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October 1, 2015 – North Star Mesa Road To Signboard Saddle

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.

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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.

She suggests: •

  • 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.
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