Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Corral Canyon ( FT 537), Sacramento North( FT 5008D) Loop- Lincoln National Forest




I'm going to start with few tips about hiking in the Lincoln National Forest intended to maximize your natural experience and increase your enjoyment of this beautiful area. First, hike on a weekday if you can. Many areas that suffer from being too popular are all but abandoned during the week.  Also, avoid all holiday weekends. You'll be glad you did. Second, if you are up there on the weekend, research the trail you want to hike on the Lincoln's website. There are only a few that are hiking, horseback riding only. These are best if you don't want to deal with mountain bikes, motorcycles or ATVs. If you choose a trail with more open usage, try to pick one where the use is  rated light.
 As I begin to explore the Lincoln even more( due to the fact that the high country of my beloved Black Range of the Gila NF has  severely burned) especially the Sacramento District, I'll be offering more of these sage tidbits.
 For this loop, I parked at the lower Corral Canyon Trailhead, little more that a wide spot along Otero County Road C2 also know as the Sacramento Canyon Road. It's was a quiet stroll up a narrow 2 track, shaded by huge fir trees, mixed with aspen. There were some stumps along the way that attested to the fact of that  there were some even larger trees in days gone by. One of them was  over 4 feet in diameter.The gradient is steady here, but not oppressive as with my hike several weeks ago.There is one switchback which took us out of the ravine where the trail stayed all the way to the top.
       At the top, I thought briefly about heading south to the Thousand Mile Canyon Trail which the sign indicated was 2 miles away. I didn't really know what the lower distance  back to the car would be and I didn't want to finish my hike with an uphill trudge,so  we began walking to the north on FR 64( Agua Chiquita Road) .This is one of the two highest elevation ridges in the Sacramentos( the other is Benson Ridge). It was delightfully cool at over 9,600 feet. As with my San Andres/ Heart Attack loop, the upper road walking was pleasant and easy. There are beautiful meadow areas  and  a few nice places to pull off to picnic or camp. I tried not to let the extreme dryness of the terrain bother me too much,but I did imagine these same meadow areas wet and luxuriant with long grass as they have been and hopefully will be soon. In about a mile I came to the Sacramento North trailhead which has a pretty camping area, We walked down this much less shady and much less scenic two track which eventually follows a wide, open gully with power lines running through it back down to the paved county road. As with my San Andres/ Heart Attack loop this last leg of road walking was the least enjoyable part of the hike. We stayed on the west side of the road,hiking in the long grassy gully that is the( dry) headwaters of Sacramento Creek( sometimes called Sacramento River, an altogether unfitting name at this point in time). Seamus was not happy about the  several clusters of cows we encountered. The lack of shade was not helping either. This lower section of the hike was also longer than the upper by about 3/4 of  a mile as well, we made it back, me a little sunburned, Seamus dry and tired , but  both of us in good shape.  As it  turns out it's only 1.2 miles down the road from Corral  Canyon on  County Road C2 to the trail head for Thousand Mile Canyon. Starting there and going up and then coming back down Corral Canyon would make a much better loop. The upper leg on FR 64 would be about 2 miles.  Perhaps I'll try it later in the Summer or in the Fall


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