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Middle Fork Trail #157
2 Photosets

2019-06-09  
2017-10-22  
mini location map2019-06-09
22 by photographer avatarnonot
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page 1   2
Sedona Loop Hike
Sedona Loop Hike
 
Middle Fork Trail #157Southwest, NM
Southwest, NM
Backpack70.00 Miles 4,500 AEG
Backpack70.00 Miles
4,500 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Prehike-the drive to the Willow Creek area took me down some new roads, including the drive down NM28, which is signed for high clearance only. It is impressive the amount of erosion control and new bridges they had to build from the big flash floods. Cars should drive around and take the smoother roads from Reserve.

I nabbed the last spot at the Ken Lilley campground (4 spots, one is kinda exposed) for the night to rest up. The Willow Creek Campground is closed, which I think means the restrooms are locked, as there were people still camping there?

Hike- drove to the Gilita TH (the picnic grounds are closed but there is room for parking for a few vehicles. I set down the Middle Fork trail. The area has not received any maintenance since perhaps a decade, though someone did put green surveyor flagging along the route, for about the first two miles. It is around then that flash floods had wiped out what remains of the trail for the next 3 miles, but the canyon is easily traveled by staying to the inside bends of the river, and crossing often. There are many nice meadows and some trees remain, though in areas the fires burned all the way down to the river. With about 1.5 miles left to reach the snow lake trail, the middle fork trail begins to reappear and is easily followed (with some pink surveyor tapes) til you reach the CDT. From there the next several miles are in great shape. There are several expansive grassy meadows and some debris piles from the flash flood the size of small houses. I find a nice campsite for the afternoon along the river.

The next day I continue downriver and take the Trotter trail up onto Johnson Mesa, with good trails allowing me to reach Clear creek, a reliable water source, a little after noon, and I check out the clear creek trail (Old maps, and HAZ, call it the Pine Flat Trail?). As predicted, a bit of rain and thunder appears. I dayhike up to Marrs spring and am unimpressed by the spring, but the creek is very nice.

Next day I start off by taking the Trotter trail to Chicken Coop. Chicken coop is a wonderful trail, going through old growth pine forests and meadows, though the creeks in this area are already dry this early in the summer season. At the end I reach Prior Cabin, and there is some light flow of water in the canyon. Having been here before, I was glad to find water as it can be dry. I head over to the Woodland Park trail 12, and hike past Woodland Park Tank, and see a male bear, very healthy with shiny black coat. The encounter is very healthy and soon he is running away from the trail to get away from the annoying human. I decide to press on for another mile rather than camp close to the tank and risk encountering him again.

Next day I take the Lilley Park Trail (HAZ and old maps call this the Woodland Park Trail 164), and pass by Big Bear tank (dry). This area is more desertified than the rest of the park, and is also recovering from wildfire. I reach Big Bear Trail and go through Big Bear Canyon, then finish the day by taking all the switchbacks down into the Meadows area of the Middle Fork. The area seemed a little different than I remember - and I wonder if the flash flood altered where the reasonable campsites were.

The next day I wake up to overcast skies and cooler temperatures. This was not in line with the weather forecast and it seems like a storm is trying to push in. This spurred all the flies to bite and draw blood and this proved to be incredibly annoying throughout the entire day. Because of the cooler temps though I decide to press on and do my plan for the day and most of the next day today. The trail sections that were in the floodplains were destroyed by the 2015 (?) flash flood and the new trail that replaces it varies in quality. The first 2 miles were the most problematic as you go though the narrowest part of the canyon. But even having to walk the rip-rap by the river, it isn't too bad. The trail does get faint though and at times there are multiple new trails competing to win out. When I pass the homestead drop-in area I take a break for lunch. The next section I think is the best part of the middle fork, and the next few miles I go slowly savoring the scenery. I eventually find excellent trails (2 - one on each side of the river) once past flying V canyon, and complete the main loop of my figure 8 camping at the trotter trail intersection.

For my last day I head upriver and climb up the Iron Creek trail. Once up on top of the mesa, the trail disappears and you are free to roam the forest for about the next 2 miles. After this the faintest path begins to appear, and doesn't really turn into a trail until you are about 2 miles from the West Fork. There is a nice meadow you have to go through, and then you reach the burn scar of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire. But from here the hiking is easy and I reach the West Fork trail and take it back to the road. A short road-walk completes the loop.
Fauna
Fauna [ checklist ]
[ checklist ] Black Bear
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

dry Big Bear Canyon Dry Dry
Dry at Big Bear Trail xing

dry Big Bear Tank Dry Dry

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Canyon Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Very light trickle at intersection with middle fork gila river

dry Chicken Coop Canyon Dry Dry
Dry along Chicken Coop trail

dry Clayton Creek Dry Dry

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Clear Creek Light flow Light flow
light flow at intersection with Trotter. Surface water becomes intermittent as you head upcanyon.

dry Flying V Canyon Dry Dry

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Iron Creek Medium flow Medium flow
good flow coming down iron creek

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Iron Creek Lake 26-50% full 26-50% full

dry Lilley Canyon Dry Dry


water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Lower Marrs Spring Dripping Dripping
Hard to tell but assume this is the pool in the rivulet of the meadow.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Marrs Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Light flow, there are two springs in the area.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Middle Fork Gila River Medium flow Medium flow


dry No Name Canyon Dry Dry


water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Prior Creek Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
Light flow in lower section by cabin


water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Upper Marrs Spring Quart per minute Quart per minute
Light flow, there are two springs in the area.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Willow Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Very nice flow down Willow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Woodland Park Tank 26-50% full 26-50% full
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