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Railroad Grade Trail #601
16 Photosets

mini location map2014-05-24
38 by photographer avatartibber
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Railroad Grade Trail #601Alpine, AZ
Alpine, AZ
Hiking avatar May 24 2014
Hiking8.25 Miles 427 AEG
Hiking8.25 Miles   3 Hrs   20 Mns   2.68 mph
427 ft AEG      15 Mns Break
1st trip
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This triplog should be titled "NOT the West Fork Trail" as the West Fork 94 was my goal. I have no idea how I missed the sign :doh: to the right (I spotted it on the way back) as you come through the gate after passing under 273 except that I was filming and looking straight ahead. Anyway, after we set up the Baldy shuttles and I got the group photo of the gang before they headed up West Baldy Trail, it was time for me to hike. (Kathy was initially going to take me up the east side as I think the elevation gain is less but because of the late start and unstable weather, I decided it would be best to pass).

I didn't have a map or anything for the West Fork, LCR Trail as it was not my intended hike. I did have a hike description for West Fork, Black River Trail which is what I thot I was going to hike. Believe me, there was mass confusion :tt: on this West Fork Trail stuff so it's no wonder nothing was matching up not to mention that there was no trail numbers anywhere. I knew I was on a grade as I headed up the trail.

I passed by two large open meadows as I made my way on the grade not too far from FR 87. There was a camping area with some occupants that would have many more occupants when I passed by on my way back. I could see a bridge in the distance so I zoomed in for a pic of it not realizing I would actually be crossing on that bridge. Eventually you cross the road toward the pedestrian bridge that crosses Benny Creek as you start heading west.

Not too far from Boardshack Knoll the graupel flurries came and went. It was interesting round little balls of snow (graupel). One hit my lip and it was definitely cold :o . Previous to getting in this area, the wind had been blowing pretty good. The Knoll has beautiful newly leafing aspens. (There are two cinder pits in the Knoll which looks like they can be accessed from FR 112 from 273. In fact, if you look at the topo, there seem to be other cinder pits in this area). Eventually off to your right (N) you pass Bull Pasture Spring where it looked like there were some sort of troughs. Mind you I didn't know the name of any of this stuff as I was somehow trying to figure out where I was :-k other than just on a Trail per the several carsonite signs I passed indicating as much.

I came to an intersection with another off-road that was coming in from the south. Straight ahead I could see a major dirt road, a stop sign and a snow storm. I decided I would walk to the road and then turn around. When I got to the road I could see a kiosk ahead a bit so surely there would be some sort of information ...there was NADA!!! Sheesh this was frustrating. It does appear I was by an empty Mountain Reservoir. I did spot Green Peak in the distance. Our camp wasn't too far from there. It is the peak with a bald spot on its west side and a gazillion towers on top.

The storm was nearly on me now so I got out my jacket, my hat and gloves and bundled up as it swarmed around me. The storm had much more bark than bite and was fleeting. However, I am sure as vehicles drove by they probably wondered about that bundled-up hiker making her way east in the middle of nearly nowhere. Once past the Knoll, I un-bundled and went back to my normal hiking wear. It was slightly windy at this point but not bad.

As I continued on the grade after hiking across the 87, the graupel flurries came and went so I pulled out the umbrella (you can hear graupel while snowflakes aren't quite as noisy ;) ). I was going to try and hike without stopping for a break but decided I would pull over at a rock or log in this one protected section to rest for 5 minutes. A little further down the trail I stopped to enjoy this one section where the birdies seemed particularly active :) . As I got closer to the TH I spotted this carsonite sign off to my left that said TRAIL... imagine that! I couldn't believe that I didn't see that :oops: .

So I debated with myself as to whether I should follow this obviously little-used trail or head to the TH. I decided since I was stupid for missing it, I should have to go see if there was an indication as to what trail this might be since once again, there is no indication whatsoever. The weather was getting worse so I thot I might just venture up 2 miles.

I headed over to the other side of the clearing following the cairns and then the posts that took me up into the forest. This is kind of a neat area but the graupel started coming and with my umbrella out, it made it difficult getting thru the narrow areas. I threw in the towel and said I was hungry and I would save this hike for another time. As I opened and closed the barbed wire gate I thot, "if I HAD been on the right trail, I might indeed have run into Nonot as he was doing the W and E Fork Trail loop". I passed by his car and then headed up to the parking lot.

I decided I would have some lunch and then drive over to the East side to check out the E Baldy or connector trail. As I was working on the second part of my lunch the graupel started coming down; well it started graupeling (precipitation that forms when super-cooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake) pretty seriously. And it kept coming down for about 1/2 hour :o .

Not only that, it started getting cold. Fortunately I had my chenile Mexican blanket so I wrapped myself up in that (ya I know, "why didn't you just start the car for a bit?"). Then my fingers started to get numb; it was the strangest thing. I did everything I could think of to bring the feeling back including rubbing and clapping and blowing into my hands but nothing seemed to work. My first fear was what if I couldn't shoot pictures anymore :lol:? I quit fussing and just waited for the storm to pass. I did shoot some video and pictures during the event and worried 8-[ that my buddies on the mountain were getting pummeled.

The sun finally came out and as the graupel started to melt and the vehicle warmed a little, the feeling came back in my fingers. What a relief! This is my second bad experience with the cold up in these White Mountains. The last time was during a ski trip. It's a long story :-({|= but that's when I think my body thermometer went on the blink permanently (mid 90s). I was glad when the Mount Baldy hikers showed up and hadn't experienced the weather I had here.

Anyway, it was a great hike and I was fascinated by the weather and I got some pretty cool video and pictures.

Snow in May at the White Mountains including at camp on Fri afternoon, along the trail and at the parking lot:
Part 1 of my hike to just before the Knoll and some small graupel flurries:
Part 2 of my hike to Mountain Reservoir including view of pending storm and in the graupel flurries as I headed back toward the TH
Engelmann Spruce
Dark-eyed Junco
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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