Saturday, May 12, 2012

North Fork Mimbres River, Reeds Peak-Aldo Leopold Wilderness

Cliffs above the North Fork Mimbres

Intrepid Angler

View south to Hillsboro Peak
Black Range Crest

Reeds Peak Lookout

Reeds Peak Cabin
 We've backpacked to Mimbres River in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness three times. That third time back  in '04, I had my closest encounter with a bear( less than 20 feet I'm guessing) while I was quietly fishing the stream our first afternoon there. If you don't know this already let me tell you: bears can be very quiet. So sometimes when you hear something that you think is a squirrel or bird, look up anyway. After a mutual scare we headed in opposite directions.  The bear went  back across the stream,  running into a  big cottonwood  in his hurry. I headed back to our camp  where my my wife was napping near our as yet unpacked and unhung food supply.  The bear came through camp an hour or so  later while we were cooking on the opposite side of the river from our tent. We yelled and blew whistles. Eventually,he got the idea to leave and headed up the hillside.
     The next day we did one of the best hikes in the  Black Range: the North Fork of the Mimbres to Reeds Peak. This is the real backcountry of the Aldo Leopold. It is not accessible as a day hike,unless your idea of day hike runs about 24 miles out and back. Even as it was, starting from  well in on the main Mimbres, we probably hiked close to 12 miles round trip. I fished a little as we went and caught a few small trout in the main stem and on the North Fork. Initially  the  North Fork's canyon is very narrow and boxed in. The trail(FT 77)  even  follows a ledge in the cliff sides at one point. Later, We had to hike a steep hill to circumvent a very narrow, rocky section that would've had us walking in the water. Descending the other side,  we entered a relatively wide open valley with tall grass and huge douglas firs and ponderosa pines, where the tiny stream gently meandered.Further back there was a marshy area with several springs, where we ate and rested. Further back still, the trail left the stream and we began the truck up to  Reeds Peak.
      Shortly after passing a muddy spring trickling down the hillside and across the trail, we reached the crest of the Black Range with views opening up to the east.  There may be downfall in this frequently burned area  to the  south of peak. The trail gets a bit thick with low growing brush with the  last few switchbacks to the peak. On top there is the old lookout tower and cabin. There is also a cistern where we filtered water for our bottles. The cabin didn't look real inviting,unless you're a mouse lover,but it would probably seem very cozy if you needed to get out of the wind,rain or cold. The lookout tower's steps looked a little rickety and the last flight beneath the cabin is missing completely,so we didn't climb up. I don't  believe this one has been manned in many years. When we  got back to camp, we were thoroughly exhausted but happy to have left our prints, however briefly, on this remote canyon and peak of the Gila.IMPORTANT NOTE:  This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area.


Arly Wayne Mimbres New Mexico said...

1986 worked with forrest device.we would man the fire tower. And maintain the the trail. Horse back with pac mules. The most beath taking place on earth after monsune.

Dina said...

Hi! Have you hiked this lately? Barely any information on the internet

Devon Fletcher said...

I have not been up to the North Fork recently but one look at Google earth will show you that the Mimbres Forks was one of the most heavily impacted areas of the Silver Fire 5 years ago.Very few live trees left and tons of ash in the stream channel from post fire flooding. The last few years I've been trying to hike in areas in the Black Range that escaped the worst of the devastation,not always successfully. If you go be aware that the thorny thick growing New Mexico locust tree tends to take over quickly in burnt areas. I found this out over at East Curtis Canyon( tributary to Animas Creek) and I've heard it's very bad in Black Canyon as well.