Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sun Mountain Loop - Santa Fe, NM

Distance: 5.5mi roundtrip
Starting Elevation: 7,000ft
Summit Elevation: 7,920ft
Total Elev Gain: 1,400ft
Run time: 65min

Earlier this summer the city finally formalized hiking access to Sun Mountain. The trails have been there as long as I can remember, there was just never any central trailhead. Folks would set out from St. John's College or other informal waypoints and, as with many of the older trails around town, you just had to know from memory that a trail spur started behind that fence post, or that pinon, or up the driveway 40ft then veer left. New homes in the area over the last twenty five years have also closed off some sections of north-south trail that used to connect to the Arroyo Chamisos. In a fairly publicized development dispute a couple years ago, the Save Sun Mountain campaign came about, and donated money was rounded up to buy the last parcel of undeveloped land off the mountain's west slope which was then placed in trust for public access. The trailhead was mostly built out last summer, then left fenced off and unopened from what I could only guess was a reaction to the dangers of an incredibly destructive fire-season. The city finally opened it all up earlier this summer and it now gets a fair amount of traffic, particularly before sunset.

The new public easement and trailhead

I've yet to see a map of the existing trails on and around the mountain, particularly off the northside of Sun Mountain where access to St. John's College is a mess of unimproved trail, cairns to nowhere, spiderwebs of bullshit, and deadend ravines and drainages. The one well defined thru-trail heads away from St. John's, into the saddle with Moon Mountain, then east into the Arroyo Chamisos at the foot of Atalaya. It's marked decently with cairns but can be difficult to follow at dusk.

From the summit: Moon mountain at right, rising moon at top left, south Atalaya ridge at center

After poking around these these trails and hills over the last few weeks I finally mapped out the best existing loop during a run with Hoskisson over the Thanksgiving weekend. Beginning from Museum Hill the full loop is just short of six miles, the section of climbing is a bit less than one mile (trailhead-to-summit) with about 800ft of climbing.

We made the summit in 28min from the Cristobal Lane trailhead (Note: the area at Conejo Rd and Calle de Leon is fire lane access only. Neighbors have asked me to make clear this is not a trailhead nor open to parking; use the Cristobal or Cam. Corrales trailheads), running the loop counter-clockwise. 65min to run out the full loop. Sections of the climb are scrambling-steep and not rideable by bike.

Nearby Trails:
  - Atalaya Mountain
  - Dorothy Stewart Ridgeline
  - Upper Arroyo Chamisos &  East Foothill Trails
  - Moon Mountain

View Sun Mountain Trail Loop - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Colorado River and the Politics of Water

The Colorado River Watershed
A bit of back-page news from this week that is actually a bit of a ground-shaker: The varied parties to The Colorado Water Compact, which include CA, AZ, NV, UT, CO, NM, and Mexico, have agreed in principle to amend the landmark 1922 agreement on how to allocate the water from the Colorado River watershed. The communities and monied assets that depend on this trickle of desert water include Colorado's western slope, Phoenix, the city of Las Vegas including a large part of its power grid generated at Hoover Dam, Los Angeles and San Diego via extensive canal systems, and commercial farming in the valleys of southern California. A lot of stuff. Vegas and Phoenix would not exist without it, neither would the Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell.

I first became interested in this oddly academic topic after picking up a dog-eared copy of Cadillac Desert sometime in college. I was also making my way through Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, and Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the time. Cadillac Desert may be more of an enduring classic of the southwest than even those two blinding lights, ironic because of its dry, non-stylized, non-beer fueled, non-fiction subject.

Bishop Lamy's Chapel
In any case, there's an entire chapter in there about the original Colorado River Compact and how it all went down just north of Santa Fe here at Bishop's Lodge. A bunch of old guys sat down in a room right there at the Lodge and parceled out 90% of the available fresh water in the southwest, sent it out to the necessary law-making bodies, and it became law. Their signatures on the agreement a metaphorical spigot on the mighty Colorado, the very force of nature coursing down through millennia(?) of rock to route-out the mighty Grand Canyon! Funny thing is they screwed it all up, generously over-estimating average water flows by a not insignificant amount. For several decades now the river runs dry before making the Mexico border, and even in wet years it might carry only brine and brackish water unusable for crops or irrigation. The Mexicans have a problem with this but seeing as they are the party most down-river they've had little recourse other than monetary settlements.

Thought I'd try something a little different with a carousel of awesome books here

A portion of New Mexico's allotment actually arrives into the Chama via the extravagantly expensive and long-disputed San Juan Diversion Project. Water levels at El Vado and Abiqiui would be a lot lower if weren't for a bit of engineering and piped in runoff from the peaks above Pagosa.

In any case, this fascinating historical footnote always crosses my mind when I'm running or cycling past Bishop Lamy's old place. Interesting stuff. Reisner's book has been updated several times over the years and is still the benchmark for those seeking an understanding of the value and politics of water in the southwest.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Early Morning on the Mountain Bike - Chamisa Trail

Photos from this morning's ride on Chamisa and Sidewinder Trails. This linkup used to be one of the best cycling trails in town, it's now just one of many but still a personal favorite.

Patrick Smith Park w/ elm trees

Santa Fe River Preserve w/ willows

Dale Ball with juniper

Chamisa Trail w/ ponderosa

Sidewinder Trail w/ winds

Sidewinder w/ autumn scrub oak and my rig Big Blue
A look back at the peaks w/ pinon

A look down across the valley w/ pinon

Gets a bit steep near fence-line, steep enough to thieve the very life from the trees

Peering down canyon at Hyde Park Rd w/ beetle-downed tree

Little Tesuque, w/ willows and cedar

Goat head massacre back in town

Rail Trail > Santa Fe River Preserve > Dale Ball Central > Hyde Park Rd > Chamisa Trail > Sidewinder Trail > Little Tesuque Trail, Bishop's Lodge Rd > Arroyo Barranca > Rail Trail
Door to door: 2hrs 55min, ride time 2:45
Mileage: ~28mi
Highest Elev: 8,500

View Chamisa and Sidewinder Trails in a larger map


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