Monthly Archives: December 2015
Canyons are Gorge-ous!
When I approached George Austin, owner of Silver Imaging, about doing a hike and article with me, his eye brows went up, his eyes got wide, and he said, “sure!”. When he immediately mentioned several hiking options, all of which sounded intriguing, my eye brows went up, my eyes got wide, and I said, “sure!”
His years of working with the Forest Service, hiking in the area, and photographing the landscape, paid off for me when I got into his truck and we headed out one Fall morning. I have pages of notes of new trails to try, people to contact and interesting area history.
George has been an outdoorsman since a family vacation in Ruidoso when Mom, being busy with a newborn, didn’t notice that the six year George had slipped out the door and went out exploring. It is documented that his first words were, “Ope de doo”, meaning: open the door.
He grew to love the Gila when he got a job with the Forest Service in 1973 and remembers cleaning, among many others, the Cat Walk and Sheridan Corral trails, performing Fire Lookout work at the now defunct Bear Wallow Lookout, and recalls many 5-day horse and mule treks working with the Forest Service.
Recalling how he started with the Forest Service, he regales me with an amusing horse/mule story. He was given 2 hours of instruction on how to ride and care for the animals and then he set out on the horse and guiding the packed mule for a week working on the Crest Trail. The next morning when he tried to put the bit in the horse’s mouth, the horse would not have it. The horse reared up to avoid George and fell over. When he got back on his feet, he took the bit and obeyed George from that point on. George speculates that the horse thought George knocked him over and decided to not have that happen again.
George’s love and talent towards photography began by wanting to share what he saw in the wilderness with people back home.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Gold Dust Trail #41
Directions: Beginning at the intersection of Highway 180 and Little Walnut Road, drive west on Highway 180 for 63 miles to Road 159 (a.k.a. Bursum Road) (between mile markers 48 and 47). Make a right. Travel 3.8 miles to a parking lot. Make right into the lot and travel .1 miles to the trailhead.
Hike Description: This is a gorgeous hike up to the west side cliff of Whitewater Canyon (think catwalk). You first climb over a grassy hill and then slowly work your way farther up. At one point you must traverse down the side of a ravine and then back up. At approximately the 1.9 mile mark, the trail might be hard to find. Walk across a smooth boulder, see and cross a small streamlet, look for trail and cairns on the other side. You will be rewarded with many fantastic views of mountains, canyons, rock face, bluffs, chutes and spires.
I strongly recommend you wear pants on this hike as there is a fair amount of mesquite and cat’s claw along the way.
Before heading up the trail, look across and see the mouth of Whitewater Canyon.
At some point on the trail, stop and listen for the water rushing below in Whitewater Canyon. Cup both your hands behind your ears and hear the difference in the sound. Cupping your ears amplifies the sound immensely!
Seeing Whitewater Canyon from above is a completely different experience than from inside!
The day that we were there a loud, small jet zoomed into the canyon and around the bend and out of sight. George explained that it was a training flight out of Tucson.
I stopped at the Reserve Ranger office where I learned that the Catwalk is scheduled to be reopened by Memorial Day 2016. I also saw a bunch of photographs of the flood area. If you have time, stop by and check them out!
Tell me about a particularly memorable outdoor experience: As we drove back to Silver, George shared a memorable outdoor story with me. He and a friend had decided to cross-country ski 47 miles from Jacob Lake, Utah to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and then down and out the south rim. They were warned that they might need cleats, ice picks and climbing equipment, but didn’t have any. The hairiest stretch of the 7 day trip was when they traversed around a narrow, ice covered section of trail with a 50 foot drop-off. The other memorable part of the trip was when the 37-year-old and his friend made it to Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Since they were one day late, they were told they would have to continue to the next designated stop, Indian Gardens – 5 miles away.
At this point in the story, I interjected that they weren’t being very accommodating to already tired hikers. But George shook his head.
“It was a wonderful gift. I got to hike in the moonlight and experience hiking out of the Grand Canyon like few people are able to.”