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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Sawmill Canyon, NM

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Rated  Favorite Wish List NM > Southeast
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 1.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,882 feet
Elevation Gain 968 feet
Accumulated Gain 980 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.17
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Post the 1st photoset!
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, May, Sep → Any
Seasons   Late Winter to Early Winter
Sun  5:50am - 6:01pm
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Easy Walkin'...
by imike

Likely In-Season!
Your first decision: just how to access this pleasant Forest Road amble.

A simple approach, and one that starts from the base of Sawmill Canyon: park at the Inn of the Mountain Gods and walk out to the far end of the Mescalero Lake dam. Walk past the sign telling you there is no hiking nor biking, and up the hill to the east. You will pass out of the Indian Reservation as you follow the faint remains of an old logging track.


At the top of the meadow you will intersect with Forest Road 9017E. It is coming up from the entrance to Mine Canyon, your alternative start to the hike back down in Ruidoso. If you want to begin there, use the same access point used for the Grindstone Trail (91).

The referenced mileages orient from the Dam Start. You may log a mile getting across the dam, depending on where you park at the Casino.

Once on the old road, turn left and enjoy the gentle ups and downs and the partial shade as the road gently winds up canyon. Cross the little stream, turning to your right (left hits the Boundary Spur Trail)and continue on up past the next "T"...there, left takes you to the upper end of the Spur Trail; stick to the main road going up to your right.

The next intersection to your left will exit the canyon. It is yet another old logging route... and it runs over to intersect with the #22 Road, which either way you turn would carry you on to the Indian Reservation. Your Sawmill Canyon route is to yet again turn to the right and begin the steeper ascent up and on to Grindstone Mesa.

Before you reach the top of the plateau, the road will die off and you'll be hiking along the drainage off trail. Grindstone Trail (91) will be passing along the top of the ridge to your right... once the road ends you can move over and up to enjoy that trail to the top.

Once up, enjoy the Grindstone Mesa Loop (91A)... or the Grindstone Mesa Spur Trail (91B)... or just wander around the top of the Mesa.

You day can include a nice mix of off trail, on trail, Forest Road rambling... with a bit of game play at the end if you parked at the Casino!

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2013-04-30 imike

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Sawmill Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    casino hit... lost first two bets... tripled down on the third spin: won! $4.50! I got my free drink and split while I was ahead.

    project work is overriding the hiking... alas. Maybe I can get that turned around, or I'll just finish the project and go back to full time hiking. 3-4 months?
    Sawmill Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    While it was very nice to escape up into some cooler weather, it was not an "on" day for me. The "less than" Sunday hike sort of carried over into the Monday hike. I think it was a combination of too little sleep and too much hard labor on Saturday at the Habitat for Humanity work site. I spent that day hand hauling OSB from the back of the lot... with a handup to the guys working the roof. I'm not back into shape for that effort... yet.

    So, I'll switch my Friday hikes around to the hardest day of the week... then show up for project work on Saturday tired! Sunday hikes: longer but slower. Monday hikes: recuperation. Wednesday hikes: steep with a few hours of trail work (...if the forest is open).

    The day did provide some entertainment: 14 deer... then two deer... then an elk... then a very large black bear. He was ambling down and around a horseshoe curve, that I was winding up and into. I already had my camera out, so it became a decision of just when to make him aware that I was standing there. If I allowed him to come around the curve we'd be face to face at 15 feet. I opted to whistle and call out while he was still across and above me... about 40 feet. He did an abrupt halt... leaned up... looked down and over... then turned tail and scooted up the hill, for about 15 yards. At that point he settled back into his slow lumber.

    I thought I'd nailed a perfect picture.

    I guess I spent too much time enjoying the eye to eye contact moment... I was too slow with the camera. I got what looks like a head... then the south end of the north bound bear.

    It is always a tough call: focus on the photo... and likely you miss out on the rich moment of encounter. Focus on the encounter, and there will likely be no photo.

    Interestingly, this encounter was very close to the place I ran into the mountain lion a few weeks ago... no photo there at all.

    So... the day closed out with me going a little further than the new trail allowed... I was on the Reservation. There I encountered a herd of wild horses... colts, mares and the stallion, being all stalliony.

    So... slow and go. Then, I lost $3 on the slot machines! Another guy hit an $800 jackpot on his first spin... then cashed out... tried for a second spin: hit a $4,000 jackpot! of course, he was playing $10 slots. I'm playing quarters... my speed for 2013.

    Ten hours of hard manual labor today: timberframing a picnic cover... guess that will mess up tomorrow's hike? Oh, well.
    Sawmill Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Well...Interesting to finally loop all of the non-trails in the Grindstone Mesa area. Checking with the official trail guide, it comments about the plans for the system of trails, soon to be signed and developed, back in 2002. Yet, the area is nothing like is noted in the book.

    There is no loop trail nor any spur trail. There is a major road going up and over the Mesa. Oh, yeah... there is no Mesa either! The book talks about the lack of trail on the main route... there, it is now a major trail, it's just so poorly laid out (straight up hill!) that for most folks, it would not be liked. I need to go back up with a mountain bike to check out all of the roads... then maybe I can make a final assessment of the area?

    There are full fledged survey and new trail flags over most of the trail areas... it appears that there is about to be real trails... more properly laid out. Or, they just wasted about 1000 flags!

    so... how to do the write ups?

    One More Bus Monday before the Forest gets closed?

    Won a net 75 cents on the slots...
    Sawmill Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Well, another Monday... another fifty cent bus ride! Net winnings on the slots today was only .75... but still... that and free drinks made for a nice complement.

    Something needed to be nice... the trails certainly were not!

    I'm not really sure you could even call them trails anymore... routes at best, and that might be stretching it for most of the "real" trails. The clear paths I had today were prior to the formal forest trails... the elk game trails were better maintained and easier to follow.

    These will make for very interesting writeups.

    At least there is some hope it may change... survey markers and flags were posted on all three routes. Perhaps some potential is about to be realized? I'd hoped to find clear trails, well engineered. Instead... no trails, and where the routes were clear, they were vertical ruts, cut straight up and down the ridge. I can't bring Terri's Friday group over to experience any of that. Alas.

    Day did open well... a few miles into the hike, down in Sawmill Canyon, I had a mountain lion cross the road right in front of me. Instead of the normal skulk... or slow, curious staring, this guy bounded... full stretch and flex! Got my attention! I watched the ridge above me for the next 15 minutes just in case he decided I looked plumper and easier than the elk I scared off right after crossing his path.

    Deer later to round out the animal encounters.

    Talked to a Ranger yesterday when hiking up here... they are closing all of the Lincoln before the end of the month, unless there is a major rain. They do not want the risks of so many people over the holiday... today's light mist probably did not qualify for rain.

    So... not sure how many more hikes I can score right from the Casino here... but then again, there's only a couple weeks of open forest left!

    For weight augmentation in my pack today I carried along this computer...Casino has free wifi! I could hang around up here and do the computer work, but the 1:30pm bus is a few minutes away... guess I'll head back down.
    Sawmill Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Ruidoso Inn of the Mountain Gods
    Starting my Monday Bus Ride series... 'till they close the Lincoln Forest down, I'll hop the hyper cheap bus up to the Casino, then head out and over into the National Forest. There's lots of potential hiking... and another connecting bus line to get me across town to hit even more trails.

    At 7,000'+... 15 degrees cooler than Alamo... nicer breezes... and some trees to share a bit of shade. It is not as nice as the 9,000' hiking out of Cloudcroft, but it is only a fifty cent bus ride!

    After the hike I hit the Casino for some free hydration at the self serve fountain... and to compensate, gamble my $2 limit! Today, that paid off with a $20 jackpot on the quarter slot. My system: cut and run if I hit more than $1...

    6am... Bus Stop in Alamo
    7:15am... Casino
    7:30am... on the trail
    11:15am... back to the Casino
    ...drinks and slots...
    Noon... on the bus home
    1:30pm... back in Alamo... heading to the library for wifi...

    Now... home for a nap. Only 3-4 hours of sleep, so it will be tomorrow before I write today's trails up! GPS batteries died... got to go study the map to determine the mileages! Oh, well...

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Ruidoso, follow the signs to the Inn of the Mountain Gods, off of Hiway 70. Park at the Casino/Hotel. Walk through the building or around and down to Lake Mescalero. Walk to the far end of the lake and across the Dam. Exit the far end of the dam, angling up to the right of the canyon bottom... you should hit an old logging track within a few hundred yards... follow that up to FR 9017E.
    page created by imike on Apr 30 2013 11:27 am
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