Monday, April 30, 2012

Meadow Creek, Signal Peak- Gila National Forest

Just a few miles up the road(NM 15) from Cherry Creek Campground is the trailhead for the hike to Signal Peak. We did this hike a few years back when we stayed at the Nature Conservancy's Bear Canyon Lodge near Silver City.The trail starts on the east side of the road,but there probably isn't any parking there. We had to park a few hundred feet past on the west side at the Tadpole Ridge Trailhead.The first bit of the trail can be hard to find as it crosses the( usually) wet meadow that is the headwaters of Cherry Creek. From then on the trail was easy to follow. It has some signs of overuse even, where too many people have chosen their own little paths and have widened the tread quite a bit in places. This happens to many popular trails ( I'm thinking of the Pine Tree Trail in the Organs as another example), so please stay on the most well worn route and don't deviate. As I remember, it's pretty steep going in mostly deep forest at first,but eventually we ended up sidehilling on the mountain's south side with views opening towards Silver City and the desert grass lands beyond.  At the top, we were invited by the fire spotter to come up the tower. Here, we could see most of the Gila Wilderness and the western half of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness as well. It was fun pointing out  various peaks and canyons and the lookout appreciated my accuracy.
        A few miles beyond Signal Peak Trailhead is the Meadow Creek Road. The top part of this route rolls  along a fairly wide and level mesa with spots available( and used) for dispersed camping. Then it gets very narrow and takes a pretty steep plunge down to Meadow  Creek. This is a very pretty area, grassy and open with large deciduous trees,but getting down here may not be an option for passenger cars or those towing large trailers. Hiking downstream is very nice when there's water flowing in the creek. The second  time I came down here I was looking to see if there were any trout left in these upper reaches. I did see some fish, but they weren't trout. One stretch is a sort of slot canyon carved by the tiny stream into the gray volcanic rock. I  either had to wade through some waist to chest deep pools or turn back. Since it was July and in the mid-90's, I didn't mind getting wet. The stream opened up again,but the water went away. It looked like a bouldery road instead of a  creek for the next mile or two and I gave up on the fishing. The water may come back further downstream, which may be where there were a few trout still- I don't know. It was a fun hike anyway- and the swimming holes were a definite plus.Update( May, 2014) :Parts of these areas may be inaccessible due to the Signal Fire.

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