Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Serpent Lake- Pecos Wilderness- Carson National Forest

 I wanted to do one forest hike while we stayed at a vacation rental along the Rio Grande in Rinconada. I thought about the Trampas Lakes again- hoping to make it to the lakes this time- but it seemed just too long( 12 miles roundtrip). I dug out this obscure one from Lawrence Parent's Hiking New Mexico at the last minute. It wasn't as long, although the description of distances in the book is not accurate, and hopefully not as rough of a trail as the San Leonardo Lakes hike that we did 2 years ago. It wasn't a particularly bad trail as it turned out, although  final descent to the lake  left something to be desired because of snow drifts and a trail that was more of use path.
    When we first got out of the car in the large parking area, after a 4 or 5 mile drive on FR 161 which  is a good gravel road and can be driven by sedans in dry conditions, the wind was already getting pretty outrageous.  It felt a little raw and cold, as we were already at considerable altitude( 10,000 feet). W started walking on the trail, which initially  is just a continuation of the road. Dandelions along the grassy  hillside gave me a sunny feeling despite the wind,but one look at the aspens which were still in their budding stage let me know that spring had not even fully arrived on the north facing side of this mountain. Many of the douglas fir and spruce were dead and dying at this elevation. It wasn't until we were getting close to 12,000 feet was there a  healthy looking,green forest.
       The trail crosses many small rills and springs, as well as following and then crossing a  larger ditch diversion( twice) for which log "bridges" were rovided for our convenience. There was plenty of water for our dogs,but later in the summer before the rains  start ,water availability could be a problem until one reaches the lake. As we made our way up steeply we began to realize the distances as described were not right. Despairing a little,our spirits were lifted to see the well carved upon Pecos Wilderness sign and then a short while later the very new  sign pointing to Serpent Lake. There was no path to see as we continued downhill through the snowdrifts following some fairly recent footprints. We caught sight of the high ridges and the lake and quickly thereafter found the slightly treacherous route down to the bottom.
       The wind hadn't really been a factor while we  were in the forest except to hear it constantly blowing through tops of the trees. Now, in the open  country around the lake there was nothing to stop it. No stranger to wind, living here in southern New Mexico, I estimated the  gusts at at least 70 mph.  We had our Scotties with us. They are low to the ground, stout dogs, and it was moving them around.  We sat amongst some low trees, in a vain hope they would provide a respite from the wind, ate our lunch hurriedly, took our pictures and  then skedaddled  up the hill and back into the shelter of the forest. What a contrast to other hikes we've made to alpine lakes,where we were so reluctant to leave  the pleasures of basking in the beauty and serenity of our surroundings.The trip back was uneventful, but long. We made jokes about the 4 seasons of New Mexico- Winter, Wind, Fire and Fall.All told this hike is a little over 8 miles roundtrip. 

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