Another adventure unfolded on our recent hike into the nooks and crannies (i.e. canyons and ravines) of New Mexico. After a 4.5 hour drive down to the Gila National Forest, we made our way to the Doggone trailhead. That’s right Doggone. So named when an early explorer to the area…you guessed it…lost his dog. If you are consulting the map, this would be just outside the town of Mud Stain.
We had hoped to enjoy cooler temperatures at the 8,800-foot elevation with some tree cover shade, but no. It was hot as hell with no relief and not as much shade as we hoped. The first 2.5 miles up Dead Horse (don’t ask) mountain were sheer torture as it involved about 1500 feet of elevation gain. The payoff was at the summit where we enjoyed a fine view looking across Dirty Bastard Valley.
Our exhilaration was short-lived as the Doggone trail went from a wide path to a narrow shoulder along a sheer 400-foot drop. This part of the trail is known as Foolish, Foolish Choice for obvious reasons. Incidentally, we have numerous classifications for hiking trails such as this. There’s FOAGBU (fall off and get back up), FOARD (fall off and roll down), and of course, FOAD (fall off and die). Foolish, Foolish Choice did not disappoint as it was clearly a FOAD kind of trail.
Thankfully we made it across the blade edge and dropped down (not literally) into Chipped Tooth Gulch. Local legend is that a cowboy named Larryme fell off his horse and chipped his tooth on some wicked granite that lines the gulch. We did not suffer the same fate although we did take the opportunity to floss.
The trail turned steep as we made our way out of the gulch into a glen known as Furry Maiden. Not much is known about the origin of this name but the dense shade and thick forest canopy above was most welcome. A small stream ran through the glen and our topo map indicated this was a small branch of the larger Knuckle Dragger River. It was the perfect place to stop for coffee and snacks and give the biting insects a decent shot at making us completely miserable.
Nourished and rested (along with bitten up real good), we got back on the trail to complete the long loop back to our starting point. This involved a hairy scary steep downward set of switchbacks on loose scree, where one false step could have you going ass over teakettle, which perversely was the name of this part of the trail. Only the topo spelled it Ass O’er Teakettle. Same difference.
Although it was level, the path back to the trailhead had a death march quality, as our legs were weakened by the strain of constant braking to make our way down Ass O’er Teakettle. We continued on this course which the topo labeled Mad Cow for another two miles. With the truck in sight and darkness about to come crashing down, we congratulated ourselves for having had another rewarding hike in the beautiful landscape that is New Mexico at its finest.
Note: Everything about this description is true except for the facts. And a shout-out to Geo’s Hiking blog for inspiration.
Total Distance: 8.30 miles
Elevation: start 8,878 ft, maximum 10,667 ft, minimum 8,207 ft
Gross gain: 1,789 ft. Aggregate ups & downs: ascending 2,256 ft, descending 2,359 ft
Maximum slope: 47% ascending, 39% descending, 15% average
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.