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.