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100 Hikes in a Year
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100 Hikes in a Year

She set out to complete 100 hikes in the Silver City area in just 12 months. Here's what she learned along the way, and some of her favorites for you to try.

by Linda Ferrara

 

 

100 hikes
The author on Forest Trail 153.
(All photos by Linda Ferrara)

What does a 51-year-old woman do when she stops being a Realtor and starts… well, I didn't know. As a goal-oriented person, a former project manager, I need a focused, defined challenge. A few years ago it was a walk to Lordsburg. This time I decided to do 100 different hikes in a year.

The rules were simple: Each hike must be two hours or longer, and must be on a dirt trail or dirt road. At first I was concerned about where I would find 100 different hikes, but after perusing a map, it was apparent that there were plenty of options. There was a mound of encouragement; many friends who enjoyed hiking offered suggestions or favorite hikes. I have one friend who has mountain-biked the entire New Mexico Continental Divide (CD) Trail, which motivated me to get off the couch. My best friend had climbed mountains in many countries; her stories always were impressive and inspirational. So, when she bought a plane ticket to visit me in October 2011, I knew it was the right time to get started.

 

 

Preparation

 

The first task was to hang a huge map of the area to highlight the completed hikes. The second task was to develop a spreadsheet that tracked a number of hiking statistics including where I hiked, with whom, the miles and hours of each. The spreadsheet also helped me keep a schedule that assured I would complete the 100 hikes in a year. My project-manager training was in full force with this one and that was part of the fun. I started a diary of my recollections, but after several friends asked to read it, I became a blogger. Who would have thought? (Check it out at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com.)

My pack evolved over time. I always brought water, GPS, snacks, tissues, camera, lip balm, knife, compass, whistle, band aids, aspirin, plastic bags and a bandana. In addition, walking sticks, layers of clothing appropriate for the conditions, my cell phone, a hat and sunglasses were standard items on every hike. I always told someone (usually my husband) where I would be hiking, the start time and expected completion time. Of course, a weather check was always done before beginning. Since my husband is a member of Grant County Search and Rescue, I knew firsthand what can happen if one is not prepared. Okay, everything's in place, it's time to get started!

 

 

The Hikes

 

Hike #1 occurred on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, with a five-mile walk to a friend's house on Wagon Wheel Lane. Nancy (my BFF), Cody (my canine BDF) and I hiked through mountains north of Silver City until we got to Wagon Wheel Lane. We ended up having a birthday party (mine) that couldn't be beat — the perfect way to start a challenge: with good friends and wine!

There are so many beautiful trails in the Silver City area; here are highlights of a few of my favorites, with directions to some of the more off-the-beaten-track locations. My blog describes all 100 in detail.

 

Hike #8, Oct. 26, 2011 — Hummingbird Saddle Trail #182 South

Hummingbird Saddle Trail was wholly in the shade of large pine trees even with countless fallen trees. A fascinating find on the hike was a plane wreck. A pilot friend did some research and found that in 2007 the pilot stole the plane and crashed it in the Gila, killing himself, his passenger, and part of the forest. The plane's path, including sheared tree tops, is still visible.

To get there: Take US 180 West to NM 159. Turn right onto 159. Go 22 miles to Sandy Point Trailhead. Take Crest Trail 182.

 

Hike #14: Nov. 13, 2011 — Mimbres Valley, Water Canyon, North Ridge

Many of you may be familiar with McKnight Canyon, which is just to the north of Water Canyon. Margaret and I climbed to the top of the north ridge of Water Canyon. Once there, we were rewarded with 360-degree views of the Mimbres Valley including friends' homes, Cooke's Peak and ridge after ridge of the Gila Forest. We also came across windmills and stock tanks that added to the ranch atmosphere of this area.

 

Hike #16: Nov. 16, 2011 — Sacaton Road to Forest Trail 153

Ah, what a beautiful hike! Helen is adventuresome, and therefore was game for this wonderful trail. Driving out to Sacaton Road we enjoyed great views — from flat plains to canyons with the Mogollon Mountains looming in the distance. We wound our way down into this hidden, wonderful canyon — it was like a huge oblong bowl settled into the earth.

hikes
September blooms in the Saddlerock Canyon area.

The trail was nicely marked and meandered through the foothills of the Mogollon Mountains across arroyos, scrub oak and lovely rambling hills. There were many interesting rocks in this area, including some that looked like geodes.

One of the best parts of this hike was meeting a cowboy on the trail, complete with jeans and chaps (and anyone who knows me knows how I feel about them!). He reminded me that I'm truly in the West. He told us a brief history of the area and that the large peak was Shelley Peak. Mr. Shelley and his family settled this area in the late 1880s and their descendants still run the ranch. The cowboy invited us to visit the ranch and said he'd show us some unknown trails on horseback. What a great guy! Both Helen and I decided he was just fine!

To get there: Take US 180 West to Cliff. Make a right onto NM 211. Not far up, on the left, you will see Sacaton Road. When the road forks, go right. Take it to the 153 Trailhead parking area.

 

Hike #28: Dec. 31, 2011 — C Bar Ranch Road to Petroglyphs

What a wonderful way to end a year! On a sunny day we drove south of Silver City; Mary Ann wanted to show me the petroglyphs and I was eager to see what several people had told me about. We drove on NM 90 until we hit C Bar Ranch Road.

The terrain of rolling hills with little brush and many unusual rock outcroppings provided interest. Cooke's Peak was sometimes visible above the hills. After maneuvering around a huge rock formation, we found the petroglyphs. What a treat! We explored the area, finding man-made holes in the rock that were used to grind food. We could not help but wonder what it was like to be a Native American during this time. It appeared that this area was a fine place to set up camp, with access to several braided streams, boulders to hide behind, and clear views of anyone approaching.

 

Hike #40: Feb. 12, 2012 — Allie Canyon, Mimbres Valley

hikes
Hiking off Meadow Creek Road.

This trail meanders up and down a few hills. Julian, Lynn and I headed west through lovely pine groves, a few meadows and numerous stream crossings. Several miles up the canyon, we arrived at a charming camp site with a fire pit and wood logs in a circle. One of the large logs was designed to look like a sofa, complete with arms and a back.

After a short rest, we continued on and were rewarded with hoodoos high above us. Wow! One minute you're walking along a forest path and the next moment, there is an awesome geological wonder. (Also called "tent rocks," "fairy chimneys" and "earth pyramids," hoodoos are a tall, thin spires of rock; they consist of relatively soft rock topped by harder, less easily eroded stone that protects each spire from the elements.) We made our way to the base of the hoodoos through trees, over boulders and between large rocks. The reward was amazing: hoodoos, some close to 60 feet high! The views and even more interesting formations were breathtaking.

We also saw an Indian ruin. I love Indian ruins. I touched a wall of the ruin and thought about the person who placed that wall and how they must have lived. I truly felt a strong connection to history.

Even though it was hard to leave, we eventually make our way down to "base camp." (Hey, I'll use any term that makes me sound like I actually have a clue in the outdoors!)

Julian told us about a nearby grave site and Lynn actually found the marker. Apparently back in 1917 a George Hightower died and was buried in this remote area. In the summer, he and his brothers would go to Allie Canyon to raise goats. Hightower contracted smallpox and died at this site. He was buried here and the cabin was burned.

hikes 4
Taking a break near Bear Mountain on the Continental Divide Trail.

To get there: Take US 180 East to NM 152. Take NM 152 to NM 35. Go about 10 miles until you see the street sign for Allie Canyon Road on your left. Turn in and park in the gravel lot provided. Follow trail.

 

Hike #86, August 7, 2012 — NM 15 CD Trail to Webb Gulch

On this hike, we walked through tall pines and creeks, on old roads, and then came up to views of Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery and the Gila National Forest. We also saw evidence of old mining activity, bear scat and a turkey that had a very bad day. Later, when our friends mentioned that they had mountain lion activity in the area, it became evident what happened to that turkey!

 

 

Other Favorites

 

Various hikes through Saddlerock Canyon area: Saddlerock Canyon Road is west on US 180. Turn south to Saddlerock Canyon Road just after the Mangus Valley Road turnoff. When you enter forest land, there are a wide variety of trails to explore. We enjoyed investigating the riparian area just past the gate, finding pictographs, interesting rock outcroppings and sandy terrain.

Various hikes exploring remnants of mining activity: During my 100-hike challenge, I found many areas that have remnants of mines, including shafts, equipment, structures and entrances. If you're interested, check out the area past the town of Fierro. Take NM 152 and turn west toward Fierro. Go to the Chino Mine Entrance gate, take the dirt road to the right a few miles, and you'll encounter different Forest Roads. Just take one and start walking. Also Georgetown Road off NM 152 leads to a number of Forest Roads and you will find mine holes, a cemetery and evidence of the old town of Georgetown. There are also remains of mining activity on parts of the Continental Divide Trail.

 

 

Lessons Learned

 

Throughout this year, I learned many things about hiking. I've learned:

  • Hiking is not a good way to lose weight — I gained five pounds.
  • Hiking with poles really helps your knees
  • Finding or collecting water in the desert is very hard, so bring enough with you!
  • Talking is the best way to scare off wildlife. When hiking with friends and talking there were very few animal sightings. When I hiked alone, I saw deer, wolves and coyotes.
  • When you climb up a bluff, be sure to mark your entry point at the top — so you can get back down! It's not as apparent as you might think.
  • Dogs who hike a lot need more baths (whether they like it or not).
  • I've also learned so much about the history of this area. For example:
  • After research and Facebook inquiries, the consensus is that Eighty Mountain got its name from a nearby ranch with the same name.
  • I learned of a Boy Scout camp in the Meadow Creek area. It was associated with "Tuff Moses," which is associated with the Yucca Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Apparently they closed it due to fire concerns.
  • I've learned about the history of Fort Bayard, Georgetown, Fierro (which means "iron" in Spanish) and Mogollon.
  • I learned about Teddy Roosevelt hanging out at the Burro Mountain Homestead.
  • I've learned a lot about mine reclamation, EPA clean-up, geology, Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery, the Pony Express and Fort Cummings, and the 1907 placing of the cross on Cross Mountain by Frank Bell.

 

Some Afterthoughts

 

Looking back through my blog entries, I'm happy to report that, at the start of this challenge, I used to ask people about what hikes I should take — and now people ask me! Also, in the beginning, I had sore muscles after a hike, and I haven't had those in some time.

I realize that I now look at the scenery around here differently since I began this challenge: Every dirt road is a possible hike, and at every mountain I think, "How do I access that one?" I also count off, "done that one, and that one, and over that way, and that road." It's fun, rewarding, and gives me a great sense of accomplishment, especially as the list kept growing.

A few stats regarding the hikes: I went 385 miles in 273 hours. I had 23 different hiking buddies, six dogs, three pairs of hiking boots, and took 500 photos of the Kneeling Nun from different angles. The longest hike was with Steve and Dave from Jack's Peak to C Bar Ranch Road, at 7.92 miles; the shortest distance was a bushwhacking experience with Helen and Elsa near Fierro that took 2.5 hours to go one mile. Mary Ann joined me for the most hikes, coming in at 26.

Why a challenge? I am still contemplating that. Why not just hike every week? Why did I need a formal challenge? We've all heard the saying, "A goal is a dream with a deadline." I think this challenge has roots in that saying. Also, if I just stated "I'm going to hike every week," I doubt I would do it. "It's too cold, it's too hot, I'm tired, I'm busy…" and on and on. Once I set a goal, I have to complete it. And you know what? I do — err, did!

What's next? I've thought of a few different things but my husband and I settled on walking, hiking, biking or running (not bloody likely) 500 miles in a year. Come join us!

 

"If you only do what you know you can do, you never do very much."

— Tom Krause      

 

 

Linda Ferraro is a former Silver City real-estate agent and, of course, a hiker.

 

 




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