Speaking of the Gila, this area has always intrigued me. The West and Middle Forks justifiably get all the attention but the area east of the Middle Fork looks interesting. I saw a couple pictures of this area a long time ago and I have been intrigued ever since. Just curious if anyone had been there.
Last week did the Gila Loop which was the reason for starting this thread, see map:
I started at the 4WD TH on the Powerplant Road, hiked down #810 to #207, Whitewater Ck Trail, and followed it a short way to #212, S Fork Trail. The S Fork Trail crosses the creek some two-dozen times in a narrow lush canyon with lots of deadfall either in the creek or over the trail. That trail showed the most recent maintenance, with evidence of saw cuts in many downed trees. Here's a creek photo for ambiance:
As was suggested in this thread, Gila miles are harder/slower than other trails, the many creek crossings with their constant up and down, coupled with the rocky trails made for slow going. However, the steep canyon was constant eye candy. The trees, mostly Douglas Fir and Ponderosa were tall and straight, easily 70-feet tall, and only 10-20 feet apart. Not at all like where I live.
I camped about a mile short of Camp Creek Saddle because I was totally gassed and the creek was down to one gallon per minute flow, the last flowing water I was to see until the next afternoon. Also, unlike my Colo backpacks, the temperature doesn't fall off a cliff at sunset, rather declines steadily all night long. Got to 32°F that first night, saw an ice covered puddle the next morning.
When I reached Camp Creek Saddle the next morning that was the end of the trail maintenance and the end of a visible trail. The Holt-Apache Trail, #810, hadn't seen a saw blade is ten+ years. The recent burn north of Camp Creek Saddle made sight navigation easy, just needed to avoid the deadfall tangle. I headed for an obvious saddle and lo-and-behold picked up the trail well off from its map location. In that quest I ran into a 10-foot variant of Crucifixion Thorn, looked just like an aspen until you had a half-inch thorn embedded in your palm. Didn't make that mistake twice.
The Crucifixion Thorn was everywhere in the Gila, mostly 3-5 foot tall and most plentiful in that burn area above 8000 feet. Nothing like the combination of a thorn grove and a deadfall tweener to strike fear into a backpacker. By the time I got out of the burn area I had torn pants, bloody knuckles, and numerous scratches on my arms and legs. The same burn area was covered in raspberry brush, never thought I ever ignore raspberry, but Crucifixion Thorn will demand your undivided attention.
Shortly after the burn area, I needed a physical and mental break and stopped at a rare opening in the trees for this view of Black Mtn, 10,600', east of Spider Creek. There were a few snow patches visible near the summit. I saw no snow on my loop and I topped out at 9400 feet.
After my rest it was a relatively short hike to Spider Saddle and the DeLoche Trail, #179, into Winn Canyon. #179 was by far the best trail, with little deadfall, almost no rocks and may switchbacks to ease the grade. I camped as soon as I reached Whitewater Creek, I'd run out of water on the way down the 2600' descent. Just a few hundred yards down #207 from my camp, I encountered a large group of backpackers going from the Willow Creek gate on Hwy 159 to the Catwalk TH. Talked to a couple and they counted the number of crossings, 36, of Whitewater Creek. Here's an example:
So my Gila "meal" was 19-miles and a bit over 5000' of elevation gain. Never been anyplace quite like the Gila. That's why I go.
Edit 1: Oh I should mention, driving toward Glenwood on US 180 & NM 12, saw a couple of anti-wolf billboards. Basically, wolves eat elk and the locals would rather shoot elk or sell supplies to others who come to hunt NM elk. I heard turkeys twice and saw one flying. Otherwise just elk and deer prints on the trail.
Last edited by MtnHermit on Sun May 01, 2011 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Yeah, I've been following it, had hoped to be heading down there soon, but I'm not surprised given the lousy spring we had around here. I hope you're right Lionel, and I'm sure that this will benefit a lot of forest, especially the ponderosa parks. I just hope it's not too hard on the riparian areas. This one blew so big and fast, it's not exactly low to moderate intensity.