We parked at Crosby Crossing and walked downstream about 5 miles until dead fall made walking along the creek difficult. Bushwhacked out of the canyon and cross country back to the car. Saw an antelope, three elk, a great blue heron, 2 hawk pairs (probably Cooper's), mallards too numerous to count but no other people. It was a gorgeous day.
This newly opened area is east of Blue Mesa and is accessed by a 2-mile walk from Blue Mesa Road. Permits are not required, and directions should be available from both visitor centers. The official handout is helpful, but don't trust the GPS coordinates - some work and some don't. E.G. the vee gate in the fence that separates old from new lands is actually at N 34 56.045, W 109 44.271.
The Devil's Playground is not part of the "new lands" that opened April 1, but the road that accesses it is. It's still a 2-mile, relatively level walk from the parking area, but that beats 5 or 6 miles from Lacey Point. A permit is required for use of the road. The good news: Permits are free. The bad: Only 4 are available per month, and we scored the last one for April. Permits are issued at the north visitor center on a walk in, first come first served basis. Folks at the information counter were clueless to vague to somewhat knowledgeable (in their defense: Most are part-time volunteers, and the opening of the new lands is a work in progress); so ask for a ranger if you aren't getting definite answers.
Trail crew finished in here last week - their shelter is still setup at the cabin, but the work is finished - and conditions are prime, or as prime as they ever will be. There's new deadfall on the trail already. It's a wildflower and butterfly circus down there right, and if this is on your bucket list, go now. Abundant poison ivy beginning about 2 miles from the top end.
Arrived at Lanphier trailhead about 9 AM and found parking lot full of trucks and horse trailers: hunters. Walked down FR 281 (Blue River Road) nearly 2 miles to Sawmill trailhead and began ascent of Bear Mountain about 10 AM. Encountered 2 hunters - opening day of mule deer season, they said. Near top of Telephone Ridge we heard 3 shots, not far away, in span of a few minutes. That was the only gunfire we heard all day. Shortly thereafter a large group of white tail deer crossed the trail ahead of us. Arrived at lookout tower shortly after 1 PM and rested awhile enjoying solitude. Down WS Lake trail to Largo trail. Maples around Maple Spring must have been brillant a week or so ago, now most leaves are on the ground. Still, would have enjoyed hanging out there a bit to do some photos, but a hunter had the spring staked out and was acting territorial. On to Lanphier trail then back to trailhead after 4 PM. An absolutely gorgeous day, and except for the three hunters we saw no other people.
The Grand Canyon Trust invited a fortunate few to spend a weekend at their Kane Ranch headquarters in House Rock Valley. We hiked Saddle Mountain to the saddle and gazed into the Nankoweep drainage; hiked Cathedral Wash and swam in the river; and enjoyed spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Distance from trailhead to Table Rock is about seven miles. Not a square inch of shade anywhere along the way. Big panel is on north (upstream) side of Table Rock. We were disappointed by the amount of vandalism to the various art sites. Big panel appears to have been spared so far.
We've lived in the White Mountains since 1978, and I believe I've never seen the country so green. This was an outstanding hike. When we couldn't locate the game track we intended to follow, we found another that was even better. Eventually we wandered into two little meadows above 10,000 feet with magnificent views toward the east and Escudilla. One of these we had visited years ago and had searched unsuccessfully for it ever since. As rain clouds gathered, we set a course for the West Baldy Trail and entered a small clearing as a mountain lion exited stage left about fifty feet away. It was our first and a real thrill. We walked in gentle rain for a few miles, and encountered two other hikers with a chagrined dog in a yellow slicker, but the sky was clearing before we reached Benny Creek. We jumped a large group of bedded elk near there and saw antelope on the drive home.
The road to the trailhead from FR 25 was dozed recently and is in best condition I've ever seen. The trail itself is good down to the point where it decends into the bottom of the draw. From there recent deadfall becomes a real nuisance. This is also poison ivy central. At the creek we went downstream, planning to stop at reservation boundary. It is so obscure, we completely missed it and trespassed half a mile onto San Carlos. We discovered our mistake on the return when we encountered a sign welcoming us to the national forest. Went upstream to the fish barrier dam and a ways beyond. Brush along the creek so thick it's difficult to see the stream. Gathering dark clouds encouraged us to cut our hike short, and we walked in gentle rain half way back to car. Saw turkeys on the drive in and one other hiker on the trail. It was a tougher hike than we anticipated.
From the northeast base of Wahl Knoll, we followed Nameless draw 3 miles to South Fork of Little Colorado River. Never an easy route, much new deadfall made very slow going. Near the confluence of Nameless creek and South Fork we found a derelict infrared activated camera tied to a tree. No identifying markings. Proceeding up South Fork, we encountered the remains of a bull elk. Upon reaching FR409, we abandoned our plan to complete the loop across the top of Wahl Knoll - companion was growing a blister and the afternoon was growing late - and followed the road back to our car. Another gorgeous day in the White Mountains.
Saturday morning we left our car at the northeast base of Wahl Knoll and walked, generally, west and south over the knoll, across South Fork of Little Colorado River, over Pool Knoll to the East Fork. Wind on the prairie was quite strong but warm and the air was crystal clear. We continued on to the West Fork and followed it down to Greer, where we overnighted at one of the local inns. Sunday morning we headed directly east in lighter but much cooler wind. At the South Fork we turned downstream and walked a few miles along the creek through country we previously thought too brushy for hiking. Finally, we ascended a nameless canyon back to our car. Despite the breeze, we enjoyed a wonderful weekend.
We started from the rest area where SR 273 is still closed for construction and walked west into the forest. Ascended the ridge behind Slade Ranch to a meadow at 10,000 feet where one of our favorite trees - a very entish Doug fir - resides. Fangorn is showing his age but hanging in, and we paid our respects and got out as the wind was really howling through there. We descended to Hall Creek and followed it back to the road, then crossed to Boardshack Knoll. Aspens here are past their peak but still the best we've seen this season. Returned to the car past White Mountain Reservoir in a chill, biting wind. All in all, a wonderful day.
From Chinde Point we walked down to Lithodendron Wash, crossed it and ascended to Black Forest. Meandered for several hours and returned to car by a more direct route. It was a gorgeous day - really too nice as photos would have benefitted from some clouds - and we acquired our first sunburns of the season.
Walked up the East Fork Trail about five miles, then cross country to the West Fork Trail and down it to just north of Potatoe (sic) Hollow where we bushwhacked back to our car. Weather was crappy - high sustained winds and intermittent showers - but most of the route is in timber, so it was tolerable. Very little color in the aspens except near Sheep Crossing, where the leaves seem to change earlier than elsewhere. We passed through some areas of completely bare trees where the leaves appeared to have just faded and fallen. Near the southern end of the West Fork Trail we noticed an old garbage dump in the woods, perhaps left from the time when there was a camp ground along the creek at Sheep Crossing.
We parked near the end of FR 245 (County Road 1126) and ascended a nameless draw to the bench that divides Little Colorado River's main and South Fork drainages. Walking south to Hay Lake, I punctured my leg crossing a fence and bled like the proverbial stuck pig for several minutes (no photo available). Bleeding stanched, we proceded east to the South Fork and wandered down stream a mile or so until the canyon narrowed and sides became quite steep. We climbed out to the west and investigated young aspen groves where we had discovered abundant mushrooms last September. What a difference a year makes. We saw a young elk with deformed antlers but no other hikers.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.