Mt. Baldy Wilderness Trails - August 2011
West Baldy Trail #94
West Fork Trail #94
East Baldy Trail #95
East Fork Trail #95
Thompson Trail #629 => status?
Having recently completed a business trip around the world in 7 days (Phoenix to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Delhi to Hong Kong to Shanghai to Singapore to Tokyo to Los Angeles to Phoenix), I booked a week off to recharge the batteries and spend some time with the wife and dogs.
With a request to escape the Valley heat for some cooler climes, I scouted up some of my favorite trails in the White Mountains. Escudilla, South Fork Trail #97, Indian Spring #627 all seem to have fallen victim to the 2011 Wallow Fire :( :( :(
It's been a few years since I've been to the Mt. Baldy Wilderness (check out => http://hikearizona.com/photoset.php?ID=2661
) and I seem to recall that SR273 formed the western fire line. With the Mt. Baldy Wilderness being on the west side of the fire line, it should have been untouched by the Wallow Fire. A quick check of the weather forecast, Hi 72degF, Lo 52degF, 30% chance of T-storms and Lynn, Skippy, Chrissy, and me were off on our first trek in the new F-150...
There have been a few changes to the Mt. Baldy Wilderness since my last trek. No longer is SR273 a rough, washboard gravel road - it's now paved from the SR260 turn-off to the intersection with Big Lake Recreation Area campgrounds (check out => http://www.rrmofa.com/BigLakeRecreationArea.html
). There's a new road bridge crossing the West Fork of the Little Colorado River, and 3 new paved parking lots at the West Fork Trail #94 trail head, beside the new bridge (Phelps Cabin TH?), and at the East Fork Trail #93 trail head. Even the access road to the Lee Valley Reservoir is paved now!
When we pulled into the West Baldy Trail #94/West Fork Trail #94 parking lot noon-ish, we'd seen scant evidence of the Wallow Fire
With only one other vehicle in the ample parking lot, we were anticipating a true wilderness experience. The Shih Tzu and Springer Spaniel were excited about hitting the trail and set a blistering pace to the intersection of the Phelps Cabin Trail at the open meadow near the Wilderness Boundary. We had perfect conditions to relax and explore the banks of the West Fork of the Lower Colorado - spoke too soon...
Echoing claps of thunder punctuated the sounds of nature as dark clouds began rolling over Mount Baldy. A light rain began to fall as we trekked further along the trail. We're past the Wilderness Boundary sign and I can't help but notice the recent ATV double track paralleling the trail - what's up with that?
We enter a forested area right beside the Little Colorado River and decide to wait out the rain here. A couple of Fish & Game workers amble down the trail and stop to chat. They've been electroshocking trout and taking inventory upstream. Indicated they inventoried only a couple of dozen no bigger than 4 inches. As they depart, they say; "Break out the rain gear because it's going to rain the rest of the day". Not exactly what I wanted to hear...