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June 2016 – Meadow Creek – Trail 89 – Dennis Sawyer

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.

 

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Hike Information:

Name:   Meadow Creek – Trail 89  

Distance:  various

Difficulty: moderate

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.

Notes: 

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.

 

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May 2016 – San Francisco Hot Springs

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.

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Here is an interesting hike to consider:

Name:  San Francisco Hot Springs

Distance: Variable

Difficulty: Moderate

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.

January 2016 – Nature Conservancy Land – Mimbres

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!

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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.

Notes: 

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.”

July 2015 – Noonday Canyon

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.

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Name: Noonday Canyon

Distance: 4+

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

October 2014 – Bill Evans Lake — Forest Road 4233E

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.

 

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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

Difficulty: Easy

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
at www.desertexposure.com/100hikes.

 

August 2014 – Sacaton Creek

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!).

 

 

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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

Difficulty: Moderate

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.”

This article was originally  published in Augist 2014 issue of Desert Exposure.

June 2014 – Mogollon Box Loop Hike

In the Loop

Hiking a loop around the Mogollon Box with Kathy Whiteman,
director of WNMU’s Outdoor Program.

Kathy Whiteman, director of WNMU’s Outdoor Program, has lived in rural settings for most of her life. She was raised in northwest Pennsylvania, has spent time in Washington State, and made it to New Mexico in the mid-1990s. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Edinboro University, a Bachelor of Science (botany) from Western New Mexico University, and a Master’s and PhD in Biology (plant ecology) from New Mexico State University.

She is exceedingly knowledgeable about the plants, animals and terrain of our wilderness backyard, which made her an excellent hiking partner. She has traveled throughout the Gila on foot and mule for almost two decades. Clearly, she is especially competent to run the Outdoor Program for WNMU.

You can tell she has hiked with inexperienced hikers before. She reminded me to bring a snack, water, river shoes and a hat. She also sent me a link to a Google map that showed where we were going. This is my kind of hiker!

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Name: Mogollon Box Loop Hike

Distance: 4.25 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Directions: Starting at the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Little Walnut Road in Silver City, drive 28 miles to mile marker 84. Make a right onto S211 and drive 1 mile to a fork in the road. Stay to the left and drive 6.9 miles to trailhead. Park in the Mogollon Box campground.
Hike description: Keep in mind that the flood we had last fall re-structured parts of the river so that some of the trails/markers are not immediately obvious. Go around the brown gate and walk on the road. Just before the green gate (a minute or two of walking), on the right, you will see a brown Gila National Forest trailhead marker. Take this trail through the trees and after one or two minutes, look for a trail on your left. Now trek through a dry river bed until you pick up the trail again (as of May 1, there were blue tape markers hanging in the trees showing the way). You will soon see the trail. Take it to your first river crossing. You will see the trail on the other side of the water.

This is a loop trail that crosses the Gila River five times and works its way over a mountain. You will pass the Gila USGS gauging station along the way. Walk past the gauge equipment and follow the two-track road back to the car.

We saw six desert bighorn sheep along the way, a gopher snake, and a hiking fool who fell in the water twice (it’s not necessary to name names).

Notes: If the river is flowing when you cross, be careful. The rocks under the water are slippery and the water is flowing faster than you think!

If you prefer an easier, drier hike, at the green gate, keep heading northwest on the two-track road and follow it all the way to the gauging station. Return the way you came. No river crossings for this modified hike, but take plenty of water with you, as there is very little shade.

Tell me about a particularly memorable hiking experience: As I click my camera overlooking the Gila River, Kathy shares a story. “Not surprisingly, one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done involved alcohol. I was in my 20s and spending a lot of time backpacking in the Gila. One afternoon a friend of mine dropped me and another friend off at a trailhead. The two of us hikers had been drinking and were pretty toasted when we started down the trail. We had very heavy packs and were planning to make it to a base camp we’d set up 12 miles away.

“We were having a great time, drunk as skunks, when it started to snow. It was one of those big snows with heavy wet flakes that stick. It was beautiful and we were like kids, throwing snowballs and me, making snow angels. Before long, I was soaking wet and cold; I wasn’t dressed for the snow.

“Not surprisingly, by the time it started getting dark, we were a long way from our intended camp spot. We had enough sense to make camp before the light was completely gone, but our hands were so cold that we couldn’t light a match or use a lighter. We had trouble putting up the tent. We only had one sleeping bag.

“When I look back on this experience, I realize how lucky I was, and how embarrassingly stupid. The Gila’s ‘gentle seasons’ can be unforgiving; nature is not sympathetic to human ignorance. Getting sloppy drunk out in the wilderness is about as dumb as it gets. Thankfully, I learned from this experience.”

What is the WNMU Outdoor Program all about? “The Outdoor Program (OP) allows students of WNMU to take classes for academic credit. Classes include Outdoor Leadership, Foundations in Experiential and Adventure Education, Introduction to Rock Climbing, Introduction to Backpacking, SCUBA, Fundamentals of Search and Rescue, Mountain Biking and more. This fall the OP is teaming with the Art Department to offer a wilderness photography course. Participants will learn photography and practice skills on a four-day horse-packing trip to photograph elk. The university Outpost has gear for rent to students and the public as well as maps and other information.

“Students (and WILL members) may also attend trips (not for credit) that the outdoor program leads. Previous trips have included: Carlsbad Caverns, scuba diving, skiing/snowboarding, White Sands National Monument, whitewater rafting, and wilderness horseback riding.”

Want to know more about WNMU’s Outdoor Program? Check out their website: www.wnmuoutdoors.org.

 

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
at www.desertexposure.com/100hikes.

July 2013 – Little Cherry Creek

Name: Little Cherry Creek

Distance: Various

Difficulty: Easy

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Directions: Starting at the intersection of Highway 15 and 32nd Street in Silver City, drive north on Highway 15 for 8.2 miles. On the right-hand side of the road you will see a wooden sign saying, “Little Cherry Creek Ranch.” Turn right on (what seems to be) a driveway and find a parking spot; there are several right there when you pull in.

Hike Description: This is a good hike for a hot summer day, as it is follows the creek and there is often water available. It is heavily treed and there are many interesting rock formations to appreciate. At the 1.4-mile mark, the road makes a strong curve to the left. If you look straight into the woods, you will see a trail. Continue there for as long as your legs will take you. While on the road, the walk is a gradual uphill climb. Once you get into the woods and off the road, it gets hillier and soon starts up the side of the mountain.

Notes: This is a heavily traveled path, so expect to see other hikers, horseback riders and vehicle travel. As you walk along, notice the different foliage. There are a lot of different plants due to the moisture. Watch out for poison oak!

Helpful Hint: ALWAYS tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back.

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared in “Desert Exposure”. Check them out at:

http://www.desertexposure.com/index.php

Hike #78 – Meadow Creek – Off Trailing – Gila National Forest

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 – The Gila Turns Green!

Since the monsoons have come, the Gila has turned green! We are finally seeing the grasses taking over where the ground was a dust cloud a few weeks ago (don’t ask me how the ground can be a cloud – it just is!). We continue to explore Meadow Creek and each time we come back there’s more and more creek …… and more green meadow! Heading down the road looking for a trail between two mountains, we see an ATV trail that heads upwards. A short climb to the top reveals mountain views and photo opportunities. However the road ends and we’re just getting started so we decide to continue into the forest, and off trail. I have been gaining confidence in doing this (I know you experienced hikers are probably rolling your eyes at my hesitance) and feel that my GPS skills are improved enough to get us back to the car. We find that there are splendid meadows, pine trees, and rock outcroppings to explore. At one point, where we make a right turn into an arroyo, we build a small wooden arrow in the path to show us where we just came from. I know, I know, anal. If you see it out there, you can dismantle it since we never did make it back that way………

We continue on talking and burning some calories until we see a dirt path through the trees. Maybe this is the trail we’ve been hunting for. Ummmm, no, it’s the road we started on and we are practically 100 yards from the car, which is visible through the trees. Nope, not lost this time (to be honest, I thought we were wandering farther and farther into the woods and away from the road – duh!).

We’re not ready to be done and so cross over the road to the other hill and wander up and around the mountainside for a good 45 minutes again enjoying the trees, grasses, an interesting animal hidey-hole and excellent views.

Towards the end, we wind up on the dirt road heading toward the car. I still haven’t found the trail a nice man described to me a few weeks back and I’m not ready to let it go. I suggest we walk adjacent to the road but pick through the brush to see if we find a trail somewhere in there. And you know what? We found 2 trails that we want to check out – that we couldn’t see from the road – which is just 30 yards off to our right. So I learned that when you get off the beaten trail – just a little – you can find interesting things. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

If someone has information on Trail 89 off Meadow Creek, I would appreciate you sharing.

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3.22 miles /2.5 hours

78 down /22 to go

Hike #77 – Meadow Creek Road – Past Scout Camp and Up Creek Bed – Gila National Forest

I’ve been exploring the trails in and around Meadow Creek. Today, Sharon and I walked the road which turned into creek bed and back to road beyond the creek. There was a good amount of rain up here yesterday and Cody had plenty of opportunities for drinking and playing in mud. With about 11 days of rain, the desert is turning green fast and we thoroughly enjoyed the trees, plants and grasses. We even came across spearmint – only because Cody ran through it and brought the smell with her.

A few minutes beyond our car, we found 4-5 old building foundations. I’ve been researching them and found out that they are the remains of an old Boy Scout camp which was relocated to the Mimbres Valley – now known as Camp Thunderbird. It was moved due to fear of fire – the area only has one way in and out so I can see how it would be dangerous in a fire situation. I also found out that if you walk further up, there is a waterfall and swimming hole. I’m going back some day to investigate!

Although we walked close to 4 miles, it was all fairly flat so was not as tiring as some of the other trails I’ve done. We also saw another trail that went up a canyon that we plan to try in the coming weeks.

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3.77 miles /2.14 hours

77 down /23 to go