Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trimble Point on McPhee Reservoir

Trimble Point is a triangular mesa top area overlooking the McPhee Dolores River Dam in southwest Colorado. It sits to the north of the Beaver Creek Arm of the McPhee Reservoir. The access for hiking is Forest Road 523, which makes a junction with Forest Road 514 about 1.5 miles east of the Salter Y. 

This area can be reached from both Dolores, CO and from the Bradfield Bridge near Pleasant View, CO. I started my hike 3.6 miles south of the junction next to the small Campbell Reservoir to make the hike about 8 miles. The one lane Road 523 is drivable for about another 2 miles past where I started.

The 2 miles to the end of Road 523 is a very pleasant forest walk, dominated by tall Ponderosa Pines, Gambel Oaks, with Aspens in some spots. At the end of the road I continued south through the forest, slowly for 20 minutes, looking for the canyon rim overlooking the Beaver Creek arm of the reservoir.

To continue west toward Trimble Point I had to backtrack north to get around a side canyon. Moving west, there is another forest road that doesn’t appear on the maps I have. This road is parallel to Road 523 to the south and makes a junction with 523 about 1.2 miles south of where I started hiking. I walked past it on the outbound hike but used it on the return.

There are well developed, fairly easy to follow cow or horse trails that head west across Trimble Point all the way to the end view point. The habitat along here gets a little drier and there are some open grassy areas. I saw several groups of cows grazing in this area and my hiking caused some minor stampedes.

At the trail end point, the best views are toward the junction of the Beaver Creek arm and the main channel. The views toward the McPhee Dam are mostly obscured by the forest. There are also views north toward the Dry Canyon fishing access road that switchbacks down the slope.

Out at the point, the Ponderosa Pines are replaced by the Pinon Pines and Junipers. On the return hike, I followed the cow trail to the small Trimble Reservoir. From the reservoir I navigated north and east until I came to the unmapped side road, and followed it north to the junction with Road 523. It took me 2:30 hours to arrive at the view point and my return hike, using the unmapped side road took 1:40 hours. My total hike was 4:30 hours and I carried and drank 3 liters of water on a 70 F degree late July day.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Box Canyon Trail-Transfer Campground

The Box Canyon Trail is part of the San Juan National Forest Transfer Campground network of trails near Mancos in southwest Colorado. The trailhead is about one mile south of the campground along Forest Road 561. The first segment of trail that descends into the West Mancos canyon is also part of the Rim Trail and Transfer Trail loop hike.
The 1 mile descent into the West Mancos canyon is about 500 feet of elevation change through a lush forest of Gambel Oak, Ponderosa Pines, Aspens, and a few Douglas firs. The roar of the West Mancos River can be heard all the way down. Follow the trail signs downstream at the bottom, including the one that sends horses to one river crossing and hikers to another.

The hiker crossing is large log with some upturned branches that provide some help with balancing on the rounded surface. In the middle of the primitive bridge there is a gap between the helpful branches that made me nervous for two steps. Not so bad in July but probably harder during the roaring spring runoff. The horse crossing looked to be shallower water but without a bridge.

Just past the bridge, the trail splits providing an option. I stayed to the left, staying north of Box Canyon Creek and heading for Gray Beal Springs, another 1.25 miles according to the trail sign. The climb to the mesa top has some views down the West Mancos Canyon with some glimpses of Mesa Verde.

This shady climbing segment has more Douglas Firs with some spruce visible deep in the Box Canyon. The other trail option leads toward Coyote Park on the south side of Box Canyon.

The mesa top area has a series of wildflower rich meadows with views toward Mt. Hesperus and the LaPlata Mountains. In early July, I didn’t see any flowing water in the area of Gray Beal Springs, just a dry creek bed. After these lush meadows, the trail looks like an old road and continues east.

The Box Canyon Trail is more or less parallel with the West Mancos Trail, but on the mesa top south of the West Mancos River. Both trails eventually arrive at the old mountain town of Golconda.

I went about 4 miles to the small Box Canyon Reservoir at 9280 feet elevation, about 1000 feet above the West Mancos River. There was another view of the LaPlatas, and very long distance views back to the west. I could see the Bears Ears way out in southeast Utah. I also saw a coyote near the reservoir, scampering along the edge of edge of the patch of Aspens.

 It took me 2:15 hours to reach the small reservoir and 2:00 hours to return for a total hike of 4:15 hours for about 8 miles. In early July, it was about 62 F degrees at 9:30 AM when I started and about 80 F degrees at the 1:45 PM finish. I carried and drank 3 liters of water.

It is possible to access the distant end of the Box Canyon Trail using the Box Canyn Spur Trail that begins in Echo Basin, east of Mancos, CO.