Wednesday, August 27, 2014
We did a nice hike on the Lucas Canyon Trail this past Sunday. The trailhead is on the Russia Canyon Road ( Otero County Road C-4) a couple of miles from NM 130 ( Cox Canyon Road) and is directly across from the Chippeway Trail which I wrote about back in June. It was so nice to see the Lincoln NF green again as we walked up the canyon. The tiny stream was even flowing, quenching thirsty spruce trees that dotted the grassy meadow. Less than mile up, the trail crosses the stream and follows a small,but wet, ravine on the east side. From this point on the hike would be on the forested ridge above Lucas Canyon and not in the canyon bottom itself. We had our picnic lunch in a small clearing, as one party, consisting of a motorcycle and an ATV drove by without noticing us. This trail is open to all users( motorcyles, ATVs, horses, hikers and bikers), but the Forest Service rates its use as light. I'm tending to believe them because besides the above mentioned group, we only saw one other group of 4 ATVs and one other hiker during our four hour hike. And this was the weekend before the opening day of hunting season. Most likely on a weekday,if you can swing it, you won't see anyone at all. Still,if you want to definitely avoid vehicular traffic altogether there is the option of staying in the canyon bottom. In fact, we saw what I believe to be an old trail sign ( Trail 32 ) and a good cow trail right at that first crossing which continued on along the stream. Maps indicate a section of private property along this route, but it appears to me, after viewing Google Earth that there isn't a cabin or any other structures back there( except something that looks like one of the many old railroad trestles around the forest). If it's fenced there's always the option to hike around.
The upside to the road walking was that it was most likely quite a bit more shady. Even if the ambient temperature is only 70 degrees, the sun at 9,000 feet or so can feel downright hot. We strolled along looking at potential Christmas trees that were sprouting up in the open areas. At over three miles in we followed a wildlife trail down to a tiny spring. We then continued on to large open meadow and relaxed on the grassy bench 30 or 40 feet about the gravelly and dry stream bottom, while grazing cattle and our dog( the intrepid Seamus the Scottie) engaged in staring match. In the meadow grew several huge fir trees more of a size you might associate with colder, wetter climates than southern New Mexico.
We got back on the road after talking to the one hiker we met, but soon turned around and walked back the way we had come to the spring and then to the road. On maps it appears that the trail follows the stream more closely from this point on all the way to it's end point on Benson Ridge. On the way back we did some more off road walking to avoid the above mentioned ATV group and rejoined the road where it makes a sharp turn. Here, there is one of the few large oak trees we saw, and there was also a primitive shelter made of bark and sticks.
Back at the stream crossing, we inspected the several springs that were flowing out of the steep hillside while Seamus drank and got thoroughly muddy. This is a wonderful little trail close to Cloudcroft . In the evergreen branches were Stellar's Jays, while wrens flitted amongst the downfall and nuthatches did their trunk walking trick. I'm sure other wildlife would have evident had we hike earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Even so, it was an enchanting day.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
I returned to the Rio de las Trampas on Tuesday(July 29th,2014). I'd been wanting to get back here after getting a little taste of the fishing 3 years ago. I'm still not sure why this place is completely overlooked by every New Mexico flyfishing guide I own. It's accessible by a good road along its lower reaches in the forest, affording one to the easiest opportunities to catch a wonderfully colorful Rio Grande Cutthroat, our state fish. On the negative side, I suppose, that it is very overgrown,and one needs the full arsenal of small stream tactics and tricks in order catch fish on the fly. Also,judging from the beer cans and other trash at every pullout, and by the fact, that unlike most of the nearby streams and their adjacent campgrounds, there is no fee, this area is definitely tending slightly to abuse and perhaps overfishing as well.
I parked at the lower campground( sometimes called Trampas Diamante on maps) which has a rough road,vault toilet and a picnic table(singular). I started upstream and quickly caught a couple of cutts, the slash under their jaws a brilliant orange. A little further on began a section that is fenced and on official maps is designated private property, although only one small section is posted "No Trespassing". I walked around this area on the road. Beyond a last log cabin along the creek, the fencing and the private tract ended. I marched down to the stream, which at this point is much farther from the road, and began to catch fish in each of the spots that was deep enough for holding trout and where I could get my fly on the water. The largest one ran about 10 inches.
I hiked, stumbled, tumbled and splashed( and caught fish) through thistle and raspberry brambles, over rotten logs and muddy side springs, all the way up to the upper campgrounds( Trampas Medio and Trampas Trailhead) and then made my way back, catching a couple more fish as I went. Although it certainly looked and felt like it could start pouring the entire 5 1/2 hours I was there, only a few drops actually fell just as I got back to the truck. All in all it was great fun. I caught 9 fish, and only one was a guppy. The others were all in the 6 to 10 inch range. I did try a small prince nymph for a short while without luck.The best results were when I was using dull colored dries : Adams, blue winged olives, and elk hair caddis. I did catch one with a royal wulff as well,but a bright orange and yellow humpy didn't rate but a single inspection. I saw a few small hatches( with fish actually feeding on one), and wished I 'd had some Griffith's gnats or midges to match.
This was my first real fishing of the year, and after having only fished once last year, I was worried that my feeling and feel for the whole thing had faded. Not so. It all came right back as I looked down at that first beautiful fish