We started at the Scott Able trailhead. The names of these two trails are a little misleading. The Scott Able trail merely starts in Scott Able Canyon but quickly departs, never to return. The Spiller Canyon trail is not in Spiller Canyon but in a smaller parallel drainage to the north.
The stream was flowing nicely in the middle of the now wide gravel wash.The canyon is recovering slowly from the ravages of flooding. The many box elders that lined the banks had a dull yellow tint.After crossing the stream, we had yet another episode of puppy chasing after dropping her leash. Seamus, who was off leash, was having a grand time, happy that I was running with him. I like the Scott Able trail. It's a shady old road in relatively young forest( perhaps it was one of the last areas to be extensively logged) of pine and fir, that gains elevation gradually as it cuts in and out of drainages along the mountainside.
In places moss grew thickly on the road cut. Down below us I could see large maples and oaks growing on the steep hillside,but they were just as green as they were in summer.We passed the down hill leg( FT 9201) of our hike,which only has a small brown carsonite sign marking and is easy to walk right by. Here there were many bigtooth maples. A few even had some color. Further along,we came to nice little plateau area where we stopped and rested a bit. The trail beyond went downhill and seemingly in the wrong direction. Don't overthink it if you go.Stay on the obvious old road. We passed some grassy, gentle little valleys below. Above us,was a recovering burn area filled with scrubby oak, locust and a few survivor pines.
At one outward bend we spied a herd of at least 10 elk, including two males. Some were resting in the tall grass. Some were snacking on it. We were very quiet, but they got up slowly and quietly moved away. Luckily, my elk chaser Seamus was on a leash on that point. Shortly afterwards the views opened up along the trail. Looking up,there were hillsides covered with brushy oak and other shrubs. Looking out and down to the south was a long valley and far-off rounded mountains, all deep green with well watered conifers.
We turned around and headed back to the Spiller trail. The initial little descent into the Spiller Canyon is steep and rocky, but after that it's a pleasant little walk(at least if you go downhill) in a narrow little half-pipe with overarching maples,oaks and even the occasional ash lining the stream bed, with well spaced pines along the steep hillsides. This is a very rustic trail for the Sacramentos. There is no evidence of any vehicle use( ATVs are not allowed on either trail,but motorcycles and bikes are). If it was ever a road, it has been a very long time since. There isn't even a foot trod path. I felt like I could have been on a trail in a cove or hollow int the Appalachians or maybe somewhere in the Adirondacks where I spent many a summer as a child. I happily found at least little bit more fall color in the form of a few maples with fiery crowns. We also saw deer.
Even though it was only a mile back to the Sacramento River Road and our car, it took us a little longer than expected. Despite the occasional rocky stretches, it was time pleasantly spent ambling this grass covered gully in the mountains. Getting close to the road, it was a tiny bit confusing which way to proceed in the open grass bottomed forest,but the trail exits to the north, where we crossed the dry Sacramento River.
Spiller Canyon trail is 25 miles south of Cloudcroft and is reached via NM 130, NM 6563 and County Road 2 ( Sacramento River Road). There is only a small pullout for parking. Scott Able trailhead is a little over a mile away to the northeast on FR 460( Scott Able Road).