Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gobbler Knob Trail ( FT 236) - Lincoln National Forest

The hardest part of this trail was getting there. It took us a solid hour driving on the West Side Road ( FR 90) to get from High Rolls to the trailhead.  The road conditions were definitely worse than when I drove out looking for this trailhead back in the Spring. That factor probably added at least 10 to 15 minutes to the driving time. That trip back in early May, I gave up before I made it to the trailhead and ended up backtracking to the Upper San Andres trailhead where I embarked on loop hike using the Heart Attack Trail to come down the mountain( see my May 11, 2014 blog about it). You may have guessed by now that this one of the most remote official trails in the Sacramento District of the Lincoln NF.
    We started our hike at the signed trailhead( with  very limited parking) heading west on the old jeep road. In  short ways there is a ROAD CLOSED sign and a guardrail that blocks vehicle traffic. The foot path goes to left ( the south side). There are numerous berms through this next section. The forest service has gone greater than usual lengths to prevent vehicle traffic on this trail that is now designated hiking and horseback riding only. It seems to be working. We saw horse and human prints, but no tire tracks. In some places evidence of the old road, which is now the  trail  we were following, was mostly invisible in the high grass. The occasional worn down berm, or one of those brown masonite trail markers kept us on course though. There are no tree blazes.  A couple of trails  spurred off to the west, perhaps to water sources I speculated,because the most recent horse traffic obviously went  off that way, and did not continue on to the Knob.
    The hike is through the pinon-juniper forest that covers the  long but narrow shelf that lies some 2000 feet down from the firs, aspens and meadows  of the high ridges of the Sacramentos. This much drier terrain, more similar in character to much of the forest in the Gila continues for several horizontal miles until abrubtly terminating in the massive cliffs , that appear to form a veritable wall towering of the desert on the east side of Alamogordo.
 We walked along the wide forest path. Gambel oaks in their fall color relieved  the visual  monotony  of the pinons and junipers. Early on, there were many sandstone boulders along the road, a relative rarity in the limestone dominated Sacramentos. Their reddish hue reminding me of sandstone I'd seen in eastern Texas. Just as in Texas, it gave the dirt a deep red color. As the trail turned southwest, we started to climb, through high grass and over the gray limestone bedrock. As with other hikes in the Sacramento District , it's always fun to  take a look down every once in awhile. Fossils in the rock are everywhere. I began to wonder if we should have been leaving some Reese's Pieces on our trail, just as I saw the last of the brown masonite markers indicating a turn to the west. We climbed a small hill and came to large open area which sits just below the top of the "knob."
 Even though the hike was fairly mundane . The views at the top are definitely not.  To south and southwest were the narrow cliffs of a hogback ridge and the massive layered wall of sedimentary rock on the south side of Escondido Canyon. On the southeast we could see the forested ridges transitioning into desert mountains. Directly behind(east) we could see the high ridge and white buildings at the Sunspot Solar Observatory. West and northwest were the Orogrande Mountains and White Sands. Directly in front of us and  close to  2000 feet down was a huge desert plateau, cut by winding arroyos leading to Escondido Canyon. Hazy skies dominated, but I'm sure on clearer days the Organs and San Andres Mountains are easily seen.We lingered a bit, taking photos, enjoying a truly spectacular landscape that few visit or even know exists, which is often the case down here in southern New Mexico.
 On trip out had sunny and just a bit breezy, but as we start to head back , the clouds rolled in making the return walk a bit gloomy. Moments before reaching the truck, the thunder began.
  Although we didn't see much in the way of wildlife on our hike. We did see groups of  deer and turkeys crossing the West Side Road.  Note: if want learn more about the rugged canyons of the Sacramentos, check out imike's contributions to the Hiking Arizona website. I know I became intrigued by possibilities  while reading his wonderfully candid and frequently humorous  trail descriptions.

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