Thursday, July 30, 2015
Rice Park,Zuni Mountains- Cibola National Forest
After passing by Bluewater Lake, I got a notion to drive out to Rice Park on FR 569. I wasn't sure what to expect but some maps showed a large man made lake in this area. I had also read about a hike in Sawyer Creek which is nearby that sounded nice. I thought I could hike down the Rice Park tributary of Sawyer Creek and maybe up Sawyer Creek itself at least for a little ways.
FR 569 is an excellent road, though not very scenic as it traverses a dry, rocky, somewhat monotonous pinon woodland. Arriving at Rice Park however was worth it. This is a beautiful open "park" area lush with grasses and wildflowers,rimmed by low hills of deep green pines.
At first we drove past the park on the road that continues toward Lookout Mountain. This road quickly deteriorated and we backtracked to the junction with FR 421. There isn't a lot signage out here, so we took off to the north on a dubious looking set of tracks in the grass. At a fork we went to left and ended up at a Ducks Unlimited project with several earthen dams and mounds that has created some small ponds for wildlife. I parked the truck and we began walking in the direction of the Rice Park Dam. I soon realized that the other fork would have taken me right up to the dam, and wished I had driven it because it was approaching the noon hour and walking across this open area was getting to be rather hot for me and especially for the entirely black Seamus. Still, it was beautiful and the perfume from the myriad of flowers was quite heady( I kept thinking of Dorothy in the field of poppies).
We made it down to the dam where there was a small bit water behind it with a few waterfowl paddling about. Closer investigation revealed that the entire area from the upper dams where we started, all the way down to this point was actually a marshy stream or lake. Seamus got in several times but couldn't figure out if he should drink or not.
We went over the dam and sat in shade of the pines and ate lunch. There was no water in the stream here and it seemed too hot for Seamus to embark on what looked to be dry hike( I carry water for him to drink, but he really needs water to get in to keep himself cool). So we headed back to the truck, taking advantage of the shady tree lined road at least for part of the way.All in all, not exactly what I had wanted to happen, but I wouldn't have missed seeing this place at the height of its summer beauty.