Monday, October 12, 2015
Lower Zinker Canyon ( FT5660,FT 5660A)-Lincoln National Forest
Last year, we hiked the upper part of the Zinker Canyon trail,after visiting the Wofford Lookout and cabins(we couldn't go up the tower or go in the renovated cabins,although supposedly they will be for rent in the future). This year we went to the lower trailhead. We drove out on County Road C-7 which was very close to the cabin we were staying at in the Wimsatt neighborhood. It took us up Dry Canyon, over the ridge, and down Spud Patch Canyon to NM 244, which we crossed to drive a short ways on FR 405 to the parking area and trailhead. After a little nerve racking game of chase with our puppy Nessie, we headed off down the road,which is gated and officially closed now, so it can be considered part of the trail.
It was another gray, damp day. Last year, the fall colors were absolutely stunning and peaking on this very same weekend. Now, it was different story. The aspens were green, green yellow, a dull yellow or as was the case in this canyon, mostly on the ground. Rocky Mountain maples were here and there on the edges of the meadow,but were almost entirely green as were the oaks. It may be the peak is delayed,but more likely the continued wet weather is the culprit for this year's lackluster autumn color.
About a mile in is the old trailhead sign( when the road was still open). There was a grass covered road(FT 5660 A, I believe) branching to the left,but we continued straight until we reached our turnaround point from last year.
On the way back we used that branching road( now on our right), walking up it as it ran along the edge of a tributary meadow, until reaching an old trick tank that once provided water for wildlife but now was in need of renovation.We ate here, where a sign had been posted on an old fallen fir, pine or spruce labeling it the"Napping Tree."
We crossed over the ridge(north) although the old road continued along up beside the meadow, into another tributary canyon. Supposedly, according to the map, there was the continuation of FT 5660A,but it was not readily visible so we walked down the middle of the grassy canyon all the way back to the main trail in Zinker proper. Along the way we checked out many potential Christmas trees, and decided that this would be great place to come and cut one this year.
Given its proximity to Cloudcroft, this canyon has wonderfully remote feeling to it. On this day, the tall drooping moss covered conifers seemed dreary and even a bit ominous. The whole place had the feel of some other part of the country,perhaps West Virginia or the Pacific Northwest, but not sunny New Mexico.It started to rain a bit harder just as we were getting close to the truck.