Tackling Saddlerock Canyon with Boy Scout Troop 930.
You don't need a professional trainer to get good aerobic exercise — just hike with six members of local Boy Scout Troop 930 out in the Saddlerock Canyon area. Recently, on a sunny Saturday morning, I got such a workout. The group included: Kagen Richey, birthday boy Will Kammerer, Steven Cross, Richard Gallegos, Oscar Lopez, Aaron Lopez and Scout Leaders Ryan Cross, Brian Richey and Jamie Lopez, along with a golden retriever named Lego. These "Boy Scout Tenderfoots" were filling a requirement of a one-mile hike for both their Second and First Class awards. The leaders let the boys choose the trail and had them lead the way. With unending energy, they treated every rock outcropping like nature's jungle gym.
Throughout the morning hike they told me about many Boy Scout activities. Their favorites include cleaning the Big Ditch, camping in Meadow Creek, and spending a week at Camp Wehinahpay near Cloudcroft. At the camp, they can earn badges by learning such things as leatherworking, basket weaving, wood carving, knot tying, Indian lore, compass and map reading, swimming, fishing, rifle, shotgun, first aid, climbing, environmental science and fire building.
They have also assisted the Forest Service with erosion issues by playing a game called "Gold Rush": The boys are divided into two teams (Prospectors and Indians) and they have to move rocks from one spot to the erosion area; whoever gets the most rocks over to the erosion area wins. Their most recent such project was last year at the base of Signal Peak.
During our hike, they scampered up a steep incline in moments, while I huffed and puffed, stumbled and fell, sweated and clawed my way to the top (all worth it, my friends, all worth it). I'm proud to say I came home dirtier than on any other hike. I admit I was the last one up to the top; I was not going to be the last one down. How did I accomplish that? I pointed my finger at the troop and told them, "No one goes ahead of me!" Call it "grandma intimidation" if you must; it worked.
Name: Off Trail in Saddlerock Canyon
Difficulty: 20% hard, 60% moderate, 20% easy
Directions: From the intersection of Hwy. 180 and Hwy. 90 in Silver City, take Hwy. 180 west 12.9 miles to Saddlerock Canyon Road (on the south side of the highway). This road is close to mile marker 100 and is right after Mangus Valley Road. Make a left on Saddlerock Canyon Road. Travel on this dirt road for 1.3 miles, which is where the Gila National Forest sign will be. Soon after the sign, the dirt road divides. Stay to the right. This is Forest Road 810. You know you are correct if you see cattle corrals on your left (a few minutes up the road). At the 2.4-mile mark, park. You are now at the base of Saddle Rock. It is on your left as you look up the road. For this off-trail hike, you are going to head up the short dirt road to the right. There are many other hiking opportunities here, of varying levels of difficulty.
Hike Description: After a short walk up the dirt road, you'll see a campground. Continue walking up the gap (no trail here) in front of you. It soon becomes very narrow with thick brush. Make your way to the left up the very steep side of the hill. Climb to the top. If you're 12 years old, this will take moments. If your knees are 53 years old, this will take 20 minutes. Once you get to the top, you will enjoy 360-degree views. Continue upward along the ridge and enjoy the many interesting rock formations and views. Spend some time exploring the rocks. Go as long as you dare and then head down the hill to the base of Saddlerock Canyon. Walk along the road back to your vehicle.
After the hike, I asked the boys what they carried in their packs. I got a long list: water, knife and knife sharpener, poncho, snack, first aid kit, cell phone, lighter or matches, and flashlight.
Several also gave me words of advice for my readers: "Think before you do." "Stay together."
Interested in learning more about becoming a Boy Scout? Troop Leader Ryan Cross encourages any boy between the ages of 11 and 18 to contact him if they are interested in joining the Boy Scouts. Call him at (575) 538-1694.
"Before joining, you can come and see if you think it's fun and something you'd like to do," adds scout Will Kammerer.
The reveal of what the "Flying Saucer" from my April 2014 column really is: Russell Ward of the Gila National Forest explains, "The fiberglass dome is actually a water collection and disbursement device called a 'Wildlife Guzzler' [picturd below left]. Many were installed in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Gila National Forest, mostly in remote areas that are extremely dry. Rain or snow hits the fiberglass top and runs down the sides and collects in a tank under the dome. Water is then disbursed to the trough on the side where animals may drink."
To read more about Linda Ferrara's 100-hike challenge, check out her blog at 100hikesinayear.wordpress.com.
See a collection of Linda Ferrara's previous 100 Hikes columns