Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heeler Monsters (in the Gila)

For Spring Break, we decided to head south to the Gila Wilderness for some backpacking. Sunday night, we camped at the Railroad Creek campground in the Black Range only to wake up to a bit of snow.
We were pretty sure that if we headed west to the Blue Range, we could find a lower-elevation hike with less snow. After consulting with a Forest Ranger, we were convinced that even if we got our car down the 6-mile snow-covered dirt road to the trailhead, we wouldn't hike far before being buried in snow. He suggested that we hike the classic Catwalk Trail for a few miles instead. Which we did, but noticed that the weather was great and there wasn't a snowflake in sight.
So, on we went to the Pueblo Creek Trail in the Blue Range Wilderness (it's across Hwy 180 from the Gila Wilderness). Here's a rough map of our path.
I forgot to mark the start, but it's the upper-right corner of the loop. We started south along the Pueblo Creek Trail, set up a camp along the creek, then continued the next day and following the Tige Canyon trail to the west. This trail ended after a couple of miles, but we just continued hiking west along the creek, crossing frequently until the canyon sides got too steep. At this point, we realized that we really were not on a trail and we needed to climb up to the ridge to find the network of trails on the Arizona side of the wilderness (that straight white line is the state border).

So we started going uphill, stopping for the night before continuing on a strenuous uphill bushwhack in the hopes that we would cross an official trail. As luck would have it, we reached the ridge exactly at a trail intersection with a sign, telling us that we were 5 miles from the Pueblo Creek Road that we needed to get to.

We thought we'd cruise along the trail, but there was all that snow that the ranger had warned us about! Not only did it slow us down, but it also made the trail invisible. We managed to stay on the trail with some work, and spent the third night uphill from a creek. The last day was a pleasant mile north to the road, then 8 miles east along the dirt road back to the start. Along the road, we actually saw a car and talked to the people in it (they showed us a cliff dwelling that we nearly walked by without noticing). That was our only interaction with people during the four days in the Blue Range.

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures! Crazy changes in the climate. Love the overhead of your route.