My wife and I took an extensive road trip from in the fall of 2008 visiting tourist sites and doing some hiking primarily in Colorado and New Mexico. As we turned to head back home in Oregon, I had to try one more hike. Mount Baldy, the highpoint of Apache County in Arizona. Mount Baldy was the last peak I needed to complete all the county highpoints of Arizona, so it was high on my priority list.
On October 9, we drove up from Silver City, NM and found a nice inexpensive motel in Springerville called the Rode Inn. Early the next morning I drove out to the West Baldy Trail trailhead. There has been some extensive road work in the area and this trailhead has been relocated. It is on 273 about 100 ft south of the intersection with the road going to Greer. It is trailhead is well marked and the road is closed going south from here. This route is well documented and I had lots of routes, trip reports, and maps printed, so I was prepared for this hike.
I parked alongside the road and shouldered my day pack. The rerouted trailhead is meanders through the forest for about a mile before it rejoins the original West Baldy Trail in the Little Colorado River Valley. Wow! What a beautiful valley. Open meadows, beautiful evergreen forest, aspens in their fall colors. I hadn’t gone very far up the valley when I saw a bull elk feeding in the meadow ahead. He didn’t stay around very long before heading up the valley ahead of me. In another half mile I caught sight of him again and he was with 2 cow elk this time. They headed east into the timber and I kept going southwest following this nice trail.
About half way to the summit, the valley opens up and there were a couple tents pitched in strategic locations just south of the trail. A couple campers were stirring trying to wake up. I kept going and the open valley ended. The terrain was totally forested and I finally crossed over the Little Colorado and left it behind as the trail started to climb towards the summit.
When the trail reached an old burn area that was full of snags, I started to have a problem staying on the trail. There was snow in spots and between the snow and the down snags I finally lost the trail all together. My trusty GPS had a waypoint set for the summit and the saddle near the summit, so I kept going picking my way through the burned snags and then into a beautiful forest with very little brush or obstacles to overcome. I followed my GPS directly to the saddle and never found the trail again. I visited the highpoints and found a red can that had a summit register in it at one time. Sometimes these registers are more trouble than they are worth anyway.
It was a beautiful day and I could see for long distances in all directions. All good times must end, so I decided since I had no clue where the trail was, that I would just head directly off the summit towards the point where I had lost the trail. It was kind of steep going down in the snow and rocks, but I made good progress. I stumbled across the old airplane wreckage, so I knew the trail should be close, but I couldn’t find it. I kept going and eventually found the burned snag area. I also saw a couple hikers or hunters below me on another slope. They must have been on the real trail.
My GPS served me well and I finally found the trail and could now make good time going back to my truck. I enjoyed the hike all the way back. This is a beautiful scenic area. I did see a couple more hikers almost back at the trailhead. I guess they slept in this morning.
My GPS indicated I had covered 16.7 miles. I only gained 2,700 ft and it took me 7 hours for the complete hike. This is a beautiful area and I would go back again any time. Oh, yeah I became the 42nd completer of the Arizona County Highpoints.
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