28 July 2019

Flat Mountain at the edge of the South San Juan Wilderness

Rio Grande National Forest

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Finding myself once again at a crossing of the Continental Divide Trail (but not as it edges along the Great Divide), I am drawn once again to finding some destination along it to hike to. The benchmark marked FLAT which seems to designate one minor corner of the South San Juan Wilderness looks like a good one, if a little far. I estimate it at 11.5 miles. (Actual: 11.3 miles.) Doable. Especially as the gain really isn't all that much for the length. The trailhead along the old highway behind the train station sits just about exactly at 10k feet and the peak at nearly 12.2k feet. Just 2200 feet gain over 11 miles is what I am willing to erroneously call flat, but then FLAT is the goal. There is a bathroom out of sight of anyone following the trail and a couple possible dispersed camping sites somewhat near the trailhead, but not actually any parking except where it crosses the current highway. For good measure, they don't sign that, just the turns to come in along the old road, so expect a little run around if driving up to do the hike.

signs, notice board, restrictions, and register at the trailhead along the old highway
At the old highway, there are clear signs, a notice board, even a register to mark the trail. At the current highway, there is only a post with "813" carved in the top.

From the register, it looks like most people just get as far as Wolf Creek, about three miles in. The through hikers came a month ago with one straggler a couple weeks ago. The trail slips up through the grasses, edges a little near the railroad tracks, then turns into the trees and pops out among meadows edged with more trees and ever increasing views.

narrow gauge railroad tracks
Narrow gauge tracks for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. A coal powered engine smokes its way along here a few times a day with a dinky little yellow fire suppression car following behind.

meadow with corn lilies and pine edges
The meadow beside my camp. Yep, I got one of the dispersed spots and this meadow is so very dark at night for the stars and has some crazy wildlife sightings in the day.

view with roads and railroads and such
The roads below and the trail ahead to the right.

There is a kind of explosion in the grass about 6 feet to my left. Startled but attempting calm, I look toward the retreating commotion to find a large faun with a spotted back lunging through the grass. Elk? I know deer simply hide. I though they were supposed to be very still no matter what. I certainly would not have noticed without the sudden movement. The meadow has fences and gates for open range, but they aren't up yet. Presumably that means no cows yet either. As the trail meanders further, it dips to cross first a small stream, then a pair of creeks the second being Wolf Creek because Colorado never tires of teasing me about starting off a hike with 2-2.5 liters of water. It does pause to almost view two waterfalls along the way.

27 July 2019

Trujillo Meadows Reservoir

Rio Grande National Forest

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I did a little wandering including a visit to the Trujillo Meadows Reservoir. There are two ways for quick access. One is from the campground where a day use fee is expected and gives access to the dam and outflow most easily. The other is a little further down the road where parking, bathroom, and boat entry can be had for free near the inlet. I, of course, went with the free option. There are fishermen trails around the edges to move around the lake. These are sometimes indistinct and do have some small streams to cross getting from inlet to outlet. I didn't go all the way around the reservoir as the inlet is really quite wide and I don't like getting my shoes wet.

water with an incloming line of water
Looking toward the inlet. The area is meant to be ADA accessible.

reservoir edge with a thin trail
A little bit of trail at the edge. Look to the far edge and there is a boat out on it. That was one of two while I was there.

looks poisonous
I wouldn't eat that one.

building storm clouds
Looking across the reservoir. The weather moves quickly and constantly seems to move toward storm that may or may not actually happen.

25 July 2019

Tony Marquez Trail and Jawbone Mountain

Carson National Forest

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Finally getting out of Taos and expecting to land in Colorado by the end of the day, I got stalled among a bit of countryside with a new character. Okay, the plains cut deeply by the Rio Grande was also a different character, but it was uncomfortably hot too. I had looked a little at the Tony Marquez Trail in planning, but couldn't figure out where I might stay. The campgrounds are expensive in this area, but there are dispersed spots. I can check it out after all. Parking at the Continental Divide Trail crossing, which is also Tony Marquez through here, is lacking, but there is an lot big enough for a hundred cars further west where the trail hits the highway again. Of course, it is unsigned. That would be too easy. But the trail is there. Across from the parking, there is a gate in the range fence, and behind that is a sign for the trail well hidden from the road by trees. I guess we wouldn't want to advertise. Not with parking so tight.

old road with two gates on it
A bit of old road with two gates on it marks the start of the trail. A sign with space for postings is after the first gate. The only thing really noticeable when driving past is the vast parking area.

The character of the land isn't really visible yet. Here, there is just a road lined with trees and the land itself is just a short bit of grass. Following the old road around the trees and it seems that there is someone with a key who doesn't quite respect the area enough to only use it when the area is sufficiently dry for travel, but getting past that the land slopes downward to a dry creek and upward to low hills that show a little bit of the area character. With all the rain recently, including yesterday, it is hard to see how the creek can be dry.

low hills covered in tree and meadow
Following the old road through the trees finds some low hills, all over 10000 feet high.

A fallen post beside the old road shows a CDT crest, presumably as a destination a few miles along the way. It'll be as far as I go in this direction, but since Tony Marquez seems to be more of a web of trails than a single route. As near as I can tell, all trails are Tony Trails, at least for a few miles around.

blue hanging bell shaped flowers
There's a lot more than grass in the green areas.

bit of water behind an earth dam
Unnamed tank under one of the hills showing its rocky nature.

Passing along the earth dam of an unnamed tank, then upward into more trees, it starts to become clear that having a good map will be a lot of help in finding the faint road bed from time to time. The cow paths help sometimes but lead astray at others. Fortunately the GEOPDF maps the Forest Service provides for the area do seem to put the trails down right where they're supposed to be. Barriers have been tossed up at intervals along the way making it clear no one at all is supposed to be driving this old road. The uncaring one with a key doesn't care.

22 July 2019

Devisadero Peak

Carson National Forest

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It seems to be getting too hot, even up high, and yet for some reason I feel compelled to check out another little section of forest down by the city. Between the gaining heat and the near promise of afternoon rain, at least it is a short excursion. I hadn't quite realized how close to the city it is. Trails go both directions from the highway and a sign points to each, but parking is only to the south of the highway. Crossing the highway to the trail, I can't help but notice the huge "Welcome to Taos" sign.

trail starts by signs pertinant and not
At the very edge of the forest. The trail starts to the right of the rock wall.

The highway runs along a riparian corridor supplied with water by a creek south of it, but everything is quite dry already by the north side where the trail starts. The corridor quickly becomes a green line of distinctly different trees as I climb upwards along the trail. As much as I am worried about the heat, the trees around me are pinon pine and juniper and other high, cooler desert species.

sprawling tiny city
It may not be big, but Taos knows how to sprawl. I find it difficult to locate downtown exactly even though I've driven through it.

The trail splits and I head left for the longer route up to the peak. I expect it to be a gentler climb, but it generally wobbles a bit up and down as it moves around the mountain instead. Ever more of the city below becomes visible and the clouds are building already.

mojave yucca with 3-4 fruit
Mojave yucca with fruit. This seemed like a lot of it until the next plant with more than twice this much.

north of Taos, more city
North of the city, more city bits. Development seems to come in clumps.

cactus on and around a rock
Always love when a rock has a carefully kept cactus garden.