Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Holy Ghost Trail (FT 283)- Pecos Wilderness

 I'd had a great day of fishing here 5 years ago, but now we were returning to soak up some Fall color and the forest's "good tidings." I had gotten some misinformation on the Santa Fe National Forest's web site that the trail to Spirit Lake ran 3.3 miles from the end of  FR 122( the road to the Holy Ghost Campground). There was no trail like that on the map, just the roundabout route using the Winsor Trail( FT 254).  All along the hike I was hoping there would some sort of cut-off,use trail, or something that took a direct route to the lake, but no such path materialized. It would have been better to  have researched the thing a little more,  but I didn't have any of my books, or my Alltopo software. I might have dug a little deeper on the internet, but sometimes I just leave things sort of open- ended.  I don't know why. Particularly, since I am frequently more meticulous in my planning.As it turns out, there was a very useful, if slightly dated, book- Dayhikes in  Santa Fe Area- put together by local Sierra Club members that had excellent information on many nearby hikes and the lowdown on the Spirit Lake hike, right there in our rental house. Problem was my wife found it there on the bookshelf only after we had returned from our the hike.
 Anyway, we took the actual trail( instead of walking through the camping area) from the parking  lot, which immediately took us high above and out of sight of the campground. It wound around and up and down a couple of side  drainages and then brought us out just beyond the group camp site  and the terminus of  FR 122C. Now we hiked mostly along the creek which  was flowing,but obviously low, crossing it several times. After  a ways the trail stayed high above the creek and only came down for the occasional crossing. There are some long  fairly level stretches punctuated with several short, steep climbs. When the trail finally leaves the creek at over three miles in, it becomes very steep indeed. We finally reached a small open meadow at the top the ridge and the junction with the Winsor Trail (FT 254) which became our turn around point. There was no indication there of the mileage to Spirit Lake,but I later found out that it was 3 miles distant from that juncture, and that Stewart Lake was actually much closer.

 The aspens were at their absolute peak. There  were also oaks, ivy, sumac,box elder and ash to add to the palette. It was spectacular, and unlike our drive up the Ski Basin road the previous day, there weren't hordes of people everywhere. We only saw two other groups of hikers. Round trip distance was probably between 8.5 and 9 miles. Elevation gain was between 1800- 2000 feet( but there is quite a bit of up and down). We saw deer early on and heard elk in the distance. My Scottie Seamus was practicing  being bird dog, flushing tiny ground birds from the brush when he wasn't on trail of squirrel. He even rousted  what I believe was a grouse along the trail which got all our hearts beating. The winds blew, but never to distraction. We were free to contemplate the  deep blue sky, the sunshine in the aspen leaves  and the sound of the clear mountain brook.

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