On Monday, a group of us went to Deer Trap Mesa but this time, I chickened out, thinking the north facing slope, down which the new trail runs, would be snowy and icy. Then, that evening, I worked myself into a "now or never" frame of mind, fueled by thoughts of looming winter weather scheduled to arrive Thanksgiving weekend, and decided to try to find the trail from the bottom and go up it the very next day. I credit spouse for enabling my quest because even though he was sure I'd get lost, he picked me up at Deer Trap trailhead, where I left my car, and dropped me off at Pajarito Trail trailhead in Rendija Canyon. I don't know yet of a trail that connects from there with the new trail so I walked down Rendija Canyon Road (dirt Forest Road 57), past the Sportsmen's Club, in search of the new trail.
|When I first passed by the cairn, I entirely missed the distinct trail cut on the hillside.|
|The small parking area is where the power pole is.|
|The first switchback and the only place I encountered a little ice,.|
|I fell in love with the colorful ponderosas that the trail glides past. The trail very gently takes you up 400' or so and 1.25 or so miles to Deer Trap Mesa.|
|Nearer to the top, the second switchback with snow but no ice.|
|The northern arm of Deer Trap Mesa rising ahead. The light area to the left of the tall ponderosa is the first stairs.|
|Trail view east to Sangre de Cristos Mountains. There are many sweeping views from the new trail and from Deer Trap Mesa.|
|Oh, how I love these stairs! They are an absolutely beautiful work of art! The photo doesn't show, but they glisten in the sunlight. The hewn top steps are split in the middle. For drainage, perhaps?|
|The new hike (see copy and paste at bottom of post) is billed as having two stairs but this one, marked by the squat cairn (bottom foreground), was merely a rock scramble.|
|Hip, hip hooray for the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), sponsored by the Los Alamos Family YMCA, which have done so much over the years for the betterment of our local trail system!! This is back on the Deer Trap Mesa trail.|
Here are waypoints to help you find the trail, NAD83/WGS84 datum. BOTTOM is the tombstone cairn in Rendija Canyon, DETRAP is the YCC sign on Deer Trap Mesa which is just west of the rock scramble "stairs":
GPS Name Easting Northing Elevation
BOTTOM 13S 386362mE 3974663mN 6778 ft.
DETRAP 13S 386335mE 3974293mN 7145 ft.
Here is a quote and Google Earth satellite view from "Los Alamos County Open Space and Trails" Facebook page, both posted by Craig Martin, July 29, 2015. It's how I first heard about the new trail:
In 2013 Los Alamos County purchased about 300 acres of land from the Forest Service in Rendija Canyon and is slated to acquire another 900 acres in a land transfer from the Department of Energy. The rolling terrain and ponderosa pine forests allow for some interesting loop trail possibilities. This year's Family YMCA YCC crew constructed the first part of this future trail network by connecting the end of the north arm of Deer Trap Mesa with the Rendija Canyon Road. Utilizing in part existing social trails, the connector has two staircases and two long switchbacks as it descends from the mesa top to the canyon bottom. Because the stairs aren't at all bike friendly, once the land transfer is complete a future crew (2016?) will construct a bikeable route to connect either at the Deer Trap Trailhead or with the Barranca Crossing Trail or both. So loop possibilities are limited now, but the future is wide open. Check out the trail and let us know what you think!