Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Hike in the Gila

The Gila Wilderness was the first wilderness area in the United States founded in 1924 by Aldo Leopold. The Gila National Forest gets its namesake from the Gila River which flows west towards Arizona and is a major source of water for thirsty mouths in the Arizona town of Safford and others. Comprising 3.3 million acres it is one of the larger National Forests in the southwest.

New Mexico has around 11 million acres of National Forest and Arizona has around 20 million acres of National Forest. The difference being that the Ponderosa Pines cover almost the whole state of Arizona and in New Mexico mostly just extends to the Rio Grande. So the eastern half of NM is really Texas and prior to the Spanish American War Tejas extended to the Rio Grande in NM.

We decided to go for a walk in the woods. This time of year is absolutely gorgeous in the desert southwest with warm days and cold nights. Temperature differentials average around 30 to 40 degree temperature swings due to the altitude. Pinos Altos sits at an elevation of 7040 feet and is a town 15 minutes to the north of Silver City. Its right on the Continental divide which meanders its way around the desert southwest heading up from Lordsburg towards Emory Pass and passing just to the west of Silver City and through Pinos Altos.

Silver City lies at around 5800 feet so one climbs a gradual 1000 feet out of the town of Silver City towards Pinos Altos. The Gila National Forest begins here and we headed down towards Little Cherry Creek and then out to McMillan Campground.

The drive out to the McMillan campground affords some awesome views to the west. Being high up on the bluff, the view to the west practically stretches all the way to the state of Arizona, less than 100 miles away.

We parked the car and headed out. The trail from the campground is as nice as it gets in NM and I have been on lots of trails in the great state of NM. The day was already in full gear when we headed out, and so we didn't have as much time as we would have liked but that didn't prevent us from having a very nice hike.

The trail starts out flat and then starts heading up more as you near some interesting rock formations further in. We sat for awhile and talked about life, listened to the silence of the forest and wandered across dry creek beds on logs big enough to drive a bicycle across them. The forest is serene and my soul was soothed once again.

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