Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bear Trap Canyon- Cibola National Forest

We set out on a cold, misty October morning from our  camp on West Red Canyon to check out two( of four total)  of the " official" campgrounds of the San Mateo Mountains in Bear Trap Canyon: Hughes Mill and Bear Trap. We were still on FR 478 not far from its intersection with NM 52, when we saw small,old, tan pickup  headed the other direction, stopped and pouring steam out from under the hood. We stopped and I got out and talked  to the old couple( at least in their 70's and maybe a bit more) inside the truck. They had been on their way to church in Winston( about 20 miles to the south) when the truck started over heating- so they decided to head back to their  ranch( a couple of miles back on FR 478). Looking under the hood,we may have added some of our water to the radiator.I talked a bit to them about what might be wrong( it was over heating,but the heater was blowing cold) and then let them go on their way, and we went on ours.
  I hadn't driven very far, probably just to the end of FR 478, when my wife and I looked at each other and I knew we both thought they weren't  going to make it. We turned  around, and sure enough about a mile from where we left them  they were stopped. The truck had given up on a little hill. We loaded our big dog in the  way back of our truck . Put the couple in the back seat. Put the little dog in the front seat and we went on our way back to their ranch house. It  wasn't very far, probably only a mile or two, and  if they had been younger and and the wife not so obviously infirm, and if it hadn't have been  raining and in upper 30's- they might have been able to walk it. At the ranch their many dogs came out to greet us (and our dogs). Their son came out  to help them and hear their story.I looked around the property which had many vehicles on it, and I wondered to myself if the old pickup  was the best possible choice to make the 50 mile round trip to Winston.Well, it was good that we went back. They didn't have a cell phone. There probably wasn't service out there at that time anyway. They wouldn't have been missed for awhile, it was quite cold and raining, and very,very few people come down  that road.There was a huge a rainbow in the sky as we headed  for our original destination.
 FR 549 is a well maintained road,but as it descends into Bear Trap Canyon it is very narrow. So much so that it gave us pause to the idea of ever bringing the trailer down there, at least via this route. It  could be done, but it might be best to station someone at the bottom to make sure no one was  trying to come up when you're coming down. The canyon  is very scenic with aspens growing  among jagged rocks. There are nice places for dispersed camping among the tall pines along the creek bed. Hughes Mill has big oak trees  and a couple of camping sites and a vault toilet.
Hughes Mill Campground
 FR 549

Upper Bear Trap Canyon
    A little ways up the road is Bear Trap in a grassy area where there are several springs  and a few campsites. We decided to hike along an old road heading east out of Bear Trap Camp. It soon turned in to an indistinct trail, but we continued east and up.We eventually made the ridgeline and FR 138 a short ways north of Mount Withington. The weather had improved and we enjoyed our lunch looking over the east side of the range and  beyond. We started to walk down an old road that seemed to be heading back down hill  and in the direction we had come, but when the weather turned again just as quickly as it had cleared,we headed back for the way we came. It was a good thing we did too , when I later looked at the topo I saw that the road we had tried meandered around on the ridge then headed south and would have brought us out far from where we parked. The rain started, then turned to hail, then to freezing rain, and then finally into a bit of snow as we went steeply down hill. It all blew through fairly quickly and we were able to calm down and make it back to the truck in good spirits.

1 comment:

Michael Clifford said...

Thanks for sharing I was trying to look up information on these sites and there wasnt a lot available.