The White Mountains
By Davin Uurtamo
I had previously planned the surprise trip to go to the Mogollon Rim, a beautiful place for fishing the many lakes, camping, and boating. What else is there in life?
The Rim unfortunately, as do many of our forests every year, fell victim to a massive fire a week before our trip. Having no better choice for the trip of a lifetime for my girlfriend’s graduation surprise present, the White Mountains (near Alpine, Ariz.) became the best runner up I could find.
We wanted dense forest and a fairly remote location and considered the Rim country up near the Grand Canyon but felt the White Mountains were a bit better for the drive from Phoenix.
Keep in mind the White Mountains are enormous, and there are many different places to go. We chose Alpine for the smaller community nearby in hopes to find less camping traffic in the forest.
This is what we had heard: The White Mountains offer some of the richest wildlife and greenery in this state. Not only is the drive worth the effort, but also the animal life is amazing and abundant, and the camping is great.
So, we traveled to see what the hype was about, why so many outdoors enthusiasts recommend the area. I had lived here 28 years and still hadn’t been, so it was time to visit.
We took our trip in May 2007 and because it was extremely cold last year when we visited, we now suggest that you check the local forecast before your trip!
This is also known bear country so make sure to abide by all precautions for food containment. The dumpsters here have metal bars holding the lids down — an example of the necessary precautions. We did not spot any bears during our whole trip, although my friend Daina was keeping an eye out for them!
Along the way and very near the White Mountains, we saw a Mexican gray wolf along the road who was quite possibly lost, a large elk (if you see animal crossing signs slow down!), a deer within 15 feet, and countless hummingbirds that came right up to say hello to Daina.
You will also hear the wonderful sound of running water, see cliff walls covered in green moss and algae, and enough trails to occupy any afternoon. And, for visitors’ comfort, there are outhouses and drinking water fill stations.
We brought a 3-pound bag of homemade granola as a staple snack and a 10-quart cooler — that fit in a compact car — filled with provisions for three days’ eating.
The roads in the White Mountains are mostly gravel but watch out for surprise potholes right before the cattle guards. If you arrive at night, it can be quite a challenge to set up a tent as the trees are very dense and tall.
There are established campsites that you can rent for about $7 a day and an employee will likely contact you in person and make arrangements as there are no electric pay stations for permits on this section of the mountain (Alpine).
If you’ve ever wanted to fish for a catch that you cannot get anywhere else, it is in the White Mountains. Not only is this one of the most incredible places to find a nice spot to camp, but also it is the official home to the Apache Trout, one of Arizona’s two species of trout.
The river we fished has many pools and was fairly low during our trip. I fished with my .25-ounce chrome Kastmaster® in 3 feet of water located 10 feet from our campsite.
I landed a rainbow trout and an Apache trout in less than 10 minutes. Daina, who was previously explaining why I would not get a hookup, was completely speechless. She was as stunned as I was!
You may catch quite a few rainbows at the local domestic lakes on stock day, but out in the wilderness it is definitely invigorating to catch a true beauty under such rare circumstances. The coloration on the Apache trout, by the way, is so spectacular that I suggest you bring a camera just in case.
In fact, the Apache trout was so beautiful that I decided we would eat only the Rainbow, and I released the Apache back to his friends.
I give the White Mountains two thumbs up for fishing and camping! Conveniently, since some of you may prefer not to rough it, there is a small town not too far off with a great little restaurant situated in an old cabin. (Best grilled cheese sandwich and milk I have had in quite a while!) Stop in and say hello if you get the chance; it’s well worth the visit!
Boaters are not forgotten in the White Mountains. There are lakes of ample size to simply enjoy boating or to combine fishing for trout and boating.
You can find a well-stocked store for most needs, including fuel. And, I was impressed by campsites that afforded beautiful views of the forest edge.
If you haven’t been to the White Mountains for camping, plan your trip today; it is well worth the drive. Otherwise, you could be missing out on some of Arizona’s finest wildlife and most beautiful hiking country! To say nothing of the great trout fishing!
More information on the White Mountains can be found at the following Web