I squeaked in this hike last Wednesday after taking care of some business in Alamogordo. I grabbed a cheeseburger( with velveeta, mmm) , chips and some water at the Allsups in Cloudcroft and headed out for the forest. I had intended to start at the upper trailhead for Benson Canyon on FR 223,but ended up driving down the Pensasco Road( FR 164) to the lower one. The falls at Bluff Spring were doing fine and the Rio Penasco flowed over the tall grass past campsites and houses.
There was only room for one ( maybe two if they're small) cars along the road at the trailhead, unless we were to drive up the trail a little ways. Only a sign at the entrance specifically prohibits vehicles greater than 50 inches wide.
There was still a few patches of blue sky when I started out but, I knew it wouldn't be too long before it was pouring. I kept a real steady pace with the trail as it went up and up. At times it was on a old railroad grade, but at others I could see the the flat railroad bed above us on the hillside. Early on there was a spring tumbling down the hillside. A little further still, and the limestone gravel stream bed had some flow to it so I left the trail to find Benson Spring. This one is piped into a concrete trough, but the hillside above was soggy with seeps.
I can't say that I like this canyon as much as some of the others I've visited in the Sacramentos. Perhaps it was a little too narrow, so it seemed to be all road. Maybe it needed some more older growth trees Perhaps this lower section needed a little more shade. It was a cloudy cool day so it wasn't a problem, but it also made the whole enterprise seem a little dreary.
At a big horseshoe bend in the trail, we left the valley for the ridge. If I had had time , I would have most likely stayed in the valley, now absent of any streambed, all the way to the top. We quickly reached the intersection with the Benson Canyon South trail( FT 5005 B), and I made a spur of the moment decision to take it back rather than retracing my footsteps. This trail winds along the ridge above Benson Canyon. It was mostly level walking which was nice, but it obviously receives significant motorized use, so even though it had a rustic feel,because I was completely alone, I could imagine what the place was like on a busy weekend.
At an open meadow area with some stout white pines and Gambel oaks, the first clap of very near thunder sounded. Since it seemed that the trail was taking me in the direction of the lightning and rain. I made another spur of the moment decision and turned to the northeast and now went cross country towards( I hoped) my truck.
At first we passed an open camping area, and then walked through a beautiful grove of mature aspens with wildflowers at their feet.
From that point , I followed some good game trails. I was hoping to make it back to Benson Canyon itself,but soon stood on the precipice of the much larger Rio Penasco Canyon. I was surprised at how high above the canyon I was and it was very quick work indeed going down the hillside to the road, where I could see my red truck less than a half mile away. I got off the roadway and followed the little rio, with its fields of giant thistle all the way back.
|humble beginning of a famous New Mexico trout stream|
|reminiscent of an Appalachian hollow|