Friday, July 3, 2009

Italian Canyon LoopTrail at Boggy Draw

The Italian Canyon Trail is an 11 mile outer loop on the east side of the Boggy Draw Trail System in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado.

The Main Trail Head is about 3 miles west of the town of Dolores at the point where County Road W changes to Forest Road 527. The Boggy Draw Trail System is multi user for mountain bikes, hiking, and horse riding and doesn’t allow motorized except on the separate ATV Trail.

The Boggy Draw Trail is the central loop of the system. The Mavericks Trail is an additional inner loop to the east, and the Italian Canyon Trail connects at two points to the Mavericks Trail. To travel the Italian Canyon Trail you end up covering at least half of the Mavericks Trail also.

I started my hike at the main Boggy Draw Trail Head. It is not obvious, but the south end of the Mavericks Trail is directly across the Forest Road from the Trail Head signs. Hiking counter clockwise on the Mavericks Trail, the south connection of the Italian Canyon Trail is about 2 miles along the trail.

It took me about 0:40 minutes to arrive there. This terrain here is slightly rolling through Ponderosa Pine forest with an understory of Gambel Oak. There are a few open meadow areas and some constructed ponds, with a moderate amount of wildflowers. This system is easy to moderate for mountain biking.

The middle part of the hike emerges from the Ponderosa Pine forest and has some good views overlooking the Dolores River Valley. To the east the LaPlata Mountains and Mount Hesperus stand out. To the north up the valley the San Miguel Mountains are visible.

After the view points, the trail re-enters the Ponderosa forest and cuts back toward the Mavericks Trail. The northern connection with the Mavericks Trail doesn’t have a good sign like the south connection does and could be easily missed when traveling on the Mavericks Trail in the clockwise direction. This is a good hot day hike as most of the route is shaded, but there aren’t many view points or other points of interest in the Boggy Draw system.

I saw a Black Bear on this hike, the first time I have ever seen one on any trail. The bear was lumbering along, about to cross the trail just as I came up over a small rise. We were only about 30 feet apart and both of us stopped abruptly, both startled. The brown colored bear made a quick pivot and sprinted about 100 yards back the way it came and stopped, looking back.

By its size I took it for an adult and I didn’t see any cubs. As I stepped forward to look, it turned again and continued to jog off into the forest. The entire encounter only lasted about 20 seconds, and was over before I could take a picture.

My brief research finds that in Colorado, a Black Bears range can be 10 to 250 square miles and they prefer areas with Gambel Oak and Aspens. The Italian Canyon Trail is dense with Gambel Oak but I didn’t see any Aspens. They also like Serviceberries. I wasn’t carrying any food on this hike. Much later in the hike I saw some bear tracks for a few feet on a dusty part of the trail, but no further sightings. My total hike for about 11 miles took 4:30 hours and I carried two liters of water on a partly cloudy day in early July.

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