Big Dry Creek/Johnson Cabin

October 13-14, 2022

With Covid and completing the tower eating up most of the month of September, we were eager to get out. And get out we did, tackling a very tough trail on the west side of the Gila Wilderness! This trail starts at 6500', drops into Sheridan Gulch, and then climbs to an open ridge at 7400' only to plummet to an old log cabin at 6000' on Big Dry Creek.

Holt Apache trailhead

At the trailhead. Already very scenic!

trail not maintained sign

No kidding!

high desert grassland

Starting down. Classic high desert grassland.

Gila Wilderness sign

Entering the Gila Wilderness.

creek in Sheridan Gulch

Roaring creek in Sheridan Gulch.

view up Sheridan Gulch

From our lunch spot atop the ridge, looking up Sheridan Gulch, which bristles with hoodoos and spires.

looking down into Big Dry Creek

Dropping into Big Dry Creek, looking more like somewhere in the Rocky Mountains! The climb to the top of the ridge was moderated by well-built switchbacks, but the other side drops straight down, 1400 feet in 1½ miles.

Big Dry Creek

When we reached Dry Creek, we thought we were home free. But the last half mile was partially washed out, with 16 rough and wet crossings, until the cabin finally came into view.

Johnson Cabin

Skunk Johnson mined a claim in Big Dry Creek and built this cabin in the 1930s. This is a rather romantic view of the cabin, which is unfortunately full of trash from folks who couldn't be bothered to pack out what they packed in.

campsite on Dry Creek

Our very damp camp on Big Dry Creek. Sore and soaked with sweat, my first act was to strip down, jump into the icy stream, and then drink a half bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. There were no ill effects but for a moment of sheer panic when my glasses fell into the stream, and I couldn't see to retrieve them.

Dennis and campfire

Despite the very wet conditions, Dennis managed to make a small fire. Stumbling around the camp — but in a very good mood — I somehow I put together a decent meal of curry chicken and rice, and we settled in for the night.

Mr. Johnson's apples

Mr. Johnson liked to grow apples, apparently. There were two of the biggest apple trees I've ever seen, still producing apples by the bushel.

Marion sampling an apple

They were delicious, so tart and so sweet! I'm sure they attract lots of critters, but we would never have heard them over the roar of the creek!


Morning moonset. We were so comfy where we were, but what came down, must go back up!

big climb out of Dry Creek

It was one helluva climb out! On our way out we met a couple doing this as a day hike. A DAY HIKE!! Oh well, we had a good 30 years on them.

cardinal catchfly

Cardinal Catchfly

autumn leaves

The prettiest part of the hike is the first two miles, from the trailhead through Sheridan Gulch, to the top of the ridge. We even caught a little bit of Fall color!

northern black tailed rattlesnake

In the middle of the trail, at 6000'! We weren't thinking about snakes this late in the year. He definitely got our attention! Terry Johnson identified it as Northern Black-Tailed Rattlesnake (thanks Terry).