land in middle fork
The Aeroplane Mesa trail is one of the main access points to the Gila Wilderness. If you objective is to get as quickly as possible to the middle of know where, this is the trailhead for you. Getting to the trailhead involves 30 miles of marginal narrow blacktop road followed by 30 miles of slowly deteriorating dirt road, culminating in a single track dirt road that is still navigable with a two wheel drive car. The developed campground at the trailhead has raised barbeque grills, cement picnic tables and a concrete outhouse, but NO WATER. It is situated on the edge of a mountain meadow near a sometimes full stock tank to the west. Elk deer and antelope water there nightly.
The trail itself climbs immediately to a saddle between the rolling hills to the east of Lilly Mountain revealing a panoramic view of the vastness of the Gila. The Middle Fork canyon scars the landscape and is our destination. Aerorplane Mesa is a vast meadow that stretches 5 miles to the edge of the middle fork canyon. It got its name from an early airmail pilot that crashed his plane here. He survived, but his plane did not. The walk out must have been a bitch! The trail traverses the meadow, sometimes a well graded trail with some rocky rubble to a sometimes cow path wandering aimlessly. A cowboy stopped by our campsite and asked us to close the fence gait half way across the mesa. Nice but tough character and I was glad that my revolver had more bullets than his mouth had teeth. Visions of the movie Deliverance played with my mind.
After crossing the meadow the trail abruptly drops into the Middle Fork canyon through the obligatory switchbacks to the canyon floor. Here the trail ends at the junction with the Middle Fork trail. The Middle Fork trail is a 40 mile trek that has to be one of the most awesome and rewarding backpacks ever. It starts at Snow lake and Ends at the Gila visitor center. That is another story. We went to the west on this trail for about a quarter mile to Trotter Meadow and used this as our base of operations. Set up camp and took some day hikes out of here.
Trotter Meadow is a good base camp to explore this section of the Gila , because many trails intersect here. It allows access up and down the middle fork , clear creek and the Jerky mountains and several canyon hikes. The first day we hiked down the Gila about 4 miles and turned around. The next day we hiked up out the Middle Fork canyon on the Trotter trail to Clear Creek. Nice destination with a backpack because there is year round water there and allows access to the back side of the Jerky Mountains. The last day we went up the middle fork to the ruins (pile of rocks) near Snow Lake.
Check out the Official Route.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.