Friday, July 29, 2011
San Leonardo Lakes-Carson National Forest, Pecos Wilderness
Our first full day in Truchas, we decided to hike to the San Leonardo Lakes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. We headed out of Truchas and turned down Forest Road 207,a good,although sometimes narrow gravel road, and drove through the small farming village of El Valle and then on into the Carson National Forest.A short ways before the Trampas Campground we turned off onto Forest Road 639,crossed the Rio Trampas and drove a steep mile to our trailhead.Be forewarned- it is obvious that this low maintenance,dirt road turns into a muddy mess probably even after a light rain. It was a bit of challenge even under dry conditions. Four wheel drive is an absolute necessity if there is even a forecast of rain or snow.
There is a small parking area at the trailhead and several steep berms that we initially had to hike over.The trail is an old road at first, and perhaps people had been still using it as such,hence the berms to prevent illegal vehicle entry into the Pecos Wilderness.This is not a heavily traveled or maintained trail. There was abundant downfall and many,many crossings of the little Rio San Leonardo. When the trail finally levels out after a steep climb of about 3 1/2 miles, we found ourselves in meadow area with the mountain cliffs straight ahead. We also lost the trail. After scrambling about on what turned out be the right hill,but without finding the trail, and entertaining some thoughts of turning back, we sensibly returned to the meadow area to find that a sharp turn in the trail had been concealed by large fallen fir.So remember if you run out of tread,you've probably missed a switchback.
This last part of the trail was fairly short but very steep, and the storm clouds (and the attendant drop in temperature) that very suddenly appeared weren't helping our mood much either.But, as we trudged through lingering snowdrifts, the trail leveled off,the clouds parted, and the warm sun shone down,gifting us with an awe inspiring vision of these pristine alpine lakes surrounded by massive gray cliffs streaked with snow. I was so glad we had persevered after losing the trail. We lingered for awhile on the upper lake shoreline, taking many pictures and just"drinking it all in" as they say. The hike back seemed a little bit rougher than going up, probably because of our very tired legs.We made it.This was my third hike to an alpine lake in the Sangres and I can't imagine it ever getting old.