everyone staying at this campground had a story to share, one filled with lessons and smiles. I found there was a lot to learn, just listening, and keeping my eyes open.

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