10/14 – 10/15 – Over the next few days we walked through ponderosa forests, mainly on jeep roads but we also had our first trail since before Grants. Wrong Way met us at a non-functioning windmill with water and other goodies. It would have been a looooooong waterless stretch if not for his generosity. We climbed Mangus and Wagontongue Mountain before descending to the lovely rolling grassland of Collins Park. Pronghorn pranced across the golden hills. Thunder and lightning were looming on the horizon when we arrived at Snow Lake on the afternoon of 10/16. We were expecting to hunker down in the bathroom for the worst of it, but the storm passed us by without a drop of rain. At the lake we met some friendly El Pasonians, one of whom owned a pizzeria and generously gave us coupons for 4 free pizzas!
October 17th we faced 77+ crossings of the Middle Fork of the Gila River. In the frosty morning it was torture to immerse our feet and ankles into the icy water. But as the sun’s rays finally reached into the narrow canyon, the water warmed and terra-cotta cliffs on either side were stunning. We walked along oak and pine trees and saw lots of bear scat but no bears. But, in the words of Jim Wolf, “enough is enough,” so we climbed up the top of the mesa. Our climb was rewarded with a grand vista of the valley the fuchsia and lemon coloured fruit of various cactus. In the evening light we descended to the West Fork of the Gila to camp at Upper Scorpion campground.