Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken Creek Nordic Trails

The Little Bauer Loop Trail and Upper Little Bauer is the 4.2 mile southwest portion of the Chicken Creek Cross Country Ski network of trails. This 32 mile system of trails can be accessed from County Roads 40 and 41 north of Highway 184 between Dolores and Mancos in southwest Colorado. In summer this loop system provides easy hiking and biking in the San Juan National Forest.

I started my hike at the end of County Road 40 in the parking area by the small Sellers and McClane Reservoir. From Highway 184, the turn off is marked as the Millwood National Forest access. I didn’t see a sign identifying the reservoir but there is a sign that says cross country ski parking.

 I started along the road that is marked as Forest Road 236 that starts to the north. The road that bends east after about 150 yards is marked 385D. The 385D road leads east and runs along the north side of Little Bauer Reservoir. In spring the channels carrying water to the reservoirs are flowing with a lot of water.

I detoured around the north side of Sellers Reservoir along a west leading minor ATV trail toward Joe Moore Reservoir. Fishing at Joe Moore Reservoir includes Rainbow Trout, Largemouth Bass, and Green Sunfish. There is a road that follows the east side of Joe Moore Reservoir but it reaches a dead end at private property. 

There may have been a group of Loons diving in the middle of Joe Moore in late May. From Joe Moore I cut back east and returned to the Bauer Trail walking through the open forest. After rejoining the trail I followed it clockwise.

I didn’t realize I was on the Chicken Creek Ski Trail system until I saw the signs at the junction of the Upper Little Bauer Loop and the Rush Connecter. At that point there are trail signs and a map. The route is marked with blue diamonds posted on the trees.

Along the trail segment south there is an open meadow area with a single picnic table and a fire ring. The trail otherwise mostly passes through Ponderosa Pine forest with and understory of Gambel Oak and a few scattered Rocky Mountian Junipers. Snowmelt water from higher elevations flows under and alongside the trails for part of the way. In late May I didn’t see any wildflowers in bloom here.

The southeast corner of the loop passes very close to County Road 41 and then passes along the north side of Little Bauer Reservoir. The overall route is nearly level and the walking is easy and there are a lot of loop options in this area. I spent 2:10 hours on the Upper Little Bauer and Little Bauer loop on an 80 F windy late May day.