Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Santa Fe Rail Trail Re-Imagined

The Pistol - out rippin' miles like a boss
In light of the recent trail and forest closures due to excessive fire danger (our second closure in three years), I thought I'd write about the Rail Trail which will remain open during the closures and for that reason is likely to see a bit more foot and cycling traffic over the next couple months. Because the southern section of the trail is relatively flat and has only one road crossing (Rabbit Rd) it's ideal for long marathon training runs (20+) and for non-technical mountain bike rides if you or someone in your riding group lacks the skillset to negotiate Dale Ball or La Tierra.

The Rail Trail is a genuine classic, holding title as the oldest of our in-town trails. It predates the Arroyo Chamisos Trail (footpaths before the trail was put in), by several years if not longer. As such, it stood as the template for the many trails that have come afterward including Arroyo Chamisos (1997), Dale Ball (2001), and eventually the Santa Fe River and Acequia Trails. The Winsor, Borrego, and Atalaya trails are much older, but they traverse the foothills and high county and share a pastoral history that generally belongs in an all together different class of trail systems.

Thirty years ago the Rail Trail was primarily an ad-hoc route that followed along the Santa Fe Rail Line from Arroyo Hondo and Sunlit Hills up to the city limits. Eldorado was just being built out then and Lamy was a as sparsely populated as it is now. An adventurous friend I knew in high school would occasionally bike in along the rail line all the way from Glorieta, (he also happened to be a state champion runner). But things changed for the better in 1994 when Stewart Udall and the newly formed Santa Fe Conservation Trust stepped in and secured the land in trust, and with some federal funding that they cobbled together they were able to build out a few re-routes and development of actual sections of trail separate from the railbed cobbles and rail-ties.

New trail improvements include a planed surface and significant erosion control - Fall 2012

Rock work and an newly elevated section near the tracks - Fall 2012
Looking north at the newly elevated path. It's completed now.
Note the snow in the highcountry when the photo was taken. 
Cadillac pedestrian crossing out in BFE
The Rail Trail has been improved on a couple times since, most notably the formal development of the trail from the city/county line out on Rabbit Rd through town and into the new Railyard Plaza in 2008. Formal trailheads were also put in at Nine Mile Rd, Rabbit Rd, and Zia & St. Francis at that time. Last summer (2012) saw the completion of stage 1 of a new alignment and re-grade of the trail, bringing the trail up to code by setting it a minimum distance from the tracks, building in fence lines and signage, and adding features for better drainage and maintenance of the trail. The work involved the two miles of trail between Rabbit Rd and the Spur Trail. I don't recall the sequence in which work is scheduled on the other sections but I believe the Eldorado portion attracts the second most traffic along the trail and so they are next in line.

New signage
Old signage. True story - I probably ran out a couple hundred miles on the Rail Trail
before someone pointed these mile markers out to me.  Just never noticed them I guess. 
I love the what they've done to the trail. It's just gorgeous now with most if not all of the sand sections and widowmaker potholes removed (not fun to be surprised by one of these at night). The new rock work and berms provide texture and capture the proper aesthetic. My favorite times to be on the trail are daybreak, sunset, and at full moon. Unmatched views. The major new complaint from rec users that I hear often is that in an effort to make the trail more accessible all technical elements have been sanitized and removed. Bollocks, I say! If you get out and explore a little a bit you'll find that there's miles of untouched singletrack on the east side of the tracks. Great for running, less great for riding in my opinion because in my experience sand and blind potholes lead to unnecessary separation from the bike followed by pain and discomfort. If your aim is technical riding why mark the Rail Trail anyway when Dale Ball sits beckoning only a few miles to the east? The two offer very different trail experiences. One is a national class recreation trail, Dale Ball; the other is a stellar off-road commuter route amenable to jogging strollers, the Rail Trail. Decades in the making no less.

Now get out there and make it happen. Explore your trails.

Miles 6, 7, and 8 - on any given summer evening on the Rail Trail. 
Related Posts:
  - Rail Trail Improvements Update (Sep 2015)
  - Train Trestle Loop
  - Cycling the Rail Trail - Zia Rd to Nine Mile Rd'
  - Luminaries on the Rail Trail

View Santa Fe Rail Trail - Santa Fe, NM in a larger map

Monday, June 24, 2013

Santa Fe Forest Closed for Fire Season

Sunrise over the Sangres (6/22)
Closures will be lifted Friday 7/12

It has been in the papers and on the news the last few days, but the Santa Fe National Forests have been set to Stage III restrictions as of this morning (6/24), and will be closed to all access until further notice. The Pecos Wilderness was closed a couple weeks back to deal with the ongoing fires in the Pecos River Basin (Tres Lagunas Fire) and up on the higher ridge of East Pecos Baldy (Jaroso Fire). The Cibola national forests in Albuquerque have been in Stage III for several weeks, the Carson national forests up in Taos moved to Stage II recently. Bandelier National Monument and the Bandelier Wilderness are still open at Stage II restrictions.

The Santa Fe closure also affects the Caja del Rio area, which is unfortunate. City trails that will remain open include Dale Ball and the Dorothy Stewart extension, the Audubon/SF Canyon PreserveLa Tierra, the Rail Trail (including the Spur Trail), Arroyo Hondo, and Galisteo Basin. I believe Sun and Moon Mountains are still open since they're in City Open Space. Atalaya trails are open. likely closed though I can't confirm that. Picacho Peak is open remains a bit of a question as well. All of the City Urban Trails will of course remain open.

The ascent up Chamisa at daybreak
Right, well none of this was unexpected and several folks I know had plans to get up on the trails this weekend before closure went into effect. Some of the folks included me. Adam and I were first on Dale Ball, Chamisa, and Sidewinder Trails on Saturday. Tried to descend through Little Tesuque Trail but the County now has a fence up at La Piedra and the Yellow Dot trail, so we hiked the 33 switchbacks and returned via Dale Ball. Beautiful morning to be out.

We could smell smoke from the Jaroso fire on the higher parts of the ride. No bueno. We're all hoping the rains arrive sooner rather than later, and that the fires are held at bay until then.

Update:  Atalaya is open, but we found on Sunday 6/30 that at least one of the access trails was roped off because of work the NF crew were doing on that section of trail. We were told that the day before several hikers were ducking the rope and were ticketed $150 each. Be courteous, be smart, avoid tickets.

On the Chamisa Trail ridge. Adam's head obscured by first light.

The Rio Grande Valley - morning view from Sidewinder Trail ridge

Door to door: 2hrs 55min, ride time 2:45
Mileage: ~28mi
Highest Elev: 8,500ft

View Chamisa and Sidewinder Trails in a larger map

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Track and Field Nationals Waddup!

Simpson brings the pain in Daegu, 2011 WC
Track and Field Nationals start up this week - Thursday-Sunday in Des Moines, IA. Top three finishers in each event provisionally qualify for this fall's World Championships in Moscow. The way elite running is set up right now, months will go by without seeing the heavyweight matchups. Smaller meets through the early summer and spring and even back into indoor season and cross country nationals will bring out a few of the top runners but many will stay home either because they're targeting a different meet or race, or they're working through injury, or there's no money in it (i.e. cross country), or they do show up only to race down in distance to sharpen speed or up in distance to hammer on strength. Nationals however, brings out all the Big Dogs to battle their marquee rivals over their natural race distances. Get it on, man. The only athletes that get a pass to Worlds without a podium finish at Nationals are the defending World Champions, and our only distance runner returning to defend a title is Jenny Simpson (of CU Boulder!) in the 1500m. Steeple champ Emma Coburn (Go Buffs!) was the only sure thing on the women's side but she's out with a back injury after winning NCAA's. The men's distance talent has become so deep that other than Olympians Galen Rupp and Evan Jager, just about every other WC qualifying spot is up for grabs. Shit is gonna get real.

Steeplers battle at last year's Olympic Trials
in Eugene. Cabral and Jager (c,r) earned
their tickets to London, Olinger (l) crumbled.
Beyond the big battles on the track there are a couple of interesting developments for this year's meet:  Live streaming coverage will be available at USA Track & Fields' new internet broadcast outlet USATF.TV in what looks like a joint venture with Runnerspace. This is a big departure from the ordinary non-Olympic year coverage wherein NBC will sometimes provide edited broadcast coverage with comically bad announcing the following day - after it's well known who won and who crapped-the-bed. Of late, Universal Sports Online occasionally provides coverage at a fee, notably for European Diamond League events. Bandwith and login issues often plague the service. We'll see if the USATF can avoid similar issues in what amounts to their rollout of a new platform (I won't hold my breath). This is nonetheless a very positive development for a sport that can be difficult to follow even for the faithful.

Interestingly, without general access to live coverage on the cable networks or streaming coverage on the net, the best source to spring up (by a long shot) for major race event coverage has become Twitter. The platform doesn't crash, or stall, or attract nonsense and garbage as with the message boards. You can source your tweets direct from the top journalists and bloggers in the sport, from folks in the stands at the meet, and even from the athletes themselves. I've recently become a convert and have setup an account if only for the daily news feed (I've pinned a widget to the sidebar). For race previews and coverage as well as some of the best twitter feeds, I'd advise heading over to the Daily Relay.

Update: The link has been changed to one that works -
Shocking, I know.

Update II (6/21): The first link is now the functioning one again -
Coverage and streaming last night for the 10000m were surprisingly good.

Related Posts:
 - Olympic 10000m Recap
 - Olympic Steeplechase Recap

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New York's Incredible High Line Park

NYC High Line
A friend of mine tipped me off to New York's new High Line, which passed near where we were staying on our recent visit. The High Line itself is an old elevated rail line that used to ferry goods from the ships at port to the warehouses in the Meat Packing District. What makes it new is that rather then demo-ing what was left of the long out-of-use rail structure, it has recently been reclaimed and repurposed as a marvelous garden walkway, floating through the fashionable Chelsea neighborhood several floors above street level. Its completion is new enough (2011) that all the surrounding investment it has spurred is still filling up the spaces below and rising up around it: Several new condo hi-rises, large scale renovations of old buildings, even a new wing of the Whitney Museum of Art is in build-out at the south end of the line. An amazing urban space.

I was up at daybreak on Memorial Day so I could run it out (in a linkup with the Hudson Greenway). Lots to see.

Tracks as garden beds

Floating above Manhattan streets
One of many artistic contributions

Viewing spaces
These can track back and forth with the sun

Old rail spurs abut the surrounding buildings. They're now garden spurs.

Design frames design - IAC Building at left

Glass elevators to street level

Or stairs

End of the line - Gansvoort and Washington

View High Line Park - New York City in a larger map

Friday, June 14, 2013

Craft Beer in New Mexico

This evening is the first annual Santa Fe Summer Brew at the Railyard Plaza. Sort of a follow-up on several successful area beer-garden events in the last few years presented by the New Mexico Brewers Guild (see: 2011's WinterBrew). Herman and I, and a few of our other traildog buddies plan to be there lingering about, sampling the merchandise as it were.

In a very timely article, New Yorker Magazine has compiled and published some interesting figures just this week about the meteoric growth of the craft beer industry over the last few years. There are currently 2,360 breweries (not including brew-pubs) in the U.S., up from just 79 in the 1980's. In a very cool interactive graph the magazine pulled together you can see that New Mexico is the home to 27 small brewer/bottlers, more than half of which will be at tonight's Summer Brew event. This collection of craft brewers ranks NM 26/50 states, and together they produced 48,000 barrels of hops flavored go-juice last year which ranks us 31/50 states. New Mexico's craft brewery to population ratio is even more impressive, 6.6 per 500,000 residents - which slots us 12th out of the 50 states.

Other interesting facts: The largest craft brewers by production are Sam Adams (Boston, MA), Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA), and New Belgium (Fort Collins, CO). A list of the 50 largest breweries by volume can be browsed in the click-through graphic.

Cool inter-active craft brewery figures by state. Disregard the unintentional focus on the state of Texas.

Related Posts:
  - Drink Beer - Support Local SF Trails
  - Santa Fe WinterBrew
  - New Belgium Brewery and Their Awesome Beer

View New Mexico Craft Beer in a larger map

Friday, June 7, 2013

Running on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

Heading north on the Greenway with the Hudson River
(and New Jersey! at left), George Washington Bridge
in the distance
Myself and the Missus were out visiting the City last weekend for a family wedding. I went out exploring for some new trails since I've run out most of Central Park during previous visits (NYC marathon sons!). I took aim toward the green area on the map we had and I found the Hudson River Greenway, not far from where we were staying on Manhattan's west side. I had no idea New York had cycling lanes and running trails that ran from Battery Park at the island's southern point, all the way up past Columbia University and the George Washington Bridge to the north. Apparently the Waterfront Greenway system stretches most of the way around Manhattan now with a few on-street connectors and gaps yet to be built out. Hardly needs to be said but that's badass.

So I was on my way, clicking through the miles on a sweet trail that I didn't know existed only minutes before. It's heavenly when this happens. Advantages to trail running on the Greenway are the following: No traffic crossings, great views, an aircraft carrier (seriously), New Jersey coastline, art installations, cool boats, etc. (did I mention New Jersey? heheh, only kidding). I happened to be out running very early on a cool and rainy morning so there wasn't much in the way of bike traffic to watch out for. I noticed that all of the bikes were road bikes which I thought was odd until I got to thinking that there probably isn't anywhere to ride a mountain bike for miles. A strange reality actually.

Southbound on the return trip
Nearer to downtown, One World Trade Center beams 

My route took me from 48th St up to about 104th then turned around. Wanted to make it to '11', you know, always want to take it to 11, but I was kind of tapped out at 100 and ran up to the next junction and it happened to be 104th. Best I can tell that was about 3miles one way, so roughly twenty blocks to a mile. I was kind of hopping into some of the little side parks along the way, but that's a decent distance approximation.
Citi Bike near Times Square
Another item of note witnessed on this trip was the rollout of Citi Bike, New York's new bike share program. It's no non-profit rainbows and lollipops venture, it's a full on pay-as-you-go public transit system (along with the subway, the bus network, and the taxi services), privately funded by Citibank. You pick up a bike at one station (with a credit card swipe), ride it several blocks toward your destination and dock the bike to the nearest station. A fifteen minute walk becomes a 5 minute bike ride. The bikes are built sturdy and for ease of riding. They're not performance machines but the seats are adjustable.

This is a big deal that could potentially lead to a launch of similar programs in other large metro areas, as well as maintain the current popularity and momentum of urban trail development nation-wide. It's had its glitches though, mostly with the docking stations. If it falls on its face it would likely fuel loads of angst from the anti-bike people who were understandably apoplectic about having cool new blue bikes that cost a fraction of taxi fare and received start-up funding from the private sector.  I'm going to wager that these people don't drink beer or have friends. Seriously though, who doesn't like bikes?

Memorial Day was the official first day of Citi Bike. We were strolling the Pistol around so we couldn't really get in a first-ies spin unfortunately, but I did excitedly take pictures while the Desert Babe pretended not to be with me! Reports were that the system logged 6,000 individual trips that day, and that 15,000 annual subscriptions had already been purchased. A 24hr pass is priced at $9.95, a 7-day pass is $25.00, an annual pass is just $95.00.

Citi Bike station with bike lane
Citi Bike meter and instructions. 

View Manhattan Waterfront Greenway - New York in a larger map

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Valles Caldera Marathon Cancelled due to Fire

Fire lines as of Monday 6/3 (click to enlarge)
Use for current updates 
We heard early yesterday that this weekend's marathon and other Run the Caldera events would need to be postponed in light of the active Thompson Fire burning near the course. Turns out the need to cancel all race events was announced Sunday via the race Facebook page. The growing fire had expanded through Redondo Canyon and impaired the course as well as guaranteed that runners and race support would likely interfere with any fire management operations in the area.

I'd advise using the Facebook page to follow further updates, possible race re-scheduling, and the situation on the possible refund of fees or maybe entries into next year's event? I imagine they'll work this last part out but it's entirely possible that the race directors have spent much of their budget with the race only days away.

A real shame about both the re-visit of fire to the Caldera in our ongoing drought, and the cancellation of a gorgeous trail run that was beginning to pick up a growing field of runners.

 In-person photos from of the Thompson Ridge Fire, courtesy of Jemez' Steve Pero here.

Update II:
Additionally, it looks like the Forest Service is shutting access to the Pecos Wilderness at least until resources are less strained from the Tres Lagunas Fire burning there. It sounds as though access could re-open if the fires come under control. The Jemez Ranger District (which includes Bandelier) has announced it is moving to Stage 2 fire restrictions, just one step below total closure. The Espanola Ranger District (Santa Fe NF) is currently under Stage1 fire restrictions.

Related Posts:
  - Run the Caldera 2012
  - NM Trail Racing Calendar
  - Los Conchas Fire 2011

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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...