Category Archives: Gold Gulch
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”.