[Cdt-l] Gila Wilderness Opened or Closed?

Charlie Thorpe charliethorpe at att.net
Tue Jan 14 11:56:58 CST 2014


Hello All -

I didn't realize when Doug first posed his question that folks might be interested in trail info dating as far back as last fall.  I hiked the Gila WA last October on the official CDT route from FS 150 down to  NM 15 north of Silver City.  I had already hiked down through the Also Leopold WA on the official route during a previous section hike, but I had stopped at FS 150 because the Forest Service had closed the Gila WA due to a wildfire.  

Coming back to hike that section gave me the chance to take another look at how I wanted to do it.  I had heard a lot about how nice the hike was via the middle fork of the Gila River and was considering using that alternate route.  I heard about the flooding here on CDT-L and agian when I got down to that part of NM, so I drove out to Gila Hot Springs to poke around.

I wasn't up on my trading post history, so I was a little surprised that Doc wasn't there anymore <g>.  I talked with a gentleman with a heavy accent (German?) who said he was the owner, but I don't remember his name.  Apparently local outfitters like to use the river trail for dude trips, so he had been trying to find a way to get through the flood damage down along the middle fork.  His conclusion at that point was that there wasn't any way to get through.

I asked if the trail might be open in time for me to flip and hike up the Gila going north out of Silver City.  He laughed at my suggestion and said that the trail might even not be open for any of the 2014 hikers.

His defining statement of that whole trail situation was:

"Middle fork - piece of shit!"

I would think that calling him now might get you a little more useful detail in his description of the trail through the middle fork <VBG>.

A friend from Silver City stored my car for me and drove me out to where the official route crosses FS 150.  I had a delightful hike from there through the Gila WA and down to NM 15 (I had previously hiked the CDT from Silver City out to 15, so I walked/hitched 15 into town).  

The only trail problem I encountered was south of the Sopilla Campground - I missed where the trail tread branches off from the ATV track used to climb up to the ridge line going south.  I wasn't paying attention to the map and continued on the ATV track until I woke up and realized that I was trending downhill back north.  The trail tread itself on up to the ridge line wasn't particularly easy to spot, but the map was clear where it had to be so I found it with a little stumbling around.  I built a cairn at that junction in hopes that it might catch the eye of some other hiker who was zoned out like I was.

The trail through the Gila WA was an absolutely beautiful hike that turned this section into a fitting finish for fifteen years worth of CDT section hiking.  There was a LOT of green and even some surface water at both ends of the trail through the wilderness.  A very nice stretch of trail!

The only trail issues I ran into were up on top of the plateau toward the south end of the wilderness area segment where some horse groups had apparently ridden the trail while it was still wet from the monsoons.  They had chewed up the trail pretty bad and it had hardened into softball size clumps hidden in the grass.  Interesting hiking <f>.  The good news was that the horse damage at least made the trail a little easier to find and follow (most of the cairns were knocked down and I don't remember many other trail markings).

Coming down off of the plateau at the south end of the wilderness area was one of the best parts of the hike.  Plenty of water in the canyon and LOTS of wildlife - VERY nice hike from there out to Sopilla Creek.

It sounds to me like any spring NOBO might want to check pretty carefully before planning to hike the middle fork of the Gila.  Hiking the official route through the Gila WA should be absolutely no problem at all (by NM CDT standards, anyway <g>), but I would check to see how the fire up in the Aldo Leopold might have impacted the CDT through that wilderness area.  

I really enjoyed hiking the Aldo Leopold and found Jerry's maps to be extremely useful - there are some REALLY good reasons why the Gila and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Areas were the first two to be designated under the Wilderness Protection Act.

Good luck on the trail!

- Charlie

> This from Tom Holz.  He was one of the last hikers to pass through last fall headed north:
>  
> “Our group did not hike the Gila, we actually cut east into the national forest from the north of Snow Lake, and turned south to drop down and ford the middle fork at The Meadows, then picked up a Ley high water alternate that dropped us about 1 mile to the east of the cliff dwellings (starting at Ley NM33 #3). Our experience was a lot like these two hikers:
> http://sobohobos.blogspot.com/2013/11/day-138-crossing-gila-river.html
>  
> One man from our group took a slightly different high water route from The Meadows, and ended up hiking about 3 miles down the west fork into the cliff dwellings, but word from locals, USFS, and other hikers was that middle fork was basically impassible. I recall the phase “10 foot cuts”.”
>  
>  
> best wishes,
>  
> Jerry Brown
> mailto:bcss at bresnan.net
> www.bearcreeksurvey.com
>  
> From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On Behalf Of Jonathan Ley
> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 10:23 PM
> To: 'cdt-l at backcountry.net'
> Subject: Re: [Cdt-l] Gila Wilderness Opened or Closed?
>  
> My experience has been that “impassable” could mean anything… It totally depends on who is making that judgment, and what their perspective is. It could mean, just a bunch of annoying blow-downs and wash-outs, or it could indeed mean impassable (i.e. you’re going to make ~0.5 miles an hour & have a miserable time). I doubt at this date anyone has been up there recently and really knows what the conditions will be like come ~April.
>  
> -Jonathan
>  
>  
> From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net] On Behalf Of Sean Staplin
> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2014 5:33 PM
> To: Doug Carlson
> Cc: cdt-l at backcountry.net
> Subject: Re: [Cdt-l] Gila Wilderness Opened or Closed?
>  
> I would highly doubt it is impassable. It may take a longer and a couple days extra food, but two feet can clamber and scramble over most anything.
>  
> 
> On Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 5:33 PM, Doug Carlson <doug-sue at centurylink.net> wrote:
> I just got this question by email.  I have no answer for it.  Planning on hiking the CDTS route through the Gila Wilderness, does anyone have any info on this question?
>  
> "Have you heard anything about the Gila route?  I heard through Jerry Brown that the USFS says it is impassable.  I was hoping to go that way."
>  
> -Trew
>  
> 
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