Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumphouse Ridge Trail 3 (FT 5661F)- Lincoln National Forest

After the Wayland Canyon debacle, we decided to find something a little closer to our rental cabin in Cloudcroft. I did little investigating using my MacGPS pro software and found the several trails that branch off FR 5661 just southeast of Cloudcroft.  They are known as Pumphouse  Ridge Trails 1-5.  Trail numbers for some unknown reason are 5661C,5661D, 5661F, 5661H, and 5661Q. Don't ask me why. There may be some logic to Forest Service trail and road numbering, I've penetrated it only slightly, and may one day investigate more thoroughly, but for now just accept it.
  Most of these trails are short( under 2 miles) and are basically old logging roads. They are open to all uses except for ATVs. Forest Service rates their use as light. I chose 5661F which would be a little over 5 miles round trip and would  make a  nice back before lunch hike. Reaching the trailhead from Cloudcroft took about 15 minutes. We drove a short ways on NM 130 and then took the turn-off for the Aspen, Black Bear and Sleepy Grass Campground( FR 24B). The paved road turns to the gravel FR 5661. In about 3 or 4 miles we began seeing trail signs for 5661C and D and shortly after our destination 5661F.
  The hiking is easy and mostly level on this wide 2 track that meanders just below ridge line through a thinned conifer forest that sports the occasional oak tree for variety. It's also pretty open, so I wouldn't recommend it  for a warm summer afternoon. There were occasional views down to the meadows and ranches of Cox Canyon and over  to the  patches of golden aspens on the high ridges to the south. There are several unofficial ATV trails that come up steeply to the road, and a couple of roads branch uphill off to camping areas as well.  The trail "ends" at flat area about 2 1/2 miles in. There is a fence and private property sign off to the south.  Actually the trail obviously continues as an unofficial and perhaps illegally created ATV trail that makes  a very steep pitch through the pines to the valley below. This was a pleasant hike even if the scenery wasn't particularly great. We saw several deer. Stellar's Jays, nuthatches,  and juncos, flew from tree to tree while woodpeckers hammered away and ravens talked and talked. As with many trails in the Lincoln, it's fun to look down  from time to time to check out the limestone bedrock and trailside boulders for fossils. Upon returning, we collected some firewood before returning to Cloudcroft to lunch at the Western Bar.

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