Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Wilmeth Canyon,Sacramento Mountains- Lincoln National Forest

     Wilmeth Canyon is a tributary to  Dark  Canyon. It is similar in size and appearance to the upper reaches of Dark Canyon above their confluence. I hiked Dark Canyon back in May, and at that time, I became intrigued by the idea of doing a Dark Canyon,Wilmeth Canyon loop. I still haven't made that a reality,but I did get to hike Wilmeth Canyon recently.  We started out, 5 people, 4 dogs, including  our new Scottie puppy, Nessie, on only her second hike, from the end of the road in Dark Canyon and then after less than a half mile angled left into Wilmeth.It's a beautiful place, as lovely and wild as Dark Canyon. The grass was thick and high,as were the last of the blooming thistles. Hillsides covered with second growth firs, spruces and pines. Occasionally there was a larger diameter conifer right in the valley, but it was easy to tell from the many wide stumps on the steep canyon sides that this area had been logged, just like almost every other valley in the Sacramentos . Mosses made the north facing hillsides green and slick, while the south facing ones were stony and gray with the build up of pine needles. There were oaks along edges of the meadow and  a very few boxelder and maple, but almost no aspen to speak of , although there was one very mature grove of locust trees where the leaves were already beginning to turn yellow.
We  followed cow trails when we could, and early on when sun emerged from behind the clouds, began to despair of reaching the springs to cool our dogs off. But we persevered and reached them. First, they were rushing from puddles through the dense grasses. Further up, where the valley narrowed, were sections with an actual  rocky stream bed with  and tiny waterfalls. Beyond this idyllic scene where we rested in the shade of young conifers, the valley opened up again into a huge area of wet meadows.

Raven's wings could be heard flapping above us much of time. We rousted a hawk from his perch just over our heads and watched him fly and float down the canyon. Deer bolted across the trail in front of us on our return and elk sign was everywhere. On the previous day a turkey hen with her 10 or 12 progeny trailing behind crossed the valley in front of us near the confluence with Dark Canyon.
     Watching the clouds cover up all of the blue,we wisely turned around after a little less than 2 miles or so.  It was wisely,because, within about 3 minutes after our return, it began to pour.
Back in May, I speculated on the idea of wilderness area centering on Dark Canyon. After venturing into its companion canyon, Wilmeth, I'm even more convinced of the validity of this.
NOTE: There is no public access, without permission of landowners, to the " trailhead"  at the end of the Dark Canyon Road( FR 232) that allowed us to hike Wilmeth Canyon from its lower end. It can be accessed from above on the Benson Ridge Road (FR 223 ), FT 5700( Dark Canyon Trail),  and  FR 232D . One can also just walk down  Dark Canyon until reaching Wilmeth where there are the remains of an old barbed wire corral.

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