Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Rocky Mountains, USA
beaver and deer know of it...
Slept well, woke up briefly at 4:00am to the sound of a hoot owl and then an elk calling. No answering calls were heard as I fell back asleep.
Woke up again, now in the sunlight. I’m using a new model Eureka Mountain Pass 2XTE tent. It’s very roomy with two doors and two very large fly vestibules for gear.
It’s slightly heavy for backpacking although the weight can be easily split between two people. On a moto trip it’s perfect for 1 or 2 people and all of their gear. It’s easy to set up, guys out nicely, has loads of headroom and good venting, easily a 3+ season tent. They use heavier fabric on the floor and give a good warranty and Eureka has great customer service…So I didn’t get out of my bag or tent until 9 AM. Over coffee and oatmeal, I decided to stay at the lake one more day. The big 90,000 acre “Miller” fire in the Gila Wilderness is almost out, but is keeping people away. Another larger “Wallow” fire, burning south of Alpine, AZ, is also making campers stay away. But the Gila is a big place and I am far away from fire and smoke and being just outside the Gila Wilderness Area boundary, am safe and alone. It’s a very Zen moment, as my Buddhist moto friend James would say. Another friend I ride with, Pascal, always reminds me how lucky we are to live in the mountain West where we do.
So today, I write, hike and later swim in the lake when it gets hot, listen to the wind in the tall Ponderosa pines and let the Sun’s warmth seep deep into my bones.
Take a hike!
Walk to the dam at Snow Lake by following the foot trail for FT 141.
At the dam top, cross to the East side of the dam and follow the trail downstream. About ¼ mile down, you come to another stream and a small beaver dam.
Cross over the beaver dam.
Upstream is Gilita Creek. To your left, downstream, it becomes the middle fork of the Gila River. You have also crossed the boundary into the Gila Wilderness Area. Now here the Gila River doesn’t look like much, but it was one of the great highways of the West. Native Americans followed it, early Spanish explorers followed it, mountain men trapped beaver and walked West. The Gila River flows into and across Arizona, all the way to the SW corner of AZ, all the way to the Colorado River, near present day, Yuma, AZ. They walked or rode the length of the Gila, then crossed the Mojave Desert to San Diego, CA and the Pacific Ocean. Kit Carson many times followed the Gila River route to get to the “Left Coast”. Carson rode mules rather than horses when he had a choice. He found mules more reliable and sure-footed. Kit Carson had a long and unbelievable life. Read Hampton Sides bestseller, BLOOD and THUNDER, to learn more of Kit Carson’s life and times. Carson was a witness to great Western history. He’s worth knowing, the good and the bad. He spent much time in Santa Fe and Taos, where he had his home and family. Now I’m hundreds of miles from Santa Fe, but Carson was here before me.
If you have time on your hike, continue to walk along the Gila or Gilita. I saw hundreds of trout inchlings and a few 3-4” fingerlings. The darkened pools are shaded by tall pines in the narrow canyon. It’s cool and green and the willow thickets are like candy to beaver.
Eventually, I headed back to the campsite and walking up a small hill from the lake, my hiking boots continually broke thru into the shallow tunnels of voles and pocket gophers. Almost every step, another small section of tunnel collapsed. This is urban sprawl on the vole level just beneath the surface. How long have they been digging in this hillside? Five months? Two years? Three hundred years? No wonder the owls sit in the old pines overhead. Voles and pocket gophers are like candy for owls and coyotes. They swallow them whole. Meanwhile the voles and gophers aerate and turn the forest soil and accidently seeds fall in the holes and trees and other plants sprout.