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Gila Wilderness - NM

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Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Tue Feb 22, 2011 1:40 am

I'm interested in a backpack into the Gila Wilderness in SW New Mexico in late April - early May. I'd like to enter at the extreme NW corner, near where the S Fork of Whitewater Creek join the main branch, using Trail #207. Theirs an unnamed/unnumbered road which shows on my map which goes SSE from Bursum Rd for ~2 miles. This unnamed road "may" be called Powerplant Road based on a POI?

My questions:
- Anyone know the area and the road I'm describing? The road eventually turns into Trail #810, which tees into #207.
- I have a bit of concern over the recently introduced wolves, inasmuch as I'll have my dog. Any thoughts?
- How many creek fords am I likely to encounter? How deep?
- Lay on me any experiences you've had in the Gila.

Thanks
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby Clark_Griswold » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:40 am

In the week before Memorial Day of last year, I did a Loop from Woody's Corral near the Cliff Dwellings out to Prior Cabin, over to Lilley Spring, down to the West Fork, up to McKenna Park, down to Little Creek and back to the Coral. It was real nice. Maybe I was loud as hell, but I never saw more than a few squirrels, a mule deer, and ravens. I heard birds, like the Whip-por-whil which is in the area, but I never really had much of a wildlife encounter, including wolves. I Heard what might have been them, or coyotes, at night howling, miles away. I saw bear tracks, and they looked to have been within 12 hours of me, but that was basically it. I did see a lot of really nice southwestern country, and a big full moon (which I hiked under the first night to 1030PM) and then stars on later nights.

The Gila was nice. I went 3 days without seeing another human. I don't know if anyone saw me and hid. It was quiet, dark, and nice. Real scenic. I had several crossing, all of them very cold and running fast and high due to the heavy winter snows. I recommend flip flops, and not doing them barefoot. The river rocks were slick, but they could be sharp up high.

From your description, I see I was in that area back in October of 2005. I parked my car by the asphalt and walked to what must have been a trailhead. I couldn't have gotten my car up there. Don't know how it is now. I remember the road ending at a spot where I could see the Whitewater Canyon, or the valley below. I don't remember a trail, but that means nothing. The canyon is pretty deep and rugged looking in my photos I have. It is the same canyon the Catwalk is in. Who knows how the trails are in that area. It might be in good shape since it is close to civilization. I recommend calling the appropriate ranger district to ask about it. I think that is the Reserve RD, not the Wilderness RD. You might consider letting them know who you are, where you are going, and when you do, in case something happens and your dog has to sustain himself on you. I was alone and had planned to do that, but got out there after the offices had closed. Perhaps, I might have seen some wildlife if I had an accident which rendered me gimpy. Just a thought.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby jfrishmanIII » Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:34 am

I've dayhiked into the S. Fork Whitewater, and it's a wonderful place. I would love to spend a lot more time in there.

I think the road you're referring to and trail 810 may be an ATV route (the confluence of Whitewater and the S. Fork is just outside the wilderness boundary). You could check with the Glenwood Ranger station, but I wouldn't count on necessarily driving very far on that one. Unless you're hell-bent to avoid the parking fee, I'd say you'd probably be happier just going in from the Catwalk. The Catwalk is pretty cool, though you might have to keep your dog leashed for a ways.

Creek crossings: expect a lot, the area's rather notorious for them, and though I haven't been up main fork Whitewater, the Falcon guide says there are many. There hasn't been much snow down there, so I doubt you'll have high-water issues in April, but you'll probably find it difficult or impossible to cross with dry feet. The S. Fork is pretty small, and I expect you could generally hop across in there. The Gila canyons tend to be really narrow, and get cliffed out on one side or the other, forcing the trails to cross back and forth a lot. I'd probably hike in cheap sneakers and bring flip-flops or another pair for camp.

As for wolves, I doubt anyone could give you a really definitive answer. Again, see what the Glenwood rangers have to say. But we're talking about a very small population of wolves roaming an awful lot of country, and my impression is that they prefer the more open lands to the north over the canyons in the wilderness. So your odds might be good, but your dog would be running some risk no matter what. I know a lot of folks in the area claim to have had dogs attacked, though again, I think they're mostly talking about lands north of the wilderness.

Last piece of advice: plan to take your time. I'm a fast hiker, and I'm used to bad trails or no trails, but I've still found that Gila miles go slow. Plus, there are a lot of places that tempt you to linger or explore. But it's marvelous country, not quite like anywhere else, and you'll be glad you went.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Wed Feb 23, 2011 1:53 am

Thank You Mr Leghorn & jfrishmanIII, both replies help a lot. Now I've got the itch bad.

I've discovered a Snotel site only 6-mi from the trailhead and 3-mi from the trip high point and about the same elevation. Currently 9-in of snow. I'll be checking in mid-April. I have boat deck shoes with heavy soles and a stretch top which I've used for beaver dam busting, so I'll be in good shape fording creeks.

The wolf comments help, logical that they would not be in canyons, their pack hunts and fast travel would not be best suited to steep narrow canyons.

The Gila should be totally different from anything I've done, so a little edge for the uncertainty.

Thank you again.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby Bubba Suess » Wed Mar 02, 2011 5:41 pm

I would just second what y'all have said about the Gila. The place is fantastic. In someways it is a bit more subtle than some of the more famous wilderness areas in NM, but once in those canyons it is overwhelming. I yearn to return.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:53 am

Taste of Gila

I was able to get to the Gila Wilderness at the end of a Grand Canyon - Tonto NF - Gila Loop for some R&R. Here's what I learned:

The road in question is indeed the Powerplant Road and for good reason. Turns out the road went all the way from Hwy 159 to the Jct of Whitewater Ck and the S. Fork. The purpose was to transport the machinery for a hydroelectric generator which produced power for the Mogollon Mining District. Today the road is an access to the Whitewater Trail, #207. The 2WD TH is at the highpoint, 7100 ft, the 4WD TH is at 6500 ft., and ATV's can get even to the power plant site, if you're brave enough.

This cabin is at the 4WD TH, I spent two nights at the TH.
Image

Here's a view looking NE, up Whitewater Ck with the ATV track/trail in the foreground.
Image

Here's a view looking upstream of Whitewater Ck, you can see all the exposed rock indicative of the low snow pack. To my eye this looks like Sept flow, not March.
Image

The FS sign at the power plant site.
Image

In all I was able to take a 2mi hike to the power plant site and a second 8mi hike up Whitewater Creek to get a taste of Gila. Quite spectacular. I'll go back for my backpack in late-April.

All the photos were taken with a Garmin Nuvifone, held the Topo maps and takes quality pics, not bad. :)
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby Bubba Suess » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:38 am

Whitewater Canyon looks awesome. I have not been in that part of the Gila but I am eager to get there.

Don't take this as critical, but I am curious about what advantage is gained by going in on Powerhouse Road rather than on the Catwalk. By the way, a bit late, by my USGS map does identify the road as Powerhouse Road.

Thanks for the pics of the Gila, I am always glad to see more when you get them!
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Fri Apr 01, 2011 3:19 pm

Bubba Suess wrote:Don't take this as critical, but I am curious about what advantage is gained by going in on Powerhouse Road rather than on the Catwalk.
Shorter, both road and trail miles from the 4WD TH. YMMV


By the way, a bit late, by my USGS map does identify the road as Powerhouse Road.
Are you sure? My map's POI show Powerplant Road. Just like in my OP.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby jfrishmanIII » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:35 pm

Thanks for the update and pics! Damn, that's low water; I was there in October a couple years ago and there was way more flow than that. Wretched year for southern NM. I'm thinking about a Gila trip in May, but won't be at all surprised if the place is on fire. Fortunately, Utah makes a good plan B.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby Bubba Suess » Fri Apr 01, 2011 5:03 pm

By the way, a bit late, by my USGS map does identify the road as Powerhouse Road.
Are you sure? My map's POI show Powerplant Road. Just like in my OP.[/quote]

Your right. My quick reading caught up with me.

Was there no snow at all in the Gila? None seemed visible in your pics. That really is low water. Out here in California, Moonbeam has officially declared the drought is over. I had 11 feet come down at my house last week.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:32 pm

Bubba Suess wrote:Was there no snow at all in the Gila? None seemed visible in your pics. That really is low water.
When I was at the 4WD TH, 6500', I could look NE and see some snow on the north face of what I believe is Skeleton Ridge, 8222'. Down maybe 500'. According to the Silver Creek Divide Snotel theirs no snow at 9000'.


Out here in California, Moonbeam has officially declared the drought is over. I had 11 feet come down at my house last week.
That affectionate name must be for JB.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby jfrishmanIII » Fri Apr 01, 2011 9:45 pm

Was there no snow at all in the Gila?


I can't speak directly to the Gila, but I was in the Black Range and San Mateos two weeks ago, and there were only the tiniest patches visible in the shadiest spots in those ranges: basically nothing. And that was two weeks ago, and the weather has been constantly warm since. The Mogollon's got more than anywhere in the southern part of the state, but it still wasn't much. On the other hand, there were a lot of plants down there looking pretty bad, I expect from the bitter cold spells we had this winter. No snow, but several nights of 20-below.
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby Bubba Suess » Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:23 am

When you say the Mogollons got more that anywhere else, are you including Sierra Blanca in that assessment? If so, it must have been a really bad year...
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby jfrishmanIII » Sat Apr 02, 2011 6:59 am

I was pretty much thinking southwest, and checking the SNOTEL data, Sierra Blanca did do rather better than the Mogollons this year (7.8" of accumulated precip for the water year, as opposed to 6").
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Re: Gila Wilderness - NM

Postby MtnHermit » Sun Apr 03, 2011 4:06 pm

jfrishmanIII wrote:Thanks for the update and pics! Damn, that's low water; I was there in October a couple years ago and there was way more flow than that. Wretched year for southern NM. I'm thinking about a Gila trip in May, but won't be at all surprised if the place is on fire. Fortunately, Utah makes a good plan B.
For me a blessing. Whitewater Canyon is scary, some places only 50' wide and obvious by the rocks, part of the trail would be underwater during normal spring flows. Add to that the numerous deep crossings and I'd say take advantage of a rare opportunity for a spring adventure.
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