Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Santa Fe County Spur Trail and Rail Trail

Maybe it was all the espresso in the Paleo espresso from Tathagata Coffee, but I decided to take the Spur Trail and the Rail Trail back home.  The trail from the coffee place dumps out onto Richard's Avenue right across from the entrance to the Spur Trail.

I have not been on either the Spur Trail nor the dirt section of the Rail Trail in years.  They have been working to make improvements to the Rail Trail, and I wanted to see how those were coming along.

What I remembered about the Spur Trail is that it feels longer than it seems it should be.  According to this link,  the trail is three miles long.  Maybe it feels longer to me because it is largely uphill when you are heading from the Community College, which is the direction I usually take on the rare occasions I ride on the trail.  It is also fine gravel, and the gravel pools here and there making a it a little bit slippy for a road bike.  Nevertheless, I would say it is eminently road bikable.  At least it works fine with my 23 mm tires.  I'm not sure I would want to do it on super skinny, super high pressure tires.  When the trail was opened, I thought "Great, we can ride out the Arroyo Chamisa Trail from our house, hop on the Rail Trail, and then coast on down to the Community College!"  And the trail was spoken of as a connection to the Community College from the Rail Trail.  However, it seems like such a long way to get to the Community College, and it's dirt and base course, so it's not the most pleasant commuting surface.  The rail trail, back in the day, was also full of erosion damage and sandy washes.  There is also no clear signage pointing to the Spur Trail from the Rail Trail.  I rode right by it the one time I tried to go to the Community College that way.  I'm really not clear why the Spur Trail was built.  It's nice that it's there, and a lot of people seem to walk and bicycle on it, but it does not seem like a useful connection for commuters.  If I'm going to bicycle out that way, I usually find it easier just to head out Richard's Avenue.

The Rail Trail runs along the Santa Fe Southern tracks to Eldorado.  Occasionally, I try to advocate for paving it, so the folks who commute in from Eldorado don't have to a) head a long way east to get out of Eldorado and then b) turn back west and head into Santa Fe on the interstate.  Unfortunately, the trail itself is not conducive to being made into a commuter bicycle superhighway from that particular bedroom community.  It dips up and down, twists and turns, and crosses over washes.  I still think it would be nicer paved, but there are plenty of mountain bikers and trail runners who like it just the way it is.  I don't commute in from Eldorado ever or bicycle out to Eldorado often, so it's not really my call.

There was a trail closed sign in the Eldorado direction.  I've heard from some people that they are really making a mess out there, tearing up trees, and making duplicate routes for the trail that seem unnecessary.  I decided not to violate the warning sign to investigate, but I am very curious as to what is going on.  I may forward this post to Tim Rogers, who is the trail program coordinator for the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.  He most likely would know.

The trail does seem to be in much better shape than it used to be.  They've built some retaining walls and have smoothed out some of the erosion.  There are some steep sections, and I walked up one.  My single speed's frame is from 1978, so it's 37 years old.  I have this wacky long steel stem, (the diameter of the stem for the Schwinn Super Le Tour is not 1"), and I'm not sure that yanking up on the handlebars to hump it up a steep climb is a good idea.  I'd like the frame to make it another 37 years.

I would say it is much easier to ride a road bike on this particular section of the Rail Trail.  I'm not sure what's going on where the trail is under construction. I personally would like to see some bridges over the sandy washes, but it doesn't kill me to get off my bike and push if I bog down.

The trail still is not the best commuter route into the city, and, while I had fun getting out there and exploring again, I'm not sure I would regularly choose that route to get out to the coffee shop.

I believe Tim mentioned on one Community Cruise ride that there are some long-term plans to extend the trail system in Rancho Viejo out to the near-Santa Fe side of Eldorado.  If they do that, it will really improve the commuting in to town.

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