Category Archives: Gila National Forest
Blogs about the Gila
Maybe I love the outdoors because as kids we were encouraged (errrr….. forced) to ‘go outside!’ My father would take us on outdoor vacations to places like Cape Cod and Maine where we would fish, take boat rides and play in the ocean. It was common for us to help our grandfathers in their vegetable gardens. When my parents lived in western Massachusetts, Dad showed us the local nature sites including Bash Bish Falls, and Bartholomew’s Cobble. So this month’s hiking subject will be my father, Dennis Sawyer.
I get many of my traits from him…both good and bad. I get my corny sense of humor from him and my sometimes painful directness from him. I didn’t know I get my ‘list-making’ and planning skills from him until ten or more years ago when he was planning a European trip. He had taken books out of the library and made lists of places to see on his now famous scrap pieces of paper. I recall thinking to myself, “I do that exact same thing!”
He shared his love of music with his four children. I think he was disappointed that none of us enjoyed opera the way he did, but I do love classical music and that is his doing. He would take us to free concerts in the park, and play classical music on the 8-track in the car.
I am thrifty (okay, cheap) like him and stubborn like him. I can play a wicked game of Gin Rummy because he taught me how to strategize while sitting at the coffee table watching the Yankees. He taught me to be responsible, independent and hard working.
He was strict with us when we were young. He taught his four children to not be late, or the doors would be locked – a promise he kept more than once. We had to have manners and be polite. No elbows on the table, no running on the stairs, no backtalk. When Lorin got a spanking, I remember us all being very well-behaved for many days after.
We had to eat everything on our plate because there were children starving in China. There was no television watching until after Walter Cronkite gave Dad the news.
There was no sleeping late in our house. One day, when the girls were sleeping past 8:00 a.m., he and my brother Patrick got pot and pan lids and came marching into our room clanging the lids. He pulled the covers off of us and wouldn’t leave until our feet were on the floor.
On one road trip my oldest sister threw a tissue out the window. Dad stopped the car on the highway, and backed the car up. Cary told him she wasn’t getting out of the car. His reply was, “Oh, you’re getting out of this car. Whether you get back in the car with that tissue is up to you. But make no mistake, you’re getting out of this car.”
She picked up the tissue and got back in, sniffling most of the remainder of the trip. Reminiscing about this incident recently, the four siblings confirmed that none of us have ever littered since that day.
My father’s health had been deteriorating over the past 18 months. He accepted help around the house, a new development for our family. On April 11th, during a medical procedure, Dad had a massive stroke. His wife, children, grandchildren, sisters and best friend visited him as much as possible. I was honored to help in any way I could…… driving Mom to the hospital, talking to the doctors, helping make medical decisions. At one point, my mother thanked me for helping her. I replied, “No problem Mom. I’ve been meaning to thank you and Dad for raising me right.”
Dad passed away on May 7th. There was never any argument or disagreement on any of those tough decisions we had to make. Dad was clear about what he wanted and did not want. We all respected that and worked together to carry out his wishes. I’m proud of how we all worked together to aide him and my mother during that difficult month.
So this month’s hike I will take alone and think about Dad, Mom, Cary, Lorin and Patrick. And I’ll probably hum a little “La Traviata” too.
Name: Meadow Creek – Trail 89
Directions: Beginning at the intersection of Highway 15 and 32nd Street, drive 13.5 miles north on Highway 15. On your right, you will see a Forest sign saying “Meadow Creek 3 Miles”. Turn right (you will see signage stating this is “149”) and drive on this sometimes rough dirt road for 2.6 miles. You will see a campfire ring and small pull-off on your right. Park here.
Hike Description: Start by walking .44 miles (about 10 minutes) until you enter a large parking area where I regularly see people camping. As you pass the large open area, the dirt road you are on curves to the left. On the right you will see a road/trail. It is Trail 89, but the brown Forest Service marker was on the ground when I was there. This trail takes you up the hillside and then along an old logging road. Once you get to the top, it levels out. There is a fork in the road; stay right for this hike.
Some vehicles may be able to drive further along FR149 and park further up. But this girl is chicken so you proceed the way you feel comfortable.
At this time of year, I recommend that you bring bug repellent.
Pamela Morgan and I met when I was a Realtor and I helped her find a home. We’ve hiked many times before so when she contacted me recently, I was happy to get back on a trail with her. Catching up with Pamela included hearing about her three week trip to Thailand and riding an elephant, comparing notes on elderly parents, hearing about her new venture offering Stress Management (more on that later), and her K9 work with Grant County Search and Rescue (GCSAR).
The whole day was full of interesting conversation but the K9 training had me especially fascinated. Trained dogs aid searches by helping to determine the direction of travel of the lost subject which narrows the search field dramatically. The GCSAR K9 unit currently has four handlers and 6 dogs that train weekly. While on our hike, we tested Pamela’s dog, Riley. I walked ahead for several minutes and hid. I watched through the bushes as he came off the main trail at the exact point where I did, went directly to the first bush I stopped behind and then continued quickly to my hiding spot. We performed this exercise twice in two different areas and he easily found me both times. It was amazing to watch.
As hikers, we’ve all heard stories about searches. If you get in a jam, it’s a relief to know that our area has a search team that’s well trained and willing to help. They are currently looking for members so if you have a desire to help others, like to play with gadgets, want to see some beautiful country, want to meet and work with great people, then GCSAR is something to consider joining.
Pamela told me about some of the trainings which sounded pretty cool. The topics include: navigation, virtual battleship, night training, lost person behavior, wildlife dangers, survival training, tech tool training, and lots more.
If you’re interested in joining, visit: http://www.gcsar-nm.org/join.htm, or come to their next meeting on June 16at 6:30 at the Gila Regional Medical Center’s EMS building on 32nd Street.
Here is an interesting hike to consider:
Name: San Francisco Hot Springs
Directions: Drive 180 north until you are between mile marker 57 and 56. Turn left onto County Road 025. Take this a short distance until you see the trailhead. There is a bathroom and Forest Service Information Board at the trailhead.
Hike Description: This trail is hilly until you reach the canyon area. Take the steep trail to the bottom of the canyon. From there, go to the left either by crossing the river and bushwhacking to the left or, before crossing the river, find the trail on your left and take that. Walk for 5-10 minutes. The hot springs are on the far side of the river, right against the river bank. With a little searching, we found them. Please note: your feet will get wet. Prepare accordingly.
Interesting geology surrounds hot springs. The water is heated by molten rock and raises to the surface through cracks. The warm water allows algae and bacteria to thrive. I was tickled that I could simultaneously put one hand in the cold river and the other in a warm spring.
Tell me about your new venture: Along our walk, Pamela told me about her new business, “Willowleaf Stress Management” that helps people manage the stress in their lives. In the coming months she will be growing her business and sharing her knowledge with the public. If you’d like to talk to her about this service, check out her website at: http://www.willowleafsm.com/ or contact her at 534-1395.
So I say to myself, “I need to hike with some young people.” Then I say to myself, “Self, you don’t know that many young people. Oh wait, I rent to a bunch of college students, maybe a couple of them would hike with me.” And that’s how I got lucky one Sunday morning to hike with Micaela Medina and Sage Mays.
Twenty-four year old Mica originally came to Silver City on a basketball scholarship at WNMU. After playing for one year, she got injured and wound up coaching for two years. Now a WNMU alumni, she currently teaches special education at Central Elementary and coaches Basketball at Cobre High School.
Mica and Sage became friends in Albuquerque and came to Silver City together for college. Sage, a 23 year old bilingual woman who’s mother’s family is from El Salvador, is currently a student at WNMU, president of Mustang Entertainment and works at the physical plant at the university. She is majoring in Occupational Therapy and plans to graduate in 2017.
When I asked her why she chose her major, she replied, “I chose my major because I love the field of medicine and I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world and this is my way of doing that. I tend to do some volunteer work and see where my career takes me.”
Both work out regularly; they also regularly play basketball with friends. Mica sometimes works out in an empty classroom after school with several co-workers. They set up a boxing/cardio video and get their work-out that way. There is also a weight loss challenge happening at the school where teachers and administrative staff have the nurse log in changes.
They are both fine examples of what every young adult should be and if there are more like them out there, our country is going to be just fine. Although a passing comment about how “McDonald’s is so crowded at 3:00a.m.” had me reminiscing about my college days………….
Since Mica and Sage don’t do a lot of hiking here in the area (what?!?), I took them on a hike I really enjoy south of town.
Name: CD Trail – Highway 90 South
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 90 and Broadway, drive south on Highway 90 for 19.8 miles. You will see a brown sign that says “Continental Divide Trail” with an arrow pointing right. Turn in to the parking area and drive to the far (south) side of the parking loop. You will see a CD Trail marker. Park nearby.
Hike Description: This hike will take you up the side of a mountain and is steep in spots. There is sand and loose rock. There are lots of opportunity to enjoy long range views.
Notes: 1) You may consider playing amongst the large boulders along the way.2) Also, as you drive through the parking lot you will notice several other hiking trails to explore.
About the Continental Divide Trail:
You may have noticed more hikers in town lately. April is when many of the CD Trail thru hikers begin their challenge. They restock and rest in Silver City before heading north and entering the Gila. April 15-17 was the Continental Divide Trail Coalition Trail Days events so you surely noticed the activity downtown that weekend! I most often notice the thru-hikers as they start walking up Alabama S. towards the CD Trail access point off of Bear Mountain Rd.
Some CD Trail Facts:
-The 3100 mile trail was established in 1978.
-There are 770 miles of Continental Divide Trail in New Mexico.
-Annually, approximately 150 people attempt to complete an end-to-end trail in one stretch.
-In order to complete it, you would have to hike an average of 17 miles a day (every day for about 6 months).
If you spend any time at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Market St., you probably have seen or met Charlie Freye. For nine years, the 66-year-old from Muskegon, Michigan, has volunteered there and currently serves as the Board Secretary. He happily told me that he has purchased half of his hiking gear at the ReStore including a hat, pole, shirt and boots.
The Habitat ReStore is a wonderful example of the recycle/reuse/reduce model. If you hate throwing away items (construction materials, furniture, appliance and household items), but you don’t want or need them anymore, you can donate it to the ReStore (they will even pick up items at your location). They sort and resell cheaply and use the proceeds to assist local residents by either building homes, or more recently, repairing existing homes. It reduces the waste in landfills, helps local residents by offering inexpensive materials and products, and assists local residents get into a new home or improve the one they’re in. Their motto is “Miss a Day – Miss a Deal”. Call 575-534-9727 to arrange a pick up. Or stop by with your donations Wed-Thurs-Fri 1-4 pm, Sat 9-12. They are located at 704 W. Market St.
Charlie and his wife Gail volunteer at various organizations around Grant County. Charlie at Habitat for Humanity and Gail with Literacy Link – Leamos. They met each other while bike racers back in Michigan, so it was natural that when they arrived here they got involved with the Tour of The Gila where they drive support vehicles and host riders. Charlie encourages everyone to help with the bike race in some way…it’s an excellent way to help the community.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Rocky Canyon
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 12.0 miles on North Star Mesa Road until you reach the Rocky Canyon Camp Ground. Pull in and park on left. This is a large campground area with a port-o-potty. There is a wooden forest service sign near the beginning that directs you to a few options including, Tr. 700, Brannon Park, Tr. 803, Apache Creek and Hwy 35. Starting at the sign, walk .3 miles and look for a half hidden 4 x 4 post on your left. It has ‘803’ scratched into it. Here is where you will head off of the main trail and go to the left, onto Trail 803.
Hike Description: This is a shady trail up a canyon that is…. ahem….rocky. The trail meanders across the canyon floor with numerous stream crossings. Along the way you will enjoy ponderosas, seasonal water, a few hoodoos and other large rock formations. At the .8 mm, find several caves at or near canyon floor level.
Do you have any observations you’d like to share? Like many other local outdoorspeople, Charlie expresses concern over the effect that the proposed Gila River diversion will have to Turkey Creek and the surrounding area. If it happens, the diversion threatens the beautiful canyons, hot springs, wilderness hiking and camping spots.
Tell me about a memorable hiking experience: I ask all of my hiking subjects the same question and Charlie responded like most avid hikers. He lists many unforgettable outdoor experiences including: rafting the lower Gila Box, hiking in Black Canyon off of North Star Mesa Rd., backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona, a hard walk to Alum Camp, hiking to Skunk Johnson’s Cabin, a creepy hike where they came across an old homestead and possible graves, and a memorable day up Sheep Corral Canyon Road when a man on horseback galloped past calling, “fuego!” It was the day of the Signal Peak Fire. He and Gail got out safely but not without an unhealthy, heart-pounding dose of fear.
Charlie describes himself as “not a goal-oriented hiker.” I understood exactly what he meant when he said it. I meet a lot of hikers and some of them are trying to go as fast as possible, or as far as possible, or undertaking the CD Trail in one season. So Charlie’s self-description was appropriate for his style. Along our hike, we stopped occasionally to investigate, or talk, or take photos. No marching or pushing forward on this day. And you know what? It was great!
February 2016 – Bart Lami – CD Trail North from FR 506
I first met Bart Lami through my blog, 100hikesinayear.com, when he was nice enough to congratulate me on completing my 100 hike challenge. When we recently ran into each other at a WILL class in January, I suggested we hike together. And so on a crisp Wednesday we hiked through the pines north of town.
As we walked, Bart told me about himself. He and his wife, Nancy, spend 3 months of the years here in Silver City to escape the bone-chilling winters of Pittsburgh. In early retirement, they stay busy with hiking, race car renovations, and have been involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for 15 years.
When I asked about his little brother, Bart’s upbeat conversation turned serious. He told me about an 8-year-old boy, Stephon, that he spent time with over the past fifteen years. Although their homes were 10 miles apart, it might have been 10 light years. He described to me a comparison with several striking differences. Bart grew up in an upper middle class household, while Stephon lived with his paraplegic mother in an inner city section of Pittsburgh. He never knew his father, who is in jail.
Bart shared many enjoyable outings with Stephon, occasionally taking him to a lake. He had never been to a lake and had to be coaxed into the water and had to have the roped-off swimming area explained to him.
When Stephon was in his teens, he told Bart that his wallet was stolen but that it was his own fault. Bart mistakenly thought that Stephon had left his wallet somewhere in public, Stephon explained. “It was my own fault. I left it on my dresser.”
Stephon had some difficulties in his teen years including alcohol and drug abuse and a serious seizure disorder. But he had emerged from it and was taking a leadership role in his AA and NA groups. He had started attending a local community college.
“So is he on the right track now?” I asked.
Bart stopped on the trail and looked at me sadly. “No. Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of his death.”
Folks, the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes stayed with me the entire hike.
Bart explained that at 2:00 a.m. in the morning, a pedestrian shot at a car of five teenagers and Stephon, sitting in the middle of the back seat, was killed. It’s hard to think of a sadder thing than this tragic loss of life.
Bart often uses hiking as a healing activity during difficult times. He hiked the day after learning about Stephon’s death, and he hiked on the day after 9/11. So, as you read about this month’s hike below, think about a young man named Stephon Reed and appreciate how precious life is.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: CD Trail North from FR 506
Directions: Drive north on Little Walnut Rd; when it turns to dirt road, travel 1.8 miles. Park on the left side of the road, trailhead is on the right hand side of the road.
Hike Description: This trail is a hilly section of the CD Trail as it heads away from civilization and north into the Gila. You will enjoy long-range views, pine trees, views of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Benedictine Monastery, and a few stream crossings. We even trekked through snow in a few short, north facing segments.
Tell me about particularly memorable hiking experiences:
In Pittsburgh, Bart and his friends do some extreme urban hiking. They occasionally hike 19 miles on a route that includes 18 of the Pittsburgh area bridges. Once, they did a 13 mile hike and in the middle of it, climbed a 36 story building – twice. No wonder this trail was no big effort for him.
Bart recalls an unforgettable backpacking trip. He and a friend set out to hike on the Laurel Highlands Trail for a 75 mile, 3-day trip. After being dropped off at the trailhead, the weather changed dramatically and unexpectedly. The temperature quickly dropped from 50 to 32, winds were at 30-40 miles per hour, and a heavy rain fell. They trudged along miserably and finally stopped for the night. Using soaking wet wood, they eventually got a fire started. They barely survived the night, but not before having the heels of their boots melt. The second day was slightly better than the first but not without incident. His friend Tim hurt his knee. They limped towards the second planned stop. As they approached the lean-to they were met with Halloween lights and decorations. Two friends (saviors, really) had decided to surprise them and bring them a hot meal. Seeing that Tim was injured, they drove back to the friends’ home and spent a warm, comfortable night eating and drinking.
May you all have and be friends like that!
Marilyn Markel – Nature Conservancy Land – Mimbres
If you want to meet fascinating people, I suggest that you start hiking and writing articles. Once again I got lucky and heard about this interesting woman who is an archeologist, is involved with the Mattocks Ruins in the Mimbres and who agreed to hike with me. Marilyn Markel is a native New Mexican who graduated from The University of New Mexico and currently keeps busy with The Mimbres Culture Heritage Site – Mattocks Ruins (MCHS), teaches at Aldo Leopold once a week, facilitates with the WILL Program, and is president of the Grant County Archaeological Society.
We hiked recently at the Nature Conservancy’s Mimbres land which is 600 acres of riparian delight. The property, which was established as Nature Conservancy land in 1994, includes 5 miles of Mimbres River and is home to the endangered Chihuahua chub (fish) and the Chiricahua leopard frog.
It has a diverse landscape including forest, savanna, grasslands, cienegas (marshes), springs and stream. It’s a beautiful place, even in the winter, so lace up those boots!
Hike Name: The Nature Conservancy – Mimbres Valley
Distance: 2+ miles
Difficulty: easy, but wet
Directions: From the intersection of 180 and 152, turn North onto Highway 152 north and drive 14 miles to Highway 35. Make a left onto Highway 35 north and drive for approximately 8.5 miles. There will be a steep, rutted driveway on the right. Pull in the driveway and park. If you pass 3448 Highway 35, you just missed it.
Hike Description: Start the hike by walking through the gate on the left. It is facing the barn, which dates to the 1890’s. Follow the path to the river. When you pass by the old saw, stop for a moment and realize that this saw probably cut the wood for the barn you parked near. Cross the river and maneuver (no trail visible here) through the trees and then the field until you pick up the old military road at the base of the hills. Walk on the road for the remainder of the hike.
Come to terms with the fact that you’re feet are going to get wet on this hike and prepare ahead. I suggest you place dry socks and shoes in your vehicle. Marilyn was smarter than me and brought old shoes in her backpack and changed before we entered the water.
The word ‘Mimbres’ means ‘willow’ in Spanish and I saw a few desert willows still sporting green leaves while we were there.
Before our hike, Marilyn gave me a tour of the Mimbres Culture Heritage Site.
The site, which is owned by the Imogene F. Wilson Education Foundation, contains a 1000 year old, 200 room Mimbres pueblo ruin which was built on top of an earlier pit house village. It is estimated that approximately 90 people lived here.
The property also contains 2 adobe buildings dating from the 1880’s which have their own interesting history including murder, insanity, and jail escapes. Over time, the site has been improved and now includes a small museum and a walking path with interpretive sign boards explaining the ruin layout and lives of the people who resided there. The museum resides in one of the adobe buildings, called the Gooch House. In addition to local Native American history, the museum also contains more recent history including mining and ranching in the area. Be sure to spend a few minutes looking at the photos from the early 1900’s.
It’s a great site for learning about Native Americans. Beloit College in Wisconsin, The University of Nevada – LV, The University of Texas, and Oregon State University have either conducted summer field schools where pottery and other artifacts have been excavated at the site or, they used MCHS as a base camp when they were working at other sites in the Valley. Local grade school kids come to learn the history and are encouraged to imagine how life was 1000 years ago. I really like that there are pottery sherds in the museum for the kids to inspect and touch.
If you go out to the Mimbres, plan to stop at the MCHS and check it out. It is open from 11:00-3:00 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It is located between mile marker 3 and 4 on Highway 35, just past the Mimbres Café, approximately 5 miles south of the Nature Conservancy property.
Do you have any suggestions for visitors to the ruins?
“It’s important for visitors to leave artifacts where they belong. As soon as it’s moved or removed, the information that goes with them is lost.”
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.”
I have been hiking with Dora Hosler since we met in 2011. I love her story of coming to the United States because it is millions of immigrants’ story. She was raised in a small village two hours from Chihuahua City, Mexico where she and her siblings spent the mornings in school and the afternoons milking cows, feeding chickens and pigs, and playing.
After begging her parents to let her come, she moved to Silver City with a cousin and got a job. She has worked at various jobs in Silver City, a place that she loves for its’ small town flavor, friendly people and because “it feels like home”. In 2008 she achieved a hard-won goal of becoming a U.S. citizen. She is an especially pleasant and kind woman, and a strong, easy-going hiker.
I remember one hike when I tried to help her pronounce the ‘Z’ sound and I couldn’t understand her difficulty until she tried to teach me to roll my R’s and she didn’t understand how I couldn’t do it. The wildlife in the area must have been rolling with laughter listening to us.
When I recently asked her which of our many hikes her favorite was, she replied that she really enjoyed climbing to the top of Signal Peak because she was proud to complete a steep, difficult hike which that one certainly is. I call it the ‘knee-buster’ because afterwards, I limped for three days! She also enjoyed climbing the Forest Fire Tower and talking with the lookout on duty who was kind enough to give us a 360 degree tour of our hiking terrain, and explain how the alidade (fire finder) works.
For this article, we drove out to the mining district and hiked in the Georgetown area. It’s a good hike if you’re short on time but still want to get some soil underfoot.
Name: Georgetown Road – FR 4085I
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 90 and Hwy. 180, take Hwy. 180 East to Hwy. 152 (7.3 miles). Turn left (north) onto Hwy. 152 and drive 6.3 miles to Georgetown Road. Turn left on Georgetown Road (a very well-maintained dirt road). Take this 3.9 miles to an intersection where the cemetery is. Make a right and immediately you will see FR 4085I. Park on the right.
Hike Description: This is an easy walk along Lampbright Draw. The road may disappear now and then, but is easily picked up again. Look closely to find evidence of this area’s history, primarily mining and ranching. Once you walk past the corrals and windmill (approximately ¾ of a mile), the road is harder to find. We walked along an arroyo to complete our days’ exercise.
A little about the town of Georgetown: The town grew out of silver mining in the area in the 1870’s and at its peak, had 1200 residents. Imagine churches, schools and adobe brick homes on the north side of town, a business district in the center with general stores, a butcher shop, a harness shop, restaurants, a hotel, a billiard parlor, and more, and then on the south side were miner’s shanties, saloons and ‘bawdy houses’. Military from surrounding forts would periodically be seen to keep the town safe from Apache attacks.
There’s some discrepancy about how the town got its’ name. The Magruder Brothers were mining here and they had come from Georgetown, Washington DC so that is one theory. But George Magruder was killed in a milling accident on the Mimbres River so some believe that the remaining brother named the town for his brother George.
Enjoy hiking in the area and contemplating how life may have been a short 140 years ago. For more details about the Georgetown area, check out my blog post:
Fun fact: oro in Spanish is gold; plata is silver; cobre in copper. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve lived here 15 years and didn’t know that until recently………
This article was originally published in: “The Independent” on November 26, 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.