While contemplating various approaches to Mineral Creek, one of our favorite hikes, our friend Miguel mentioned the possibility
of hiking from the north, via Red Canyon and the ghost town of Claremont. And it was off to the races! When Covid — yes, it's still a "thing" — quashed
a three-day camping trip with friends, we stuck with our original plan to try out the novel access to Mineral Creek.
I'm very glad I didn't press Miguel for details about the Red Canyon Trail. Had I done so, we would have written it off and missed out on a remarkable adventure.
For starters, the drive was crazy! It took us 2½ hours from Silver City, including an hour to cover 12 miles to the trailhead. One lane wide and insanely steep and narrow, the road wraps
around one exposed cliff after another before climbing to a dizzying 6900', where we were basically at eye level with the snow packs on the north-facing slopes of the Mogollon Mountains.
It then plunges into a steep valley where, sadly, we found that the ghost town of Claremont had succumbed to a recent fire. The scent of smoke still hung in the air, and the cliffs were red with fire retardant.
Other than a worn-out sign for #198, there was absolutely no sign of the Red Canyon Trail — not the slightest depression
in the rocks, nor open area in the woods ... nothing! We were still tempted to give it a try, but the prospect of 100% route finding, with no idea of the conditions,
and not having told anyone where we were, convinced us that it would be unwise to continue.
Still, what a thrill to have explored one of those crazy roads that rise high into the mountains on the rugged west side of the Gila! This one theoretically continues all the way to the Bear
Wallow Lookout Road,
north of Mogollon.
For our Plan B, we returned south to the trailhead for Little Dry Creek. We last attempted this hike two years ago, but gave up after a few miles since the trail was badly overgrown, and mostly just
slabbed along a steep cliff above the stream, with limited visibility up or down canyon.
We found the trail in much better shape, almost certainly thanks to hard work by the Gila Horsemen and their maintenance crew. And this Spring's abundant snowmelt created a wealth of water features!
There are remains of several old miner's cabins along the trail, including one that is in reasonably good shape.
Nearby is an adit about 20 feet deep.
There were dozens of apple trees in full bloom!
The trail became much more difficult past the cabin.
And with our very late start, "sunset" arrives about 3:00 pm in the steep-walled canyon.
We pressed on and found the 20-foot waterfall right where we thought it would be, at about 2.3 miles.
The sight and sound of tumbling water is always very moving, especially after a hot, dry hike!
Another splendid and entirely accidental adventure!