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....

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