This past fall we did a shuttle hike using the Scott Able Trail and the Spiller Canyon Trail. The Scott Able Trail only crosses the creek in Scott Able Canyon and then heads up onto the ridge never to return. The Spiller Canyon Trail isn't even in Spiller Canyon at all, but rather in a canyon once removed to the north of what is called Spiller Canyon on maps. The Cathey Canyon Trail( FT 105A) is a similar situation. It's not in Cathey Canyon but actually across the ridge, and it's not in a canyon at all, although it does weave in and out of the uppermost branches of San Andres Canyon.
There is ample parking at the Cathey Vista trailhead off of NM 6563 about 14 miles south of Cloudcroft. We were the only ones there although I could hear campers nearby. It had rained on us as we drove and the car's thermometer read a brisk 59 degrees, but as we continued we drove into blue skies and sun, which was good because we didn't have enough rain gear to go around and I hadn't even bothered to bring a jacket. I didn't miss it. It was gorgeous mountain day for the rest of our trip.
Cathey Canyon Trail is another foot and horse traffic only route. It would definitely be the preferred alternative for someone hiking the Rim Trail, which it parallels slightly to east for close to 2 miles through this section. My plan, which we stuck to, was to do a loop using the Rim Trail as the beginning and ending legs,but a better alternative might be to use the trail head closer to Sunspot and to do out and back on the Cathey Canyon Trail using just a short section of the Rim Trail to begin and end the hike. The parts of Rim Trail we used were really just an old road that was rocky, open and unattractive, especially the leg north from the trail head where there has been cutting and clearing of dead and downed trees in recent times.
Happily the Cathey Canyon Trail itself is a beauty. A rustic footpath winds along a ridge through old growth forest of huge firs and pines. Early it crosses an enchanting little bottom land with large aspens, and enough sun for grass, wildflowers and mountain spray to grow. Near this area we saw the junction for FT 105 B. It was also here where the first of several bits of downfall that had to be negotiated was encountered.There was more all along FT 105 A, but they were widely spaced enough, and not too numerous so as not to become annoying. Most of our walking was in the shade of the giant conifers but the occasional clearing, or young aspen grove provided just the right amount of variety.
Seamus went off chasing a deer herd, at about the halfway point of our journey, which injected an unwanted dose of anxiety into our carefree forest mood. Needless to say he remained on the leash for the final few miles. After a steady climb, past some truly huge trees, we picnicked in the sun. Afterwards when we reached the junction with the Rim Trail, I thought it would be too soon to end our hike by just heading back, so we extended it bit by walking north on the Rim Trail all the way to the San Andres Trail( FT 125) junction where we rested in a grassy clearing along FR 640. The Rim Trail was very rocky, and stuck close to the highway initially which was not exactly what I had been looking for, but it was alright for making our hike into lollipop loop( only with the stick coming about 3/4 of the way in) of about six miles. The last bit of the hike after intersecting with FR 5011 was the least appealing. We ended up bypassing some campers through a clearing( where perhaps the trail should go instead of following the road) which brought us to the short road leading to our parking spot.