Thursday, June 21, 2012

Arroyo Chamisos Bike Trail Underpass Nears Completion

Under construction since last August, the long awaited St. Francis Dr. bike trail underpass is just about finished. The new underpass connects the Arroyo Chamisos Trail to the city's eastside and the newly built stretch of city trail that routes to the hospital - the Gail Ryba Trail. I pass this way just about everyday and have been snapping semi-regular photos of the progress. So here they are, lined up in sequence.

Time lapse - construction of an underpass:

Arroyo chamisos trail underpass
The Arroyo Chamisos Underpass

First half complete, second half dug out

Steelworker guys photo-bombing my shot at 7am

The art relief panels - Foam molds are set in place before the concrete pour for the wall.

As of Wed. 6/20, almost there. I think they're waiting for the official opening/dedication before removing the fencing. The graffiti taggers are as anxious to use the tunnel as the bicyclists and runners.

My one complaint with the tunnel work had been the lack of obvious drainage. No drains, no grates, nothing. The tunnel will fill with water (or ice) at the first rain or snow! It will be unusable several months of the year! Aaah, but just yesterday I recognized the solution. The entire tunnel is built as drainage - the floor of the tunnel itself drops at a barely perceptible slope allowing water collecting on the east trail surfaces to flow through and out at the west entrance. That there is some mastery in engineering. Bravo sirs, bravo.

Besides bypassing the mess of traffic on St. Francis, the impetus for the trail was to add a transportation connection from the Rail Runner train stop at Zia and St. Francis to the hospital, the city's largest employer apparently. The new underpass is the first of its kind in Santa Fe. A culvert passing under Rodeo Rd was retro-fitted two years ago to extend the Arroyo Chamisos Trail west toward Cerrillos. A similar culvert retro-fit is planned for the Santa Fe River Trail at St. Francis and Alameda, and another culvert underpass exists out in Santa Fe County at NM 599 and Caja del Rio Rd, providing access to the soccer fields out that way.

I should note that Albuquerque's spectacular new pedestrian and bike bridge spanning the Rio Grande along Interstate-40 is also named in honor of Gail Ryba. Gail was almost single-handedly responsible for setting up New Mexico municipal bikeways and the relevant government committees and budgeting processes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. A not-so-small debt of gratitude due to Ms. Ryba.

Gail Ryba Bridge
Gail Ryba Bike & Pedestrian Bridge - Albuquerque, NM, 2010
Related Links
 - Santa Fe Area Trails and Maps

View Gail Ryba Trail - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Santa Fe Area Trails Land the Cover of Dirt Rag Magazine

Santa Fe's bike trails on the rise. 

Dirt Rag Santa Fe
Issue no. 164, (July '12)

Featured on this month's cover of Dirt RagSanta Fe Singletrack

Cover story by Santa Fe Fat Tire Society's Bob Ward, who may be the man most responsible for the recent resurgence of mountain biking in Santa Fe.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Run the Caldera Trail Marathon - Jemez, NM

Valles Caldera
The 7th annual Valles Caldera Trail Races were run last weekend. The marathon is a race I always have on my calendar but must always sideline due to a myriad of other chores. I watched a bit of last year's race and had intended to writeup a summary and post photos but the Conchas fire swept through the Valles the following week and it no longer seemed appropriate to publish with the course lying  in ashes.

Well, much of what burned in the Valles last year were grasses and undergrowth which have come back, and the races likewise returned for its seventh running. This race is always a bit under the radar but slowly growing. The course is challenging with at least one large climb at steep grade. The footing throughout is solid, it's not a course that emulates the anything goes ethos of a mountain-ultra. Yet, plenty of drama awaits out on the trails of the Valles. Three years ago I was there for the start and watched as the race was delayed for several minutes as brush fire swept through followed by a brigade of Hot Shot fire rangers who gave the ok to start. At the finish a friend told me he'd passed a bear along a section with a creek. All of this sounds like more fun and gonzo-adventure than this race seems to project on the local trail racing scene. I had several friends run in this year's marathon and half marathon and thought I'd give them all, and the race itself, a bit of recognition.

Valles Caldera
The Valle Grande
Matthew Brake won the overall in 3hrs 27min 45s. This is quick, and good enough for one of the top times over the last seven years. James McIntosh edged out Rio Rancho's Neil Blake for second by a hundred yards, 3:46:02. Ultra-runner and fellow writer Jim Breyfogle of Rio Rancho ran fifth, 4:04:46. Nice showing Jim. Espanola's Tony Gallegos ran 6th, 4:11:42. Tony's been running pretty strong this spring/summer. My sometimes training partner James Nunez ran 15th, 4:35:08, and another sometimes training partner Max Mujynya ran 25th, 4:57:46. Clean pair of heels boys.

The women's race was pretty strong up front. Los Alamos' Erica Baron ran to second overall in a time of 3:36:25 which I believe is a course record (p.r., S. Brozik, 3:39:17, 2006). Albuquerque's Jean Herbert edged out Maryann Kos of Santa Fe for 2nd, 3:58:28. The top three women came across the line in 2nd, 5th, and 7th in the overall placings.

Full 2012 Results can be found here (.pdf).

Place Name
Overall A/Grp Time

1 Matthew Brake 1 32 3:27:45
2 James McIntosh 3 50 3:46:02
3 Neil Blake 4 47 3:46:27
4 Reed Soehnel 6 23 3:59:07
5 James Breyfogle 8 30 4:04:46

1 Erica Baron 2 40 3:36:25
2 Jean Herbert 5 56 3:58:28
3 Maryann Kos 7 43 4:02:09
4 Aimee Hoyt 13 39 4:19:38
5 Leesy McCorgary 18 33 4:33:06

In the half marathon the Santa Fe crew claimed two of the top four placings - Joachim Marjon 1st overall, 1hr 31min 22s; and Antonio Lopez ran 4th, 1:44:38. In the women's race, Bridget Herron gets the win in 2:02:36; Santa Fe's Liz Lopez ran 19th, 2:19:15; Los Alamos' Tracy Kneisler ran 25th, 2:28:15; Santa Fe's Arianna Trott ran 27th, 2:29:17; and Abiquiu's Hilary Lorenz ran 28th, 2:29:28. Nice race people. Way to get out and get after it.

Hilary put together a fine race report that can be found here - AdventureArtist

Related Posts:
 - Caldera Marathon Called Off due to Fire (2013)
 - Frijoles Canyon in Recovery

View Valles Caldera Trail Marathon - New Mexico in a larger map

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The New Mexico Pika Monitoring Project

Hungry (squeaky) pika
It's been brought to my attention that a Santa Fe conservation group - The Seventh Generation Institute - is recruiting runners/hikers/and friends of the outdoors to participate in a study of pika in the Pecos Wilderness. The aptly named project, in collaboration with the National Park Service and a network of national conservation organizations, aims to use citizen-scientists to navigate off trail in the backcountry and collect data on the effects of climate change on the pika using scientific protocol.

I'll need to monitor the boulders and rocks more critically on my next outing up Baldy. Apparently pika populations are disappearing from some North American mountain locations but not others and ecologists attribute this shift to macro changes in our weather patterns. The study hopes to clarify effects of hotter summers and smaller snowpacks on local alpine ecology, using the little pika as an easily observable indicator. Research in New Mexico is key to the study since we are the southernmost bio-zone for these critters.
Seventh Generation Institute

Training of volunteers is coming up fast -  the weekends of June 30-July 1, or July 7- 8. This is an opportunity to turn your weekend hike into direct involvement in New Mexico conservation efforts. For more information on the project visit, or view the project's volunteer page at  Thank you to Cathryn Wild for passing on this information.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The La Piedra Trail - Dale Ball

Dale Ball Connector
La Piedra Trail - Descending the zipline
Among the many new trail projects around Santa Fe in the last year, a real keystone to the area's bike trails has been developing east of town - the La Piedra Connector Trail. La Piedra will tie together the national class Dale Ball Trails system in Santa Fe's east hills with the older and much more extensive Winsor Trail system that stretches north and east of town through the Santa Fe National Forest with access to the Pecos Wilderness and places north - like Penasco. An ambitious Santa Fean can now thru-hike (or run) 40+ miles across the Sangres to the Santa Barbara campground without crossing a road. I love to think about that. Specifically, the Connector will link the north loop of Dale Ball (north of the Sierra del Norte trailhead) with the Little Tesuque Creek Trail 1.5 miles to the north. Little Tesuque links to Winsor through a steep climb north to the Burn Trail.

Santa Fe Conservation Trust
The La Piedra Connector is the work of the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, its executive director Charlie O'Leary, and the SFCT's volunteer affiliate the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe. Funding came in from local contributors (you can be one too!), proceeds from the Banff Film Festival screenings this spring, as well as proceeds from the La Tierra Torture bike races. Charlie mentioned that a five-figure grant came in from a California Foundation whose trustee held fond memories of running in the hills above Santa Fe, which is awesome. The Trust was founded in 1993 by conservationist scion Stewart Udall, and is primarily responsible for negotiating the public easements and legal work required in setting aside privately owned land parcels for non-developed use in perpetuity. SFCT negotiated public/private easements for the initial construction of the Dale Ball Trails in the 90's, early improvements to the Rail Trail, as well as development of the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, the Cerrillos Hills Preserve, La Tierra Trails, and most recently - the Galisteo Basin Preserve.

Trials Alliance Santa Fe
My crew from the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe. At far left are Lynn and Charlie.
Trials Alliance Santa Fe
Some instruction on how to use our lobotomizers for good, not evil
The Dale Ball Trails have become a fixture in town, and the model for all the miles of recreation trails that have been built since. In fact it's difficult to remember when none of this was here. Being a native to the area I can tell you that back when I left for school, Santa Fe had only arroyos, Atalaya, and Winsor. The parcel of land that the Connector now runs through has long been eyed as the finishing piece of the iconic trail system. According to O'Leary, the landowner that placed the parcel in trust knew this and it was the primary motivator for doing so. The new trail crosses through the beginnings of the La Piedra arroyo drainage which it takes its name from.

Dale Ball Connector
On the trek in - making trail sons!
Working with the SF Trails Alliance, SFCT designed and mapped out a workable trail through the easement boundaries and contracted a team out of Albuquerque to conduct the initial trail cut. Work was originally planned to have begun in October but was pushed off until this spring when local volunteers including entire trail maintenance teams put together by the Santa Fe Fat TireSociety and REI Santa Fe knocked out much of the detail work by hand, including armoring switchbacks and corners, erosion controls, trail sloping, etc. I got out there and helped too. Myself and another Santa Fe badass named Lynn cleared out a load of deadfall and fixed up other drainage issues on the westside gully before the up-and-over into Little Tesuque. When you ride/run through there and see how awesome it is - you know who to mentally high-five.

The land parcel is limited in size, and as designed the Connector has a lot of tight, technical switchbacks in a steep descent down into the Little Tesuque drainage east of Bishop's Lodge. Thirty-three switchbacks by my count including a few more in the climb preceding the descent. A group of us ran it out the day after our trail maintenance work and it was fantastic. A terrific addition to the growing trail network.

Dale Ball Connector
Out with friends the day after - crushing the switchbacks

Dale Ball Connector
And down, and down, and further still - down

Burn Trail Santa Fe
Blue blazes trace the way up the Burn Trail

Burn Trail Santa Fe
At the fence-line to Winsor and beyond

Burn Trail Santa Fe
At the Juan Trail/Burn Trail highpoint - Tesuque Peak in view
Related Links

View Dale Ball Trail System - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trail Running Santa Fe Baldy and the Three Peaks

SF Baldy (L), Penitente and Lake Peaks (center-L), Tesuque Pk (center)
A reader sent over a listing of top performances for a few of the northern New Mexico summit trail runs. The listing comes from the MTN RNR trail running series, an informal group of local backcountry runners that get together to run-out these established courses on an annual basis and have been keeping records of best performances going back to the 1980’s.

The recognized Three Peaks route begins at the Santa Fe Ski Basin (10,000ft), heads up Winsor Trail to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy (12,622ft), descends south and passes through the Puerto Nambe saddle over to Penitente Peak (12,160ft), then up the east ridge of Lake Peak (12,409ft), traversing minor highpoint Deception Peak and just below the radio towers on Tesuque Peak (12,000ft), down Aspen Vista Rd to the trailhead, then a brief climb up Hyde Park Rd to the starting point. Roundtrip distance is 18.7mi with 4,550ft of climbing.

Best recorded performances of the Three Peaks route are the following:
 (M) Record:  Leo (Senovio) Torres – Cordova, NM, 2hrs 56min 56sec (1992)
 (W) Record:  Katie Gengler – 3:46:00 (1998)
 (M) Masters:  Leo (Senovio) Torres – 3:19:55 (1995)
 (W) Masters:  Ginny LaForme – 4:26:59 (1995)

Santa Fe Baldy (L), Deception Peak (near), Lake Peak (R)
Rumor has it that the late Russian alpinist Anatoli Boukreev may have challenged or bettered Torres’ record during one of his Santa Fe training sessions, but I haven’t heard enough detail to substantiate more than a mention in passing here.

Regardless, that is smokin' fast. I've run to Baldy summit in around 1hr 30min. Now that's not time-trialing but even if you take that down 15min you still need to add the traverse to Penitente and Lake Peaks (~1hr), the descent to Aspen Vista trailhead (I've raced down in 35min which isn't superfast but top speed for myself), then another 10min climb to the car. So my fastest possible times all linked together would still be short by 15-20min of Torres' best. The guy is a legend and deservedly so.

I’ve received a couple other emails regarding area records and performance lists and have added them to the updated New Mexico Records page along with the times above. The Tough Guy page has also been updated with a few runner profiles from the Four Minute Milers list. Good reading.

Related Links
- Santa Fe Area Trails List
- Santa Fe Peaks and Summits

View Deception Peak - Santa Fe in a larger map


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