Apache County High Point Trip Report

Baldy Peak (11,403 ft)

Date: July 5, 2000
Author: Fred Lobdell

There have been two or three trip reports filed for Baldy Peak in recent weeks, but I thought that in light of the discussion of possible restrictions on going to the summit, this report might add a little something.

I climbed Baldy Peak on July 5, using Forest Trail # 94, the South Baldy Trail. In the trailhead register I found both Ken Akerman's and Scott Surgent's names, Scott's with a 4 a.m. starting time! Talk about dedication! There is also an East Baldy trail (FT # 95) with a trailhead a few miles south on AZ 273; the latter may be a bit shorter and perhaps somewhat steeper. A sign gave the one-way distance as 7 miles, but a handwritten note at the trailhead sign board stated that relocation of the trailhead had made the one- way distance 8 miles. Regardless, it was a longish, although not especially arduous, hike. There was nothing at the trailhead to tell a hiker that the summit was off-limits, or out of bounds, or whatever.

This is a well-maintained and well-graded trail. Total elevation gain is only a little more than 2,000 feet. The first two or three miles are pretty level, mostly through meadows parallel to the West Fork of the Little Colorado River to the east. After this the trail climbs through forest at a reasonable rate of ascent, and no more water is available. Eventually a point is reached, just about at the junction with the East Baldy Trail, where the hiker can see in front of him the climb to the northernmost of the two high point areas, the one with a long, narrow shape. Here I found two pieces of red surveyor's ribbon stretched across the trail. There was also a yellow sign here that lacked lettering. Squinting at it, I thought I could perhaps make out "Forest Boundary".

I continued my climb of the northern HP area, now pretty much above tree line. About half way up I met an Indian descending. He was carrying two medicine sticks (if that's what they're called), in the shape of crosses, one in each hand. Each was adorned with several long feathers and other material. He also had his daughter, perhaps 2 to 3 years old, on his shoulder. He explained that on Sunday they had had a ceremony for a woman with leukemia. It was a four-day ceremony, and it required him, on the fourth day (which it was then), to go to the top of the mountain. He seemed surprised that I had hiked all the way up from Sheep Crossing rather than drive the gravel road, as he had done. We had a nice conversation for ten minutes or so, then shook hands and went our separate ways, he descending to his pick-up over the next ridge and me on to the summit. The crest of the long narrow area is marked by a large cairn, and although the trail passes on the east side of the crest, it was quite easy to walk up and over the highest area. When I had almost descended to the saddle between the northern area and the second high area, I found a small yellow sign with black letters. It informed me that the site was sacred to the White Mountains Apache, and that the removal of any rock, plant, or animal was absolutely forbidden.

I continued on to the small southern peak, where I found Bench Mark "Baldy". I hand leveled from this area back to the previous one and could not tell if there was any difference; they looked pretty much of equal height to me. I would recommend that anyone wishing to claim the Apache County HP climb both areas.

It is worth reiterating here that there was nothing in writing, anywhere along the trail, to say that hikers should not continue on to the summits. And the Indian I met on the trail seemed to have no problem with my presence in the area. Indeed, the existence at a point well beyond the forest boundary of the small yellow sign telling of the sacredness of the area would seem to imply that hiking in this area is accepted as long as the area is treated with respect. And I would certainly hope that any of the members of this group, or anyone reading this report, would treat the land with respect no matter where they hike.