Monday, October 24, 2011

Forest Road 151- Gila National Forest

I love the Gila,but sometimes I wish getting to some of the trailheads was a bit easier. I had two fall color hikes in mind. Both are from Hiking the Aldo Leopold Wilderness by Polly Burke and Bill Cunningham. One starts off of the top the Mcknight Road and goes down Pretty Canyon,up Sid's Prong and then uses the Crest Trail and the road for the final segments of and 11 mile loop. The other was an out and back hike on the nearby Powderhorn Ridge Trail to the crest of the Black Range and its highest peak; Mcknight Mountain. Now I've been up the Mcknight Road (FR 152) twice before and it's very rough and slow going for the last 10 or so miles past the East Canyon Rd. (FR 537) turn off. I had read that that it was no longer being maintained and absolutely needed high clearance and four wheel drive. I checked with the Forest Service and they concurred, but I suspect it's probably no worse than it was before and that my pick-up which is not particularly high clearance or four wheel drive and has made it up there before, would probably make it up there again. They did mention that there was a distinct possibility of tire damage- which of course no matter how high your truck is,or how great the four wheel drive is, the most vulnerable part of any vehicle are the four pieces of rubber that actually touch the earth. Since I don't buy the kind of tires that would lessen the probability of a flat on roads like these, I opted for the Powderhorn Ridge Trail and Forest Road 151.Ignorance is bliss, at least for a little while. I had driven this road before,but only to the trailhead for the Mcknight Canyon Trail(FT 92). There are 3 more miles after this to get to the end and the start of my hike. Although driving them probably saved me some shoe leather and the energy to make my climb to the high point of the Black Range, it probably didn't save me much time. Those 3 miles took a little over a half hour to drive.It wasn't really a road so much at times but a rocky place where no trees were growing. I don't think I scraped bottom on the way there, which was good,but I just kept thinking a flat was inevitable. At least here, I consoled myself in advance, there are ample places to pull off and change a tire.Unlike the Mcknight Road which is barely notched into the side of a mountain,with many hairpin turns, FR 151 stays almost completely top and center on Kelly Mesa. I did make it,with four intact tires. I fretted periodically on my hike about the return drive,but not so much that it spoiled my enjoyment of a spectacular fall day. Ah, the Gila, always an adventure. Of course,roads like these are probably more than little responsible for the fact that in the 13 years I've been hiking the Gila, the vast majority of the time, just like this particular time, I have encountered none of my fellow man.IMPORTANT NOTE: The Silver Fire may have changed the road and trail conditions in this area. Check with the Forest Service for  accessibility and vehicle suitability.

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