Monday, October 29, 2007

Sapillo Creek-Gila Wilderness,Gila National Forest

I've fished Sapillo Creek 6 or 7 times now and the results have been erratic. My worst day: a single fish, although that day was less frustrating than the one where I couldn't catch anything bigger than 6 inches.That day was particularly frustrating because on my previous outing I had caught the 2 largest trout of my fishing life up to that time. My best day on the Sapillo, I injured my knee early on, and even though I was a virtual cripple for the remainder of the hike, I caught 2 dozen fish . There weren't any whoppers, but plenty of nice fish in the 8-11 inch range.
Sapillo Creek west of the bridge is a very healthy riparian area with willows,alders and grassy banks in places. It always has enough water. I have never encountered( in the 4-5 miles I fish) any dry stretches, so frequent on Gila streams.The reason it's not more of trout stream probably has to do with the temperature of the water that flows off the top of the Lake Roberts dam and the less than shady or healthy 6 miles of stream on the east side of the bridge. It fishes like the lower ends of the forks of the Gila and the Gila itself. Early spring and late fall are best.Even though it was the last weekend of October, it has been so warm that I probably should have( and have in the past) waited until the first or second or even the third weekend of November to fish it. The biggest rainbows hang out in the deepest pools,usually those that have streambed springs or seeps nearby. My first fish on Sunday,a 14-15 inch rainbow,that had to be close to 2 pounds,was caught in one of these pools near the mouth of Spring Canyon.

I hooked a second one in a similar pool further downstream that I lost on the second or third leap. You won't catch these on dry flies, and the nymph will need to sink fairly fast depending on the current. I got mine on beadhead Prince Nymph.Smaller fish that look more like Gila/rainbow hybrids can be caught(with dries some of the time) in the well oxgenated water in the small falls at the head of many pools.Some years there will many other types of fish throughout the stream. I have seen suckers,dace and even some large catfish here. Other years, it has been filled almost exclusively with trout. The past few years I haven't seen any trout, at least not until they were chasing my fly.I just hopefully cast to to likely places- a strategy that will do well on most Gila streams. The fishing has been slow the past 2 years.Even so, the thrill of battle with a leaping 16 inch or larger rainbow may occur to break up the monotony. In additon, it's beautiful place in the fall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Organ Mountains,Black Range,White Sands , Ruidoso River Fishing

My brother visited New Mexico for the first time. It was hot,but we managed to do some morning hikes in the Organ Mountains. We tried to do hike over in the Ruidoso area,but got rained out. We did a drive through the Black Range, stopping at Emory Pass and Gallinas Creek.We also went for an evening picnic at White Sands hoping to catch some of the meteor shower.The sky was clear,but we only saw a few. It's always fun to see New Mexico anew through a visitors eyes. The last day he was here, it turned hazy,hot and humid.
Also in August, I fished the Ruidoso River for the first time. I had only a couple of hours and it was threatening rain,but I managed 4 small browns and one nice sized rainbow. I'm not sure if it was worth the $10 fee the reservation charges,but it was fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Poison Ivy

Either on our Las Animas backpack or on our Gallinas dayhike, my wife came into contact with poison ivy. The resulting reaction wasn't the rash of tiny bumps I remember from childhood. It was a very gnarly,swollen infection-like thing. She suffered with intense itching for a couple of weeks. In wet years,poison ivy will be abundant especially in riparian areas. Don't think "you don't get it" or any other foolishness. You can and you will if you're not careful. It's also very pretty in the fall.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ladrone Trail( FT 127)- Aldo Leopold Wilderness

There are bugs in the forest.They don't sting or suck your blood.They just form an electron cloud around your head,and with a maddening frequency, divebomb your eyes, mouth and ears. I had already swallowed several when we had our first rest stop on the Ladron Trail. Strangely enough when we stopped moving, the bugs dissappeared. It was a mostly breezeless,warm, humid July day and with the added attraction of kamikaze insects, we were seriously thinking about turning back. Then we saw a hawk family, just going about their business in a tree across the trail 25 feet above us, and a little bit of Gila Forest magic must have flowed into us, because we didn't turn around, and continued our hike with good -spirited determination.
  Determination and good spirits is what you will need for this hike.The first stretch is an easy ramble along an old road that parallels Percha Creek.The trail then crosses the creek and you quickly begin a brutally steep climb on loose dry rock.Eventually it levels off and a rather pleasant ramble beside a dry stream commences. Alas, this comes to end, and you begin the first of several ridiculously steep sections that you must conquer before reaching your destination. We decided to forego the ultimate conclusion to Ladrone Trail ,which is its junction with the Crest Trail, and instead ended our trek at tiny Hillsboro Lake(more of a puddle on this day) We had previously hiked down from the Crest to Hillsboro Lake and saw nothing to be gained by retracing the extremely steep 1/4 mile or so that would put us on the ridgeline.This trail has limited viewscapes but it does takes you through an extensive aspen grove and Hillsboro Lake, in a wet year, is a delightful,unique spot in the dry Black Range. This trail has quite a bit of variety, which is why it ultimately won me over,but it is a challenge.IMPORTANT UPDATE: this  wonderful hike was within the Silver Fire burn(June,2013). Conditions are likely to be vastly altered especially close to the ridgeline.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Railroad Canyon-Gila National Forest

We did a couple of dayhikes in July. One was to Railroad Canyon. At the junction of Railroad Canyon and East Railroad Canyon we found a recently abandoned campsite. These folks had never even heard of leave no trace. There were tortillas and tomatoes dumped on the ground. In the firepit were steakbones, foil and plastic bags. There were several bare areas nearby, where their tied up horses had eaten and trampled the ground to dust. It was absolutely inconceivable to me why people who had pack animals would not pack out their trash. This was the first time in 10 years of visiting the Gila that I had seen a backcountry campsite so trashed. Well, we picked up all the inorganic refuse and carried it back in our daypacks.The food we left, unfortunately knowing it would be an attractant to bears and other critters. Who are these people who do this things?Surely they must have experienced some of the anti-litter, anti- pollution, safe bear practice etc. education campaigns that have been going on for the last 40 years. Oh,well I still find plenty of abandoned campfires burning, and everyone knows about Smokey. I can't imagine that they are just ignorant, rather, I believe, they get a perverse pleasure out flaunting long accepted standards for outdoor behavior.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Black Range Crest-Gila National Forest

I was sick of eating backpacking food. Someone had thoughtfully left some oily sardine tins at the campsite at Sid's Prong saddle, so bears were even more on my mind. Then I noticed the bear scat on the trail,but I somehow convinced myself it wasn't bear scat. In the night we heard large animals and the sound of breaking branches, I convinced myself it was elk. I dreamed something was holding my leg and woke up in a terror. I have seen bears in the Black Range: on East Railroad Canyon, on Turkey Run and a close encounter on the Mimbres River. Alas, it was not meant to be on this trip.
The last leg along the crest was shady and pleasant,if a bit up and down, in contrast to the nearly shadeless stretch from the previous day.We arrived at Boardgate Saddle and began down the road. It was hot. We drank the last of our water and rested in the shady spots.The hills were very steep.They were meant for jeeps not feet. Still, we had a sense of triumph, of accomplishment. It was by far our longest backpack and our first loop.And loops in and of themselves are always more satisfying than an out and back.The truck started. I didn't have flat. I went for a gander at the less than scenic Mcknight Cabin, and then started down the merciless Mcknight Road, happy.