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Mt. Baldy Car Camp
White Mountains
July 24-26, 1998
by Mike Wargel
On Friday July 24th, several members of the Hiking Club traveled to the Rolfe C. Hoyer campground for a weekend of camping and hiking in the cool pines near Greer, Arizona.

Tom & Jeannie Van Lew and I caravanned up at around 2:30. Traffic was pretty clear east of Phoenix until just east of Superior. On a swift downhill run, a Toyota Forerunner had rolled over. Tom and Jeannie caught some of the details on their CB. Eastbound traffic was stopped for about a half-hour. As we approached, we could see the aftermath with several emergency vehicles. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

We continued up through the Salt River Canyon. What a magnificent place! The road actually takes you down (sharply and swiftly) to the bottom and quickly up the other side. We stopped to take photos before heading on. We were rained on as we left the canyon, but only slightly. The skies cleared as we headed into Show Low, at least enough to catch another brilliant Arizona sunset. We dashed along to setup before dark.

When we arrived, Mike Burgess and Ingrid Nelson had just arrived and set up. We talked about the accident on Rt. 60. They were just ahead of it. We were hungry after a long drive so we headed to Big Ten Pizza, a local Packer Backer sports bar (owners are from Green Bay, WI area – Go Cheeseheads!!). Couldn’t catch the D-Backs game due to some silly cable regulations. Lots of Green Bay paraphernalia, etc. A comical item: the signs to the restrooms indicate Pointers and Setters!! Had a good laugh over that one! We ordered a pizza with sausage that was formed into large meatballs! 4 of us finished only half of the pizza! Note the name of the place for future trips!!!

We waited up for the “social climbers” but they had not arrived. Mike and I were awakened later to the sounds of their arrival. They didn’t get started out of Phoenix until 9:30pm!! Glad to see they made it safe and sound though.

7am Saturday rolled around early. Too early for the social climbers. They were not at all eager to greet the day ;-) Sylvia Prast and her friend Ralph joined us from Show Low with Ralph’s dogs Nyla and Tyler. Mike, Ingrid, and I piled into Tom and Jeannie’s truck and we headed off to the trailhead for Baldy. Sheep’s Crossing was quite busy with fishermen and families. Too busy for Nyla and Tyler. So we headed to the East Fork of the Little Colorado near where Phelps Cabin used to be. No one else was in sight.

We headed through a few large clearings with pine trees scattered throughout. The woods were full of Aspen and Fir trees, quite different from the Ponderosa Pine of the Mogollon Rim. Along the way we could see rock formations that reminded us of the Chiricahua trip! As well as interesting combinations of foliage and rock. As we headed up, we ran into a pair of horse riders and their dogs. We had a little run in between the dogs, but all was quickly cleared and the riders went ahead of us. The weather was cloudy, but no rain. When we got up high to the first of several terrific vistas, we caught a few drops, but nothing more. From the first vista we could see Big Lake, the meadow from whence we started, and the top of Baldy!!

We pushed on, hoping to get in another hour of uphill in before rain or turning back. Sylvia and Ralph needed to return after the 2nd vista which touted several rock outcroppings and lots and lots of pine trees!!

Tom, Jeannie, Mike, Ingrid, and I continued up to what we thought was near the top and the trail junction to Sheep’s Crossing. We stopped for lunch with spectacular views to the North, Northwest and East. We could see where the Sheep’s Crossing (West Fork of Little Colorado) trail continued WAAAYYYY down there!! At this point, Mike, Ingrid, and I decided to continue to the junction and down 6.5 miles to Sheep’s Crossing. Tom and Jeannie were going back to their truck (6 miles or so) and meet us at Sheep’s Crossing.

Turns out, we were about 1.5 miles short of the junction. On our way there, we headed through a field of these terrific plants with wide, curved green leaves and purple flowers. All of this at about 10000 ft. elevation. We crossed little streams and trickles of water along the way. At the junction, we headed up to the top of Baldy. Despite the fact the top of Baldy is on Apache Indian Reservation, we found about 20 persons scattered around the top. The temps were in the cool 50s with cloudy skies and a good wind. We had some terrific views!!

Mike, Ingrid, and I headed down at 3pm. We hit a few steep and sharp downhill switchbacks after about 15 minutes. Lots of pine trees again, a couple of clear views of where we had stopped for lunch earlier. As we hit the bottom of the valley, we entered the meadow we spotted from our lunch stop. The meadow was filled with grasses and lots of sunflowers. Great picture taking opportunity.

At this point we reached Tom and Jeannie on their TalkaboutPlus radios. They were at the trailhead waiting for us. We were still a good hour away. The radios came in handy to let them know we were on our way out. Good signal clarity too!

We reached the trailhead by 5:30 (6.5 miles down from the top) and were ready to head back to the campground. Upon our return, we found the social climbers preparing 30+ shish-kabobs, potatoes, salad, and more! They had attempted to go horseback riding earlier in the day but the stables were closed. I had some of the left over pizza, warmed on Tom & Jeannie’s grill, while they dined on burgers.

We all meandered over to the social climbers’ site (3 sites between the group) and hung out under clear, star-filled, 60 degree skies. We could even see a band of the Milky Way.

After having hiked 15 miles on Saturday, and with Escudilla 45 minutes in the opposite direction of a 5 hour drive home, we all decided to migrate back to the valley of the Sun on Sunday morning. Temps started to warm up to the 80s.

Everyone had a great time camping in the cool pines. Those who could not make the trip missed out on some great weather and spectacular views. We will have to make this trip again for a hike up Escudilla.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated December 16, 2017