"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Big Lake and a Big Hike on Mt. Baldy in Arizona

Big Lake, Arizona
Apache Lake NF Campground

It was later than we wanted when we headed out of New Mexico.  Steve had some late calls to take care of before we could leave.  This meant we'd probably arrive in Arizona in the dark, but at least we've been to our next campground before and somewhat know the area.  Friends of ours had taken us here before.  It is a beautiful lake with several campgrounds.  Great fishing and hiking in the area.

The full moon was rising up just before we hit the Arizona border.

The entrance to Apache Trout National Forest Campground on Big Lake.
Thankfully we had no problems getting into the campground at night.  Since the campgrounds at Big Lake close at some point in October, depending on weather, most of the loops were closed.  We were lucky to get a large back-in that was easy to get into.  It was a beautiful spot but I forgot to get pictures of it unfortunately.  Most of the campgrounds are more set up for small rigs or tents.  They sit back in the trees with one small area for tents across from the lake itself.  Apache Trout has some with electric and some without.  Pretty pricey at $30+ a night.  We took a site without any hookups as we'd only be there a few nights.  There are some shower houses pit toilets and a dump station.  The prices on the website are not correct.  The campgrounds are clean and very pretty.
We had hoped to get the kayak on the lake one day to do some fishing and then do a nice hike up Mt. Baldy.  Mount Baldy is the second highest mountain in Arizona but it's only the seventh highest peak as Mount Humphries has several peaks. Unless you're a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe you can't go to the true peak on Mt. Baldy, but you get pretty close.
The drive to the trailhead was beautiful.  It was just past peak color in this area but there were still many Aspens in brilliant color.

Starting off on the trailhead. 9300 - 11,200 feet in elevation.

We'll be taking the East Baldy Trail #95 (shown at the bottom in purple).  Both trails are about 7 miles one way and there is a 3 mile connector if you want to do the entire thing in one trip. We weren't sure if we were going to do the whole loop or not.  It would depend on how tired we felt at the turnaround point and how much daylight was left.

Hurley in heaven being back on a trail with no cactus around.  This area of Arizona is up in the White Mountains which sits over 9000 feet in elevation.  Soon snow will cover this area.

Pretty moss covered rocks in the creek.

Bits of color are everywhere.

Glowing Aspen at the top of the ridge over the pines.

We saw and heard a big Bull Elk bugling in one of the large meadows.  Later there was a coyote trotting through the grasses.  Didn't get a picture of either.

There are some really cool rock formations along this trail.  Remember when you were at the beach as a kid and you'd fill a bucket with sand and water and dribble piles of wet drippy sand?  That's what these stacked rocks remind me of. 
Of course we also found some geocaches along the trail.  Our big goal was to find a 5/5 rated geocache.  That's the highest rating in difficulty finding it as well as the most difficult terrain.  This would be our first if we find it. 

Parts of the trail were covered in the yellow Aspen leaves. Very pretty.

See what I mean about the rocks looking like dribbled sand?

This one reminded me of a toilet up at the top.


I thought the reflections of the pines in Steve's sunglasses looked pretty cool.

The views from this particular lookout were awesome.  They went on forever. You could see some groves of Aspen still in full color as well as views of Big Lake and the Blue Range.

You may think that your at the top when you get here but you still have a long way to go.

Just before you get to what is called the Dead Zone there is a pretty area that reminds me of a Fairy Forest.  Lots of hanging moss on the trees and green moss growing on the rocks.

The Spruce start to thin out as you enter the Dead Zone.  Apparently there hasn't been a fire in this immediate area for some time.  What killed the trees?  Maybe beetles?

Shame to see so many dead trees.

You can see some remains of an old military plane that crashed over 50 years ago if you look closely.  Part of the difficult geocache is to get the correct coordinates of the crash that will take you to the final spot if you get it correct.

We make it to the top soon after.  Actually you can't get to the true summit as it sits on the White Mountain Apache Reservation.  At this point we take a little rest and chat with a couple that had come up from the West trailhead.  They tell us that they hike this trail a lot and have never seen so much bear scat on the connecter trail as they have on this trip.  If we chose to hike down the West Trail, even at a fast pace, it meant we'd be hiking the connector trail in the dark.  We decided as cold as it was getting we did not want to hike the last 3 miles in the dark with flashlights with all that bear activity.  So we hiked back down on East Baldy, the way we came.

Hurley looking very regal on top of the boulder.

Strange tree shape.  Beetle damage?

My favorite were these perfectly stacked round boulders.

Picking up the pace as the sun starts to set.

Eerie fence posts back at the trailhead.

Loved all the pretty Aspen leaves on the trail.

Made if off the mountain before dark and found that final spot where the cache was hiding. 
Our first 5/5!

Beautiful full moon back at camp.  A quick dinner and off to bed.  Very tired but happy.

Unfortunately the winds picked up the next day so no fishing on the kayaks.

We decided to drive around the country roads and geocache a little more and enjoy the scenery.  Here we find a cache hidden near the working purebred Hereford cattle ranch that John Wayne used to own called the 26 Bar Ranch.  He raised more than 400 bulls each year, often winning at the big stock shows. 
The rocks on the hillside say 26th Hereford.

Just another example of the cool things you find when you geocache that you might not know about.
The weekend was over and we needed to head out to get to Surprise where Steve's Dad lives near Phoenix.  We stopped for a couple of uneventful nights in Globe along the way.
Pretty drive along the way. Colorful cliffs and deep canyons.  Very windy drive.

Here's a bit of what the road looks like from our truck's GPS.  Many steep and windy switchbacks!

 We've gone through some crazy weather changes since leaving Colorado  Snow and cold temps, then the hot days in New Mexico, and back to the cold in the mountains of Arizona.  Once we arrive in Surprise, it'll be in the 100s!


  1. We had an awesome trip to Colorado and New Mexico this past season. I loved all the hiking, biking and kayaking! The hike mentioned here to the top of Mt Baldy was another wonderful highlight to a truly remarkable series of great hikes! Looking forward to all the new peaks we ascend this upcoming season as we head back east! Love You Deb!!!

  2. Wow, what a fantastic hike! That hike is right up our alley, I will have to mark that one down so that we can hike it sometime when we are back in that area.

    Love the colours of the Aspen and love your photos, they are great.


    1. Thanks! If you want to do the entire loop, leave early!

  3. Ahhhh! A rock fix! Thanks:) Love Hurley as King of the Boulder!

  4. Very impressive 5/5. Looks like a great find

  5. This may be my favorite trail so far - love all the dribbled sand and the fairy forest and the stacked boulders and, and, and! Steve should make the reflection in the sunglasses pic his profile photo - it's great :-) Hurley is sooo manly.

    1. It was a fun hike. Loved those rocks. Hurley had a blast!

  6. Really cool hike. Glad you chose the non bear trail

    1. Same here! We would've loved to do the entire loop, but not in the dark in bear territory! It was a great hike though!


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