Valencia County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: August 31, 2007
Author: Jack Shiver

The easiest route to the Valencia County HP is the Salas Trail, which begins at John F Kennedy Campground on the west face of the Manzanos at 6,040 feet and takes 6.4 miles to climb 2,920 feet. Much of it is a desert hike, without shade and it was August so I took the shortest route, the Red Canyon Trail. The trailhead is at Red Canyon Campground where the road loops but hikers canít park there so they have to start at the Spruce Spring trailhead by the Red Canyon Picnic Area, 400 yards away. The trail was in good shape and crossed by several small streams. At 9,680 feet (2.7 miles), it met the Crest Trail. I detoured right to hike the 500 yards to Gallo Peak -- 10,003 feet -- then turned around and went back south. The Crest Trail meets the Salas Trail at 10,000 feet, about a half mile south of its junction with Red Canyon Trail.

The Salas trail is lightly traveled and has become very faint in places. I lost it a half-dozen times and wasted time and energy finding it again. Itís marked by cairns at some of its switchbacks but many of the cairns have tumbled down or are simply gone. From the Crest Trail to the Valencia HP, Salas is blocked by fallen trees in no fewer than 25 places, so it does not see much Forest Service maintenance. It seemed to take forever to find the HP and I twice checked marker cairns thinking I had hit it. About 200 yards east of the HP, the trail runs up to a huge rock outcropping, bending north through a fissure in the rock and then skirting the northern edge. When the trail started running along a ridge I knew I was getting warm and the register was in a small cairn just south of the trail. The register (double-bagged and in a coffee can covered with another coffee can) had some familiar names and someone had included a copy of Scott Surgentís Trip Report. The most recent register entry was from May 2006, 15 months ago. Ken Jones believes that the HP is maybe 20-25 meters from the cairn, so I walked across the ridge to be sure I had it.

The mile and-a-half back to the Crest Trail climbs only 1,100 feet or so but it was brutal (even Scott Surgent called it "grueling"). Just 300 yards short of the Crest Trail junction it began to rain. I ducked under a spruce tree for shelter and saw a flock of wild turkeys take off -- magnificent birds! It rained on me all the way down but it was summer so I was okay.

Got to my truck in the picnic area 5 1/2 hours after I started. Total distance covered was 10 miles -- or 9.4 miles not counting the Gallo Peak detour. Total elevation gain was 3,400 feet.