Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Upper Benson Canyon loop hike( FT 5005,5005A,5006)- Lincoln National Forest

  Seamus and I did this hike this past Sunday( 8/30/15).  I had hiked a sort-of loop on the bottom end of Benson Canyon at the beginning of the month and now wanted to see want the upper half looked like. These three trails all have a heavy use rating by the Forest Service,but on this particular  late summer Sunday afternoon, we saw only one couple on foot and no vehicular traffic whatsoever. Saturdays may be a different story. Holiday weekends will almost certainly be busy.
 The sky between the clouds was a washed out blue as we started steeply down the aspen lined trail. Although the mud wasn't too bad  I could see how it could be problematic in this section of the trail with even a light rain fall. This beginning quarter mile or so is also rather steep, so combined with muddy conditions the whole enterprise could become treacherous. But it really wasn't for us and soon the forest  opened up into park-like area with tall evergreen timber. These were the huge bent over conifers I'm always glad to see in the Lincoln. The stream bed was dry here and Seamus and I forewent the road to follow a cow path alongside it. We came to where trail 5005A  takes off to the southeast,but continued on. I wanted to make it at least to Delworth Spring before turning back. A little farther down, the road made a big bend away from the valley. We stayed on the cow path and soon entered a huge  green meadow. This was the prettiest spot along the upper end of Benson Canyon.Wildflowers and amaranth were dying back. Aspens on the edges had a hint of yellow. Summer was rapidly fading up here in the mountains at 9000 feet.

The road came back in from the east and just below it is where the springs that give flow to the tiny creek emerged. We followed the creek,instead of the road, through a very narrow forested section of the valley. Seamus drank and cooled himself in the waters. Where the valley opened again, there was the remnant of a very small cabin, now grown over with thistle. A short  ways down along the flowing stream was an old corral as well. Beyond that I could see where the road crossed the valley again, which is also close to where I turned back on my hike up the canyon a month ago. We hiked on elk trail up the hillside and connected with the road and now headed back.


We cut up the valley again to avoid the section of road that detours up the hillside and out of sight. We then headed southeast on FT 5005A( Benson Canyon Spur). This was mostly level walking along an old rail bed through a young forest. In a little less than a mile we were at the intersection with FT 5006, the Benson Canyon/ Bluff Springs Trail. This signage at this intersection seemed a little bit confusing at first, but with the help of compass, and the knowledge that I did not want to go towards Bluff Springs, we were, after a drink, snack and a rest, off in the right direction.This trail was another road, still in good enough shape for larger vehicles, but designated for those less than 50 inches wide.We began climbing and soon were at an open ridge area with nice views down FT 5007C towards Bluff Springs and Rio Penasco Valley. We continued climbing until reaching the trailhead and FR 5007. At the intersection with FR 223 we encountered the herd of ornery cows that we had been hearing bellowing and car horns being honked at. I've never had problems when I've been hiking by myself,but there's something about my dog, or dogs in general, that gets the hackles up on this Lincoln NF beeves.One squinty eyed black cuss trotted a few steps towards us before changing his mind. The others wouldn't take their eyes off of us. When I have my pup with me, I don't take my eyes off of them. If you think they won't charge when you're back is turned, think again, because it's happened to me over at Monument Canyon.
It was downhill now for the short walk back to the truck. We arrived about three minutes before the rain started. This was a pretty easy 6 mile hike. I wouldn't really recommend the loop, unless you're someone who just likes loops. FT 5005A and FT 5006 are just  road walking and not particularly charming. We passed several overgrown old rail beds and roads that would make for more interesting exploration for the traveler on foot.

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