Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Forest Roads 76 and 171- Santa Fe National Forest

We took a little detour for a picnic on our return trip from Canõncito Seco back to Las Cruces. Just east of Gallina, New Mexico we turned off of NM 96 onto Forest Road 76. This is a well maintained gravel road suitable for any vehicle in dry weather. The fir and pine forest that lined the roadway was beautifully accented by bright orange and gold oaks.
 We turned to the north on Forest Road 171 and quickly crossed over the rushing little Rio Capulin as we headed to the Cecilia Canyon trail head for a little picnic. The road  went up and down through green, closely cropped  meadows until bringing us to the shady parking area for Forest Trail 451, which heads up into the high country of the San Pedro Parks wilderness and is also part of the Continental Divide Trail route in New Mexico. There is information to read here about the habitat restoration on Cecilia Canyon. We moseyed on down to the tiny,but flowing, stream to have our picnic. Even though it is evident that this area was heavily logged at one time,it's beauty has returned.
There were metal plates tacked onto a nearby fallen log that said not to cut and or remove,because it was helping to improve fish habitat. This seemed odd because the stream looked to be about an inch deep, but sure enough just before we left I spotted a couple of what I presume to be Rio Grande cutthroat fingerlings in some slightly deeper water. It was nice to see them, especially because on these two trips to Cañones Creek, I've yet seen anything resembling a fish, although I talked with some locals who insist they are there, however small in number and size they many be.
 After leaving the trailhead and FR 171, we continued on to the west on FR 76.  Immediately, there were wonderful views of the high country where brilliant yellow aspens were splashed across the deep green of the spruce and fir forest.After going over a divide, the road crossed the strongly flowing Rio Gallina( where I have hope that fish are present too) and then follows the little canyon it has carved most of the way back to NM 96. Colorful willows and cottonwoods were abundant as well as the aforementioned oaks and even a few aspens. Just before reaching the highway there was a rural scene that had me thinking about Vermont. Anyway if you're traveling out here and have a few extra minutes by all means get off NM 96( which is very scenic itself) to enjoy a little bit of this remote backcountry.

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