Daily Miles: 18
Total Miles: 400
We were really glad to have the wind protection of our makeshift nook last night. The wind was really strong, but we didn’t feel too much of it. When we got up this morning, we did notice a fair amount of dust on us which must have been blown onto us by the wind.
It was hard to force ourselves out of our warm sleeping bags this morning, since it was so cold and windy out. Finally we got up and kept all of our clothes on as we packed up and headed up the trail.
The day started with our final mile and a half of road walking. It surprises us the effort and money that is put into building roads that seem to be in the middle of nowhere. There are trailheads off the roads and perhaps there are a lot of people who come hiking in the summer. Certainly nobody out here but us right now.
After the mile And a half, we entered the Gila Wilderness, created in 1923. It is the first Wilderness designated area in the US – which means that no motor vehicles or even motorized tools can be used within the area.
We started in on a trail which was in really good shape. It feels like such a treat to be able to just follow a path and not need to constantly be focused on staying on track. We can just zone out and walk which is nice sometimes.
After a few miles, we came to a nice saddle with some stumps to sit on. Beardoh walked down another trail for about a quarter mile to a water source. SweetPea just chilled and sorted out the next maps we would need.
Once we continued on, the trail became less maintained. There were a lot of downed trees across the trail, which really slowed us down, and just got annoying after awhile. This area suffered a massive wildfire in 2012 which really devastated the forest. For miles on the trail today (and for miles when you look out in the distance) virtually all the trees have been burned…it is really sad to see.
The forest fire also has lasting negative impacts to the trail, as the burned trees which are still standing get blown over with high winds and end up looking like a giant version of pick-up-sticks. It might take a year or two in this area for the trees and debris to be removed from the trail, but we saw ample evidence of the forest service trying to clean up the trail…it is just a never-ending project.
We were above 9,000 feet all day and were glad to see that the snow had almost all melted. We only had two small patches to walk through. We have heard that it was a dry winter in this region, which means less or no snow for us to deal with.
Most of the day was spent climbing very gradually to the high point of the trail. With the cool temperatures and the incessant wind, we were constantly taking off and putting in extra layers. We each had at least one extra layer on all day.
As we got closer to the high point (Mogollon Baldy at 10,778 feet), the wind really picked up. At times it was a bit hard to stay on the trail. At the top of the mountain, there was a fire tower (locked) and a ranger’s cabin (locked). We took a break on the porch of the cabin, hoping for a respite from the wind, but somehow it found us, and we ended up with all our layers on by the time we started our descent.
The descent started out really nice and then we got into another long stretch of blow downs. By the end of the day, we must have climbed over hundreds of downed trees. Ugh.
We made it to the beginning of Ponderosa Pine forest which was not affected by the fire and started looking for a place to camp. There are lots of nice flat spots, but the wind it still really strong and we tried to find a place that would be a bit out of the wind. Once we set up camp (including a tarp to act as a wind barrier), we could see how the wind kept changing directions. So, we’ll see how it goes tonight.