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  1. #1
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    Indian Springs, West Fork Black River, and Big Lake

    This year, instead of going out to Red Canyon for our annual camping trip, we went up to Big Lake in the White Mountains.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of excellent trails right near the campground. We stayed at the Grayling campground, where the host assured us that there were no bears. (more on this later.)

    First ride was just a 15 mile loop around Big Lake on the forest service roads to get acclimated to the 9000 foot elevation. The route is mostly high prairie. The most unusual wildlife seen was a mountain bluebird.

    The Indian Springs trail is an easy (if not for the elevation) 7.5 mile loop through mixed Ponderosa Pine, White Pine, Douglas Fir, and Blue Spruce which drops down on the old railroad grade and then climbs up through the Indian Springs meadow back to the trailhead. (I started and ended at a spur trail off the loop in the highly-populated Rainbow Campground.) The best parts of this trail are coasting down the railroad grade at low speed and effort watching the meadows go by, and then pedaling up through the meadow populated with wildflowers and butterflies.

    The other good trail in the area is the West Fork of the Black River. The trail is only 3 miles one way, but drops right down to a pretty little meadow on the river where it becomes closed to bikes. On this trail I saw a couple of very wary elk, who ran out of the meadow into the forest when they heard me approaching. I returned to this trail a couple of days later and rode down to the river, parked the bike, and then hiked the additional 5 mile round trip of the Jim Thompson trail, up to the Apache Trout fish barriers and back.

    This upper hiking-only section of the West Fork of the Black River is one of the nicest trails I've ever walked. The trail is meadow almost all of the way without being a slog. There's a shotgun planting of many kinds of wildflowers in the meadows through which this brook meanders and cascades. Many parts of the trail were still in grass, indicating fairly low usage -- astonishing considering the fact that the Big Lake area has so many campgrounds and people.

    I brought my inflatable whitewater kayak to the lake, which my daughter and I used as a canoe for paddling around the lake and fishing. Mornings on Big Lake were best for this, as the wind would kick up in the afternoon. We were told to expect afternoon rain every day, but only had rain on the very first day.

    We saw mostly deer and elk around our camp. We also began to hear rumors of a bear foraging for food in the campground and trying to get into the locked (to a bear) dumpsters.

    Wednesday evening at twilight I went for a bike ride to watch for deer and elk loitering at the edge of the meadows waiting for dusk so that they could drink at the lake. Returning to camp, I was stopped by a nice man in a pickup who told me I shouldn't ride up the road because there was a bear on the road. I rode a few circles on the road until another pickup game through. The driver told me that he had been right next to the bear, which was now in the trees, so I rode back to camp in the opposite direction of a large parade of ATVs and children of all ages who asked if I'd seen the bear. (I didn't want to see the bear -- I've seen many bears, and told them so.) When I got back to camp my wife and daughter reported that they in fact, had seen the bear -- it had walked right by our camp.

    That night the Fish and Game decided that the best place for their bear trap was 200 yards from our camp site. I heard very stealthy footsteps in the night, but thought this was probably fish and game stalking the bear. The fish and game guys said that it was probably the bear and wasn't them.

    The next night my wife woke my up and said that she though she hear the bear. I heard the same stealthy footsteps as the evening before and realized that this was the bear (which we confirmed the following morning when we saw the tracks in the neighboring campground.)

    Later in the early morning, on the way to the can, I heard a dog barking, followed by a large low growl and then silence. This growl was likely the undoing of the bear, which was shortly after darted by the fish and game people. The bear will likely be destroyed because of its lack of fear for we humans and affinity for our food. (This likely started when a camp slob disposed of their food in a fire pit -- the bear was first photographed sitting in a fire pit foraging for food.)

    All in all, a great adventure and a good time, although my daughter shed a few tears for the bear, and for a trout that we couldn't easily unhook. Both the Springerville and Alpine ranger districts put out mountain biking maps, and there are enough trails in the area to keep a bike rider entertained.
    "Thank you, God, for letting me have another day"
    The Milagro Beanfield War

  2. #2
    My other ride is your mom
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  3. #3
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    Did you drycamp? Rv?
    I have a toyhualer and would love to head up there soon and do some boondocking and riding.
    Sounds like you had a great time!

  4. #4
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    moved

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    Last edited by GeeDubb; 08-02-2009 at 07:53 AM. Reason: moved to appropriate location
    Gary

  5. #5
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    Big Lake & Bear

    I remember having my ice chest (and food) destroyed in Rainbow campground the first night of three about 30 years ago (damn I'm gettiing old)....good thing there's a store with food at Big Lake.

    What days were you there? I was there (no bike) 7/24-27 in Grayling #10. I saw a couple of mountain bikers in or around #25 near the start of the one way loop.

    How did you like the first couple of miles of dirt road after Sunrise? Damn road nearly shook my rig apart! I went home via Eager on the paved, ableit twisty, road.
    Gary

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by az29er
    Did you drycamp? Rv?
    I have a toyhualer and would love to head up there soon and do some boondocking and riding.
    Sounds like you had a great time!
    We camped in the Grayling campground in our small popup without a hookup but with the convenience of water and an outhouse nearby. There are full hookups over in the new Apache Trout campground, or you can just exit the lake area itself and dry camp wherever.
    "Thank you, God, for letting me have another day"
    The Milagro Beanfield War

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeeDubb
    I remember having my ice chest (and food) destroyed in Rainbow campground the first night of three about 30 years ago (damn I'm gettiing old)....good thing there's a store with food at Big Lake.

    What days were you there? I was there (no bike) 7/24-27 in Grayling #10. I saw a couple of mountain bikers in or around #25 near the start of the one way loop.

    How did you like the first couple of miles of dirt road after Sunrise? Damn road nearly shook my rig apart! I went home via Eager on the paved, ableit twisty, road.
    We were there from the 7/25 through 7/31 in Grayling #3. If you noticed a teeny, tiny white A-frame that was us. You might have seen me and my daughter tooling around the campground a few times, or noticed us out in our red and gray inflatable kayak. (We brought a whole carful of toys.)

    Mostly we three just sat around in our chairs gasping for air in the high altitude, though.
    "Thank you, God, for letting me have another day"
    The Milagro Beanfield War

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