Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ladrone Gulch Trail(FT 127) Revisited-Aldo Leopold Wilderness



We hiked the Ladrone Trail( in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness) hoping to see some fall color where the trail passes through a good sized aspen grove. I was pretty sure that we were too early by the almost total lack of color in the oaks,willows and cottonwoods lower down. I was right. When we reached the aspens high on hillside above the head of Carbonate Creek,only about 10 percent of the trees had begun to turn.Still it was an absolutely beautiful day and this is one of the best day hikes in the Black Range.
   The storm that had blown through brought in rain,and much cooler air to the region.In fact when we reached Hillsboro Lake( more of puddle this year) nearly at the crest of the range, we saw patches of snow and a rim of ice on the pond.Temperatures were in the 50's which made for a much more pleasant time than when we hiked the trail in July a few years back.Depending on how far one drives the crummy FR40E past Kingston,this is an 8 to 10 mile hike with over 2000 feet of elevation gain. Some sections are very steep and rocky,others just steep.There was water running in Middle Percha for maybe a mile and a half. A small spring was running where the trail follows a side gulch, a tiny bit of water flowed at the head of Carbonate Creek and there was just a couple of inches of water in the much shrunken Hillsboro Lake. Other than Middle Percha none of these sources of water can be considered reliable year round.
 I was more aware of the few, but great views at several intervals  this time along this trail: back towards Kingston and Caballo Mountains, north across the upper valleys of Carbonate and Mineral Creeks, and all the way to Vicks Peak and San Mateo Mountains. There are a lot of dead and dying trees in Black Range due to the prevailing drought conditions,but there are new ones slowly replacing them.Perhaps fewer fir,spruce and deciduous oak now,but the Gila in its flux goes wildly on.          IMPORTANT UPDATE(9/21/2015): This hike is within the Silver Fire burn area and may  have vastly different conditions than described here. Check with the Forest Service.Driving  beyond the third stream crossing on FR 40E is not advisable for most vehicles and drivers. There is no parking, the stream crossings are steep and filled with large boulders, and eventually,sections of the road are completely missing.  Don't get caught in the thick gravel with a flat unable to turn around.  Parking and starting further back may make this a longer hike by 2 or more miles( up to maximum of 12 if you forego the road altogether and just start in Kingston).

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