Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Little Tesuque Trail - Santa Fe

Little Tesuque Creek - dry and sad
A week ago Saturday I made time to drive up to the Little Tesuque Trail. The 'trailhead' is up Artist/Hyde Park Rd, just past Ten Thousand Waves on the other side of Nun's Corner. Between forest closures, and injuries, and laziness preventing me from driving to get in a run, I just hadn't been up there all year which is a damn shame because it's one of my favorite two or three runs in town. As is usually the case, the hilly profile and near constant climbing keeps most people away which is a fine quality of a good trail.

The first section rolls down alongside Little Tesuque Creek. The pathetic little creek bed was dry as a bone even after the heavy rains from the day before. I'd never seen it dry before and I stopped to take a photo because it seemed so extraordinary. After a pleasant warm up, the trail climbs a shelf to the left with some fun rollers and runnable switchbacks. I find this section to be especially fun in snow.

There is a plan in operation right now to run a connector trail from North Dale Ball down to this point. The Santa Fe Conservation Trust recently secured the necessary property easements and have all the planning in place. If I remember correctly it will be named the La Piedra connector (updated here), tying together the Dale Ball Trail network with the Winsor Trail system, which will be sweeeeeet.

In the event of gun fire, the correct route is left
Alright, for sake of disclosure I should point out that just past this point in the trail there also happens to be a gun shooting range. Should you forget, you will see a bright yellow sign that says 'Gun Range'. I've only been out here twice when the range was active but it's good form to be alert through here. Folks from Bishop's Lodge set up on the south ridge and shoot north across the canyon. Should you hear gunshots as you approach, you need to stay high to your left (on the Yellow-Dot), which will take you up and around the range. It sucks when this happens because the better running is through the kill zone - down the Yellow-Dot switchbacks, back into the canyon, and across to a shelf on the north side which meanders through Lodge property before climbing back into the hills. Fun stuff, but more fun if you don't get shot. [Update:  As of June 30, 2013, this section of trail is now gated at the junction with La Piedra Trail. My best guess for access would be to run the loop in reverse - counterclockwise - or consider a linkup involving La Piedra.]

Above Bishop's Lodge you hop on the Green-Dot heading east. There used to be a great Red-Dot loop that climbed the ridge just to the west with views of the Jemez and Espanola Valley. Somebody recently built a road up that ridge and the trail is mostly retired now. Fortunately the trail has been replaced by the nearby Orange-Dot trail which is a great add-on to the Little Tesuque loop. All of these Dot Trails are built and maintained by the Lodge for guests and horse riding, so yield to horses should you see any. As far as I know the trails are unmapped. They get torn up in places by the horses, but they also wouldn't exist without the horses and the work of the crew at the Lodge, and they seem nice enough to let dirtbags like myself run around on them so God bless 'em.

Green Dot Trail, from the top of Bauer Rd.
Approaching tempest wall. All freaking hands on deck!
Beauty at the moment of darkness

Green-Dot/Blue-Dot will take you east to the summit of some large hills. Steep climbing for 1.5mi. On this day I ran into a lightning storm typhoon on my way up Green-Dot. I don't care for lightning but I had no good options from where I was at so I just carried on up the hill which quickly became a fast flowing creek. First the trail was a creek, but then everything became a creek. In places there were sheets of water cascading down the hill to my left or right, across the trail, and continuing down the side. A few times my trail-creek merged with an adjoining trail-creek at a confluence, which made for lots of fun splashing through the ford. Shin deep footfalls in some places and the sound of water everywhere. Suck on that you dry bastard summer.

5min later - Trail becomes creek
The descent off the summit is Julian's Loop to the east. Stay left at the crossroads for an incredible descent north towards Winsor. A mile in, there is an easy-to-miss right turn marked with cairns that takes you east up more winding singletrack, and eventually down to another green canyon floor (you'll know you missed the turn if the trail drops further and further west, eventually meeting up with Winsor). Quad busting switchbacks jump the ridge here (connecting with the Sidewinder Trail coming down from Chamisa), and will drop you back at your truck after a gorgeous mile descent. My best guess is the loop is a tough 7mi (75min), adding a mile with the Orange-Dot detour.

Fording creeks down into the Winsor watershed
A mighty confluence - camera dying
Back at Little Tesuque Creek I found a raging torrent of brown muddy water. Crazy flood where 75min ago there was only dust and rock. My camera-phone was no longer working because it was dripping wet, so no cool photos. Back on Hyde Park Rd, there was actual rock-fall tumbling into the road from the wet hillsides. Yikes.

Beautiful wife, plus beer, plus culture
This story ends with me racing down the mountain to make an Opera date. No one in the opera party was the wiser that I had just endured my own brief battle with a tempest and biblical floods, except maybe the Desert Babe who glanced disapprovingly at my mud-spattered legs as I snuck in through the garage. Recovery beers thirty minutes later at the opera tailgater. Slacks, sport coat, and dress shoes neatly concealing fresh branch-lashes, scrapes, and sand still hiding in my toes.

Related Links
- Acequia Trail Underpass - Queued Up
- Santa Fe's Arroyo Systems
- Chamisa Trail

View Little Tesuque Loop in a larger map

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