Seven hikers and three horsemen from the Gila Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen NM completed a 5 day trail project in the Gila Wilderness, sawing deadfalls and lopping along Prior Creek Trail and Woodland Park Trail.
Thursday 7 of us met at Woody’s Corral and offloaded some of our gear to the horsemen, who would also pack in tools and foo. We hiked from the Cliff Dwellings parking area, first along the West Fork of the Gila River, and after 10 miles set up camp a few hundred feet below Prior Cabin near Prior Creek. The creek was not running, now just pools, so the horsemen had to camp at a tank some distance away.
On Friday Tim and I cleared small logs off Prior Creek Trail #156 all day with folding saws and pull saws.
We left the big logs to the horsemen with their 2-person crosscut say. The rest of our party worked towards the Middle Fork of the Gila.
Melissa fed our group from frozen vacuum-sealed food cooked by local volunteers. The packets are dipped in boiling water a short time for a hot tasty meal, a technique I experienced before with this group on Granny Mountain and a Middle Fork trip. We gathered around a campfire mornings and evenings to counter low temperatures.
Friday night snow fell to a depth of about an inch, and my water bottle froze. Temperatures in the night got down to 17F.
Tim and I had challenges finding the exact route of Woodland Park Trail #164 at the junction with Prior, now covered in snow.
Soon the snow melted, and we continued to clear and lop on Woodland the rest of the day.
Sunday our 7-person crew lopped and sawed together on Woodland Park Trail, and completely cleared the confusing intersection at Prior and Woodland caused by several downed trees hiding the correct route.
The lopping was targeted at Emory oak, a tall shrub with markedly different leaves than the Gambel oak that I normally hike past.
Thanks so much to Melissa, Tim, Ric, Dean, Mary&Jeff, and also to Gerry, Charles, and Dave, and the rest of the horsemen, for a challenging and engaging adventure.