Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lucy’s Warbler Trail

 The trail head is 20 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G, then 2.4 miles north on the BLM gravel road to a west turnoff. I started my hike as this junction, which is 0.9 miles past the turn off and trail head to the top of Cannonball Mesa and just past a small dry wash. Cannonball Mesa has a large ruins site about 2 miles down the trail.

Lucy’s Warbler is 4 inches long with a gray back and whitish breast. It has a chestnut rump patch, white eye ring and a chestnut patch on the crown. Its habitat is along desert streams with mesquite, willows, or cottonwoods. The Peterson Guide that I have shows summer range to be mostly in Arizona and southwest New Mexico with a small question mark in southwest Colorado.

It is about 1.5 miles of hiking from the trail head west down into the canyon bottom. As it descends the trail makes a hairpin turn back to the east. The stream banks have quite a few Cottonwoods and Tamarisk trees with sagebrush further up the banks. The terrain along the beginning of the trail is dry with scattered Utah Juniper trees, short grasses, and desert shrubs.

In late March there is a healthy flow in the stream. The trail crosses the stream and I stopped at the crossing. About 100 yards further upstream is the junction with Risley Canyon with Yellowjacket Canyon making a big counter clockwise bend at that point. Late March has a moderate temperature for hiking but is too early to see many birds. To the right along the trail it is possible to view Risley Canyon from the rim.
From the cliffs above the crossing point, a small grassy hill is mostly encircled by the winding stream. On the top of the hill it looks like there is a rubble pile ruins site. It looks like a good location with water, farm fields, and sunny exposure available.

I explored down canyon a short distance until arriving at the same dry wash that crosses the road near the trail head. Following back up the wash but staying close to the cliffs I spotted a small dry wall ruins site. This site was in a small alcove with southern exposure, overlooking the dry wash and sage brush fields below.

From the small ruins site I climbed to the rim and worked back over to the main trail and returned to the trail head. My total hike of about 4 miles took 2:30 hours on a 58 F degree late March sunny day.

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