Saturday, December 24, 2011

Gila Wilderness, New Mexico - 74 Mountain Trail

I completed this nearly 16-mile day hike in July, 2010. The destination on this hike was Mogollon Creek and the once, nearly extinct, Gila trout. This was also my first adventure with my new SPOT II satellite tracking device.

Gila Trout

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My partner and I arrived at the trailhead at 11:30 PM after almost 29 hours on the road. We awoke early the next morning to see what the area looked like in the daylight. Our destination would be well beyond the far ridge to the right of the trailhead marker.

The first couple of miles of the hike was relatively flat, but then we had a short climb up to the first ridge. The trail may have been flat but the cobble-filled trail made for a knee knocking hike.

When we made it to the top of the first ridge, the views of the New Mexico backcountry were amazing.

From this point, the trail wound for 3-4 miles along the multiple ridge lines. The hiking was easy, but you can see in the next photo the cobble that littered the trail - making the hike more difficult than it should have been.

The trail stays high on the ridge line as it weaves along the contour lines of the topography. The views were unlike anything I had witnessed before - this was my first trip to New Mexico and the United States southwest.

When we finally reached the final ridge we could see our destination - and it appeared to be straight down! The canyon directly across from us was the North Fork of Mogollon Creek, downstream of the section of main Mogollon we were searching for.

From this point it was just over a mile of steep descent to Mogollon Creek.

As you can tell by the photo of the North Fork of Mogollon Creek, the crystal clear main branch cuts through a steep canyon as well.

We fished for a few hours in this beautiful, but extremely rugged canyon, before making the decision to turn for the nearly 8-mile hike out.

I always carry a water filter and a 100 ounce hydration bladder. I made sure the bladder was full for the hike out in the July mid-day New Mexico heat.

The steep downhill last mile of the hike in would be brutal on the way out. The canyon had experienced a burn at some point so there was no canopy to protect us from the sun and heat. A slow steady pace put us back up on the ridge line with no issues.

From here it was just a matter of slowly winding along the ridges - taking it all in.

This last photo is probably my favorite of the entire hike. It is just before we drop off the ridge into the bottom where the trailhead was located. It shows the extreme vastness of New Mexico.

The final few miles were flat but not without incident. Hiking on rubbery legs, it was more difficult to step over some of the cobble and I stubbed my toes on multiple occasions. I also emptied my 100 ounce hydration bladder about a half-mile from the trailhead.

I finally made it back to the vehicle and quickly downed two bottles of water. Later I would find that this hike would cost me six toe nails - and this was the first day of our two week adventure across NM, AZ, CA, OR, NV, and CO.


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