Best American Adventures: Horsepack the Gila Wilderness
We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.
By Doug Schnitzspahn; Photograph by David Fenton
A founder of the Wilderness Society and granddaddy
of American conservation, Aldo Leopold once worked for the U.S. Forest
Service in the high, wild Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico. It was here
that he dreamed up the idea of legal “wilderness.” In a 1921 article
for the Journal of Forestry, Leopold declared that wilderness
should be "a continuous stretch of country preserved in its natural
state, open to lawful hunting and fishing, big enough to absorb a two
weeks’ pack trip, and kept devoid of roads, artificial trails,
cottages, or other works of man."
later, the Gila Wilderness became the first spot the Forest Service
would protect according to Leopold’s vision. (Lasting federal
protection came in 1964, when Congress passed the actual Wilderness
Act.) So what better way to explore the spot than as Leopold wanted it
explored—on a two weeks’ horsepacking trip.
there’s a certain luxury to horsepacking in the wild—travelers can
carry in far more than they can on their backs—it’s also an art in its
own right, since learning how to work with the animals and tackle is a
must. But riding high in the saddle makes it possible to really enjoy
the trip though the Gila’s forests and meadows, instead of hiking
head-down. The Gila is also home to wildlife you won’t find in other
parts of the Rockies, including peccaries (wild pigs!), coatimundi,
Gila monsters (surprise), and recently reintroduced Mexican wolves—and
don’t forget to pack the fly rods for a chance to catch rare Gila trout.
Need to Know: Gila Wilderness Ventures (www.gilawildernessventures.com) runs six-day horsepacking trips, starting at $1,460 per person.
- Nat Geo Expeditions