Aug 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm #1292776
For the 3rd year in a row, some hiking partners and myself are going to the Gila Wilderness. Our first year there we hiked the West Fork Trail to Big Bear Trail, down trail #28 to the Middle Fork and then took that to the visitor center. Our second year we took the West Fork to Hell's Hole, went up through Woodland Park, down trail #28 to the Middle Fork, and then once again hiked that out to the visitor center.
Some new guys are going with us this time and we were going to do the same thing we did last time, however the fires this year have put us a bit out of our realm of familiarity. The west fork trail is only open just past big bear trail. We thought we would take an opportunity to try new things and get out of our comfort zone, so we're considering heading north.
We have considered going up Middle Fork Trail a bit, then heading east across North Mesa and perhaps over to the East Fork but we have never been in this area. We would like to do a loop around 40 miles. A little more or less isn't an issue. In our hiking group of 6, we have several very fast hikers and 2 slow hikers (me being one of the slow guys). We like to set up where camp will be that way we all know where to meet at night and the slow guys can take their time. Also water is a big concern for us, we'd like as much as possible, and we are planning to filter it.
Does anyone have information on this section of the Gila Wilderness? We are open to any suggestions as the trip is Aug 29th – Sep 3rd or so. If anyone has hiked a loop in this area the information would be extremely appreciated!
-RobAug 8, 2012 at 2:12 pm #1901241
Michael LBPL Member
This has Eugene written all over it.Aug 10, 2012 at 10:17 am #1901657
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Between the middle fork and east forks, everything looks open, according to the present USFS map on the web. The entire west side of the wilderness is closed as does the west fork (prolly due to flooding). Consult the Gila NF website for updates.
ed/added imgAug 10, 2012 at 10:59 am #1901665
Correct, that is where we're looking be, it's just that we have never been in that area. We're looking for anyone that may have information on water or a good route we could hike involving those areas.
It looks like we may end up in Gunnison, Aldo Leopold, or another wilderness or forest area. Still deciding.Aug 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm #1901689
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
The area to the north of the middle Fork is packable, though there are some old burn areas I haven't seen for about 5 years. There was a way to go from the Middle Fork through "Aeroplane Mesa" plus some trails running through Chicken Coop Mountain, etc.. around the Middle Fk. I'd base my journey (and water) along the Middle Fk and run a shuttle if 2 cars to run the whole Middle Fk. or maybe a loop from Aeroplane Mesa if just one (the trailhead by the ranch up there was iffy), staying the USFS Beaver-whatever work area if you need to car-camp for a night setting up. The roads can get slick with mud during rain up there though and there's some hidden rocks where the state or FS bulldozed dirt embankments; had to bail together a ruined exhaust on a Honda CRV as we were preparing to leave one of those northern TH's due to a large rock the driver ran over crashing into the undercarriage via lever action. Also some other acquaintances of mine have had to JB Weld their oil pans on those northern roads due to rock damage. No restaurant service in Winston/Chloride NM 5 years ago and I doubt that has changed.Aug 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm #1901691
Eugene SmithBPL Member
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
I've been meaning to get in touch with you.
I have to make this quick, gotta get back to work. In short, consider letting the Gila heal up and head north for some backpacking with your group. The Pecos Wilderness is a great place to explore and you wouldn't be disappointed with it as an alternative to the Gila. It is big country and there is plenty of water. I don't know where you and your group are coming from in TX, but there is a good chance that its quicker to hit I-40 and drive into the Pecos than it is driving up into the Gila with its slow winding access to the visitor center.
Southern NM has been beyond dry, much of the seasonal waters aren't reliable. The E.Fork of the Gila is beautiful and remote, but it doesn't offer the same wonder, at least for me, as the West and Middle Forks.
Also check out the Wheeler Peak area, our states highest point a few hundred feet over 13K'. Both the Pecos and Wheeler can be accessed within 1-2hrs from Albuquerque.
Just some things to think about.
Let me know if you need help with any specifics.Aug 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm #1901701
Thanks guys for your suggestions! I really like the idea of hiking the Middle Fork to Snow Lake or something like that. The only issue is I don't think we can do it logistically. The number of guys we have, the number of vehicles, the distances to drive, and the high-clearance requirement disqualify it as an option for our group but it is something I think I'd like to do in the future.
I will look at the Pecos, a guy in our church has backpacked that area before quite a bit and we may be able to get some planning help from him. I think you are right Eugene, it's best to keep out of the Gila this time around. Time to explore new territory.
I thought about Gunnison as a serious option but we probably won't go that route with the Pecos being so close. thanks again both of you for dropping some knowledge and putting my mind at ease.
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