Friday, July 31, 2015

Rito Angostura Trail( FT 493)- Carson National Forest



I'll start by telling you the not so good things about this hike. First,  after not having the easiest time finding the  trail head parking off 518(  although it wasn't hard in reality, just a lack of focus to blame) I didn't particularly  like walking along Forest Road 89 for nearly a mile before getting to the actual trail. If I have to road walk, I prefer to do it as the last leg or a middle section of a loop. Doing it at the beginning of a hike set the wrong tone especially in this case where it wasn't very scenic and there was a fair amount of traffic.
 There are many, many dead trees now along the creek and the trail. So many in fact, that the trail, which we  got on a bit late at 10:30, is very open to the sun. This is not good thing on a sunny July day even at altitudes over 9.000 feet. We were hot. It may be better to start much earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon, or during another season,although the wildflowers seem to be at their best  at the height of summer.   In addition  the trail quickly took us out of sight and earshot of the creek, which at least would have kept our spirits cool.The dead trees may be due to the double whammy of prolonged drought conditions  coupled with the  continued water removal high up the creek for an irrigation ditch.
 Past the last stream crossing of the main fork, and the meadow area with it's vast piles of cut but never used trees , the upper section of the hike follows a stagnant slough,  so you get just as many bugs, but without the pleasant sights and sounds of a flowing stream. The trail climbs at a modest, but unrelenting, grade through a less than enchanting forest of  second growth conifers
  I had been hoping to make this hike a loop and follow  Forest Trail 19A back down to the Cutoff Trail 9A. We couldn't find the upper end of 19 A. The signs that were there didn't help. After we had trudged all the way to the ditch crossing. We gave up. There were a few dubious looking  paths that we looked down from the old road, but nothing looked all that promising. So it was back the way we came, a disappointment for sure.

Ok, on to the good stuff. The stream had a prodigious flow. It was much more water than I expected for a "rito." In the few areas of calm water upstream, I could see the orange bellies of fat little cutthroat trout, which made me happy. The rito, flowing over slate-like limestone, had distinctly non-New Mexico look to it as if it belong somewhere in the Appalachians. The flat tiers of a lovely cascade and a  seven or eight foot waterfall close to trail were the highlights. There were many springs flowing over the trail in these section  as well, including  one that made a set of twin waterfalls flowing off a forested cliff a hundred feet above us.  They made for muddy walking, but I always like seeing springs- the more the merrier.  There were tasty wild strawberries where we ate  our lunch. I was hoping for some raspberries as well,but unfortunately the most abundant berry was the bitter tasting twinberry. There are several more waterfalls downstream from the second crossing in the narrow passage or " angostura." I made brief attempt to get down to them. Walking in the swift stream was not a option. Neither was plowing my way through lush undergrowth( due to the lack of conifer canopy, I'm sure) and shin bruising hidden downfall( which I did try). So I retreated. Before the trail descends to that second crossing. There is an unofficial sign with the word "FALLS" pointing toward a  ridiculously steep path in the loose dirt and gravel on the hillside. We didn't take it,but  this is probably the preferred option these days for getting to them. I looked longingly over the precipice, where the falls can be heard but not seen in the slightest.

 I would come back here,but  I would definitely not hike the whole trail again. Ever. Turning around at the falls area or at the meadow with the abandoned lumber would get you the highlights without the drudgery.

 Note: there are even more waterfalls and perhaps better hiking along the West Fork Rito Angostura, although it looks like the trail only intermittently follows the stream there as well, so to see them you might need to do a little scrambling and bushwhacking. If you want to see what the falls at the little slot canyon look like, here's a link to friend Doug Scott's website:

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