I've been trying to hike all of the Rim Trail by doing sections of 2 to 4 miles (roundtrip hikes of 4 to 8 miles). This was another installment in that plan. I had done the section from Apache Peak Observatory to the Moonshine Trail ( FT 90V) two years ago in an anxiety ridden hike with thunder, dark clouds but thankfully only light rain. Now I was beginning this section from the saddle where the Westside Road crosses over the Sacramento Rim down to the Sacramento Creek valley, and heading to the Moonshine Trail intersection.
It was cool and windy at 8100 feet with clouds mixed with blue sky above. It felt like it could completely cloud over and begin to rain for the first hour and a half but never did. So there was that anxiety again, especially since the trail here ( as with the section just to the north) crosses many nameless almost bare promontories I like to call "Lightning Bait Hill ( Number 1, 2, 3. . . ).
This part of trail though, is not as severely up and down as the piece I did two years ago. Overall it's uphill and gained about 1000 feet with three substantial hills to ascend and descent including one right off the bat that's a less than inviting rough, rocky trudge.To make matters worse I was covered in flies the entire time, which gave me ideas of giving up on the entire enterprise. Eventually the trail levels out and spectacular views open up to the west which mitigated the situation a bit, although the flies stayed with me for some time afterward.
The trail here is very close to the precipice of the rim itself and the environment here is substantially drier than the forests forests behind and in front of you. Alligator junipers that define gnarly and piñons predominate and many of those have died in recent years providing perfect tinder for lightning strikes. Just a few paces downslope to the east,Christmas tree sized firs are scattered through the scrubby oak brush.
In the forested section that follows, Seamus go a little frisky in his interest in the local wildlife, and had to put on a leash. I needed a break from the nerve wracking idea of him chasing something right over the cliffs that we were so close to. Over the middle hill is one of those idyllic clearings along the trail that would provide a perfect camping spot for the backpacker. Even though it has been bone dry and things looked a little sad, I could just imagine what the place would look like in wetter times.
The climb up the third hill is over 400 feet and straight up, with loose rocky footing, and uncleared downfall to boot. Now it was mostly sunny, and beginning to feel hot. Seamus and I rested frequently as we made our way up to the highpoint of the hike at 9100 feet.
I had set a turnaround time at 12:15 which was fast approaching, but as we descended the other side I knew we were rounding the head of Pine Spring Canyon and were very close to our destination. Soon after we arrived at the signed trail intersection. I sat on a log and ate my sardines and crackers and fed Seamus treats. I hadn't really paid much attention to how far the hike was, but knew if we kept a good pace we had good chance of making the destination. I was especially glad because for most of the walk, I wasn't sure it was going to happen.
On the way back, the sun was out in force. It was not going to rain on this parched landscape and we needed to rest in the shady spots more often. We passed some rocks painted yellow in two spots. I'm not sure of the significance.
By the single tire tracks I saw, it looks as if this part of the trail does receive some motorcycle use, but overall use appears to be very light. We saw no one, though the cars on both the Sacramento River Road and the Westside Road were frequently within earshot, as were the low flying fighter jets returning to Holloman AFB.