Return to Turkey Creek

October 25-28, 2018

We've made the hike into Turkey Creek six times, but I confess the trek of October, 2018, was a nail-biter. We had an unusually rainy fall, when monsoon storms merged with backwash from several tropical storms. On the morning of September 2, 16 hikers stranded on a ridge in Aravaipa Canyon were rescued by helicopter. Little did we know that at the same time on the eastern end of the canyon, two of the people signed up for the Turkey Creek trip were also caught in a flash flood and had a very long walk out because their car was buried in mud.

On October 1, Tropical Storm Rosa dumped over two inches of rain on Phoenix and flooded many southern Arizona streams. Tucson received 2.65 inches of rain that month, making it the fifth wettest October on record. Another storm pounded the Southwest on October 22nd, and with the soil already saturated, the Gila River near Gila, New Mexico, spiked at over 250 cfs. And now just days before our trip, we noted with increasing alarm that instead of the usual spike and dramatic decline, the stream flow was actually continuing to climb.

We did our best to gather information on road conditions and water level. As usual I phoned the the Gila National Forest offices in Glenwood, New Mexico, but was told that noone there could provide any information regarding one of their most popular recreation sites. "Oh I don't think anyone has even driven that road this year," replied the twit who answered the phone. Wow, remember when actual rangers worked for the Forest Service?

We then called our friend Ann H. in Silver City, who kindly put out the word to friends who lived along the Gila and learned that the roads, at least, were in reasonable condition despite the rain. So off we went, gathering at the post office in Gila, New Mexico, so we could travel together over the rough road into Brushy Creek Canyon.

We nabbed the last available campsite, right near the trailhead, and settled in for a cozy campfire and a peaceful night beside the roaring Gila River. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
Here's the whole crew, ready for the hike into Turkey Creek. Front: Julias Matias, Robin Hall, Noreen Fuentes and Margarent Bowman. Back: Mitch Stevens, Jeff Bernstein, Terry Johnson, Patty Frederickson, Karyn Reim, me and Dennis.
Heading out along the old road, colorful fall foliage with the rugged Gila Mountains for a backdrop. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
A colorful couple: Robin Hall and Terry Johnson.
And their (almost) fearless leader. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
The first crossing wasn't too bad, but the water was still butt-deep for the ladies and the current was impressive.
The crossings got progressively more difficult, and on the third one, two of the women were swept over by the current. We all found out very quickly what happens when a backpack fills with water, and it took a team effort to get everyone back on their feet and safely to the other side of stream. In retrospect, of course, we should have turned back at this point, but it was a beautiful sunny fall day, and we were sure the water would be lower by the time we returned. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
As usual, we missed the entrance to Turkey Creek. Time for a tech break to turn on the GPS and get back on track. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
The recent floods made this hike much more difficult than usual. Side streams that are normally just a trickle had washed away the trail and left huge boulder fields in their wake, and past Skeleton Canyon high water forced us out of the stream and onto the rough terrain on either side.
Me and Dennis, waterlogged and sunburned. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
Almost there. Jeff logs the last mile. Photo by Mitch Stevens.
Of course the most difficult part of the hike is dragging your pack through a narrow passage around a waterfall. It had not occurred to me that having come all this way, the tunnel might be flooded. Fortunately, the water stopped just below the entrance. Photo by Robin Hall.
Finally arrived at the hot springs, where there was a lot of digging to adjust the temperature of the pools to the much higher volume of cold water.
Dennis, Patty, me and Robin earning a good long soak. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
Terry, Robin and Patty
Robin and me at the waterfall.
In planning for this trip, I had more or less forgotten that it was my birthday. But my friends had not! The first surprise was Saturday morning, when David and Rogil strolled into camp. That night, Jeff and Julia surprised me with a Happy Birthday banner, and Noreen produced another one of her miraculous lavender birthday cakes. Photo by Terry A. Johnson
Good times around the campfire.
All too soon, it was time to head home.
Enjoying the scents and the sights of fall.

Of course we were very concerned about the water crossings, but by then the water level had dropped slightly, plus we had perfected our deep water crossing technique.

Everybody safely back in camp. Celebratory dinner at the Toad in Silver City, followed by a L-O-N-G nap!