Had a fabulous time in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. The whole canyon was very quiet except for the usual flight path noise above us. We camped at two great campsites along the watercourse. First camp was at the fork on Saturday night. Second camp was near Monument Canyon on Sunday night.
Drove over to Lake Roberts on Friday and had my delayed birthday dinner with Tyler at the local restaurant, which was surprisingly yummy. Stayed at the Lake Roberts Motel Friday night. Saturday morning, we ate our breakfast in the room and then packed up and headed to the trailhead. Took 150 aka Star Road to the CDT/Mimbres River trailhead. It was slow going, but not too bad. The final segment to the TH was a bit rocky, but the Matrix was a champ. Got to the trailhead and it was already getting hot, with clouds building around us.
We started down the trail, and about .25 miles in I remembered to turn on my GPS. It's the first time I have ever used it, so I was looking forward to the gaget-fest. We quickly made it to the intersection with connector trail and headed down into Corral Canyon. The cicadas were soooo loud! And it got super hot. The trail was very easy to follow all the way down to the Mimbres River.
We turned left at the River and headed up canyon. We were soon surrounded by oaks, willows, pine trees, and alders. There were a few dry stream crossings, but soon we started seeing water. All water crossings were easy to manage with lots of rocks available to keep our feet dry. Along this lower section we saw two turkey hens with chicks and a group of javalina. We soon passed by one large camping area past Monument Canyon that was occupied by horse packers. They had HUGE tents set up and their second string of horses were tethered along the trail. The rest of the crew were out on a trail-ride.
By now, the thunder that had been quietly keeping us company as the day progress was getting a little more threatening... so we hurried on to our camp at the north/south fork of the Mimbres. We found a good camp on a bench above the trail, and started setting up camp. Unfortunately, we didn't take the thunder seriously enough and ended up scrambling to get our tarp up while being pelted by pea-sized hail. We made decently short work of setting up the rest of our gear under the tarp and we waited out the rest of the storm with some enthusiastic snacking and appreciation for the rest of our dry gear.
The storm didn't last long and we were soon out and exploring the immediate area. There were a couple of trout pools not too far down the trail and the forest smelled great after the rain. The light was also lovely, and a little misty. We finally headed back to camp and made our dinner... tacos, yum! By the time we were done with dinner, we were ready to call it a night. It had cooled off rapidly during the storm and the temps were very comfortable all night.
Sunday morning, we woke up and decided over breakfast that we would move camp back down canyon near the mouth of Monument Canyon. We packed up and hiked the 2ish miles back the way we had come. There was a great camping spot with lots of logs for lounging on and immediate access to the water, so we quickly set up camp. It was only about 12 when we were done with camp set up and lunch, so we decided to do some off-trai exploring up Monument Canyon. It was about .25 of a mile from our camp. We started up the canyon and found a use trail in a few places that took us through a section of the canyon that had a little bit of water. Then we decided to head up to get a better view of some cliff rock formations. We scrambled up some boulders and snapped some pics before relaxing for a bit in the breeze. After sufficient lounging time, we headed back to camp and spent time checking out the aquatic life in the "river". It was only about 10 ft across and 6 inches deep, but there were lots of fun crawlies and even a baby trout to keep us company. We lounged a bit in the hammocks and then it was time for dinner. This time chicken pesto pasta... probably my favorite backpacking meal right now. After dinner, the temps dropped and the hammocks called to us. Sleep was easy to achieve with the sounds of the water and the occasional owl to serenade us.
Monday morning we knew we needed to get up early to avoid getting scorched on the way out... and we kinda did that. We made it out of camp by 7am. The way back to the connector trail up Corral Canyon seemed quite quick, but those last couple of miles out were pretty tough on us. We hadn't been out in a while, so the combination of exposure to the sun, highish temps (it got into the 80s), and elevation gain left us quite tired. But, we had a blast and were back to car by 10:30.
This was our first time to the Aldo, and we left with a good impression. I would love to explore more. We talked to some locals who seemed to think that Black Canyon was a gem, but it requires 4x4... so we know that that means. I've already started campaigning for a second vehicle... I think I'm wearing Tyler down