Off trail in the Goldfield Mountains
Since I started hiking two years ago I have wanted to try some off trail routes (on purpose). I've also wanted to hike in the Goldfield Mountains as lots of gold was mined there unlike the popular Superstition Mountains nearby. Please be carefull as there are many old mines and mine openings all over.
I had great fun joining some people who hike with waypoints and GPS units (something I do not yet understand but am working on--and it seems very complicated to me). I know this type of hiking is old hat to most of you but very new to me. We left from the Willow Springs trailhead on the Apache Trail at mile post 204. After following a jeep road for about 300 yards we abruptly turned right and remained off trail for the next 4 hours. The interesting thing to me is that a marked waypoint is set and we then have a number of alternative routes to get to it. Sometimes we get to a ridgeline with too steep a way down and other times we select some canyon to see if it reaches the waypoint. Since I have a GPS unit that I do not know how to use I would have been lost many times and actually was turned around in directions a couple of times after I checked my compass. Maybe I will study the book directions but being retired it is hard to find the time!!! Don't forget that in retirement there are no days off.
I did learn some things about a GPS unit. I also realize that most of the readers on this site are far more advanced than I and attempt far more difficult hikes. However, for the beginners like me this adventure was lots of fun. I really liked the "set the waypoint" and then try various routes to get to it. I felt in very good hands as the leader knows the landmarks and waypoints he set in the Goldfields. A major difference between the Superstitions and the Goldfields is that there are very few trails in the Goldfields. There are some jeep roads--more like wide trails-- but they usually follow creek beds. Our routes were really overland. There was some fairly easy climbing, a couple of more rigorous climbs, some ridgeline walking and some fairly steep descents into certain canyons.
One thing about the no trails aspect is that you are really out in the wilderness and you do not see anyone. There is no trail to follow and you take routes that "aim" for some waypoint or landmark. This was my first experience doing the deliberate off trail journey and I did like it lots. The Superstitions probably have some more spectacular scenery and jagged cliffs but don't discount the Goldfields for color, geology, surprising canyons, crests and beautiful foilage.
Please note that it took 6 hours for the 7 miles simply because there is no trail--until you reach the Cottonwood Springs creekbed canyon where you hit an ATV road that you follow back to the trailhead. Basically the route takes you behind the town of Goldfield. I actually did know about where I was most of the time because you can see the Flatiron from many points. However, as I mentioned before, there were a couple times down in the canyons when I was very turned around in direction.
Thanks to Ted of the Arizona Trailblazers who really knows the Goldfields. He has a book coming out soon on the Goldfields. I can trust him completely to not get lost as he's hiked all over the them with nary a trail to follow. Next I will search out some of the major arches!
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.