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Grouse Mountain Loop
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2010-05-21  
mini location map2010-05-21
33 by photographer avatarjostream
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Grouse Mountain LoopSouthwest, NM
Southwest, NM
Hiking avatar May 21 2010
jostream
Hiking24.80 Miles
Hiking24.80 Miles
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I found this hike by asking on the forum here for something close that wasn't going to be covered in snow in early-late May. That requirement ruled out Yosemite and the Rockies. Gila NF was recommended and I started to check it out.


In the Hikers Guide to the Gila NF it mentions the Redstone-Baldy Loop. After talking with the local ranger there, he said that not only will there be snow present, but they haven't gotten to plowing the road to get to the Redstone Park Trail Head. He recommended going in Deloche Canyon Trail (179), up Winn Canyon (179) to Spider Saddle. From there, I would be able to judge the snowpack and distances to either head over to Whitewater Baldy/Hummingbird Saddle or to shorten the loop and head down the Redstone Park Trail (206). I took his advice and set a date.


The drive out was pretty uneventful. The weather was nice and the A/C was unnecessary most of the way. Highway 159/Bursum Road takes you through Glenwood and the little town of Mogollon. I arrived at the TH in a little over 5 hours.


The trip up Deloche Canyon (elev 7200') is up several hundred feet through a forest. This was one of several dull portions along the trail. Nothing like sweating your tail off with little to keep your mind and your eyes occupied. At the top, a very nice vista appears as you start to wind down towards Whitewater Creek. After several hundred feed down into the canyon, my favorite sound arrives. Running water and by the sounds of it, a lot of running water. I love the instant when the air blowing softly through trees is overpowered by the sound of water running over rocks. When I'm in a backpacking mode, nothing makes me happier than running water.


I hung out down by Whitewater Creek (elev 6500') for an hour or so and ate lunch. The water was cold, but not so bad I couldn't dip my bones in for a while.


My next stop was up 3500' and about 5 miles away. As I climbed higher and higher in elevation, there were more and more trees down. Not just small dead pines, but large 5' diameter monsters. The snow storms that passed through and wreaked havoc on CA, AZ, and across the Midwest and east coast, also passed through NM. Downed trees were everywhere. It made life with a backpack pretty difficult at times. Finally around 4 or 5, I stopped for the night at a very nice campground on top of Spruce Creek Saddle. My goal throughout the hike was to find a nice fire ring somewhere at the top.


In the morning, my concern was water. I knew there was a spring somewhere around, but I didn't know if it was running or not. My goal for the day was to not have to ration water and to have enough to drink at will. After a small cup of coffee and a couple of nutri-grain bars, I headed down to check the spring out. The spring trail is a short walk from the campsite and about a half mile down with -400' of elev. The second I heard running water, I bounced back up to my pack and grabbed my filter and every bladder and bottle I had. The spring was gushing and was more like a small creek. I knew I was in for a good day at this point.


Back on the Holt-Apache trail (181) over to Spider Saddle (elev 9800') and Indian Peak, I dropped my pack and scrambled up to the top of Grouse Mountain (elev 10,300') for a look (and to bag at least 1 peak along the way). It was very overgrown and the trail was non-existent in most places. It was mainly a scramble to the top. Along the trail to Spider Saddle was pretty uneventful except for the next million downed tree crossings I had to work through.
Spider Saddle was a large opening with a very nice campsite and fire ring. Someone was thoughtful enough to tie plastic orange ribbons on trees indicating where trails entered and exited the area. When I found the trail leading down to Redstone Park, I discovered that about 75% of the way was under several feet of snow. You could make out the trail in parts by looking at downed trees with the middle cut out, but for the most part, the trail was 100% covered.


But I had a stroke of luck. A very large animal, I'm guessing an elk, had passed along this trail recently and left large footprints in the snow. At first I was a little skeptical about following some random animal through the woods, but the longer I went the more I started to believe that this animal used the trail system just as humans would. After a couple of miles and a couple hundred feet in elevation decline, the snow melted away to reveal an un-obscured trail down Lipsey Canyon.


I arrived at Redstone park with the intention of hiking along Whitewater Creek back to the original campsite along the Deloche Whitewater junction, but the brush had other ideas. The river was fast and the brush was overgrown. I scoped things out and couldn't find a trail that would take me to the place I thought I wanted to go. That left one option. Hike out another 5 miles and 1500' to the Trail Head of Redstone Park. Ugh. I was disappointed to say the least.

At least this part of the curved trail was what I'll call an inner loop. Ahead of me and to the left, I could see the saddle where I would exit and head down to the road. After an initial climb, the trail was level for a couple of miles. There were solid vistas of Whitewater and Center Baldy mountains. Finally up and over the saddle, I practically ran down the trail to get to the camp site. The trail head was devoid of people and there was a nice quiet brook running down the center of it.
I pitched my tent, started up a nice fire, and polished off the remainder of my cabernet while watching the moon rise over me. It was a very long and sometimes frustrating day and sleep came easy that night.

The hike back to the car was a short 3 or 4 miles down a dirt trail road.
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