Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blue Dot Trail

Blue Dot Trail
Length: 0.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Parking: Blue Dot Trailhead at Overlook Park
Used by: Hikers
Use: Light
Connecting Trails: White Rock Canyon Rim Trail, River Trail

Access: From the corner of New Mexico Highway 4 and Rover Boulevard, head down Rover, following the signs for Overlook Park.  Make the first left turn onto Meadow Lane and continue 0.7 mile to the entrance to Overlook Park.  Turn left and continue past baseball diamonds and soccer fields to a paved road to the right marked for the trailhead.  Continue on this road 0.1 mile and park in the large paved lot near the information kiosk.  Note that the park closes and the entrance gate is locked at 10 p.m.

Narrative: The Blue Dot Trail is the quickest way from rim to river in White Rock Canyon.  There is a price to pay, however, as the trail is steep, rough, and often strewn with small, round rocks that make footing treacherous.  If you are looking for a slightly easier local route into the canyon, head a few miles south to the Red Dot Trail.

The trail was developed as a cattle trail in the early twentieth century.  Cattle still used it when White Rock was built in the early 1960s and the developer was forced to built a fence across the head of the trail to keep cows from coming up to munch on the fresh shrubs planted around the model homes.  As the old trail became popular with residents, local scouts improved it and marked the route by painting blue dots on the rocks along the way.  

From the information kiosk, head downhill (east) towards the edge of the canyon on the well-marked trail.  In the maze of confusing trails, follow the one lined with rocks that stays in a small drainage between two low hills. Near the canyon rim, intersect the White Rock Canyon Rim Trail.  Just ahead at the canyon rim is an opening in a fence.  Pass through the opening and drop through a cleft in the rock cliff.  The trail makes several tight turns, dropping steeply. In a quarter mile, reach a level, grassy bench.  Follow the trail southeast across the meadow.  On the other side, the trail resumes its steep descent to the river.

After swinging to the south, the trail drops on switchbacks along a minor drainage.  Rounded river cobbles act like marbles underfoot, so use caution on this section.  After the trail grade moderates, enjoy views of the cliffs of the canyon rim. At 0.8 mile, intersect the River Trail to the right.  Bear left to stay on the Blue Dot Trail.  In 150 feet, the trail bears left again.  In a few steps you’ll be on a rocky path about 30 feet above the Rio Grande.  Follow this trail, still marked with blue dots, upstream. The end of the trail is marked by a small beach and enjoy the shade of a spreading cottonwood nearby.  Watch out for sand burrs on the beach, and use caution along the bank of the deep, swift-moving river.

Trail Maintenance on the Blue Dot Trail

What goes for the Red Dot Trail is true for the Blue Dot. 

When I last hiked down the Red Dot Trail a few months ago I thought to myself, “Man this is rough; I really must be getting old.”
Last month I revisited the trail and came away with a different opinion. A good deal of the slips and trips that I had previously attributed to worn-out knees and a deteriorating sense of balance had a lot to do with the thousands of pebbles that covered the trail. Over the years, but particularly in the last several months, small rocks have covered the trail tread. Roundish rocks on smooth basalt make for rather slick footing. Every step is an adventure.
I started thinking about why I've never worked on the Blue Dot Trail during my 10 years as County trail guy. I've blamed the lack of work in summer heat, presence of rattlesnakes, and a reluctance to hike out of the canyon carrying heavy tools. But the real reason turned out to be I just didn't know what I could do to improve the trail. Mulling it over, I started grabbing some of the pebbles with my hand and tossing them off the trail. It made an amazing difference. Maybe it's time to work on the trail a bit. 

The intent of the maintenance is not to make the journey down the Blue Dot Trail easier. It will never be an easy trip. The goal is to make it safer, easier to follow, and more attractive to hikers. And, having spent a bit more time down there thinking about the possibilities, I think there are some tricks that will help make the trail more sustainable.

Stay tuned....

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on the County's Draft Land Use Planning Map

The Los Alamos County Department of Community and Economic Development held two public meetings in early February to present revised land use maps as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Land use maps basically show the preferred level of development for all properties within the County. I've had several requests to comment on the maps and detail some of the proposed changes.

A Bit of Background
An effort to develop a revised comprehensive plan for Los Alamos County began in 1998. As part of the planning process, the County Administrator appointed an Open Space Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee was established in May of 2000, was directed by Council to undertake a study that would result in…

"…an open space plan for Los Alamos County (that) would identify land, including acreage to be transferred from the Department of Energy (DOE), that is most important to the community and its natural habitat and provide for its long-term protection. A well-designed open space land plan would also help respond to housing and economic development needs by identifying areas suitable for controlled development."

This committee, and the subsequent Open Space Task Force, spent two years developing a Draft Los Alamos County Open Space Plan. The plan was received by the County Council, and the Council asked County staff to develop a land use map as a co-strategy for open space management. That was in 2003.

In 2004, Los Alamos County convened a “Town Hall” meeting facilitated by New Mexico First, a consulting firm that specialized in providing forums for solving issues related to development. The expected outcome of the two-day session was to develop recommendations for specific parcels on the land use map. The Town Hall participants recommended that Barrancas Canyon, Bayo Canyon, Pueblo Canyon, the Rendija Tract transfer parcel, the parcel south of the airport, White Rock Canyon, and all existing PL (W-1) and PL (W-2) lands be designated open space. They could reach not consensus on the approximately 15 acres on the east and south sides of the golf course.

Despite considerable time and effort by citizens and staff, a land use map was never developed and the open space plan never adopted.

The Draft Map

The draft map looks very good. Parcels of County-owned land currently used for outdoor recreation are mapped as natural areas, including two parcels previously zoned for housing or commercial. Below is a list of changes from the current zoning map, keyed to the map that follows:

  1. The southeast corner of the Rendija Tract is now owned by Los Alamos County and is not part of the Santa Fe National Forest. It probably should be designated Natural Area.
  2. The site of the demolished Depart of Energy Headquarters is designated Neighborhood Commercial/Mixed Use.
  3. The golf course and the Woodland Canyon parcel to the north is designated Park (currently Public Land).
  4. Two parcels in the Aspen School neighborhood are proposed to change from Public Land to Medium Density Residential. One parcel is on the southwest corner of the intersection of 34th and Villa, the other is between 34th and 35th just south of 2188 35th.
  5. The parcels on the south side of the golf course are proposed to change from Low Density residential to Natural Area.
  6. The following areas are proposed as natural area, but are not so-designated under the current zoning map (they are currently zoned Public Land or Light Industrial):

a)      The Dot Grant Trail parcel east of Range Road and the cemetery
b)      The parcel at the tip of Los Alamos Mesa east of the Pajarito Cliffs site where the Camp Hamilton Trail begins
c)      The upper Walnut Canyons bounded by Arizona, 35th, 36th, and Alabama
d)      The entrance to Hidden Canyon south of Trinity Drive and south of the  Mountain View subdivision
e)      The Canyon Rim Trail corridor is proposed as a Natural Area and Park
f)     White Rock Canyon

My only suggestions for changes at this stage:
·        Subdivide golf course “park” between Diamond Drive and Woodland Avenue to separate the golf course and the open space parts
·        Subdivide Overlook Park into park/ballfields and open space on the southern half of the parcel

When it comes down to zoning these parcels, I have lots of suggestions, but the main one is to create a clearly defined zoning classification for the open space network that is nearly continuous from the Rio Grande to the foothills above the Western Area. This network is shown on the land use map as Natural Area. In a town that seeks to market itself as an outdoor-oriented mountain community, it is an idea whose time has come.

Link to the Los Alamos Draft Land Use Map:

Link to the White Rock Draft Land Use Map:

Coming Soon: Designating trail access points on the land use map

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pajarito Canyon/Nail Trail Re-Re-Visited

In the mid-1990s, mountain bike riders began regular excursions up rough route that climbed the Pajarito fault south of Camp May Road.  It was steep, rocky, and hugely challenging.  I was younger then and remember cleaning the uphill once—out of 50 tries. The fun and hard work were rewarded with a long, twisting descent in Pajarito Canyon. The four-mile loop was unofficially adopted by the newly formed Tuff Riders Mountain Bike Club and we worked on improvements for National Trails Day in 1999.

Shortly after, we started having a run of more-than-expected flat tires along the uphill stretch. That’s when someone discovered a 50-foot stretch of trail laced with roofing nails amid the pine needles. The rumor was that a permanent camper in the woods up there hated the sound of bikes rattling by and tried to discourage wheels on the trail. Although the rumor wasn’t confirmed, the name Nail Trail stuck.

After the Cerro Grande fire raced over Pajarito Canyon, the trail up the drainage was the second major project we tackled. (The Forest Service only allowed us to work on the mesa top Quemazon Trail, out of any potential flood zone, until the end of the monsoons.) For many of us, it was our first major experience with the effects of post-fire flooding. Above the Dungeon climbing area, the stream crossings were blown out, and in spots the channel was entrenched a couple feet, putting the trail on the edge of a steep gully. We built two reroutes and a four-foot high rock wall that still holds up the trail about 300 feet up the canyon from the climbing area.

The Nail Trail after Cerro Grande

Up the canyon near the Nail Trail, aspens had encroached into the tread. Any vegetation seemed sacred and we were loathe to cut them back. But naturalist Dorothy Hoard, approaching her 70th birthday but still helping cut trail, rightly told us there would be plenty of aspens sprouting in the burned area and not to worry. Wow, was she right!

Below the narrows and the climbing area, the canyon bottom trail was completely gone and covered with boulders. We asked if we could move the trail to contour around the hills to enter the canyon at the narrows, coming in from the south. That segment was our first chance to build an entirely new trail that was a bit more bicycle friendly and erosion resistant.

If fire wasn’t enough, changing rainfall patterns in the 2000s altered the Pajarito Canyon/Nail Trail loop. Several rain events in 2006 and 2007 were classified as “100-year storms.” The effects of intense runoff from the rocky slopes were noticeable on the challenging uphill section of the Nail Trail. The old road funneled water, and the increased volume and velocity scoured the trail to bedrock. What had been a route where you could pick a line to make a slow, steady climb was transformed into a series of rock ledges with tire-trapping wedges. Over the years, the Nail Trail became mostly a downhill journey for technical riders only.

As the landscape recovered from the Cerro Grande flames, the loop became one of my favorite hikes. In spring and summer, the north-facing slopes of the canyon shimmered with lime-green aspens. The canyon bottom always whispered with moving water. And I could count on spotting 60 or more species of flowers in bloom on a mid-summer’s day, including endangered day lilies. If the Nail Trail climb was hot, the shady descent through the canyon was always refreshing.

Wood lily in Pajarito Canyon

The Las Conchas fire back burn, ignited to push the flames around the west edge of town, ran pretty hot up the canyon. It never jumped into the crowns of the old ponderosa pines growing on the slopes, but it singed their trunks and scorched their needles. The area was classified as moderate burn, but most of the conifers and aspens in the canyon were killed by the heat. The result was a completely different trail re-building challenge for round two.

My first look at the canyon and Nail Trail mesa in September 2011 was a bit deceiving. The landscape along the Nail Trail wasn’t much different than before the fire: burned trees, some shrubs. What I didn’t realize was missing was the thick stands of young aspens, the fallen logs from Cerro Grande-killed trees, and grass clumps. In the canyon, only the lower quarter mile was black, the rest was tawny red with singed needles still on the trees. I figured most of the recovery would be easy.

The Nail Trail after Las Conchas

Well, those denuded slopes took a lot of water over the summers of 2001 and 2012. A couple of “100-year storms” and maybe a “500-year storm.” With nothing, not even fallen snags, to slow any runoff, the slopes would shed sheets of water during rain events. By the time we were permitted to work in the canyon in June 2012, the hill slopes were gullied, the trail cut by channels, and tons of gravel dumped on the trail.

A lot of the work just above the narrows was cutting back brush from a year of disuse, but the work got harder the further up we went. New retaining walls were built next to walls constructed in 2000. The trail bench was re-cut and literally tons of gravel washed from upslope were pushed off the tread, raising choking clouds of dust. We built rock ramps through new drainages, cut out fallen trees, and even suited up in long sleeves and pulled out 8-foot tall stinging nettles. By the beginning of July, after 4 weeks of evening and weekend work sessions, I was feeling pretty good—the trail was back, mostly. Only the first quarter mile needed a complete rebuilding.

Volunteers tackle the Pajarito Canyon Trail, June 2012

All of this work couldn’t have been accomplished without unwavering support from Lynn Bjorklund of the Santa Fe National Forest recreation staff. A Los Alamos native and avid trail user (I’ve seen her using local trails on foot, bike, and skis), Lynn made certain that all the forest service requirements were met so that when a crew of volunteers showed up they could get to work. Lynn leveraged a few dollars of trail repair funds into many more dollars through grants, cost share agreements, and contracts. So when I suggested we rebuild the lower part of Pajarito Canyon out of the floodplain, she got the approvals necessary. And I had a group of young girl scouts who wanted to help repair a trail.

Everything came together for the evening of July 11, especially the storm clouds. I arrived at the trailhead to the sound of thunder, not unusual at 4:45 PM in summer. Fifteen minutes later, I was sheltered in my truck as the clouds dumped torrents along the Jemez foothills. When the girls arrived, I chased them home and was about to follow when curiosity took hold—I wonder what the canyon looks like.

I was soaked in 10 seconds. Sheet flow poured down the slopes, and gullies were gouged out as I watched. The little side drainage next to the trailhead flowed about four-feet deep, preventing access to the canyon. To the south I could hear a roar that sounded like a train, so I headed that way, but again the path was blocked by raging water. At about 5:20, the rain eased a bit, and I found a way to reach Starmer’s Gulch. Since I had been there earlier in the day, I had a pretty good estimate that the wall of water headed downhill was six feet deep. I retreated when I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the entire mountain was eroding away under my feet.

Sheet flow in Pajarito Canyon, July 11, 2012

At the truck, I noticed that the bucket in the truck bed had about 3 inches of water inside. “I wonder what that translates into for inches of rain?” Duh, 3 inches.
Recording rain gauges on the hills above me confirmed that about 2.5 inches had fallen in roughly 20 minutes. No trail, much less one inside a burned area, can survive that much water in such a brief time.

Several times during the summer I was asked why I was pushing so much trail work be accomplished in such a short time. Having been through the post-fire process once, I knew the important thing was to stabilize the trails—rough them in, find where the water wants to go and encourage it to do so, and get people to pound them in a bit—before the rains come.

The next day I went out to survey the damage. Water cut a little deeper through the channels we created for it, and a lot of new gravel had been dumped on the tread. Cleaning the gravel off wasn’t difficult, but we’d have to go over every foot of trail a second time to clean up the mess.

Young trailbuilders from the Y Environmental Service Corps on the Pajarito Canyon reroute

And we did. Clean up was a hell of a lot easier than it was stabilize the trail earlier in the year, and it went a lot faster. Yes, we had built some sweet channel crossings that were washed to the Rio Grande, but that was the only real damage (we’ll rebuild those in a year or two when we can expect less water flow).

Current Conditions: Despite the repair work, the Pajarito Canyon/Nail Trail loop didn’t get much use over the summer. This allowed the resident population of New Mexico locust, with its razor-sharp inch-long thorns, to encroach into the trail. Several of us spent fall weekends digging the locusts out, and once they were gone, trail use, always heavier in these parts in the fall, picked up.

The new route to the Dungeon climbing area was complete by the almost rain-soaked girls scouts, the Family YMCA’s Y Environmental Service Corps and Youth Conservation Corps, and a handful of volunteers. That section of the trail is better than ever. A mysterious bridge builder spanned the five-foot gully of the main channel with a log-and-wood bridge that make the easy passage complete (a bridge of the channel cut into the southern route to the narrow is built in the same style, same builder?).

Above the climbing area, the trail is very steep and continues to be rutted by each storm. From that point up canyon, the trail is wide, open, thorn-free, a bit gravelly, but a great walk and a fun bike ride.

The Pajarito Canyon Trail is in pretty good shape for spring excursions

The old road section of the Nail Trail remains a problem. The road was used as a fireline during the suppression action and the bulldozer created low berms on the downhill side of the trail. This traps water on the trail and has led to increasing erosion. This section is more technical than before the fire for bikes, and a lot rougher on foot. Passable by both, but not quite as much fun.  

The lower section, the part that drew us to the trail in the 90s, remains tough. We a little work it could become the new Quemazon Trail, a challenging but clean ascent and descent that would attract a few more users.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rebuilding the Water Canyon Trail, Parts 1 and 2

In the pre-Cerro Grande heyday of mountain biking around Los Alamos, the downhill trip through Water Canyon was nearly everyone’s favorite lunchtime getaway. It was a fast-paced trip through thick forest on a narrow trail and we all thought it was a great mimic of the Ewok speeder scenes in the original Star Wars trilogy. 

There were many reasons to love the canyon. It always had water and all kinds of wildflowers. In some winters, you could cross-country ski down the narrow track. It held monster Douglas firs, bright aspen groves, and you could almost always find bear tracks.

We rarely think of taking photos of our common experiences; we assume the opportunity will be there forever. My collection of 50,000 photographs has only a few of trails before 1999 and none showing the shady route in Water that I traveled dozens of times.

The Cerro Grande fire changed almost everything about Water Canyon. The trail was so devastated by post-fire floods that I refused to lead work parties in there because it seemed hopeless. But the gentle downhill tilt of the canyon, the rocks, the isolation, and the bear population were unaltered. It was still Water Canyon.

In 2005, I asked my wife what she wanted for her birthday gift. "The Water Canyon Trail," she replied without a moment of hesitation. 

It was a snowless winter, Pajarito Mountain was rarely open, and so for our weekend exercise sessions we went into the canyon between West Jemez Road and the road to American Springs and started cutting a path through the fallen trees. It was nearly impossible to follow the original trail, so we snaked back and forth, picking up old trail segments as we found them. Before long, we noticed that others were working on the trail, too, including those amazing chainsaw operators who cut a long log bridge. The trail slowly came back to life and was again a great bike or hike trip. This was especially true after 2010 when we had the opportunity to get the Family YMCA's Youth Conservation Corps into the canyon and they did amazing tread work that truly brought the trail back to something like the original.

When the Las Conchas fire came through Water Canyon, the burn severity map showed it as mostly within a moderate burn area where the living trees are scorched but the needles aren't consumed. Only the uppermost section of the watershed high against the east ridge of Cerro Grande was really toasted. I was hopeful that the trail would survive the post-fire floods and that only some clean-up work would be necessary.

What do I know? During July and August 2011, the upper Water Canyon watershed received two rainstorms of more than 1.5 inches in less than an hour. That patch of high intensity burn high up was enough to throw a lot of water into the drainage. Plus, much of the fire in the Water Canyon drainage was re-burn in the Cerro Grande burn scar. The fuel consisted of small aspen and New Mexico locust, along with down logs from trees killed by the first fire. The area burned hot enough to kill the re-growth and to consume the down logs. This stripped the slopes of all ground cover--those logs would have helped slow runoff and would have reduced the intensity of the post-fire floods.

The result was that the entire trail was gone again. I reported in November 2011 that the canyon was basically a rut within a rut. The trail was either completely washed away or covered with boulders. The lower section of the trail below Sawmill Meadow was a total loss. 

This was getting personal. This time I was ready to jump right back into trail reconstruction no matter how hopeless the situation on the ground.

Española Ranger District Recreation Manager (and Los Alamos native) Lynn Bjorklund, Forest Service Volunteer Coordinator Jennifer Sublett and I toured the canyon in April 2012. We Lynn suggested that with so many miles of trail in need of work throughout the burned area that we set the goal for 2012 to rebuild the Water Canyon route to Sawmill Meadow. Just that much was daunting enough.

The first 2000 feet looked pretty easy: move the trail out of the canyon bottom onto the north slope. The route could wind through live Douglas firs, scoot over boulders, and weave through a couple of rock chutes. About a half-mile up, one of those picturesque rhyolite cliffs pushed to the edge of the deepest part of the rut and forced us to look to the south bank for passage. A boulder field—basketball-sized rocks tumbled down the canyon’s south fork a piled up by debris dams formed from Cerro Grande-killed firs—completely blocked the way. The next challenge would be re-crossing the rutted stream channel avoid the old channel now choked with bison-sized chunks of rhyolite. We roamed in circles for a couple hours without finding a solution. We left Water Canyon an unresolved problem and spent the next three months working other trails in other canyons.

Two events in July turned around my thinking. As I worked with the Youth Conservation Corps in Cañon de Valle, I was reminded just how much you can accomplish with a devoted crew. The YCC moved impossible rocks, tons and tons of dirt and gravel, and felt that nothing was too difficult to finish. They found a method to deal with each problem spot they faced. That crew wasn't authorized to work in Water Canyon, but multi-talented Boy Scout Aaron Bao was looking for a worthy challenge for his Eagle Scout project and waited patiently as Lynn worked on removing hazard trees and getting the necessary clearances for moving the trail. I knew Aaron was the right guy to lead the project and that Troop 129 was a crew that could handle it.

Inspired by the younger generation, I went back to Water Canyon to take a second look. Just like I can’t write a paragraph if some of my attention is diverted by chatter in the next room, I can’t layout a trail if I’m not by myself. I spent two mornings alone in the canyon, looking for the little seams in the boulder blockage that I could force open wide enough for a trail. I found slots that could be worked, and did some experimenting. Could we use shovels and picks to cut through a three-foot high berm left by receding debris flows? Could we pull log jams apart log by log? Could we cut through the bank of the rut and hold it up with a retaining wall? No problem—if you have the crew to do it.

Troop 129 showed up and cut the first 2000 feet in one day. It took another month to finish. We worked evenings and Saturdays, sometimes two of us, sometimes 10. I got some crazy looks when I said things like, “we’re going to dig through this berm and use the dirt to fill that trench.” All it involved was picks, shovels, several muscle groups, and maybe five tons of material.

The last day, on the last 200 feet, we had our first encounter with people actually using the trail. The Thompsons came up on us with the look of astonishment on their faces. “We figured we’d have to fight our way up here to see the meadow, but we followed a trail the entire way! We had no idea anyone was working on rebuilding trails.”

What a great way to end a project for the year, with the knowledge that someone, and others that would follow, appreciated your work.

Current Conditions

The Water Canyon Trail is in great shape from West Jemez Road to Forest Road 181. The only issue is that the old trailhead parking area has been blocked off by new construction. There is parking on the west side (right side heading toward the back gate) of the road just beyond the guardrail as the road starts to climb to the back gate. Pick up the trail by heading toward the large detention basin, but quickly veering off onto a rough double track to the left. The double track crosses a small open field, then crosses the stream channel. On the north bank of the channel, turn left onto the old road and watch for cairns marking the start of the singletrack trail. It's easy to follow from there to the meadow and then take the left fork to continue up canyon.

Look for Part 3 of the story in 2013! The trail is rebuilt, but I haven't had time to tell the story.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Short Cut to Trail Maps on Everytrail

Seeking an easy way to disseminate trail trip information, I've posted about 15 loop trips on Everytrail. It's not the ideal system, but it is easy, accessible, and mobile--you can download trip data to a smartphone. Short trips, like Acid Canyon, and longer loops (Guaje Ridge, White Rock Canyon) are up there. The trip logs won't be too useful to those of us who have been around Los Alamos for a while, but should help newcomers and visitors find an appropriate trip. Get to the list of trips by clicking on the "view my profile" link then under the gray box select "Trips" out of the Recent Activity|Trips |Guides |Destinations |Info menu bar.  

I’m on EveryTrail: Map Your Trips, Find local hikes
15 trips
see my profile

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Changes to the South Pueblo Bench Trail

Whenever it rains, the gas line road used as part of the South Pueblo Bench Trail near the site of the Pueblo Wastewater Treatment Plant turns to gooey mud. For years we've tried various fixes, none of which were successful. With increasingly intense storms, the eastern part of this segment turned into a deepening rut and users have tracked new routes all over the place. 

The only solution was to move the trail segment onto a sustainable route. An 800-foot re-alignment is complete and ready for use. The soil is the same, but the new trail is outsloped (tilted slightly downslope) and there are many grade reversals (small dips) so the trail should shed water.

Also, over the years users have worn a singletrack route near the rim of Pueblo Canyon as an alternate to the gasline road that used to service the Peggy Sue Bridge. That road has long been another erosion nightmare, so I'm going to start calling the singletrack the South Pueblo Bench Trail (it used to be the road). There are several "branch" trails in this area, and most of them are highly used and in good shape, so those won't change.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kwage Mesa Trailhead Relocated, Trail Re-Routed

Groundbreaking for the new covered riding arena at the North Mesa Stable Area is scheduled for today (October 29, 2012). The new facility will be constructed southeast of the rodeo grounds at the east end of the stables. The arena and entrance road will be built on top of the entrance to the Kwage Mesa Trail on the south side of the mesa. The trailhead at the south side of the Red Jackson Dressage Arena (bounded by a white fence) is closed, as is the access trail that begins at the trailhead.

To work around construction and the future entrance road and parking area, the trailhead for the Kwage Mesa Trail has been relocated to the parking area for the North Mesa Playlot and the tennis courts (if you've been here for a while, it's the east end of the FEMAville tract). There's a wooden trail sign near the playlot, and an existing trail skirts the BMX tract heading toward Kwage Mesa. You can't access this from the stable area; you must enter from the FEMAville road off of San Ildefonso Drive.

Last week Thomas Mosier, a work-study student from Los Alamos High School, helped me put in a 400-foot re-route of the main trail from the new trailhead. It's a bit rougher than the original route and right now (until it rains) the soil is a bit soft, but it should work for foot traffic and bikes. Access to the trail for equestrians is probably better via the road on the north side of the mesa. 

Once the arena is completed, there may be an opportunity for access to the trail via the parking area, but we'll have to wait and see.