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Mt Baldy Wilderness Loop, AZ
mini location map2016-07-14
14 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Mt Baldy Wilderness Loop, AZ 
Mt Baldy Wilderness Loop, AZ
Hiking2.00 Miles 302 AEG
Hiking2.00 Miles   2 Hrs   17 Mns   0.88 mph
302 ft AEG12 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This was the first day hike of my 5 night car camping trip to the White Mountains. Doing some pre-trip planning on Google Earth, I found what looked like a great place to camp in a huge meadow along FR8037 near the southeast corner of the Mount Baldy Wilderness. I arrived in the mid-afternoon on Wednesday and was surprised to find a lot of other people had the same idea. By noon the next day there were at least six dispersed camps set up around the periphery of the meadow. Three to four of these camps were for large groups numbering 20 to 30 people and had even brought in porta-potties. I found a small campsite tucked out of sight about 0.2 miles from the nearest camp. This wasn't exactly the solitude I had hoped for but the people I met were friendly and it was a beautiful area so I went ahead with my plan to stay here for two nights.

The next morning I started off on a planned off-trail hike heading generally north to the East Fork Little Colorado River in the Mount Baldy Wilderness, then loop back to the west coming back along the boundary of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The first leg of the hike was across the vast meadow up to a knoll on the north side. It was a gentle slope up to the knoll but I hadn't yet adapted to the 9700 ft elevation and was constantly out of breath. I abandoned my plan to summit the knoll because of the altitude effects and because the thick forest on the knoll would have blocked any views. Heading west through a gap in the forest led to another broad meadow covered drainage. Due to altitude induced brain fog I mistook this drainage for the East Fork LCR and started to loop back towards the reservation boundary. There were several seeps in the meadow keeping it a lush green with a few wild flowers starting to show. It was late morning and even at this altitude it was getting hot but the shade of the dense forest along the reservation boundary provided some relief. After finding a survey marker for a corner of the reservation I headed back to camp. Because of the heat and altitude induced lack of energy I decided to take it easy the rest of the day and read a book in the shade.

I had just settled down in the shade with a book when the constant parade of ATVs and dirt bikes started by my camp. Then one of the large camp groups started target practice. I had been warned the day before that a group of boy scouts would be doing target practice most of the day. This much mayhem was too much for me. It was Thursday and I imagined the additional hordes that would be descending on this place by Friday night. The temporary closure of the Gabaldon Campground probably contributed to this over population. So I quickly packed up and drove about 12 miles to the southeast to check out an area on FR586 that had looked promising on Google Earth. On the drive out of the meadow I passed target shooters who had set up a line of targets (bottles) hanging on strings from a horizontal pvc pipe about 6 feet off the ground. They were shooting uphill at the bottles. About a 100 yds away directly in the line of fire was an occupied campsite on the hillside. I suspect it was the shooters' camp but they had vehicles parked up there. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Fortunately FR586 which extends along the ridge top between the East Fork Black River and Boneyard Creek provided the solitude I was looking for. No one else was camped along this road and I only saw a few ATVs over the next 4 days.
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