This was a pleasant little 4 to 5 mile out and back. It was probably nearly 85 degrees even over 9000 feet,but this section was shady enough to keep it fun. I parked along NM 6563 (Sunspot Highway) in a spot barely wide enough get my little Corolla all the way off the road. FT 9629 is not signed,but there was a path through an old downed gate threading through the trees by the highway and then a second old gate where the tread disappeared. It was easy enough just to walk up the open meadow( a small tributary of Rice Canyon) bearing northwest. It was an uphill third of a mile to the saddle and a sign marking the intersection with the Rim Trail, FR 640, and the Heart Attack Trail. FR 640 turns back to the east here, and I headed north on the Rim Trail( FT 105).
The next 4/10 of a mile are probably the least appealing part of this little hike. The trail is mostly wide( so open to the sun) and rocky as it makes a steady 400 foot climb to a flat topped little peak which afforded us our first and only open views to the west.
From there the trail becomes a rustic single track ( a rarity in the Sacramento Ranger District)as it descends and then winds around the upper end of the west flowing Cherry Canyon. The forest here is mostly firs with a few pines in the sunnier spots. There is quite a bit of new conifer growth. The aspens all seem to be very mature, although I did see a few sprouts here there, that have avoided being consumed. Oaks are filling in where they can. Most maps show the trail directly on FR 640 through part of this route, but it really follows it's own way mostly as single lane hiking path as it passes a trick tank and some large aspens on its way to the intersection with FT111 and FT109 and Atkinson Field, a huge open meadow that's slopes toward the center where a small ephemeral pond forms after rains and spring snow melt. It does cross a long abandoned road which may be FR 2023 where there is sign pointing to FR 640.
It's always a bit hard to tell when hiking on a week day,but it seems the entire 2 mile section I hiked receives only light use. It had no bike or motorcycle tracks, or even footprints( except the wapiti kind) that I could see,but recent rains could've erased them. A small group of elk, and a couple of turkeys were my only fellow travelers on this trek.