Just a brief warning to anyone who is ready to venture out into the Gila Wilderness in the next few weeks. Be REALLY REALLY careful with fire or any source of heat.
My wife, dog Chester and I took a day during the Memorial Day weekend to get out of town and drive up to the Gila. We took the New Mexico 15 from Silver City through Pinos Altos to Lake Robers and looped back around through the Mimbres Valley.
We were just stunned by how dry everything was. It was the driest I’ve ever seen that spectacular corner of New Mexico. And off in the distance to the northeast in the Black Range, we could see the huge plumes of smoke from the Black Fire, now the third largest in state history.
Small creeks, such as the Sapello which runs out of Lake Roberts, were completely dry when we crossed or drove alongside them.
The Gila was already battered in 2012 with the Whitewater Baldy fire, which scorched almost 300,000 acres — the largest in state history.
It has always been a fragile landscape with scant little rainfall during the summer, not much snow in the winter and incessant winds during the spring. I guess that’s why I’ve always felt it was such a unique environment — it has to work so hard to hang on to the little vegetation it has. It’s the contrast of unexpected lush vegetation in deep canyons alongside high desert cliffs, gnarled rock formations and mesas that make it spectacular for me.
And the surprise of finding tiny native trout swimming in its infrequent creeks has always been amazing to me. Unfortunately, many of the trout populations in those streams are probably going to wiped out by the latest fire.
So let’s all hope for an early monsoon rainy season with not much lightning.
And when it does start raining, take the time to see this beautiful country. The drive from Silver City to Glenwood at the end of the summer when it’s at its greenest is worth every bit of the $5 per gallon gasoline it will cost you to get there.