A forbidding wilderness in New Mexico

It is 100 years since the US government created the world’s first protected wilderness, at the prompting of a visionary conservationist, Aldo Leopold. Encompassing some 1,190 square miles of forested mountains and desert canyons in southern New Mexico, the Gila Wilderness is not a visitor-friendly national park, said Elaine Glusac in The New York Times, but a forbidding natural region, remote and resistant to entry. 

Indeed, few places in the US are so well guarded against the selfie-seeking crowds. There are no roads or “artificial trails” – an absence that has led to “countless tales of lost hikers, encounters with poison oak and arduous river crossings”. And the wilderness itself lies within a larger conservation area, the 5,196 square mile Gila National Forest, where the only roads are steep and winding, making access yet more difficult. 

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