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.

20 July 2019

Lake Fork Peak and Williams Lake

Carson National Forest


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I've decided to do those other three peaks that circle Williams Lake even if I probably won't continue all the way to Wheeler again. It would be pretty cool to get the state high point by a second route, I've done the other state high point by two different routes, but the guy on Peakbagger who waxes poetic about how going from Kachina around to Wheeler is a most delightful learning route progressing steadily from class 2 to class 4 with generally solid hand holds makes me pretty certain I would have no business trying it, especially on my own. Others assure me that it will also be delightful to drop down and visit the lake, but requiring no more than a scramble. So the plan is to go up Kachina and continue to Lake Fork Peak and unnamed 12819 before retreating and dropping down, unless something makes me drop down sooner. Getting up to Kachina can be done by a cross country route or just following ski roads most the way. This being the weekend and already fairly late as I get started, there is also the option of waiting an hour and taking the lift for $20. It only gets as far as the roads go. I'm feeling lazy, but not that lazy, so will follow the roads. There will be plenty of time for harder route finding later. The first challenge is finding a parking spot in the lot. It was so much emptier when I hiked up and was up 2 hours earlier on a weekday.

Williams Lake Trail with cars parked down the side of the private road
The trailhead as Williams Lake Trail follows the side of a private road. Hiker cars are parked along the road until a "no vehicles" sign.

Just as before, I follow the signs for Williams Lake Trail along the side of the private road and past the base of the ski lift. This time I turn to the side as the trail crosses one last road and start up it. One road has a most lovely waterfall coming down next to it, but I take a steeper one that misses that. There are a lot of roads to choose from as I climb and while I sort of thought I would use a photograph I took from the Wheeler Peak Trail as direction, I'm not certain now that it would be useful to dig it out. There's a little bit of a trail and when I turn around, a bottom black sign seems to be pointing out a trail among the named ski trails.

chunky creek
Plenty of water coming down the hill in various creeks.

The lift starts and stops a few times, probably some safety checks. I suspect the first riders could be getting to the top as I do. A sign welcomes me into the last bowl with a warning about unexploded rounds. What, the slope is an old artillery range? It takes me a moment to realize that these are probably fired each year to minimize avalanche risk. Across the canyon is a natural ski slope cut through the trees by a series of avalanches.

bowl below Kachina
Sign on entering the bowl below Kachina Peak. The lift that operates in the summer goes across it to stop below the steep sides. A second lift goes out of it.

clouds brimming over the ridge
The first manifestation of energy in the sky for the day.

I am undecided about what route I want to take for the last. Some suggest under the ski lift that climbs from the bowl to the peak adorned with warnings about experts only and there is no easy way down. My instinct is to go for a short saddle just above the top of the operating ski lift. It now does have a rider, but this seems to be a second worker to join a first who drove up. I decide to go up a rock slide then work over and up to the saddle or the ridge and it is a poor choice. There is nothing particularly dangerous about it and there are even some game trails to follow, but the direct route would have been fine and less annoying. And my feet are still sliding around in my new shoes making off trail on slant particularly difficult. I get to the ridge, but it takes longer than it should. The ridge is decorated with rope and closed area signs and has a faint trail that stops by a little dilapidated cabin with more rope and signs then climbs on.

18 July 2019

Lobo Peak and Flag Mountain

Carson National Forest


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Once I determined I was going to get myself my second state high point, Lobo Peak was the next thing I decided I would do. Nearby, but gets into a completely different area and there are multiple ways up so there can be a loop. It does require a little road walking to connect whatever trails I use. The final plan is up Yerba Canyon, which is the most direct route, then down Italianos Canyon, which is a popular one. If I'm feeling good at the top, I can go on to Flag Mountain which is 3 miles of ridge trail, so a rolling 6 mile addition to a 4 mile, 4000 foot climb. Wait, that's seriously steep. That can't be right. 8200 feet to 12115 feet, anyway, and the line on the map estimating the distance doesn't quite get to 4 miles. Anyway, there's a road sign pointing out the start, lots of parking along the side of the road and even more up the short 4x4 road to the trailhead, and a little kiosk there with nearly no information. A sign beside it informs me this is special trout water: red chile water. I haven't got a license, so I expect that means I'm not fishing anyway.

dark in the canyon
Still early as I start, so it's rather dark in the canyon.

After the kiosk, the canyon narrows down quickly requiring no barriers to keep the cars to their area before the mini wilderness sign. This is not one of those glacial valleys as the rock walls raise steeply on either side. In between the walls, the trees grow tall and spindly with lots of green stuff at their feet. The trail crosses the little creek repeatedly until it starts climbing up onto the sides a little.

small wilderness sign, it's tight here
Trail and trees and little wilderness sign in Yerba Canyon.

sunshine on tall thin alder
Alder reaching thin for the sky and sunlight. Getting a little bit of it now.

water flowing over logs between lots of green
A bit of that creek flowing down the middle of the canyon.

some rounds of the far side of Rio Hondo
A suggestion of the larger view.

The trail does take on some rather steep bits, but overall I am coming up longer than the mileage estimate. I see hints that it used to climb in a more reasonable manner, but those parts of the trail are so long gone that the map doesn't even show them. It gets especially prevalent closer to where it tops out onto a ridge. Along the way, there are the still green, shattered remains of trees from an avalanche this winter to show that it's just steep generally and getting out will take climbing.

16 July 2019

Wheeler Peak

Carson National Forest


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Listening to the weather man is useless. It seems like the prediction for the day after tomorrow is more accurate for the coming day. I was going to go to the top of New Mexico yesterday and it would have been a beautiful day for it, but I let the worsening prediction made the day before persuade me to wait. Also the huge downpour in the night to add to the general level of water available for recycling was a factor making me uneasy. No more flinching, I'm off to the high point. I want to come down along the Wheeler Peak Trail, so I'm just going to walk the two miles up the road with an early start. That means my pancakes got cooked up the night before, but they're chocolate so they're still good cold. It's already getting a little light as I begin the chug up the good dirt road. In winter it is 4WD only as it has some steep spots, but for summer those spots are just a little washboardy. It's interesting that one stack of informational signs along the way contains one that is space to post the current forest closure order. There is a little bit of view and a few quite unique homes to look at on the way.

dawning light over tall buildings
I need to go up that canyon behind the resort of Taos Ski Valley. There's free WiFi down there, if you know where to go.

peaks in light above the dark trees
Sunlight on the peaks across from Wheeler from that good road.

The parking lot is almost exactly as the GPS hits 2 miles. It is well signed and has lots of space, at least at 7AM. Williams Lake Trail signs point down a private road and through a little more of the ski resort. A sign advertises that I can get all my light hiking needs from the store nearby, I just have to wait 3 hours for it to open. At the edge of the resort is one more sign to warn that the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps are thinning the forest adjacent to this trail and I ought to be wary. They're not out yet. Then, finally, forest.

ski lift through the trees
Almost to the trees. They run this ski lift, but not until 10AM and it goes somewhere completely different.

trees beside a well used trail
Not a lot of worry of losing this trail. The thinning is evident in other areas.

rocks in lumps without trees on top
An old landslide breaks open some views.

There's soggy spots and tree roots to avoid, but it is still a bit of a chug under the trees. An open spot covered in upheaved rock, probably from some landslide, lets me look out at the peaks surrounding a little, then there is a post to mark the junction. I can't see the lake from here, but I'm sure I'll see it soon enough from above. There is a brief thought of visiting it, but again I'll see it plenty from above, surely.

11 July 2019

Gold Hill

Carson National Forest


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Alright, I am in place to head up to the top of New Mexico! Says it right there on the free tourist map from the Welcome Center. Not that that's what I'm doing today, but it will be. Oh, it will be. I feel like in between catching up with writing and suddenly driving to Needles to get the car a smog check (what lovely lack of planning that was) and failing to get my window fixed that I need something to get the legs moving before doing something I really want to work out. So I'm going for something longer: Gold Hill. It may not sound like much, but it is the high point of its wilderness and should get me out of the trees again. "Hill" might be a bit of a misnomer. The plan is up Bull-of-the-Woods Wheeler Peak and Gold Hill Trails, which are longer but should be more interesting, then down Long Canyon, which is shorter.

lots of signs at the trailhead
The trailhead is signed aplenty a little way along the dirt road from parking.

Either way, it starts the same, climbing up along a creek. An older sign marks this as the Columbine-Twining National Recreation Trail and USGS marks it as Twining Blue Lake Trail. Perhaps a history of changing interests of area hikers? It is a thick, green corridor and if the idea of climbing 3300 feet in about 4.5 miles doesn't elicit the thought that the trail up ahead might be steep, the alternate horse trail that splits off quickly helps suggest the idea. I could pretend I am a horse and take the gentler trail, but I won't. All along the creek are some of the lushest, most bold, vibrant, strong columbines I have ever seen. Something about these just seems perfect. But I'm climbing, not looking at flowers, so up I go with one creek crossing on a very suspect log group.

crossing on a pair of logs
When in doubt, just add a log. It doesn't really add strength since the bipedal animals must necessarily stand on one or the other at certain points in their walk.

After the crossing, the trail quickly distances itself from a much smaller creek and then Long Canyon breaks off to the left amidst both old and new signs. There is even one for Twining, which seems to be what the parts of the area that are not ski resort used to be called. Now it seems to be all Taos Ski Valley. Perhaps it avoids confusion, perhaps it makes the billionaire who purchased the resort and is currently building it up happy. Changes are afoot. As I stay on the (now) Wheeler Peak Trail, it quickly connects to an old road that might not be so old. There are signs a bulldozer has been up it recently making sure it is open. Trails break off to the side of the road sometimes, but they seem to be unofficial.

road in the trees
A hint of mountain through the trees as the trail meets up with an old road.

road on a hillside
A little bit of view as the road climbs on the side of the hill.

It meets up with a better used road at Bull-of-the-Woods Pasture where I have my own silly little distraction to find the monument at the corner of a large inholding. People or cows have been walking that way for their own reasons, so it is easy to get there along a row of cut trees. I am hoping it might be something old and funky, but if it was replaced in 2008 by an ordinary cap on a pipe.

05 July 2019

Winsor Trail NRT

Santa Fe National Forest


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Since I'm waiting for a window for my trailer, I've got time to try something else out. (Oh, I broke a window on my trailer while leaving Quemado Lake. Somehow in the last little mile of dirt road for a bit, I managed to throw a rock hard enough to smash it. I don't even have power on my back wheels! No one else was around, so there is only me to blame.) The something I'm going to try is the bus for a point to point trek on Windsor Trail. The bus is $5 to ride up the mountain, but free to ride down. It doesn't start down until 10:15AM, so that sort of necessitates a late start. It only runs twice on weekdays and three times on weekends, but that first one is even later on weekends. The bus only has seats on one side as the other is given over to bike rack space. At least a few bicyclists have figured out that it's a rather cheap ride to the top and easy to arrange. I was the only one on the bus although he says he usually ends up picking up a few backpackers since this hooks up with the trains at the other end. He clocked the distance down to the Chamisa Trailhead at 9 miles to give me an estimate of how far I'll hike back up. There's also 3000 feet net gain. This is the lowest point on the trail I can connect with this single bus, but there are several shorter options.

sign at start
Sign at the start of the main branch of the trail.

Chamisa Trailhead comes with a map that warns, "Travel time may be slower than expected due to altitude, steep and difficult terrain, and beautiful scenery." I pick the main route that climbs and wiggles, quickly getting slightly waylaid by a bearing tree that has half eaten its marker. It looks like it might be along a lightning scar that has nearly healed over. The marker is 71.5 somethings away approximately NNE, but my ability to measure somethings is low. Feet, yards, chains, links, they seem to like it all. I think I even saw rods once. If my memory from 5th grade is correct, a rod is 4.5 feet. What kind of unit is that? Sometimes they'll even go metric. When I see hands, I'll know they're just pulling my 66 foot chain.

bearing tree plaque eaten by a tree
Not a very good bearing tree.

So I continue upward letting it go. I know of no nearby place there might be a corner whatever the bearing tree almost says. Scenery opens up, but there are quite a few trees to look through. They are more sparse down here where it is drier.

soft hillside of trees
A break to see the sparse trees on the other side of the canyon and the alternate route below.

After some wiggling, the main trail and the shorter alternate that follows the bottom of the canyon meet up next to a junction with signs, a smaller map, and view. Well, not much of a view. A geocache promises a better view if I go along the ridge and then take a use trail just a little bit further.

rising hills
Rising hills to the north: the view from the Saddle Back Trail.

02 July 2019

Lake Peak, Nambe Lake, and Aspen Peak

Santa Fe National Forest



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I thought I would take Timmy up Aspen Peak, which isn't much more than a mile, then I chickened out on taking him up a trail with so many dogs running on it and the trip just ballooned outward. Another visit to Lake Peak, this time via the trail along the fence and catching some bumps marked on Peakbagger, then drop down the ridge and such to Nambe Lake to take the trail back out from there, stopping by Aspen on the way. Aspen is still in the mix. One fellow said that I should come directly down Aspen to catch the lovely meadows, so that too. It's a plan, and so what if I'm sort of repeating there for a moment.

kiosk with much information
The kiosk at the trailhead includes a wilderness map and a ban on goats.

Across a bridge, Winsor trail heads left down the mountain and right into the wilderness. Both are hard to miss. My way is right and I start climbing. It is not quite so steep as I recall from coming down rather tired, but is still a solid climb. With a couple of benches for rest along the way. Not for me, that would ruin my momentum. The saddle at the top is marked by fencing and lots of signs including one on the history of the trail, but no junction signs. The trail up along the side of the fence may be too huge to miss, even in the dark, but it is unofficial.

signs and fence and extra trail at the wilderness boundary
Signs at the wilderness boundary. Perhaps there is a directional sign to clarify where the official trail is.

I turn up again. The trail follows along just outside the fence and never diminishes while it does so. Various animals have probably helped it exist and grow as they wander next to the fence, but the people really need no help in keeping it established. There are backpackers and families and regular climbers and a host of others making their way as I make mine up the hill. There is even a bike tire print in the dirt, which is a bit sketchy since this route does dip into the wilderness although the top and bottom and a lot in between is not. A gate along the way leads into a meadow, but mostly it is a tree covered climb to the end of the fence.

obscured views
Plenty of trees along the way to obscure views, but they do thin as they go.

The fence ends high up on a ridge and a bit of trail follows it to the bitter end. It's no wonder as there is quite a view out there at the top of a cliff. From here, they expect the terrain to keep the cattle contained. With the ending of the fence, there is nothing to keep the trail contained. It stays pretty solid for a while, but in some spots there are so many options that the cattle paths start to compete. Where there are big rock slides, the trail gets contained again. These come with their own views.

Lake Peak and surrounding forested tops
Lake Peak from the end of the fence. Nambe Lake is invisible from here, but sits in the rocks below it.