Monday, July 30, 2012

Gila National Forest Trail 307- Cave Creek, Las Animas Creek

Cave Creek

Looking north across Las Animas Creek
 Some recent comments on the blog reminded me of this hike that we did quite a few years ago. We left our campsite on Carbonate Creek and drove north on FR 157 intending to make it to the " trailhead" on Bald Hill.Shortly after crossing North Percha Creek, we got wedged in at very narrow section of the road and couldn't get any traction to go any further, and had a heck of time backing down the road to a place to turn around. We ended up pulling off on the west side and parked at a nice spot used for camping. The road passes through some forested sections but much of it is open chaparral, so  I would not recommend this as a summer hike. I remember one section of the road and it's environs being covered with blinding white quartz from nearby mine tailings. The views from Bald Hill to Granite Peak were  fantastic. Then we descended very steeply  down to Cave Creek( this road here is  not really fit for man, vehicle, or beast) UPDATE: The road was improved greatly for firefighting efforts during the Silver Fire, although it still may be advisable to have four wheel drive.
 A short ways after reaching the  bottom there is a large cairn that marks where Trail 307 turns to the north. The road continues to the east along the creek. Initially the trail crossed the bouldery, dry creek and then began to wind its way up the south side of the scenic Apache Peak. This is open semi- desert here and it was very hot, even in October. There are also some washouts along this section which  were a bit unnerving. We could see the large alcove that gives Cave Creek its name to the west as we neared the the large mesa that extends from the southwest to the southeast flanks of Apache Peak. Here the trail tops out, and we  ate our lunch in the shade of some pines.
   The hiking was much more pleasant as we continued on the south side( north facing) of Las Animas  Creek's canyon.The trail was clear as we walked in the shade of oaks, pine and juniper. Unfortunately there were series of treacherous washouts here as well, and then a long boulder strewn, brushy section which tempered our initial good feelings,but we were now on mission to get to the bottom to see Las Animas Creek. Imagine our disappointment  when there was nary a drop of water as far as the eye could see. We walked upstream a ways, but still saw nothing but the thirsty cottonwoods,willows and alders lining the banks of the dry creek. I had brought my 5 piece fly rod just in case,but my angling destination was missing two key ingredients: water and fish. We didn't want to make our now very long hike even longer so we turned around headed back up.    
  It turned humid and overcast as we trudged back and we would have welcomed the rain, had it ever come. It was really a slog. I'm thinking the whole trip was 12- 14 miles. The last  mile or more was  walked in the dark.  Two or three years ago my wife and I  were day hiking on the North Percha trail when we met two guys from Albuquerque with backpacks and and fly rods. They had intended to be on this route to Las Animas,but either didn't know or hadn't noticed the continuation of the road across North Percha Creek and had mistakenly continued west instead of north. I told them they could reach Holden Prong   on the trail they were on but that it probably wasn't a good idea( the last leg of the route down to Negro Bill Spring is completely gone) and directed them to Railroad Canyon which is the standard route into the Las Animas drainage. They took my advice and I hope they had good luck with their fishing.Note: this hike is from Bill Cunningham and Polly Burke's Hiking the Aldo Leopold Wilderness.IMPORTANT UPDATE: This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area.

No comments: