Thanksgiving at Turkey Creek

November 28-30, 2014

What better place to celebrate Thanksgiving than Turkey Creek? Once again we got very lucky with the weather, slipping into the sweet spot between unseasonable cold and a record-breaking rainstorm. We left Tucson Thursday morning and arrived at the Gila in time to enjoy the dazzling golden light of Autumn in a grove of Arizona sycamores. After a rainy fall, the Gila was running crystal clear and higher than normal and it seemed that we had the whole river to ourselves.

That evening we enjoyed a regular Thanksgiving feast of turkey, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato soufflé, green beans and pumpkin cheesecake.

Next morning we packed up and headed for the trailhead. Almost immediately we came across a herd of at least a dozen very large and healthy-looking wild turkeys, probably out celebrating having escaped the axe the previous day.

It was a glorious morning, with an edge of freezing nighttime air offset by dazzling sunshine. Golden leaves sifted down and made for a crunchy carpet underfoot. The three crossings were almost thigh-deep, but the bigger surprise was that Turkey Creek was flowing all the way to the Gila, so there were many more crossings to come.

As expected, the floods of September 2013 and 2014 had thoroughly scoured this side canyon, removing almost any trace of previous trails, But the soaring red cliffs were no less impressive and we were happy to pick our way among the colorful boulders and the small pools and waterfalls. The "needle's eye", where you must pull or push your pack through a narrow passage about 15 feet long, was the same, but the outlet was somehow reconfigured so that we ended up skittering across an bridge of shaky logs wedged into a crack in the rock.

It was well past local sunset in this narrow canyon when we began feeling a change in water temperature that told us we were getting close to the hot springs. Around 3:30 &emdash; about 4½ hours from the trailhead &emdash; we arrived at the campsite.

First order of business of course was checking out the pools. There was a small but well-engineered pool near the camp, so our crew of seven focused their attention on deepening and enlarging it, and we got in several good soaks before dark.

Saturday dawned even more glorious than the preceding day, with brilliant sunshine and just enough cool breeze to make the pools very tempting. Debra and Karyn made their way up canyon while Tony, Linda, Hans, Dennis and I whiled away the day reading, soaking, exploring other local pools and fine-tuning the ones we had chosen.

Sunday alas it was time to pack up and return to civilization, but we were so pleased with our Thanksgiving Turkey (Creek) that we may make it an annual tradition.