Monthly Archives: October 2015
October 2015 – Walter La Fleur – Gold Gulch
On the southern edge of the Burro Mountains, in the foothills between the Big Burros and the plains of Lordsburg, lies dramatic terrain full of ranching activities, abandoned mines, Native American history, and hiking adventures. I’ve scratched the surface of trails in the area, but had never hiked Gold Gulch. So when Walter La Fleur suggested it as a hike, I eagerly laced up.
Before you read about the trail, let me tell you about Walter. He grew up in New Mexico and remembers adventures in the Gila as a Boy Scout and teenager. Life was different then (roughly 70 years ago), and it was normal for a few kids to be out in the woods all day, apparently doing boy things like finding snakes and knocking over dead trees. He told me about one adventure when he got his driver’s license and he and a buddy drove from Deming to Sheridan Corral and rode horses out to the Big Dry for a couple of weeks. They lived mostly on trout they caught (ten per day was the limit) and corn bread they made in a skillet.
When I asked him which trail was his favorite, he described an area of the middle fork between Snow Lake and The Meadows. It’s a several day backpacking trip that’s worth the effort.
Here’s another one of his favorite hikes that he’d like to share with readers:
Name: Gold Gulch
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 90 and By-Pass Road, travel approximately 21 miles south and make a right onto Gold Gulch Road. Travel 2.5 miles, pull over to the right and onto the dirt road. Confirm your location by finding the Forest Service brown marker labeled, “4250G” in the bushes to the right.
Hike Description: This hike begins on an old dirt road and then continues up Gold Gulch. Walk the road a short distance until you reach a gate. After closing the gate behind you, continue up the road. It may disappear a few times, but it’s pretty easy to find and follow. Within 5-10 minutes of walking, you will be paralleling Gold Gulch. There are a few pseudo-trails that lead you to the gulch. If you miss them, just bushwhack down to it, leaving yourself a cairn or marker in the gulch for your return trip. If you continue up the road instead of going into the gulch, you will come upon an old mine hole. Check it out, and then return down the hill and go over to the gulch. The remainder of the hike is up the gulch itself.
Notes: Along the way you will enjoy interesting rock formations. In spots, rock climbing will be necessary as you continue. If it becomes too strenuous to climb boulders, consider going around the boulders by finding (mostly cattle) trails on either side of the arroyo. Don’t be surprised if you’re like me and utilize the “enrumpage” technique (that always graceful maneuver of sliding down smooth boulders on your bum) on this hike.
Please keep in mind that at certain times of the year, Gold Gulch Road can contain deep sandy areas and will be 4-wheel drive only. Proceed wisely.
Do you have any suggestions for hikers? “Stop walking when rubbernecking. Also, some people tend to walk so fast that they miss the wilderness.”
Tell me about a particularly memorable hiking experience: Walter wistfully tells me about his long time hiking buddy who recently passed away. He was the leader of their informal hiking group and had led them on innumerable adventures. As the friend’s health deteriorated, their hikes got shorter. Eventually hikes became car rides in the forest. Towards the end, his buddy would investigate the lower reaches near the car while Walter hiked nearby and took photographs so his friend could enjoy the highlights. I imagine it must have been soothing to be outside for a while and away from troubles.
I hope that when I get towards the end of my days, I have someone like Walter to help me enjoy my last sights, sounds and smells of the countryside.
This article originally appeared in the October 22, 2015 issue of “The Independent”.
A Regulars’ Favorite
At any given time, the Gila is alive with small groups of hikers exploring and enjoying the forest’s beauty. It seems hikers naturally prefer small groups and recently I was able to hike with three regulars on the trails. June Decker, Joe Morris and Donna Jean Morris have been hiking together weekly since 2006. Their many hiking accomplishments include hiking the CD Trail from the Mexican border to Signboard Saddle in the Black Range.
During our day together, I asked them which trail is their favorite. The reply came back, “The one we’re on now.” No matter what trail they’re on, that’s always the answer.
Donna Jean, the storyteller of the group, shared this border story. They were hiking south of Hachita a few years ago and Donna Jean had lost her keys somewhere along the trail. A few days later she contacted the Border Patrol and informed them that they had lost keys and were returning on a specific day to look for them. On that day, she and Joe went back and found the keys easily in the middle of a dirt road. As they headed back to blacktop, a Border Patrol car passed them, turned around and followed them. And then a second patrol car and then another. Suddenly a helicopter lowered in front of their windshield and a voice on a loud speaker demanded they stop. Startled, Donna jumped out of the car, and cried, “What is this? We were just looking for my keys!” After a brief conversation, the Border Patrolman waved off the hovering helicopter, and a shaken Donna and Joe were soon on their way home. Isn’t it amazing the things you experience on a hike?
I also learned how dedicated to volunteering in the community the three are. Donna Jean and Joe volunteer at Our Paws’ Cause Thrift Shop, the Hurley Animal Shelter and the Hurley Library.
Now semiretired while running a pet-sitting business, June hikes weekly, facilitates WILL (Western Institute for Lifelong Learning) classes on hiking and coordinates pickleball games several times a week.
Did I hear you just ask, “What is pickleball?” It’s a hybrid of badminton, tennis and table tennis in which two, three, or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net. It was developed in the 1960s in Washington state and is now an international sport. Here in Silver City it is played by approximately 65 people and was introduced through the WILL courses. If you’re interested in learning more, they play at the WNMU Intramural Gym at 2 p. m. on Mondays, 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, 9 a.m. on Fridays, at the 32nd Street tennis courts at the same times, and at the Rec Center at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Come watch and check it out!
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers.
Name: Continental Divide Trail between North Star Mesa Road to Signboard Saddle
Distance: 8 miles round trip Dif. culty: moderate Directions: From the intersection of Highway 180 and 32nd Street, drive east on 180 to Highway 152 (5.4 miles). Take 152 for 13.9 miles and turn left onto Highway 35. Drive north on 35 for 14.7 miles and make a right onto North Star Mesa Road. Drive 14.3 miles on North Star Mesa Road until you reach the trailhead. You will begin this hike by going toward “Signboard Saddle — 4 miles.”
Hike Description: This hike winds around the side of the mountain, mostly below the ridgeline. On the way toward the signboard, it is mildly uphill, nothing that my weak knees couldn’t handle. Be prepared to stop for many photo opportunities. It’s view- t- ful!
Notes: North Star Mesa Road ( a. k. a. Route 150 or Wall Lake Road) can be rough in a few spots as it crosses streams and rocky canyons. As of Aug. 28, 2015, it was in good condition that a high- clearance, non- four- wheel- drive vehicle could traverse.
As you enter the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, please be aware of the signage ”No Hang Gliding Allowed.” Darn it! I carried my equipment all that way!
If you lose the trail, you’ve missed one of the many switchbacks. Backtrack to the spot where you zigged when you should have zagged.
June thoroughly enjoys her current pet-sitting gig, saying, “people pay me to pet dogs” ( and goats, chickens and tortoises). Her love of animals is quickly evident as we compare animal stories and dog hiking tips along our walk.
- Be sure your dog drinks sufficient water.
- Don’t overexert your pet. Adjust hike length to your pet’s current age and abilities.
- Be mindful of your pet’s paws on hot ground and avoid walking them raw.
- When your dog is walking from shady spot to shady spot, that’s an indication that the animal is overheated.
- Be cautious during hunting season. Either leave your dogs at home, keep them on leash, or have them wear something brightly colored.