Although I wasn't able to cover as many miles in the Los Alamos trail
network this year as
last, I had just as much fun. In fact, since I've been
walking for the pleasure and the health of it instead of training for races the
last eight months, I've had even more fun on the trails!
We are back in Los Alamos so Jim can run the Jemez Mountain 50K
tomorrow. Although he's using the race as a training run for
subsequent ultras this summer, he's still tapering this week and
not running major miles. He needs some good hill and altitude
training, however, so he's done two runs/hikes on the race
course on Guaje Ridge (elevation ~ 8,864 feet) and Pajarito
Mountain (~ 10,400 feet).
A fine place to acclimate at 10,000+ feet:
the oversized bench on Pajarito Mountain
I've had several shorter hikes on Guage Ridge, Pajarito
Mountain, and other parts of the
area's extensive trail system. In this entry I'll show some pictures from these
You can get information about the trails in and around Los Alamos
from at least two websites: the Parks Division link above
Many of the trails in the system are open to cyclists and
equestrians, as well as runners and hikers.
GUAJE RIDGE FROM MITCHELL TRAILHEAD
All of the Jemez course distances (50-mile, 50K, and half marathon) send
the runners up the Mitchell Trail early in the race.
The trail is not the prettiest; it winds through the huge
Cerro Grande burn area that threatened Los Alamos ten years ago.
There is a certain stark beauty, however, especially on a
It's interesting to see what plants have sprouted and now thrive
on the mountainsides below the burned snags. The area is very dry this spring.
aren't nearly as many flowers in bloom on the trails around Los
Alamos now as there were this time last year but there are some
pretty ones out there:
Yellow Pea is one of the few flowers
blooming in the area now.
On Sunday we began our hike from the Mitchell Trailhead (elev.
7,312 feet) on Arizona Ave. near 45th Street. The trail rises
rather steeply over rocks to its intersection with the Perimeter
Trail (elev. 7,553 feet), which winds around the western and
northern part of the city.
Jim approaches one of the water tanks near
the Mitchell / Perimeter intersection.
Runners approach the Mitchell Trail from the Perimeter Trail
four to five miles into their races and climb over rather rough
terrain to a remote aid station on Guaje Ridge at 8,852 feet, an
ascent of 1,300 feet in 2.2 miles. The 50K and 50-milers
return to this aid station a second time at 26 and 43 miles into
their races, respectively, and return to the finish via a
different route down the ridge.
I haven't gone to the top of Guadje Ridge because of the steep
descent with loose rock that I'd encounter coming back down on
an out-and-back training run. Jim
says there are nice panoramic views from the ridge. I showed
photos of the ridge in an
entry last year but couldn't
see it from my position this time.
Looking up the trail toward the first
saddle, one of several
false summits on the way to Guaje Ridge
Jim went all the way up to the location of the aid station on
the ridge on Sunday, climbing as fast as he could on his first
day at this higher altitude. From the Mitchell TH, he had an
ascent of 1,540 feet (and 1,540 feet back down). Cody and
I followed him part way up (and about half a mile behind) but turned
around when we got to a steep section below the saddle with loose rock that would
have been difficult to descend with my cartilage-challenged knees.
I could see Jim up ahead as he approached the first saddle, as
well as three other folks on the trail that he stopped to talk to.
You can't see Jim here but he's visible in
the full resolution version of this photo.
Turns out two of them were our friends Sandy and Dick Powell! Dick was
helping Sandy pack in a bunch of two-liter bottles of soft drinks to the aid station location on the
That's the only way to supply fluids and snacks to this aid station --
on the backs of volunteers who are willing to hike them in during
the week before the event. Sandy
will work this aid station all day tomorrow during the race,
while Dick is in charge of the Townsite Lift AS on Pajarito
Mountain. Thanks, you two, for all your hard work before and
during this race!
After Cody and I descended we continued north on the Perimeter
Trail for a little while, then rendezvoused with Jim back at the
truck. This is the edge of the burn area; the first and
last several miles of the race course through town are heavily
treed, as are some other parts of the course.
Part of the Perimeter Trail, looking back
toward the snow-topped Sangre de Cristo Range
I hiked a total of about four miles that day, Jim over five. It felt like more to both of us
since we aren't acclimated to this altitude yet and neither of
us has been hiking/running trails quite this steep recently.
BAYO CANYON TRAILS
The next day we struck out on easier trails in and along
the walls of Bayo Canyon, which is in town. We were still
breathing hard going uphill at 7,000-7,500 feet, though.
BAYO CANYON TRAIL (RACE COURSE)
Jim started at the Posse Shack on North Mesa, the location of the race start/finish, and
followed the 50K course down to the Bayo Canyon trailhead as he
will during his race. Instead of continuing through the tunnel
and toward Guaje Ridge, however, he turned right to follow the trail
through the canyon and back up to the Posse Shack as he will in
the last couple miles of the race.
Part of the race course through Bayo Canyon
Runners turn up this trail for a nice
little rock climb and finish on the
mesa at the Posse Shack.
Jim didn't have his camera and I didn't go this way on Monday. I took
those two photos today, after the course was marked.
BAYO BENCH TRAIL
While Jim was running on the race course Monday, Cody and I
revisited a trail along the opposite wall of Bayo Canyon. I really enjoyed
running there last year.
The Bayo Bench Trail begins at the Bayo Canyon trailhead near
the roundabout at the intersection of North Mesa Road and San
Ildefonso Road. That's the same trailhead Jim passed through on
his run the same day, but after I was there.
Smooth track near the trailhead
The Bench Trail undulates through the canyon floor and up the
northern wall below Barranca Mesa for 2.6 miles to its end, with a great
viewpoint overlooking the canyons and mesas east of Los Alamos.
It's a popular trail but Cody and I practically
had it to ourselves that sunny weekday.
I chose these photos to show you some of the variety of the
trail (flat/hilly, smooth/rocky, narrow/wide), the terrain, and
There are lots of good viewpoints in both directions along this
how dusty the trail was and how wilted the (few) flowers were. Although
the Los Alamos area desperately needs rain, thank goodness we didn't get
the severe weather that struck other areas near us on Monday.
Golf ball-sized hail was reported south and east of us in New
Mexico that day. The Panhandle area of Texas also had nasty hail
and thunderstorms, the weather we tried to escape by heading to
Los Alamos earlier than planned. We're even more glad now that
we made that decision!
Thankfully, we dodged the weather bullet again.
Cody and I did an out-and-back hike totaling a little over five
miles. Trail users
can extend the trek
from Bayo Bench Trail by going down to the floor of the canyon
between two "fingers" of Barranca Mesa (the top of the trail is
through these trees on the left)
and connecting with several other trails for various distances:
year Jim and I did a loop with the Bayo Canyon Trail (on the
south side of the canyon, R above), for a total of about six miles back
to the trailhead.
These photos are some that I took on the return back to the Bayo Canyon trailhead
on the Bench Trail:
BAYO CANYON TRAIL (EASTERN END)
Another day this week Cody and I hiked farther east through the
canyon floor a couple miles farther than I've gone before.
It's a nice trail but has some deep sand that is hard to walk or
run through. Although it's treed, it's hotter with fewer breezes
and scenic vistas than higher up on the canyon bench or on the
I started out near the race start/finish on North Mesa, following
the 50-mile course through the horse stable area and down a
couple hundred feet or more of elevation into
The descent heads west with a view of the
Jemez Mountains (Mt. Caballo).
I could see the Bayo Bench Trail across the canyon and watched
several cyclists heading east toward the overlook:
Once in the canyon I made a sharp right turn on the Bayo Canyon Trail and followed it down
even further to the eastern portion of the canyon floor. As the trail
descends I had some good views toward the north canyon rim and
the mountains to the east:
I'm always fascinated in this area by the unusual paths worn
into the soft shale:
These views are out and back along the canyon floor:
The Fireline Trail parallels the canyon trail for about a mile
but I didn't take it. It appears to traverse part way up the
canyon wall and might have afforded better views.
The next photos are going back up the alternatively rocky/smooth Bayo Canyon Trail to our campsite on North Mesa:
North side of the upper Bayo Canyon wall
with Barranco Mesa on top;
the canyon is 200 to 250 feet deep here (you
can't see the floor in this photo).
That hike out and back was about seven miles but the trail
continues much farther east than I went. In fact, it continues
off the trail maps I have! Who knows where it ends up??
KWAGE MESA TRAIL
I found this trail last year when we camped during race weekend
in a parking lot across from the Posse Shack on North Mesa. Just past the
adjacent horse stables it's called Kwage Mesa; the mesas in Los Alamos
all have multiple "fingers," some with different names to reduce
confusion about locations.
The trails on long, narrow Kwage Mesa form a long, narrow loop
(no surprise there!) with an
out-and-back path that extends another 3/4 mile east to the end
of the mesa. The total distance out and back is about 5½
miles from the parking area near the Posse Shack, or less from
the trailhead at the eastern edge of the stables. I did about
six miles total because I walked over to the north rim several
times to take pictures.
Jim went with Cody and me for most
of the hike on Thursday but
turned around before I headed out to the end of the mesa.
He's tapering for his race, after all!
The northern leg of the loop is
wider and smoother than the other side. It overlooks Bayo Canyon and Barranco Mesa
to the north (on the left, below):
The ridge to the right (above) shows the long finger of Kwage
Mesa, where I'm heading next with these photos.
Looking north to Barranca Mesa from Kwage
Nearing the end of Kwage Mesa; Sangre de
Cristo Mountains in the background
View east from the end of Kwage Mesa
The views south toward Pueblo Canyon and the mesa above it aren't
as scenic; they show the city/county maintenance
facility, airport, other businesses, and houses. I prefer
Here are some more photos from the southern part of the Kwage
Mesa Trail heading back to the stables. There are nice views of
the Jemez Mountains to the west. This part of the loop is
single-track and rougher until reaching the dirt roads through
the stable area.
I'll show some photos from the stable area in another entry.
Next entry: exploring Pajarito Mountain, which is on the
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil