Camping in the Gila Wilderness


Before I left Deming, I had heard about some campgrounds in the area that might be nice to visit; but I didn’t want to take the trailer. So I planned a two-week tent/truck camping trip to the Gila Wilderness about 1 1/2 hours north of Deming, at a campground known as “Grapevine”. This place had been recommended by another LoW member who frequently stayed there. I put the trailer in temporary storage and packed up the truck for an old-fashioned campout.

The first six days were quiet, full of cottonwood ‘snow’ that blew into everything, and entertaining in terms of the various species of birds that came to visit and ‘decorate’ my truck. The site I chose happened to be where the wind blew all the ‘cotton’, but it was protected by a stone wall and gave me a view of the road, especially where it diverted toward the Gila River. There was a crossing there, and many vehicles made their way to the other side by fording the river.

I spent time reading, writing, coloring in my ‘adult’ coloring book with colored pencils, and just sitting. Sometimes I would drum to the morning or to the evening, sometimes at the river. There was a rock near the crossing that was perfect for short stretches of sitting and watching the birds and the polliwogs, feeling the breeze. On the warmest days I wore shorts, a narrow scarf-like sarong tied around my chest, my cowboy hat, and a chambray shirt that I soaked in the river to wear to keep me cool. And flip-flops. I was not a fashion icon!!!

In the mornings it was cool, sometimes cold, so I wore jeans, a T-shirt, sweat shirt, and slippers, and curled up in a blanket while waiting for the coffee to perk on the Coleman stove. (I LOVE the little four-cup aluminum pot I picked up in an antique store in John Day!) Because of the tree canopy it took an extra hour for the sun to hit my site and warm things up.

This campground is a primitive campground, so I brought my own water, and used the pit toilet at the other end of the area, driving there every morning for the daily ‘constitutional’. I pitched my small tent to house my goods, and slept in the truck. I also put up a new shower enclosure and my solar shower, which I used only twice. I enjoyed the enclosure for allowing me a place where I could stand up to change my clothes, and bathe.

After those first six days came the weekend and a Monday from ‘the real world’. And it is from these experiences that I would not recommend that anyone stay there for more than five or so days, and NEVER on the weekend. Especially between Easter and Labor Day. During this time this campground, as well as others, probably across the country, become ‘free for all’ parties, something like fraternity parties, where people behave irresponsibly toward everyone else. They are there for their pleasure only.

Most of the folks who do behave this way are young – twenty and thirty-somethings, looking for a time-out from the work world, but bringing their lifestyles with them. They play their music, and I use that term loosely, loud, like all the cars with their stereos blasting for everyone to hear, whether they want to or not. And they aren’t interested in whether you (I) think it’s too loud. And they drink themselves into stupors.

My weekend ‘neighbors’ on the 7th and 8th days were like that. I even got up the nerve to request that they turn their ‘music’ down, with the response that the ‘law said’ they could play their music as loud as they wanted until 10 p.m. I was only asking for some moderation of the level, without even making any statement about what they were playing, which is what I call “Rap Crap”. These folks had three small children with them, the oldest I’m guessing at seven years old. The words of the rapping were f___, mf___, sounds of sexual activity, and other inappropriate phrases. Those of you who know me well, know that I was a social worker in child protection for many years. This behavior was unbearable; yet, I was not going to leave – it was the principle of the thing! Right? What I learned was that after making my request and seeing that my ‘rights’ for a quiet time in the forest were not going to be respected, I felt very vulnerable – vulnerable to the point that I slept with my shoes on, put something near me in bed that could be used as a weapon. When people are drinking they behave in unstable ways, and I was very aware that there could be retaliation. Luckily, nothing like that happened, and they left late in the afternoon the next day.

Another family in an adjacent site, also young, with small children, offered a different experience. Out of the blue the mother would shout at her children. They cried frequently, and I could only feel sad for them that they were not having a positive experience of camping with their family. The mother was correcting them often, shouting (in Spanish) for them to not be doing what they were doing. She picked at everything. Ironically, on Mother’s Day (which I had totally forgotten about) I was sitting at the store up the road, where I got a homemade icecream treat, when the family stopped by, and as they left, the husband wished me a happy Mother’s Day!

Yes, my answer to all the noise was to leave my site and go somewhere. So I drove up to the Gila Cliff Dwelling Visitor Center about five miles up the road. They have a fine presentation about the cliff dwellings and the people who lived there in the past. Also a very nice, small gift shop. Then I drove to the Cliff Dwelling trail, and decided not to take the mile hike and climb to see the actual place. On the return I stopped at the store for my treat, and I asked the attendant if it would be alright for me to sit at a picnic table outside on the porch and do some beading. He said I could, so I did. Afterward, I browsed the merchandise inside and found a very nice shirt to give myself. It has a petroglyph motif, with some spiral designs, that I used to create some new beadwork. So ends the first week.

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