Friday, September 9, 2016

Tent Rocks Trail East Extension, Los Alamos, NM

Labor Day, a group of us went down the Camp Hamilton Trail and up the Zipline Trail, starting from the Los Alamos Co-op Market. Along the way, I wondered about the eastward extension of the Tent Rocks Trail that had been built this summer by the Youth Conservation Corps. I had heard that it would connect the Zipline and Camp Hamilton trails. All that wondering inspired me to finally check out the new trail the next day. To do this, I went down the Zipline Trail and east on the Tent Rocks Trail to just before it goes downhill to Pueblo Canyon Road. Right there is where a few red pin flags mark a short, connector to the newly built east extension. Off I trotted on the new trail! At one point, the trail dropped me to the bottom of Pueblo Canyon, near the new wastewater treatment plant and the road. I grew disheartened, assuming I'd still have to follow the Pueblo Canyon Road and cross the wastewater effluent stream, only to get to the very bottom of the Camp Hamilton Trail and then still be forced to take the trail's inconvenient detour around an area closed to the public. My spirits perked, though, when the trail swung south and uphill toward the pink cliff the Camp Hamilton Trail descends and then continued east again. Eventually, the trail petered out and the route was marked by a long line of red pin flags that led over to the Camp Hamilton Trail, not far below the pink cliff and well above the enforced detour. This is a much more direct way to travel between the Zipline and Camp Hamilton trails! I recently read on the Los Alamos Trails Facebook page that the Tuff Riders will have a work session September 17-18 to complete the trail's roughed-in sections.

On the east extension of the Tent Rocks Trail, looking west toward North Mesa. The trail is nicely routed through trees that provide some shade. The slopes above the trail are covered with oak.

Looking northeast toward Kwage (Horse) Mesa. It's maybe here that the trail goes uphill for a while but then drops all the way down to the bottom of Pueblo Canyon, across from the new wastewater treatment plant. Then it climbs back uphill through a nice ponderosa forest, crosses a fence and ends at the Camp Hamilton Trail. The fence "fences" nothing in and the bottom wire is smooth not barbed.

From the new eastward section of the Tent Rocks Trail, below the pink cliff the Camp Hamilton Trail goes down. The new trail connects with the Camp Hamilton Trail a little downhill from the cliff end.
BEGIN waypoint is where, not far from the Zipline Trail, the new trail extension intersects the Tent Rocks Trail. END waypoint is where the east extension of the Tent Rocks Trail intersects the Camp Hamilton Trail. My GPS said it was about 1 1/2 miles between these 2 waypoints: BEGIN    13S 386133mE    3971528mN    6683 ft.  END    13S 387888mE    3970974mN    6639 ft.
Two past blog entries in which I wished for just such a connector between the Zipline and Camp Hamilton trails. Wishes do come true!:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rendija Canyon to Deer Trap Mesa - New Trail!

This summer when I heard of a new trail connecting Deer Trap Mesa to Rendija Canyon, I wanted to check it out right away but then 4 months flew by and nothing happened. Once, I took a willing hiker victim there but when said victim was informed of the rock stairs, that was the end of that!

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.

On the way, the site of the former "Poor Man's Shooting Range", as called by locals. It is much cleaned up from it's glory days when it served not only as a shooting gallery full of broken glass and trash but also as a dump for appliances and electronics (you can imagine what happened to TV screens). This land is owned by the Department of Energy.

A little under a mile and a half from the Pajarito Trail trailhead, along Rendija Canyon Road (Forest Road 57), is a tombstone-like cairn that marks the bottom of the new trail. When I first saw this, I thought maybe this was the start of the trail but to be sure, walked further on. I can tell you from experience that if you pass Guaje Booster Station No. 2, you've gone too far! The bottom of the trail is between the former Poor Man's Shooting Range and the booster station. To be more exact, Craig Martin, on Los Alamos Trails Facebook page, posted that the trailhead is on the right (south) side, about a mile past the Sportsmen's Club, just past a concrete stream crossing and there's parking on the same side for 2-3 cars. I wanted to add to the cairn somehow but the rocks I found were frozen in place.

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!

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Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States