One of my favorite things about leading a trail project is scouting the trail beforehand. I was not familiar with Cowles, so Mike joined me for a one-day scouting, with some tree removal to assist the BCH Pecos Chapter that would be bringing in our equipment for a backpacking trail project for NMVFO in late August.
We started from the big parking lot at Cowles up the Winsor Ridge Trail #271. We cleared about 60 trees from the trail by hand, left 22 that the horses could easily step over, but a couple needed some work. BCH would not be able to stop to saw when carrying in supplies, so we might need to return for a day or overnight trip to finish preparing the trail. A quarter-mile section of #271 had numerous small aspen blow-downs in a tangled mess that needed clearing.
Stewart Lake was lovely, and had a large group campsite that I did not know about, but Mike showed me.
From the junction with Stewart Lake, we continued along Skyline Trail towards Spirit Lake, and encountered more trees to be cleared. We might change our campsite in August to Stewart instead of Spirit. For (reasons) I was hiking slow this day, so we did not get all the way to Spirit. This trail was not too bad, but needed a few trees cleared, especially three large ones requiring a 2-person crosscut, about halfway down.
We took Winsor Trail #254 down to the trailhead and Winsor Creek Road to Cowles. Winsor #254 is the proposed entrance route for our trail project, perhaps not shorter than Winsor Ridge Trail, but saving a bit of altitude gain.