“The forecast is calling for rain and snow; possible flooding in the canyons”.
Well, that was that. Standing behind my desk and staring at a deteriorating NOAA forecast, it became evident that Utah was out and heading South was in. It was time for Kim and I to explore the Gila. Finally. Joining us was our good friend and fearless southern boy Brian and our frequent co-conspirator Asher with his FZJ.
Our journey began near the VLA in the mountains above Datil. From there we’d head south following forest roads to the southern end of the Gila Mountains and end up in the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. None of us had gone this route before and although our rigs and hearts were ready, little did we know the sheer size and vastness of the region. It would be three full days of overlanding with little time outside of our trucks. Unfortunate in the sense of on-foot exploration, but a testament to the grandness of the Gila.
Drive, drive, drive…. Fortunately we found some excellent camping and made the best of the journey. Our discoveries were simple, yet begging for further exploration another time. Canyons, lakes, hidden peaks, old growth forest, predator tracks–this is what we came for and found. Even an archeo nut such as myself continually found ruins and hints of previous peoples.
Finishing up with one of the greatest stretches of highway any of us have ever driven, we made a stop at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument and were astonished by the size of the ruins, but also at the sheer beauty of the Mimbres Valley where they lie. What a superb area full of history, the wild and free Gila River, and distant mountains on all sides.
This reminds me of two topics.
First, this was Memorial Day Weekend, which many forget the meaning of. Not here. Our freedom to explore these wild places and the ability to travel without fear is a result of many sacrifices. I know of someone dear to my heart who made the ultimate sacrifice protecting these ideals and would have been beside himself exploring these remote places–places he never got a chance to see. While freedom these days is now more tied with economic mobility and less with the spiritual, fundamental, and philosophical freedom many take for granted, it is times like these out deep in the woods that act as a reminder to be thankful for everything afforded to us.
Second, the Gila. There are insane and irrational government forces at work to dam and damn this river. It is wild and free, spring fed, and is birthed high in the first wilderness of the United States. We must do better choosing our elected officials, being vigilant and vocal, and recognizing what remains truly free in this country. DO NOT DAM THE GILA RIVER.
It’s not only people that need to be free.