Friday, June 23, 2017

Rim Trail, Heart Attack Canyon to Atkinson Field( FT 105,9629) - Lincoln National Forest

I've been chipping away at my goal of hiking all of the Rim Trail section by section for many years now. The parts closer to Cloudcroft, I did many years ago.  I did the section from Alamo Peak Road to Atkinson Field as part of loop using trails 111 and 109 a few years before starting this blog.  In 2011  I hiked  around 3 miles of the trail that winds around the heads of Nelson and Sawmill Canyons.Two years ago I did a section in the southern segment from Apache Point to the Moonshine Trail.Last year we did a loop involving the Cathey Canyon trail and the Rim Trail, which we extended to the San Andres Trail intersection. And three years ago I did the Heart Attack , San Andres loop using the Rim Trail( really FR 640) as the upper crossover. So, what's left? Mainly, it's the section from the southern trail head up to Hornbuckle Hill and on to the Moonshine Trail( a 6 or 7 mile hike one way that I'll split into two walks), and then two very short sections that total less than 2 miles.
 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.

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