Category Archives: Gila National Forest
Blogs about the Gila
By Linda Ferrara
I sometimes consider hiking and being in nature to be a spiritual activity. When a friend and I used to hike on Sunday mornings, we would call it “going to church.” So, last year when I witnessed Pastor Tyler Connoley and members of his congregation hiking silently as part of a church service, I knew we were destined to hike together. Happily, my opportunity came one Saturday morning a few weeks ago. Tyler, who was ordained in October 2009, was most recently a hospice chaplain for five and a half years. Three years ago he became the pastor for the newly started Silver City United Church of Christ, which is an inclusive and progressive Christian denomination. Silver City UCC meets in a circle, and begins each meeting by sharing what they are thankful for that week.
Then they discuss opportunities they’ve had to be of service to others, followed by areas of concern.
After praying together, and a break ( which usually includes eating and listening to music), they have a spiritual discussion instead of a sermon, and then end with Communion.
Tyler, who is “half of 90 years old” (don’t you just love it?), hikes a variety of trails; however, he enjoys walking the same trail repeatedly to see the subtle differences the seasons bring. As we discussed this, it reminded him of his faith. “Christianity, for me, has been a matter of finding a spiritual path and walking it every day.” Daily walks give him a break from responsibilities and give him the chance to feel his feet on the ground. He never hikes without two important items: his two dogs, Lexi and Lucia ( pronounced loo- CHEE- ah). The following trail is a favorite because it reminds him of the Zambian savanna where he grew up.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers.
Name: Fort Bayard Cross Country Course #722 Distance: 2.5 miles ( or more)
Directions: Beginning at the light for U. S. Highway 180 and 32nd Street Bypass, drive 4.4 miles to the “Santa Clara City Limits” sign. It is between mm 119 and 120. Turn left and cross the highway to a pull- off / small parking area. Walk around an old locked gate to begin the hike.
Hike Description: This is a short, fairly level hike. At the .25 mile mark, you will come to an intersection of trails. This is where the loop begins.
Start by going to the left. Stop for a photo op of the Twin Sisters at the .75 mm. At 1.16 miles you will reach a signpost pointing to various trails.
Stay on the main trail, to the right. There is another trail intersect at the 1.88 mm. For this hike, stay to the right. ( If you go to the left, you will cross Twin Sisters Creek and swing around to the same trail, making a larger loop.) At the 2.1 mm, you have completed the loop and should take the spur ( to the left) back to the vehicle.
Notes: There are several side trails to explore in this southernmost section of Fort Bayard Game Preserve. One of the side trails will bring you up Twin Sisters Creek; another will bring you over to the parking area off of Arenas Valley Road. You may also reach the Memorial Park at Fort Bayard from this trail system.
While walking, Tyler tells me why he fears snakes. While his family lived in Zambia performing missionary work, his baby sister was left alone in her crib for a few moments one day. When his mother returned, a black mamba ( an extremely venomous snake endemic to sub-Saharan Africa) was in the crib with his sister. His mother’s screaming scared the snake away and his sister was safe, but the memory stayed with him. It is one of the reasons he always wears long pants and close-toed shoes while out for his daily walk.
Pastor Connoley can be reached at johntyler@ connoley. com. The congregation meets every Sunday at 11:11 a.m. at the Woman’s Club in Silver City and anyone is invited to join them.
Beat the heat!
It was time to get some dirt trapped in my treads, so who better to call than the guy who came up with the name of this column (Trail Mix). Steve White, a friend, hiking buddy and past co-worker, was the guy who made the office fun to be in. Not all offices were lucky enough to have such a guy, but we sure were!
Steve has been hiking for years and had a few interesting memories to share. A few years ago when he and a companion were hiking towards Hillsboro Peak, they heard a weak call; “help!” Scurrying down the steep embankment, they found a man collapsed in a heap. With some effort, they were able to get him on the trail and provide aid. After witnessing the Gila hiker heave up a fair amount of red wine, they realized that he would not be able to get back to his vehicle on his own. They half carried, half guided him back. Steve later learned that the man, who was from the T or C area, had recently changed blood pressure medications and fainted while alone on the trail.
Steve also told me about a recent backpacking trip that he really enjoyed. He and a few friends spent three days in the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness area just west of Safford, Arizona. He described awesome canyon walls, pristine flowing water, and widely varying geology and vegetation.
He explained the beauty of the canyon like this: “one side of the canyon was mostly granite and had pockets that had been gouged out by boulders and runoff. These pockets were filled with water when we explored it, and from above they glinted like jewels. We also found a number of “hanging gardens” where ground water would seep in through the canyon walls. That portion of the canyon is relatively narrow with the walls rising to around 300′. Looking up from the bottom you can see saguaro cacti along the top of the mesas; there is also one place where an incredibly thick stand of giant saguaros runs all the way from mesa top to water’s edge-one of my more impressive views.”
OK, reader, I know you’re stuffing your backpack and ready to check it out. But go online and get a permit because they only issue 50 permits per day. Their website is: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/aravaipa.html. I suggest you take the below hike while you wait.
Name: Noonday Canyon
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Directions: Take 180 to Highway 152. Drive just under 24 miles on Highway 152. You will see brown highway signs indicating hiking trails 747 and 795. On the left you will see a dirt road (if you pass the “MM24” marker, turn around, you just missed it) with a brown marker noting FR 4087B. Pull down into this road, bear to the left and park. Down to the left you will see a wood sign on a tree indicating the start of Trail 747 going towards Rabb Park.
Hike Description: Spray on some bug repellent and begin your hike. For the first minute or two, you will be walking on an old dirt road which runs into the creek for a minute or two. Then you’re back onto the road. At the .7 mile mark (about 10-15 minutes), you will enter a clearing with a few downed logs, a campsite and such. If you look to the left, you will see a brown wood sign guiding you to the Rabb Park trail. Make a note to go back in cooler weather and investigate, and now look to the right of the main road where you will cross the creek and find another dirt road. This road will take you past an inhabited cabin. Please respect people’s privacy and don’t disturb any belongings. Continue walking along the road or trail, which may be challenging to find at some points. We were able to walk along Noonday Canyon with trail or road most of the way. When you’re exactly half way finished, turn around and return the way you came.
Notes: Be aware that there may be water running if it’s rained recently. Also keep an eye on possible rain clouds building to avoid being caught in rain or flooding.
There’s a sign at the trail head that warns of blocked and eroded trails and downed trees. We didn’t encounter any such problems along the way. We did walk through some burn areas where several dead standing trees looked like they could come down eminently.
About Noonday Canyon: There are apparently two Noonday Canyon’s – one in San Lorenzo, and this one which is off of Highway 152. I was curious about how it got its’ name and so after a visit to the library, I found some information. According to T.M. Pearce, when the mining boom was taking place in Pinos Altos and Kingston, people travelling between the camps always tried to reach this reliable water source by noon.
Note: This article first appeared in “The Independent” on July 23, 2015
There are many ways to enjoy the outdoors in our area, and for the treasure hunter in all of us, geocaching is a fun option.
At the basic level, Geocaching is an activity where items (sometimes a log book, sometimes a small toy) are hidden by one party, logged onto the website, and then can be found by other parties. Anyone who has delighted in finding Easter eggs in the backyard will enjoy this game.
This month, the hike involves finding 5 caches along the route. You can either go to the website and get the information (Serina and Chad have put in clever descriptions and clues), or you can follow my directions in the hike description below.
To get started, go to the website (www.geocaching.com/map ) and move the map so you can see north of Signal Peak and Scott Peak. Near the label called, “Slack Sawmill Tank”, you will see five caches. These are the items you’ll be trying to find on your hike. Click on the first cache, “H” Marks the Spot” and when the information window opens, click on the title (“H” Marks the Spot) and read the description for clues of where the cache is hidden. You can either write the clues down or use a GPS to find the items. Click on the other caches and note the clues. There is an app that can be downloaded onto your Smartphone, but be careful, there’s no connection in the remote areas.
Geocache Hike Description:
Name: Forest Road 880 – Sheep Corral Canyon Road
Distance: 2.0 roundtrip (or more…….)
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 15 and 32nd Street, drive 15.9 miles north on Highway 15 (a.k.a Pinos Altos Rd., a.k.a. P.A. Rd.). On the left is Sheep Corral Canyon Rd. There is a brown highway sign to show you where it is. Drive up this dirt road. At the 1.1 mile mark, pull over and park.
Hike Description: There is an old dirt road leading up hill. The brown Forest Road sign (882) was lying on the ground when we were there. Head up the hill. After walking 0.2 miles you will come to Forest Road 880. Don’t take the first side road, walk to the top of the hill and see a second road. Follow this road a short distance to the first cache. Here is the clue to find the cache: Go to the southwest side of where “H” marks the spot and walk 120 feet in a southwest direction where you will find a large pile of rocks and boulders. You are looking for a container with a log and a few toys in it. It is customary that if you take an item, you also leave an item, so you might consider bringing a toy or similar type object (but you don’t have to).Write your information in the log and return the container to its original hiding spot.
Go back the way you came and continue on the main road for a minute or so. Look on your right for cache #2. Here’s your clue: “A step above”. You will find a container hidden near the clue.
Now continue towards cache #3. At the .6 mile mark, your clue is: “Gila Hallow”. Before heading down the hill, look on your right for a hallow tree trunk. If you look carefully, you will find your next treasure.
You will now continue downhill (careful, there’s a lot of loose rock here) and at the .77 mile mark, your clue for cache #4 is “Rooty” (on the left). When you find this nice sized green box, why not take a photograph to share on the geocaching website later?
And now continue downhill to the .9 mile mark and find your last cache. The clue is “Y”. Here, on the left, you find the tree in question. To find the cache, follow a downed tree trunk to the fortune.
You have now found all the caches for this hike. But I encourage you to continue on the old road for a beautiful hike through the pines.
After the hike, go to the website and log your “finds”. You can also add photos showing you and your friends at the location.
Notes: (1) Please do not remove caches. (2) To learn more about this game (I only scratched the surface here), you can go to the website and read “Geocaching 101”.
About my guides: During our time hiking, I learned more about my Geocache guides. Since winning the Girl Scout Gold Award and meeting President Obama for her work in literacy (www.readforjoy.org), Serina has kept herself busy. She is currently on the Executive Board of the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest, has Served as Post-Secondary National President and member of Business Professionals of America, just ended two terms as Lieutenant Governor of Southwest District of Circle K International, is going to college at WNMU, is a world champion horsewoman and still has time to hide and find geocaches!
“Chad Paavola is equally impressive. He served 8 years in the Army, spending 5 years in Germany and was also stationed in Fort Myer, Virginia. He loves to travel the world and even scuba dives. He currently teaches at the Law Enforcement Academy at WNMU and is pursuing his masters degree in Elementary Education. This couple enjoys geocaching so much that when they’re on vacation, they fit geocaching into their travels. What a fun way to explore the world!
This article first appeared in the June 25, 2015 “The Independent” in my column, “Trail Mix”. http://silvercitydailypress.nm.newsmemory.com/
Many times while hiking, I find myself quizzically inspecting an unidentified geological formation, examining an interesting rock, or stumped on how a white line of quartz got in the middle of the earth, marked there like nature’s 50 yard line. I wanted to learn more about the geology I’ve been seeing on my hikes and so, after some digging, I was put in touch with local hiker Lee Stockman of the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem and Mineral Society. He has been interested in geology his entire life and told me that he looks at rocks with a chemists’ eye since that’s what he did for a living – a chemist at the water treatment department in Antioch, Ca. To emphasize his love of Geology, on the car ride to the trailhead, he pulls out a rock sample and shows his passengers. It is smooth and grey and has glittering silver specks throughout it. It turns out to be a sample of Native Silver from the Alhambra Mine which is very close to where we will be hiking today. I just got my first, but not last Geology lesson of the day. I wish I had this man for a science teacher all those years ago!
Lee hikes every week with a group of like-minded people and he offered to let me join them. Throughout the morning, Lee shares various interesting tidbits. When the group inspects white lines through a huge granite wall, he explains. “The granite cracked and super-heated water carrying minerals rose through the cracks. The water cooled and left the minerals in the cracks forming the lines we see today”.
On the trail, various rock specimens were passed around the group and inspected. “That’s a unakite – you can tell by the green stripes and the pink feldspar throughout it.”
At one point, a few hikers surround a green plant in the middle of the arroyo. They’re not seen often around here. The group calls out to Richard Felger, the resident botanist. “That’s a Desert Broom, Baccharis sarothroides.”
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: Black Hawk Canyon Loop
Directions: From the intersection of Highways 180 and 90, take Highway 180 West 12.9 miles to Saddlerock Canyon Road (on south side of highway). This road is close to Mile Marker 100 and is right after Mangus Valley Road. Make a left on Saddlerock Canyon Rd. Track your mileage from the highway turnoff. Travel on dirt road for 1.3 miles and go over the cattle guard. At the 1.4 mile mark (mm), the dirt road divides. Stay to the left. At the 1.5 mile mark there will be another fork. Stay left. At the 4.3 mm, stay straight. There are several side roads; when in doubt, stay on the main road. At the 5.2 mm, you will come to a closed gate. Go through the gate, closing it behind you, and continue on. The road peters out around the 6.4 mile mark. The hike starts here.
Hike Description: Before starting the hike, look to the left and see a washed out dirt road going up a hill. If you’re positioned correctly, you’ll see some old mining equipment. This is where you will come out from this loop trail. Now start your hike by walking straight up the arroyo and into Black Hawk Canyon. Soon you leave the sandy creek bottom and begin to climb across the water worn granite. This granite intrusion (dated at 1.445 Billion Years old) raised the Burro Mountains. There is usually water here even during the dry season so look for paw prints of the wildlife who inhabit this part of the Burro Mountains. At the .78 mm, there is a side road that leads to the old Alhambra Mine. Make a note to go back and check it out sometime. Continue straight until you reach the .93 mm. To the left is FR 130. This is the road that loops you back to the car. But first, walk straight ahead on FR 4242Q for a while and enjoy a pink granite canyon. When you’re ready, come back to the road and take it up a hill. When you reach a ‘T’ in the trail, turn left. Towards the end of the hike you’ll come to your last fork. Make a hard left and head down hill past the Black Hawk mine.
Notes: There will be some mild rock climbing and muddy spots along the first portion of the hike. At a few spots you will enjoy views of Bullard Peak. Expect to encounter cattle. They like to have their pictures taken, so ask them to smile. Several hikers mentioned previous kudamundi sightings in this area.
History lesson: The mining town of Black Hawk appeared in the 1880’s when silver was discovered in the area. The discovery of the Black Hawk Mine, and several others in the area, saw the beginning of the town. In the summer of 1883 the town had approximately 30 men employed in mining. By the end of the same year, there was close to 125, and the town was large enough to include a post office. In the late 1880’s production declined and the town was vacated. Today, hardly any evidence of the town exists. By the end, the Black Hawk Mine had produced one million worth of silver.
What can a reader do to learn more about the minerals in our area? Lee encourages readers to attend a meeting of the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem and Mineral Society. The meetings are on the 2nd Thursday of the month at the Silver City Senior Citizens Center (204 West Victoria at south end of town off of NM 90). A pot luck precedes the meeting at 6:00 pm. The meeting begins at 6:45 pm and is followed by an educational program.
On a recent hike with Shelby Hallmark and Bob Wilson, I learned about the RTCA (Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance) and Grant County Trails Group, both which share a love for trails and their development in Grant County.
The RTCA group has been working on building support for developing Silver City’s planned trail system (notably the Master Greenways and Big Ditch Plan) and connecting it to the surrounding trails in the Gila National Forest. They applied for and were awarded an “RTCA” grant from the National Park Service for the purpose of enhancing local trails and greenways. In 2014 the team worked with Teresa Martinez, Director and Co-founder of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, to designate Silver City as the very first CD Trail Gateway Community.
The group is currently continuing to work on enhancing Silver City’s branding as an outdoor destination, and building more trails in and around town.
Meanwhile, over the past six months the partnering Grant County Trails Group has focused on getting county residents to get out and use our existing trails and walking facilities.
If you enjoy hiking in this area as much as I do, you’ve got to love both of these groups and their impressive accomplishments!
How does someone join the RTCA group to work on development of new trails? Contact Shelby Hallmark at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-519-1426.
How does someone join the Grant County Trails Group? Contact Michele Giese at: Michele.email@example.com or 538-8573 (x121).
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers:
Name: CD Trail / Silver Spur Loop
Distance: 5 miles
Starting at the intersection of Highway 180 and Alabama St, turn north onto Alabama St. At the .3 mile mark it turns in to Cottage San Rd. At the 3 mile mark, bear left onto Bear Mountain Road. Drive 2.1 miles and make a right onto Forest Road 858. Drive slowly (this road requires high clearance vehicle and patience) for 2.9 miles. Make a left and drive another .8 miles to a cattle guard and park.
Hike Description: This is a loop trail that includes part of the new section of CD Trail and the Silver Spur Trail. Start the loop by crossing over the cattle guard and staying to the left on Forest Road 858. At the 1.0 mile mark you will see an old pumping station. We believe that was attached to Alum Spring and fed water to Silver City at one point. You may see the old water pipe along the way. At the 1.14 mile mark, the new part of the CD Trail crosses the road. Make a hard right onto the CD Trail (if you go to the left on the CDT you will walk around the base of Bear Mountain, if you continue on the road, you will come to a windmill and stock tank). As you climb this ridge, enjoy views of Stewart Peak and Bear Mountain.
Our GPS’s differ here so bear with me. At approximately the 2.50-3.0 mark, you will come to a green gate. Go through the gate, admire the cairn we made, and turn right onto the Silver Spur. Shortly, you will see an old metal Continental Divide Trail sign and walk through a barrier. Look for a cairn to the left and follow the old CD Trail. At approximately the 3.5-4.0 mile mark you will reach a dirt road. Make a right onto the road. Shortly, about .2 miles, the road curves to the right. Look for a cairn and trail on the left. Leave the road and walk the trail for about .5 miles back to your vehicle.
Notes: A great loop trail with diverse landscape. You will experience a few hills, pine groves, and views galore.
I contacted Teresa Martinez, from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition about the changes to the CD Trail. Here’s what she told me, “The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) is excited about the development and progress of the new CDT location in and around Silver City. The segments that are complete and open to the public are fantastic trail experiences, and we look forward to acquisition and completion of the final segments of the CDT in the area and when the entire Trail may be opened. CDT is also excited to engage the Silver City Community in the stewardship of the CDT and hopes the efforts in and around Silver City continues to inspire other Trail communities to support the CDT in their communities.”
Where will the new segment of the CDT go? The new trail, which has already been partially completed, crosses over the Burros from its junction with Deadman Canyon Trail north of Burro Peak, past Red Rock Road to Mangus Springs. In the future, the Forest Service will complete the final segment from Mangus Springs across HWY 180 to LS Mesa Road north of Bear Mountain. That portion of the Trail is not complete yet and does cross private property, so the CDTC ask that people not trespass and to only use portions of the Trail that are officially open.
Hiking Apache Mountain with Russ Kleinman
A sprained ankle and knee delayed my hike with retired surgeon, Russ Kleinman, but when I finally made it a few weeks later, it was fantastic!
Russ has been enjoying the outdoors since about the age of 4 when he roamed land near his home and later explored the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles.
Nowadays, he enjoys many outdoor-related activities including shortwave radio operation, dog agility training, hiking, camping and botany. He teaches a plant taxonomy class at WNMU (the science that finds, identifies, describes, classifies, and names plants). Mosses are his current interest, which he demonstrated along the hike by regularly crawling beneath brush and boulders. He wore a magnifying loupe around his neck and showed me the mosses up close. I was surprised to see the different varieties, which looked the same at first, were vastly different when inspected through the magnifier.
If you’re interested in the vegetation of the Gila, a wonderful resource is gilaflora.com, a website by Russ with more than 16,000 photographs, locations and information about the plants in our area.
Describe one of your favorite hikes that you’d like to share with the readers…
Name: Apache Mountain
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Directions: Starting at the intersection of highways 180 and 90, drive south on Highway 90 for 30.4 miles (it is just after mile marker 11). Make a left onto WD Ranch Rd. There is a brown forest sign for Forest Road 841 to verify you’re on the right track. The first mile of this road is public access over privately owned land, so please stay on the road and don’t trespass. At the one-mile mark, you will go over a cattle guard and enter National Forest land. When you reach a fork in the road, turn left. Shortly, (a few hundred yards) you will come to a turn-off on the right hand side. Look through the grasses and find a brown forest service marker for Forest Road 40910. Pull in and park (do not block the road).
Hike Description: The first part of this hike is a gradual climb on an old dirt road alongside of Monarch Canyon. At the one-mile mark, you will reach a saddle where you can look down the other side into Apache Canyon. Here is where you leave the road and follow the fence line upward. There is a trail in some spots; when in doubt, I suggest you head upward.
Notes: Don’t try to drive up FR 40910; it is heavily rutted in several spots. This is a short, steep hike up to the top of Apache Mountain. You will climb 1,383 feet up and be rewarded with unbelievable views. On the day we went, we actually looked down at clouds and had one move past us while sitting on the summit.
Along the way, you will see several large boulders and long veins of white quartz, something I’ve not seen often in this abundance in the Gila.
During the hike, Russ told me several hiking adventures, including this story:
“I enjoyed snow camping for a long time and one trip included crossing the Gila River. I knew enough to sleep with my water bottle underneath me in my tent to avoid having ice the next morning. But this trip, I learned another lesson. I took off my cold, wet boots and placed them outside the tent. The next morning, I found them frozen rock solid. A harsh lesson was learned that morning as I hopped barefoot around the snow, looking for dry wood to start a campfire. Thawing my boots was a bit like toasting marshmallows; I didn’t want to put them too close to the fire or they’d burn, and too far away and they’d never thaw.”
After I expressed my aversion to the thought of camping in snow, Russ responded, “Snow camping isn’t for everyone; it leaves a very narrow margin for error.”
Do you have a piece of equipment that you use often when hiking?
Russ shows me his map app called “Backcountry Navigator Pro.” It’s an Android mobile mapping application where you can download different types of maps including topographical, color aerial, street maps and more. You can mark waypoints, record tracks, compute trip pace, utilize a compass, keep waypoint lists, record trip stats, save, export, and import trip notes for future reference and more. I’m not the most technically literate person, but this new stuff is excellent so I guess I’ll get dragged into the tech age, hiking and climbing the entire way!
In order to intrigue you, I’ll share some hearsay about a mystery in the area. Through much digging, and an interesting conversation with local rancher Jimmy Stewart, I learned the following:
The WD in “WD Ranch Road” stands for Will Dover, who was one of about six ranchers who owned property in that area. In the late 1800s/early 1900s he ranched in the Apache Canyon area, including the peak. It is rumored that he got into a dispute with one of the other ranchers and disappeared … never to be heard from again.
Hunting for Hiking Real Estate
Exploring Trail 96 near Lake Roberts with Robin Thomas.
Robin Thomas and her family have lived in the Mimbres Valley for over 17 years. Drawn here from Madison, Wisc., by her grandparents, she fits right in to the outdoor lifestyle — enjoying fishing, four-wheeling, camping, hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. When I asked her why she loves the outdoors, she explained, “It’s the best thing I’ve found for stress relief after a challenging day in real estate.”
During this year, I’ve observed one thing about hiking with new people: We focus on different things when on a trail. Personally, I enjoy the awesome views; others are looking for birds, plants, photo opportunities, adventure or a challenge. When I hiked with Robin, I learned a lot about what a hunter is looking at and for.
When we got together, she apologized for being a few minutes late because she had to stop and wait for a flock of turkeys to move off the road. As I got in the car, she added, “Looks like it’s going to be a good Thanksgiving!” As we hiked, she pointed out elk markings: scat, tree rubbings, tracks in the mud, and crushed grass under a tree. As we looked down into the canyon below, she pointed out a lush meadow: “That’s an ideal place to see a herd of elk.”
She was likewise knowledgeable about plants, showing me chamisa, tasting some wild oregano, and commenting that the wild pink cosmos were just past their bloom.
Name: Trail #96
Directions: The trailhead is located on Hwy. 35 approximately 1.5 miles south of Lake Roberts, between mile markers 21 and 22. On the north side of the highway, you will see a pull-off and a brown road marker that says, “4206S.” On Hwy. 35, there is a brown “hiker” sign that indicates that this is Trail 96.
Hike description: The wooden entrance gate is where you’ll begin this hike. It is a well-cairned hike that starts by walking through a chamisa field, enters the Gila Wilderness, then meanders along the canyon floor with stunning rim rock looming high above. The trail gradually heads up to the top of the ridge where you can look down at the red rock cliffs.
Notes: You may take this trail 10-plus miles to Hwy. 15 (near Clinton Anderson Lookout), so consider putting it into “two-heel drive,” bring some nourishment and hike on! There are many photographic opportunities. You may want to bring binoculars to search the caves across the canyon. This is part of the Military Road, which I understand is an old Army double-track built in the late 19th century to supply military outposts on the Gila River.
Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience: “When I was 19-20 years old, we were backpacking in Rain Canyon, near Glenwood, off of Sacaton Road. The first incident was finding a bear trap in the river, which, luckily, no one tripped. The next morning, a lightning/rain storm came through. It was a pretty miserable, intense return hike out of the steep canyon, gear getting heavier and wetter by the minute. We finally made our way back to the car with much relief, until our dog started chasing cattle and couldn’t be found for over an hour. It was just one of those memorable hikes that did not work out, so we re-grouped and headed to the White Mountains of Arizona for some trout fishing.”
During our hike, Robin also shared some memories of her childhood: “I didn’t officially hunt until around age 21. Dad gave me a 16-gauge shotgun to go on my first spring turkey hunt. When I was a young girl I would tag along with my father on his pheasant-hunting trips in Wisconsin. I suspect I was along to flush birds in the corn fields. Sometimes I would go with my grandmother rabbit hunting in the early 1970s when she lived in the desert near Alamogordo. Ranchers would kill too many coyotes, and then the rabbits would overrun the ranch and my grandfather’s garden. We would go out at sunset in her VW Karmann Ghia with the top down, Grandpa driving and her sitting up on the back of the convertible. She was quite a shot with her 4-10 shotgun, especially when it came to rattlesnakes.”
Robin is a Realtor with Prudential Real Estate and has an office in the Mimbres Valley between mile markers 3 and 4. I bet if you contacted her, she’d share some of her deep knowledge of the area and point you to some good trails.
I found her to be an excellent hiking partner. She described many different hikes along the Mimbres Valley that got my feet twitching with anticipation of good hikes to come. I hope that if I promise to put my best boot forward, she’ll invite me to go with her again.
This is a reprint of the November 2014 article that was published in Desert Exposure.
Recipe for a Good Hike
Walking near Bill Evans Lake with chef Rob Connoley
I love to cook, I love to eat and I love to hike, so when I recently had the opportunity to forage with local chef and owner of The Curious Kumquat, Rob Connoley, I jumped at the chance. He says that hiking keeps him thin, but for him it’s really all about his dog, Lexi (short for Miss Lexington Elizabeth Connoley). I got a good workout keeping up with his pace, and since he’s 6’3″, it’s quicker than most hikers.
As we walked along, he regularly stopped mid-sentence to point out a variety of plants: “Oh, good, the hackberries are out” and “I don’t know if I’ll get any oyster mushrooms this year” and “I got the mother lode of green walnuts over that way last week.” At one point he pulled off a few mesquite pods and handed one to me: “Chew it, but don’t swallow it.” All I tasted was the woody outer pod. But then, as it softened, I tasted a pleasant, citrus flavor. He said, “I make syrups, breads and cakes with it,” and moved on.
Connoley walks daily and forages, which he calls “grocery shopping,” for home and restaurant. The plants, berries and seeds he gathers include mushrooms (he carries a mushroom field guide with him on all walks), mesquite, amaranth, poppy seeds, watercress, cattails and much more. When he opened the restaurant, he was interested in using local products as much as possible, which led him to learn about what was grown here in the past and what is currently available in the wild. He’s been experimenting and pleasing palates ever since.
I spoke with the Gila National Forest office and they informed me that the only items you need a permit to forage are prickly pears and piñon nuts.
I also did some research and found out how Bill Evans Lake, where we went hiking, got its name. Evans was an attorney at Phelps Dodge in the 1960s who was instrumental in acquiring land/water rights for the company, which built the reservoir, diverted water from the Gila, and pumped the water more than 12 miles uphill to the Tyrone Mine operations site.
Name: Bill Evans Lake — Forest Road 4233E
Distance: Three-plus miles
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive west on Hwy. 180 for 26 miles. You will see a brown sign for Bill Evans Lake, just past mile marker 88. Turn left onto Bill Evans Lake Road. Drive 3.6 miles and bear right onto Newby Road. Drive 2.2 miles and after a turn around a bend/cliff, on the right you will see a small dirt road drop-off. A brown maker for Forest Road 4081Y is partly hidden in the brush on the right. Drive 0.4 miles to 4233E, staying left. Park at the end of the road, where you will see a green gate. There is a brown “walk-through” gate for easy access. Walk along this road/trail. You can’t get lost if you keep the cliff on your left and the drop-off and river on your right on the way in.
Hike description: This is an easy, shaded walk along the Gila River with many photo opportunities. Expect to climb over a few downed trees. I suggest that you have the tall skinny guy lead so he can clear out any cobwebs. We saw a beautiful crane, a black hawk, bear scat and elk tracks along the way. At the 0.9-mile mark, go right (not up the hill to the left). It may appear to be blocked by a huge, downed tree, but look carefully and go through the hidden passage. After going through a few gates, you will come up out of the trees and walk along a dirt road. Stay right and you will soon come to a National Forest sign that says: “Gila River Bird Habitat Management Unit.” Walk down the short path and enjoy a cove of trees and access to the river. You may turn back or continue on at this point.
Tell us about a particularly memorable hiking experience: “I’m the kind of person that likes to push my limits and one day I decided to take a long hike up past Moon Ranch. I was accustomed to mountain climbing at high altitudes, so my confidence was high that I could handle this sort of hike. We had walked off trail quite far, and I turned around to go back. After looking for the trail in a zigzag pattern for hours, the sun set and Lexi and I were forced to bed down for the night. I had a Bivy Sack with me just for this purpose. Lexi and I had a rough night of it listening to nearby wildlife and thinking about our predicament.
“In the morning, we continued our search for the trail. After seven hours of looking, I saw a water tower, which is located near the trail, in the distance. We bushwhacked towards it and in order to get to it, had to maneuver down a cliff and through some nasty growth. Relieved, we got back to the car and then back home. When I walked into the house, my partner looked at me stunned: ‘What happened?!’
“I was confused at his response until he pulled me in front of a mirror and I saw that I was covered head to toe in blood. I had thousands of tiny cuts all over me which took weeks to heal.”
Do you hike any differently because of that experience?
“Yes, two things changed after that. I use a GPS on long hikes and provide clearer communication as to where I am and when I’ll be back.”
Good advice, chef.
What’s new at the restaurant?
Rob told me about his first cookbook, due out in late 2015. He’s busy with design, photography, recipes and publishing houses. The cookbook will feature the restaurant’s top recipes using modern preparations of foraged ingredients. Oh, Rob, please tell me that the recipe for the Oaxacan sandwich will be in there!
See a collection of Linda Ferrara’s previous 100 Hikes columns
Winging It – Hiking Tadpole Ridge with birder Brian Dolton.
This hike is for the birds!
Earlier this year I contacted the local Audubon Society about a hike related to birding. I was soon in touch with Brian Dolton, a 53-year-old Englishman who is the Field Trip Coordinator. He has been interested in birding since he was a wee lad growing up in an English village where he walked the moorlands. For the past five years he has lived just north of Silver City, where he and his wife, Robin, enjoy hiking and birding.
We first did a hike on Signal Peak just days before the Signal Peak fire and the trail that Brian had chosen turned out to be right in the fire’s path. Our second outing was in early June when we drove up Hwy. 15. During these two hikes I learned a lot about birding. The first thing I learned was that I was calling it by a common misnomer: bird watching. The hobby is as much about listening and knowing locations as it is about watching, ergo: birding.
I was curious about why we were heading into the mountains, since I thought that the best place to find birds was near water. Brian explained (using that delightful accent), “Of course water is a good place to find birds, but the beauty of the mountains is it gives one the opportunity to gain altitude. You see, this is an excellent chance to view birds that spend much of their time atop trees.”
Brian showed me a new addition to his birding gear: an iPad with an app that is an encyclopedia of birds that actually has bird songs and calls so you can instantly verify what you are hearing, and verify sightings using photographs and much more.
Name: Tadpole Ridge
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 15 and 32nd Street in Silver City, drive north on Hwy. 15 for 13.7 miles to the turn-off for Meadow Creek. Park here and walk across Hwy. 15 and walk up the dirt road you see there.Hike Description: This is an upward trek towards Scott Peak and beyond. You will travel through pine forests and open areas with loose rocks. At the 0.27-mile mark, you will see a cairn on the left. This is the trail that goes down to the Signal Peak parking area on Hwy. 15 (right near the cattle guard). Continue ahead uphill through the trees. At about the 0.57-mile mark, you will start seeing views of Scott’s Peak. Look back at Signal Peak behind you and view parts of the May 2014 fire area.
If you go far enough, you will observe maple trees and even farther up is a stock pond. This hike is a good one for observing succession vegetation from old fires (the aspens, ferns and oaks are all examples), as they are visible on many of the mountains around you, both nearby and far in the distance. When ready, return the way you came.
Notes: Along the way, we identified several bird species including: five turkey vultures, a broad-tailed hummingbird, a northern flicker, a western wood-pewee and an American robin. I was first to see an olive-sided flycatcher, to which Brian exclaimed, “Well spotted, well done!” It was a great introductory hike for a person new to birding. Now when I go on a hike, I am much more aware of the sounds of the birds and I thank Brian for that.
Can you give us a “Beginner’s Guide to Birding”?
- Your best chance of viewing the most birds is early morning.
- A set of decent binoculars is a must.
- Get a pocket-sized bird identification book. (Brian recommends The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Sibley.)
- Get a bird checklist (available for purchase through the SWNM Audubon Society).
- Attend Audubon field trips.
- Join the Audubon Society (either national or local chapter)
Tell us more about the Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society:
Check out their website at www.swnmaudubon.org, or contact president Nancy Kaminski at firstname.lastname@example.org, or membership coordinator Terry Timme at email@example.com, (575) 534-0457. The group has field trips, usually on the first Saturday of the month, a presentation meeting on the first Friday of the month at WNMU’s Harlan Hall (12th and Alabama Streets) at 7 p.m., and a “Birds and Brews” event on the fourth Thursday of the month at Little Toad Creek, Bullard and Broadway in Silver City, at 5:15 p.m. Details on the field trips and meetings are in The Ravens newsletter published five times a year. It is available on the website or various locations around town. Annual membership is $15. You do not need to be a member to attend any of these events.
In closing, I found Brian to be a first-rate hiking partner because he was knowledgeable not only about birds but about all things fauna and flora. It occurred to me that he would be equally comfortable in a science lab as he would be in a computer lab.
Please tell me I didn’t say “Bloody good show, mate!” to him when we parted ways!
To read more about Linda Ferrara’s 100-hike challenge, check out her blog at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com.
See a collection of Linda Ferrara’s previous 100 Hikes columns
Up a Creek
Hiking with Nancy and Ralph Gordon along Sacaton Creek.
I’ve known Nancy Gordon since I moved here 14 years ago, but neither of us can remember when we met. It’s one of those small-town relationships where you know common acquaintances, have attended common events, and have just drifted into knowing each other. I recall passing her and husband Ralph during my 100 hikes. It was hike number 98 and we were climbing the back side of Tadpole Ridge, and Nancy and Ralph were coming down the trail. We stopped briefly and talked and then continued on. So when I saw Nancy at the post office recently, I asked if she would be one of my victims — er, subjects.
The Gordons have lived in Silver City for 22 years. Ralph has a master’s degree in teaching and most recently taught in Lordsburg before retiring. Nancy, who calls herself a professional job hopper, has a master’s degree in civil engineering/hydrology. They’ve been trekking together since their second date 40 years ago (don’t you just love it?). Their list of hikes is long and includes climbing Wheeler Peak (highest peak in New Mexico, coming in at 13,159), ascending Mount Whitney in California (at 14,505, it’s the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48), and hiking in the Grand Canyon and in Big Bend National Park in Texas. They’ve even backpacked in Australia and through Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand (after researching this one, I’ve concluded that the Gordons have hiked in paradise!).
They are intimately knowledgeable about trails in this area, and so when they agreed to share one of their favorites, I was one happy hiker.
Name: Sacaton Creek
Distance: 4.0 miles, round trip
Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive west on Hwy. 180 for 43.6 miles. On the right, you will see the Moon Ranch sign. Turn into Moon Ranch (it’s a county maintained road). You will see a sign that says, “Sacaton 10–729.” Stay right at the fork (the left is “729a”). At the 5.8-mile mark, there is a four-way intersection. Stay straight. Drive 2.3 miles to the trailhead.
Hike Description: This is a shaded walk along Sacaton Creek. Enjoy walking through the trees, stop to listen to the birds and look at the wildflowers and check out the old cabin. There are some short uphill climbs, a few downed trees and boulder fields to negotiate, and places to test your trail-finding skills — but other than that, it’s easy going. At mile two you will find large boulders and a good place to lunch next to the creek. Explore the caves in the area. On the way back, see if you can locate the mine.
Notes: As you traverse the creek, you will see evidence of the 2012 Whitewater-Baldy fire. When we went in late June, there was little water and the creek was easy to cross. If the water is flowing when you go, be careful with the crossings. I recommend you bring and use bug repellent. I also suggest you be careful where you step as there is lots of poison ivy (see photo).
I did some research on the name Sacaton. It turns out it comes from the New Mexican Spanish word zacaton, which means fodder grass. Guess who found a book called The Place Names of New Mexico by Robert Julyan at the library? Stay tuned to this column for more fascinating bits about our area.
Describe something unusual that happened on a hike: Ralph and Nancy have had close encounters with black bears on the trail, and both have accidentally stepped on rattlesnakes. Fortunately, all went their separate ways without tribulation.
Tell us what you are doing in retirement: Ralph has been playing golf and battling the bugs, birds, rabbits and deer to supply the neighborhood with vegetables. Both he and Nancy have been restoring the historic Silver City Waterworks on Little Walnut Road for the past four years. Rehabilitating it has turned into a community-wide project, bringing together non-profits, local businesses, more than 100 volunteers, youth conservation groups, town staff, and state and federal agencies. As you can imagine, it has kept Nancy busy applying for grants, organizing volunteers, and learning about historic preservation. Since starting to work on it in 2010, much has been accomplished including: the one-story roof was replaced, the historic front porch reconstructed, and the exterior stone masonry was repointed using lime mortar. The Wellness Coalition’s Youth Volunteer Corps and Aldo Leopold High School’s Youth Conservation Corps have done several landscaping projects and painted the “faux” doors and windows.
For more information about the project, check out the the feature article that appeared in Desert Exposure in January 2011 and Google “Silver City Waterworks.”