The Catwalk
Glenwood, NM
April 28, 2012

No, it's not a place to walk you cat...although I 'spose you could.  The Catwalk is a 1.1-mile National Recreation Trail near Glenwood, NM. about a hour's drive northwest of Silver City, NM.  In 1889 silver and gold was discovered in the Mogollon Mountains above Whitewater Canyon, just outside of Glenwood. Several mines were developed and ore was hauled in wagons to a mill at the mouth of the Canyon.  The town of Graham was founded in the mountains and water was needed to operate the electric generators.  It came from a pipeline reaching up into the Canyon, and was held onto the rock walls of the Canyon with timbers and iron bars that were in constant need of maintenance.  Workmen dubbed it the Catwalk and today it is operated as part of the Glenwood Ranger District of the Gila National Forest.  Today it is the site of the one-mile Catwalk National Recreation Trail, a universal access walking trail which follows the route of the old pipeline, clinging dramatically to the side of Whitewater Canyon often a dozen feet or more above Whitewater creek. (source: Wikipedia)

We made the hour plus trip west on US 180 to Glenwood one Saturday morning.  We took a picnic lunch with us fully prepared to eat in the Jeep but upon arriving we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice picnic grove.  There were several families enjoying the warm and sunny spring day next to Whitewater Creek. 

After lunch Donna and I started the hike.  After about 100-yards the trail split into two forks.  The sign for the left fork indicated that it was medium difficulty with no guardrail.  The sign for the right fork indicated it was much less difficult...paved paths, etc.  Guess which way Donna wanted to go.  Go ahead...guess.  After a total of about 1/4 of a mile Donna returned to the picnic grove and I carried on alone.  Well, I was hiking alone but the trail was actually busy.  After a total of 1/2-mile the two trails merged into one.  Gone were the paved paths and metal catwalks with guard rails.  The trail was rated as 'Difficult'.  From that point on the trail was a mix of gravel and stone paths sometimes less than a foot wide and steps cut out of the rocks.  It took maybe 30-minutes to walk the first 1/2-mile and maybe 60-minutes to finish the last .6 miles.  I've hiked harder trails but not many. 

The trail followed the route that the old water pipeline used and from time to time I could see the remnants of the hardware used to secure the pipeline to the canyon walls and rocks in Whitewater Creek.  There were a number of foot bridges that moved the trail from one side of the canyon to the other and then back again, down to the bottom of the canyon and then back up again.  Along the way there were several waterfalls and one spot where 44-metal steps had been installed down to a pool of very, very cold water.  I climbed down those stairs but the jump between the bottom step and the pool was too great for my knee.  But others were wading in the water and turning  a very nice shade of blue. 

At the end of the Catwalk Trail I found a small metal suspension bridge leading to a covered ledge big enough for a couple of people to stand on and tall enough for me to stand under.  There I found a small waterfall.  After a few shots of me on the bridge I started back down the trail.  The return trip was mostly downhill so I was able to cover the 1.1-miles in about 45-minutes to get back to the picnic grove.  I met some nice folks on the trail and stopped to talk with most of them.  Some of those who I encountered on the way down I had passed on the way up.  One group, a family of six including grandma, her son and daughter-in-law, another son and two grandkids caught up to me at the final suspension bridge.  Between them they had one small bottle of water...and it was empty.   I shared what I had but had to wonder why they would have attempted such a hike without enough water for all of them. 

I shot around 100-photos (edited down to a much smaller number) and 16-minutes of video.  The links to both are at the top of this page.  If you go start early in the day, especially in warm weather.  There is little to no humidity and so you don't really sweat which makes it easy to suffer heat stroke.  Carry enough water and drink often.  Sneakers are OK for the first 1/2-mile but hiking shoes or boots are really best for the difficult parts of the trail.  Plan on spending 2-3 hours on the trail.  Dogs are allowed but must be leashed and a small fee is required...I think it was $3 per car. 

When you're done head 3-miles north on US180 to NM159.  Turn right and travel about 9-miles to the mining ghost town of Mogollon (MAH-ghee-ahn).  But that's another story.