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Old 04-20-2016, 02:59 PM   #1
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2014 25' Flying Cloud
santa fe , New Mexico
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Quemado-Gila/Apache National Forest

Recently, my wife Vicki and I spent 3 nights in the Gila/Apache Forest. I know some of you will be going there in May with Ray Eklund so I thought I would provide a trip report of our experience. We arrived at Quemado Forest Service Office at 4:00 PM on Friday afternoon on March 18. We purchased a Gila National Forest Map and got a list of hiking trails for Quemado Lake. We decided to head for Quemado Lake because it was late and the campground was still 34 miles away. Quemado Lake has several campgrounds on or near the lake. The developed campgrounds were still closed for the winter but the El Caso dispersed campgrounds (1,2,3,4) are open all year round. We choose #1 and had the cg to ourselves for awhile (someone else arrived late). This is a very pleasant cg with ponderosa pines and a creek flowing through it. It is about 7,650 ft so chilly at night (25 deg for us). Access is by NM 103 which is paved to the lake (5 mi) then continues as FS 13 gravel for 2 mi more.

Our passion is hiking so decided to do the Largo Trail #14 Sat. morning. This trail begins in El Caso #1 cg and goes to the El Caso fire lookout 4.5 mi away and 1,200 ft of elevation gain. This a lightly used trail that is well marked in some places and invisible in others. You begin by hiking through a large meadow for about 2 mi that is marked with 4x4 post easy to follow. You leave the meadow go into the forest and begin climbing. The trail is marked by cairns for about the first mile and then disappears. Fortunately we had a gps with the trail on it so we bushwhacked for about .5 mile and then picked up a better defined trail up to the lookout at 8,867 ft. The forest service map we had was all but useless. The lookout appears to be abandoned with most of the steps removed and the floor looks rotten. I would classify this trail as moderate gps necessary.

The next day we decided to explore in the Jeep and headed east on FS 13 and then south crossing the Continental Divide. At FS A095 we turned north to checkout Valle Tio Vinces cg which is very remote and appears to be a hunting camp with corral. We then went south on FS A095 to NM 12 where we headed west back across the CD. You can access the CD trail here. The area north of NM 12 is a vast mountainous ponderosa forest but once on NM 12 you enter the plains of San Augustan which appear to me like the rolling hills of Montana. We continued west to Apache Creek where there is nice dispersed cg with a hiking trail and petroglyphs. There is a small convenience store at the intersection. We then headed north on NM32 back to the cg. To show how vast this area is our trip was 85 miles and this is just the northern portion.

This is our 4th trip to Gila. Prior trips took us to Glenwood, NM to do the Catwalk and to Mogollon off Bursum Rd. (FS 159) Both remain closed as of March due to flooding. We have been to Gila Cliff dwellings a couple of times. Good hiking in the area. I wouldn't recommend pulling your trailer past hwy35 when going north on 15 due to difficult grades to and from the Cliff dwellings. There are campgrounds around Lake Roberts and some dispersed sites near the intersection.


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Old 04-20-2016, 06:31 PM   #2
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Over 872 square miles of Exploring just the Gila Wilderness

Tom, you did good! The area is larger than most can appreciate. Great time to post about the area.

Gila is pronounced Hila. Like Lead, SD is Leed, figure that one out. Try Popo Agie, Wyoming... when at Lander, WY. The locals will laugh at you.

The unfortunate situation in this area is there are a number of access roads along the Wilderness boundaries, but some seasonal dry creek beds are getting eroded during the winter and rainy season. Because of these bumper draggers, we have been using Quemado, NM as our meeting area to dispersed camp sites on the North Side of the Gila Wilderness. Access is getting more difficult to the 'better' more remote areas we use to frequent with our 23 foot Safari. Now... I would have to get a close look with no trailer attached.

The ghost mining town of Mogollon main road is pretty narrow and people still living just off the road in cabins. If you towed through there... you did a very good job.

The Cat Walk seems to be closed all the time. It was washed out in 2007, as well.

The Glenwood, NM Forest Service office has great well water available at their pump. So does the Reserve, NM Forest Service office.

I like this area much better than west of Santa Fe as it is never crowded. You are lucky to be close enough to start at the mining towns of Hillsboro and Gold Dust and snoop around. For anyone with an adventurous spirit and close to this area... expect to spend several weeks a year and not even scratch the surface. The main Forest Service roads are well maintained. Getting off of the main roads get trickier as most are intended for Elk, Deer, Bear and Turkey hunters working out of tent camps in the Fall. The roads get wet and impassable with anything in tow but a flat bed.

Ask the 2015 Quemado Adventure members when we took tow vehicles into the back country, it began to drizzle forcing us to locate the tow vehicles and move out quickly. We never did get to one group of Pit Houses due to the road becoming too muddy. But sure did find an excellent Chalcedony Rosette deposit in the process of looking!
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