Monday, March 3, 2014

Muleshoe Ranch

For the second stop on our “southwest tour” before we start hiking the PCT, my parents, Renee and I stayed 5 nights at the Muleshoe Ranch in Arizona….

The Muleshoe Ranch, near the Galiuro Mountains of Arizona, is a hiking paradise.  Because it’s located down a long dirt road and only a limited number of people can stay here, it’s totally quiet and remote.  We spent an exceedingly relaxing time hiking and exploring and soaking in the hot springs.  I don’t think I’ve been this relaxed in years.
Sunrise view from the Vista Trail.
The area is unusual because there are seven year-round streams which provide habitat for several rare and endangered fish species as well as birds and other wildlife.  It is operated by the Nature Conservancy, BLM, and Forest Service, and focuses on conservation and education.   Huge cottonwoods were just starting to leaf out and the canyons were ribbons of spring green amid the desert and arid grasslands.
Spring green along the stream.
My parents have been visiting the Muleshoe for the past 15 years, but this was my first visit.   Before I came, I couldn’t imagine what we’d do for 5 days.  But because we didn’t have to drive anywhere and everything is right here, we could spend all our time exploring the trails, stopping to look at things, meandering down washes, climbing interesting-looking rock outcrops, and bushwhacking cross-country.  Soaking in the hot springs each night drained us of all worry, muscles completely rejuvenated, leaving us ready to hike the next day.  Usually I’m so goal driven, but out here there is nothing to worry about- our PCT anxieties even seemed to disappear.  
Stopping to look at flowers.
Heading off cross-country.
My parents don’t camp or backpack anymore, so the comfortable casitas (with kitchens) were ideal for spending this vacation together.  We lounged in the large common area with cushy chairs and big windows.  Perfect!

Exploring old ruins.
Hiking was phenomenal!  The well-marked 3 mile Bass Canyon Loop and the 7 mile Ridge Loop, plus a nature trail, radiate out from the headquarters.  Four miles up a dirt road, the High Lonesome Trail (our favorite!) follows a canyon between ruins of two old ranches.  There are also numerous possibilities for climbing up ridges and exploring tree-lined washes.
Huge sycamore on the High Lonesome Trail.
During our visit, an inch of rain fell slowly over the course of a day and night, soaking this arid region.  It was the first rain like this since last fall.  Plants were all ready and waiting for this spring rain, and in the next week, the desert is going to explode with new growth.
Bushwhacking to a high outcrop covered in lichen on a rainy day.
The very-knowledgeable resident caretaker Ron showed us "cat scratches" made by a male mountain lion marking his territory.  They are often found along trails, by large trees, and he told us to keep an eye out for these markings when we are out on the PCT.
Signs of a mountain lion.
 Ron also took us to a dam that was build by volunteers from the Sierra Club to provide water for wildlife in at higher elevation.  It was constructed in the fall, and this was the first time there was enough rain to fill it with water.  Learning about the natural history of the area and about all the conservation efforts provided a deeper appreciation for this incredible place.
Dam built to providing water for birds and wildlife.
After our time here, I’m feeling much more confident about the So. Cal portion of the PCT.    The umbrella was marvelous for keeping me cool in the heat, and provided protection during the desert rainstorm, and held up surprisingly well in high winds.  And at one point, my umbrella was protecting me from rain and sun AT THE SAME TIME!  I tried out wearing the same hiking socks the whole time, and even with the sand my feet still felt great.  I also continue to be impressed with my trail runners (altra lone peaks)- I’ve been wearing them for the past five months, but they’ve felt even more awesome on this trip, like they were made for being out west.
  Overall, this was a very relaxing time and we absolutely loved the Muleshoe and I hope to return again soon!


  1. Hot springs and hiking, wonderful! How cool to find cat scratches. That sycamore tree is a beauty. Great to hear you are relaxed and having fun.

  2. The cat scratches were fascinating- there were even more down the trail, and a paw print too. Incredible to imagine the mountain lions walking along the same path we were on.