|a very heavy backpack|
The second (and last) time we came was a couple of years after we moved to Las Cruces. It was my wife and I's third backpacking trip. Things I remember about the hike in: carrying way too much stuff and having it be a tight squeeze in a few spots on the Catwalk, seeing an apricot tree growing along the trail, and being stung by a bee but getting the stinger out so quickly that I suffered no ill effects. We set up camp on a small flat on the South Fork Whitewater that was a well used location. I was still a fly fishing beginner at the time and I could hardly contain my excitement at the sight of so many fish in the stream just a few feet from my tent. The next day we hiked upstream through the closed in, narrow canyon in drizzly weather. I caught several Gila/ rainbow hybrids along the way but was more excited by a 30 second losing battle ( with a few leaps) with a large brook trout( this is the only place in the Gila with brookies). At another camping spot we ate lunch, and I found some fishing rods made from willow branches and thought on a stream like this that's all you really need.We got plenty of rain that night as it was July and the monsoon had started.
Hiking up the main Whitewater the next day, I was little dismayed to be spending so much time so high above the creek. My wife, who is little afraid of heights, didn't appreciate the narrowness of the trail, the sheer 200 foot drop to the creek, or stepping to the side for a large horse party.We finally got down to a spot that was reasonably wide enough to actually cast. The fish were everywhere, and it was sure a confidence builder that they were so easy to catch. I even immersed myself in the pool with the fish I'd been catching. It was sooo cold! Back at camp I finally coaxed one of the reluctant fish right by the camp to take my fly. I know I neglected my companion on this trip,but it was truly a baptismal experience in my fly fishing life.
This was the first place where we saw the blue and black beetle that are so prevalent all over the Gila. It was one of the many little things you might notice when you've got time on your hands on a backpack but might not ever see on dayhike. On the way home we continued our new tradition of eating a fabulously unhealthy meal after a backpack. This time it was cheeseburgers at the Drifter in Silver City.Update(June 2012)- The entire western half of the Gila Wilderness has been heavily impacted by the Whitewater-Baldy Fire. Creeks such as Mineral,Whitewater, Big Dry, Rain, and Mogollon of the San Francisco River drainage, as well as several tributaries of the West and Middle Forks of the Gila will surely have their trout populations affected once the rains come and the ash starts flowing into the streams. Some Gila trout have already been removed to hatcheries ahead of the devastation that is sure to come.