Gila Box, Gillard Hot Springs – May 3

We packed up and headed out in the morning. We planned on stopping at the Gillard Hot Springs on our way out. Jon found a road that should save us quite a bit of time and miles to get to it. Most of the roads in this area are marked as “Primitive” roads with no road maintenance. The road seemed fine at first, but then the road started to go down several washes with deep sand at the bottom. Because our vehicle is so heavy and our back axel carries a lot more weight than our front end, we don’t typically do well in deep sand or mud. 


Jon is a very accomplished off road driver. He has a lot of experience driving Land Rovers in often very challenging conditions. 


Jon during the “Mud Run” in California. 

So we were doing fine even through the sandy parts until we reached a point where we missed a turn when we were driving down the bottom of a wash. When trying to back up, we sank down into the sand. In the process of trying to get out, we just seemed to get dug in even deeper.

We pulled out the MaxTrax to try to get the back wheels out of the sand.



We would dig down to the bottom of the rear tires, put the MaxTrax down to give the rear tires something to grip and hopefully get them up out of the sand.  It was very hot work in the bright sun, with no relief from the heat. We do have a front winch rated for the weight of our vehicle, but down in the bottom of the wash, there aren’t any good rocks to attach it to and in this part of the desert, the only plants tend to be cacti with very shallow root structures. 

Jon got out the Pull Pal, a device with a shovel type end and an angled shaft that acts as a land anchor. It will dig into the ground giving you a place to attach your winch. It looks kind of like a hockey stick with a shovel blade attached to the end.

Pull Pal

Initially, it was working great because there was a ditch we could hook the Pull Pal and it helped turn us toward the road we needed to take, but it wasn’t at the right angle for us to turn around enough for us to get lined up on the road. We tried getting it to dig into a number of places, but the area is very rocky. The only dirt is more sand which won’t hold. We tried hooking it to other rocks, but the rocks are a “conglomerate”. That means they are kind of like a concrete mixed with lots of gravel and rocks. Trying to get it to hook into that just sent it flying through the air. It was certainly not productive and at worse potentially very dangerous. 
At this point, we had been at this for about 2 hours. I had started to get overly hot and was feeling quite sick. Plus it didn’t seem like we were getting any closer to getting out. I made Jon take a break for water and a little food. He had been drinking regularly, but did stop to eat a snack. He was feeling just fine and had another idea regarding the use of the Pull Pal. I tried to cool off. 
Jon took the shovel type blade off the Pull Pal and hooked the remaining metal piece into a crevice in a seemingly stronger rock. Jon was successful in using that technique to be able to winch and drive the Fuso up out of the sandy bottom and up onto the firmer roadbed. It took quite a bit of time and required finding a couple of other places to winch from so that he was moving the truck in the right direction. So after 3.5 hours, we were free and on the dirt road heading to the hot springs. Sorry for the lack of photos of the recovery. 

After not too much longer, we reached the parking area for the hot springs.


We walked down the somewhat marked trail to the Gila river. We didn’t see a sign indicating where the hot springs actually were. There were warning signs that the hot springs were dangerously hot. We walked around the area. We saw a rattlesnake.

Black-tailed rattlesnake (Sorry about the photo quality, I really didn’t want to get all that close to him even though he was relaxed and not in a strike position.)

We did finally find a little seep that was hot and steaming. There wasn’t much to it. 

It did make a little muddy spot on the side of the river very warm to stand on. So we went swimming in the river instead. It was a really pleasant temperature and a very green, peaceful place. 

The Gila River. Jon is the little pale spot in the middle of the photo. 
Once refreshed, we walked back to the truck and drove out to the main road, Black Hills Byway, without any problem. We stopped at the Old Safford Bridge.

It was built in the 1918 from concrete due to the limits on steel use during WWI. 

Since it was so much later in the afternoon than we expected, we decided to spend the night at the Owl Creek Campground again. We stayed at the same spot again. To night was much more peaceful. There was a pretty impressive full moon.


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