|Hiking||8.97 Miles|| 7 Hrs 23 Mns ||1.77 mph|
|1,812 ft AEG|| 2 Hrs 19 Mns Break|
|As described in the official guide for this route, we parked near the gate next to the water tank on Promontory Way. The first thing we noticed, though, was a series of "No Trespassing" signs for the Apache tribal land. The trail started just to the left of the signs, behind a downed barbed wire gate. A few of the older trip logs mentioned something about private property and the reservation land, but we wondered if some of the boundaries had changed in recent years, as the most recent triplog was from 2019. We did a quick search on Google Maps, and it looked like the trail parallels the eastern boundary of the off-reservation trust land on the other side of the fence line, so trespassing wouldn't be an issue.|
We decided to hike the loop counter-clockwise, opting to go up the steepest stretch to Gibson Peak and down the ridgeline to the northeast from the summit. The first few miles were easy hiking along forest roads, and the first tank had plenty of water, though the second was dry. Around three miles in, we got our first views of Gibson Peak as the road dropped down into a valley before starting the climb a little under four miles in.
The off-trail portion up to the peak wasn't too bad--it was a steady incline but not overly steep, and most of the brush was non-thorny grasses. There was a little more catclaw near the top, but it was mostly avoidable. After a short scramble up the red rocks to the peak, we headed over to the stone shelter. From a distance, it looks like a Native American ruin, but closer up, it's something modern...I'm curious what the history is behind it.
There was an old MRE package inside, and the summit register was inside a white tin, tucked between the rocks in the wall of the structure. The peak doesn't get much traffic--the notebook was placed in 1995 and still has plenty of blank pages, and there was only one entry in 2021 and one before us in 2022. I saw a handful of familiar HAZ names, and the most recent entry was from March. There was also a very small cylindrical container inside the tin that had folded sheets of paper with register entries as far back as 1991 and probably farther...I didn't look at all of them.
I searched for a Gibson benchmark for a few minutes but didn't find anything. The map shows a triangle at the peak, so I assume it's up there somewhere, although I haven't seen any pictures or mentions of it in other trip logs/photo sets...maybe @FLYING_FLIVER knows if it's up there? Before starting down, we took a break on the top and enjoyed the great views looking out over Stewart Pocket and the Mogollon Rim, the Mazatzals, the Sierra Anchas, and more. With the flat peak and plenty of shade, it's a very pleasant area up there.
[ youtube video ]
The stretch along the ridgeline coming down off the peak was a little tedious at times. The trees are thick enough that the views are limited, and it mostly involved dodging brush and branches as we made our way down. It was a lot more enjoyable and scenic as the forest started to open up more, and it was a fun scramble up and over Peak 5502, which had a pine tree decorated with Christmas ornaments at the top.
From there, it was easy hiking again on trails/roads back to Promontory Way. The weather was perfect, and we didn't see anyone all day...it was an enjoyable and scenic hike, and @kingsnake did a nice job with the detailed route and guide. We had a few more hours of late afternoon/early evening available, so we continued east down Phoenix Street to check out Stewart Pocket before we left the area.