Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Poking around in Front's Ford Creek high country

Crown Mountain from North Fork Ford Creek

The grassy high country of North Fork Ford Creek

First lupine of the year
I spent Tuesday in the Benchmark area exploring and enjoying.
The only big game animal I saw was a mule deer.
But, the birds were a treat:  sandhill crane, bald eagle, spruce grouse and bluebirds.
I had hoped to do the Benchmark Creek-Fairview Creek loop, but wussed out when it came to stream crossings.  Benchmark Creek is high enough that I would have had to take my books off and on numerous times.  At about 1.5 miles I bagged it. The Patrol Mountain and Wood Creek ridges are still packed with snow.
I had lunch at the Straight Creek packers camp, checked out South Fork Sun trailhead (no cars) and went to Wood Lake, where I kicked back and took a great nap in the sun.
Heading back to Augusta, I decided to stop and explore the North Fork of Ford Creek (not far from the Double Falls Campground).  There's supposed to be a trail there, but I didn't see any sign, but found a pretty good footpath that eventually disappeared.  I reached a hill top and discovered cut logs and a real trail that I followed to the foot of the Ford Creek Plateau.  This is high grass country hemmed in on both sides by high ridges.  To the north I could see Fairview Mountain above Willow Creek.  Lots of flowers already.
Coming back I enjoyed views of the Crown Mountain ridge line, still very snow covered.
I returned on the great path I had found.  After achieving a saddle it drops steeply and is just adjacent to the unnamed limestone ridge to the east.  It had been horribly eroded, I suspect from heavy horse and cattle use.  Yet, it was pretty and there were wildflowers growing on the eroded, south-facing slopes.
On the other side of this ridge is a Forest Service trail that goes from the Benchmark Road back to Camp Scoutana on Willow Creek.  It is about 4 miles one way.
More to come.
Wood Lake up the Benchmark Road.  Prairie Reef is in the background

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