10-May-2011 -- This confluence is located in extreme western New Mexico, very near the Arizona boundary, about 10 miles south of the tiny community of Mule Creek. It is a remote spot located in the Gila National Forest, a forested spot north of Tillie Hall Peak and not far from Brushy Mountain, which features a huge geodesic FAA radar-dome, which is visible from the highway. The whole region—the Mogollon Mountains and the Gila Wilderness are nearby—features spectacular scenery, a blend of high peaks near 11,000 feet in elevation, surrounded by high desert hills and verdant river valleys. Very few people live in the immediate region, which probably explains why this confluence has been visited just once, and not in over 10 years until we happened upon it. This is definitely a confluence that requires some planning and driving to achieve, not one done spur of the moment.
My wife and I enjoy visiting this area of New Mexico and make regular vacations to Silver City, where her family has roots going back to the 1870s. We usually take the scenic “back way” from our home in Arizona, driving through Safford and up state route AZ-78 into the Big Lue Mountains that straddle the two states. I have been aware of this confluence for some time now, and even got close to it back in 2007 while hiking to the top of nearby Brushy Mountain, the range’s highest peak. However, that day was very hot and I was in no mood afterward to seek out the confluence, so we saved it for another visit.
This visit was done as we were leaving Silver City for home. We followed Brushy Mountain CMR (county-maintained road) from Mule Creek about 12 road miles to Forest Road 734, marked by a sign reading “Tillie Hall Peak Pole Area” (whatever that means). We drove in the road a short ways, coming to a gate almost immediately. My wife opted to skip the hike to the confluence owing to a sore neck, so I parked the truck under the shade of a giant ponderosa, where she could enjoy the beautiful weather while I was goofing off seeking the confluence point.
I passed through the gate, and followed the “main” road (FR-734) northwesterly for about a quarter-mile, fronting a small private ranch along the way. The road then bent left, and gained up a small hill. The road itself is in poor shape due to erosion and exposed bedrock, but fine for walking. Many other forest roads intersect FR-734, but I ignored them, keeping on FR-734 for the mile-plus until its end. When I had crossed the 109th meridian, I left the road and started the cross-country trek through the brush and trees northward to the confluence. I ended up walking a circuitous path, following creek beds and up openings through the trees, until I came upon the point. It took awhile for me to get all zeroes on the GPS; there was no sign of any previous visitors. The views in each of the four directions are mainly of the nearby trees, mainly juniper and ponderosa, long grasses and various cactus. Some openings nearby allow for better views, including an excellent one of Tillie Hall Peak.
After documenting my visit, I built a small cairn on top of an old stump near where I zeroed my GPS. Given the remoteness of this point, I wonder it will be another ten years before someone else visits it, and if my little cairn will still be there. I would suspect the various forest roads see some visitation, most likely from hunters, but the actual confluence is far enough off these roads that it may not see anyone for many years at a time. I walked back to the road and made the easy hike back out to my truck and my wife. The whole hike had taken exactly an hour, coving about 2.5 miles round trip. We drove back to the paved highway (NM-78), which we followed into Arizona (now called AZ-78), where we camped for the night at the Blackjack Campground, overlooking the Gila River Valley.