You'll "lose time" on the 60+ fords, but they're worth it, as the West Fork of the Gila is a beautiful canyon. (The alternatives tend to be quite dry and not nearly as scenic.)
Cliff Dwellings to the Catwalk is a classic walk and is one of the more popular extended backpacking routes in Gila Country. I'm sure the rangers at the Wilderness and Glenwood ranger districts can give you some additional pointers and a modicum of info on current trail conditions.
You could also consider leaving the West Fork at Trail 152 and taking this trail over Mogollon Baldy. There, join Crest Trail 182 to Holt-Apache Trail 181 to South Fork Whitewater Creek Trail to Whitewater Trail to the Catwalk. South Fork Whitewater is, by and large, far more scenic than the main fork of Whitewater. As an added bonus, you would avoid the many additional fords of the main fork between Hummingbird Saddle and the Catwalk.