Daily Archives: May 13, 2015

Luna Lake, Apache Sitgreaves National Forest – May 1

   

Jon enjoying a beer after collecting firewood and starting a fabulous fire.

Today was a very necessary resupply day. We really needed groceries, especially eggs and bacon. Unfortunately, it was going to require quite a drive.
We drove to Reserve for basic supplies. The best option was Jake’s General Merchandise, a store with the bare necessities. We were able to get bacon, eggs and milk. Fortunately we still had some vegetables and meat in our freezer.
We stopped for lunch at The Adobe Cafe and Bakery outside of Reserve. It was rated highly in one of my Guidebooks. It also gave us a chance to catch up on our email and such since they offered Wifi. The food was really good. We also picked up a few extras for the road like a loaf of Green Chili bread, pecan fudge and a slice of artichoke-cheese strata. We met a young European couple on a dual recumbent bicycle. They are biking through the Western states. We wished them well especially since it looked like it was about to start raining again.
We decided to continue heading west for camping tonight. That meant that we wound up at the Luna Lake Campground just over the Arizona State line in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I was grateful that it was May 1, since the campground is only open from May-Sept. 
The campground has 51 sites and is located on the other side of the lake from the road. It is a very well laid out campground with lots of space between campsites and an overall pleasing aesthetic feeling. There were already a couple of other campers there, but we just kept going and found a nice spot with a view of the lake and no one nearby.

  

Jon picked up dead sticks, tree limbs and leftover firewood from the area around our campsite. I found a large area covered in deer or elk droppings no more than about 10 feet from our camper. I fixed dinner and collected a little wood, too. Jon started a nice roaring fire and put out our chairs and side table by it. It was still quite cold and fortunately, the rain clouds had passed on.

  

Note that you can see Jon and his fire at the right side of the photo with the lake behind him. 

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Aeroplane Mesa, Gila National Forest – April 29 & 30

  

We spent most of today driving down the backroads of the Gila National Forest. We saw an amazing amount of wildlife including 3 groups of javelina, mule deer, roadrunners and a number of wild turkeys. 
We saw very few other vehicles, especially once we got past the first 5 miles. It was very interesting to see how the vegetation changes as we went along. Some of the views were just spectacular. We passed by the ever present cows and the occasional forest fire recovery area. 
  
Eventually, it was getting late and we needed someplace to stay for the night.  We decided to camp at Aeroplane Mesa campground. We assumed it would be as unoccupied as the rest of the Gila National Forest had been.
  
  
As it turned out, there was a guy, about a dozen mules and a few horses. He was working for a company that took people out on mule based expeditions. About half of the animals had already left. He and two other contractors had just finished taking a number of guys from Australia out for an expedition. They were in the U.S. for a bachelor’s pre-wedding outing. They had left for Las Vegas, while the staff had to go back out to recover the gear with the remaining mules.   
  
The corral with horses is on the very far right side 

Still, it wasn’t like the camping area was crowded.
We had a nice dinner followed by a quiet night.
We wanted to take a hike after spending most of the day in the car yesterday. I was still feeling pretty sore after the 15 mile hike two days before. There was a trail that started out at the campground, so we decided to take it. 
   

 

We headed to the Aeroplane Mesa which was a 2.5 mile hike across the plain. The trail continued down to the bottom of the canyon where there was a river.  The trail was pretty torn up after all of the mules having traveled this route several times over the last week.  
  
It almost looks like a road, but it isn’t smooth or easy to walk along. 

  
It was a great view and a long way down. 
We did take the trail down to the bottom of the canyon. The steep part down was really damaged. 
  
  
It is going to be a long climb back up. 

 

 We walked up the river bed for a short distance and ate a little lunch. After the rough trail conditions down the cliff, I recommended that we make our hike a loop trail so we could come up another route. According to the photos I took of our map, it looked like we could make it into a loop by following a trail along the river, taking a different route up to the top of the ridge and walking along the road for a little to get back to the campground. Jon hadn’t seen the map before we left, so he hadn’t plugged in the coordinates into the inReach. 
  
There wasn’t much of a trail along the river, so we made a number of river crossings; sometimes finding a trail for a while, sometimes not. 

 

We got to a point where it seemed like we should be going back up the canyon wall. We hadn’t really found a trail, so we took a pretty rough climb to get back to the top of the mesa. 
  
We found a ton of elk and deer tracks and droppings. It was challenging to tell an animal trail from a human trail.
Jon pulled out the inReach to help us find our way back. It meant a lot of walking along the edge of hills and climbing up and down most of the same hills. 
By the time we got back, we had put in over 11 miles of serious hills and river crossings instead of what we expected to be no more than a 8 mile hike with only one big climb. That is the way life goes sometimes. 
I call this hike “Emily’s folly”. I learned my lesson about talking with Jon about alternative hikes before we go out. After closer inspection of the map, it turned out that the other trail ended at the edge of the canyon and didn’t go all the way to the river. Plus what looked like small ponds on the tiny view on my phone were actually just blue writing naming the river.
That evening was the only night where I really wished we could order in pizza. I was bushed. 
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Jordan Hot Springs, Gila National Forest – April 28

  
We hiked out to the Jordan Hot Springs the morning of April 28. The hike is up the Little Bear Canyon 7 miles one way requiring a climb up and over a high ridge to get to the Middle Fork of the Gila River. Then you follow the river upstream making at least 15 river crossings until you reach the hot springs located up a side canyon. 
We started off from our campsite and planned to pick up the trail halfway between our campsite and TJ Corral. 
  
Jon had put in a couple of coordinates into the inReach to help make sure we knew where we were going. We followed a canyon wash up to the top of the ridge. By the time we got to that point, we realized that we weren’t on the Little Bear Canyon Trail. We found a trail at the top which seemed to be in the right place and direction, but turned out to be the West Fork Trail that followed the top of the ridge line. 
  

 

  
Jon found a way down the ridge via a steep but manageable wash. It got pretty hairy at times and required passing around and through quite a few large patches of poison ivy, one of my least favorite things in the world. 
We made it down to the bottom of the canyon and found the trail up the Middle Fork.
  
 We came across a few people doing the Continental Divide hike on their way to Canada. We eventually found the hot springs. There were two older men and a young man. They had only just arrived ahead of us. 
The Jordan hot springs are more like warm springs than hot springs. They are up a small canyon where the water pours out of an opening in the rocks over a small waterfall to collect in a large pool. It is shady, peaceful retreat. 
   

 

We talked with the other occupants and just enjoyed the waters. We eventually got out, changed back into our hiking gear, had a little lunch and started back. 
  
For the return trip, we followed the actual trail back. 
  
It spent a very long time walking across the top of the ridge. I’m actually glad we came up the other way even though it was a little longer. By the end, we had hiked for a little more than 15 miles with a lot of elevation change. It was certainly worth doing. 
  
At our campsite, there was a fairly large RV sharing the parking lot. We met our new neighbors after dinner. They were a very nice retired couple from the Netherlands. We shared their fire and we talked for a long time. We finally went back to the Fuso and slept well. 
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