Monday, October 13, 2014

Forest Road 437( Potato Canyon)- Lincoln National Forest

Meadow in the upper end of Potato Canyon
 I had decided that I wanted to  hike the Wayland Canyon Trail( FT 433). The reason being, it is one of the very few trails in the Lincoln NF that  is for foot and horse travel only. I had hiked the  beautiful Monument Canyon Trail ( also foot and horse travel only) last fall and was hoping for a similar experience. Using the directions on the Lincoln National Forest website, and my topo map software, we confidently headed out to find the lower trailhead on Forest Road 437( off of FR 64 a few miles west of Sacramento,NM). Nothin' doin.'  No sign for a trail head. No indication of a trail where it ought to be. I continued on driving on  FR 437 up Potato  Canyon hoping, but mostly knowing I wasn't going to find it.
  At the intersection of FR 437 and FR 437A,   we continued on FR 437 as it left the canyon and took us  up on the high ridge in between Potato Canyon and Pepper Canyon. On top, it was a bleak landscape. Snags left from the Scott Able Fire rising starkly from weeds and scrubby shrubs. No  replacement evergreens as far as the eye could see, even though this fire happened 13 years ago. Down in Pepper Canyon there were patches of fall color,most likely bushy maples and box elders. We passed  a small brown " 433" sign before the road descended to the upper end of Potato Canyon, which  had not been burnt. We  parked the truck, got out and began walking down the canyon, as the weather began to bluster. We were met shortly( perhaps a 1/2 mile down the canyon) thereafter with a fence and a no trespassing sign, so we  returned to  the vehicle.
 Back up on the ridge, we investigated the road labeled  433 , walking a short ways before  it disappeared in the weeds, rocks and scrub. The dark gray skies, and the increasing wind made the  thousands of acres of snag covered hills seem even more ominous, so rather than search for the upper trail head  for Wayland Canyon we drove back down.
 We drove up FR 64 back down at the  bottom but the only clue we found regarding the Wayland Canyon Trail was  sign on a green fence saying " Private Property No Wayland Access." Disappointed, we gave up and went looking for a picnic spot, which we found on Forest Road 258 near its intersection with Forest Road 564. We then enjoyed the drive over the ridge on a good county gravel roads (  Otero D19 and D17), which brought us to Wills Canyon and then  back to NM 130.
  Back at the rental cabin I did some searches for Wayland Canyon, only finding out  about the destruction of many homes in the canyon during the Scott Able Fire in 2001 and little else. I'm thinking perhaps the trail may have been obliterated back then, but I'm not sure. I 'm wandering why the the Forest Service would continue to have the trail on its website if it is not signed(everything has sign in the Lincoln now) and no longer seems to  be accessible or viable. I spoke to the fellow at the information desk at the Cloudcroft Ranger Station,but he had no idea about it either. He only offered that if it didn't appear on the latest Lincoln NF Vehicle Use Map then it probably was  no longer there( although it is a foot trail and not for vehicles so perhaps it would not appear on this map anyway). If anyone knows anything about this trail , please let  me know. Note: FR 437 gets very rough past the point where we parked. We drove for little way before smartly deciding to quickly turn around. Here is a link to awesome website  for information on Sacramento District trails regarding Wayland Canyon trail. I have not  gone back to test these directions for access,but this site is reliable.
http://lincoln-nf-trails.org/Trails/Sacramento/S-Trail-Pages/T433.html

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