Friday, June 14, 2013

Chamisa Trail #183

The following trail description is from Day Hikes in the Santa Fe Area Sixth Edition Expanded and Revised by the Northern New Mexico Group of the Sierra Club. This is my favorite hiking guide. It looks as though they have a seventh edition out now. If you spend time hiking in the Santa Fe area I strongly recommend you get this book.

"A well-defined mountain trail close to Santa Fe, winding through an evergreen forest and ending at a beautiful grassy meadow beside the Tesuque Creek."

Roundtrip Distance: 5 miles
Time: 2½ to 3 hours
Elevation Range: 7950-8500; total gain 1240 feet
Rating: Easy

» My thoughts on the above - the distance is pretty accurate for the round trip all the way to the creek and back and the time is pretty good (it took me 3 hours and 15 minutes with a 30 minute break at the creek). I am not sure about the elevation range because 7950 to 8500 is only 550 feet. Not sure if they are looking at the gain from the trailhead to the saddle or from the creek to the saddle. I have read other online descriptions of the trail and they put the elevation at 500 to 700 feet in total gain.

Here are a few links about the trail that you might like to check out . . .
Chamisa Trail Map
Chamisa Trail
Chamisa Trail Hike
Chamisa Trail
Breathe Deeply: Santa Fe's Chamisa Trail

This hike is one of my top five in Santa Fe and today would be the first time I hike it this year. I always hike the trail all the way to the creek. There is an option to do a loop which only goes to a saddle. For me the hike down from the saddle to the creek is the most scenic. I live on the south end of Santa Fe so my drive up to the trailhead is about 40 minutes. The trailhead is about 5½ miles up Artist Road (aka Hyde Park Road or NM475) on the left side.

By the time I parked at the trailhead and began my hike it was 9:55am. There were 10 other cars in the parking lot so I thought I would see lots of people on the trail. As it turned out I did encounter a few people but for the most part it was a quiet hike. From the parking lot there are two choices to begin your hike. In the middle part of the lot there is a trail that starts between two boulders and takes you through the canyon up to the saddle and to the far right of the lot is a kiosk and a trail (with a trail sign that says "Chamisa Trail 183 - Tesuque Creek 2¼") that heads up above the canyon. I rather the latter.

So I start my hike and pretty quickly I realize that I am not in the best of shape. I huff and puff my way up the trail taking frequent breaks to catch my breath and take some pictures. Along the first part of the trail if you look down to your left you can glimpse the lower trail that goes through the canyon and at one point there is sign that says "Trail 183". I like this trail because of the variety of the trees you get to see along the way - there are pinons, junipers, ponderosa pines, douglas firs and gambel oaks. As I made my way upwards towards the saddle I encountered a few people. A man running and making his way back to the parking lot, another man walking with his two doberman pinchers and then a woman standing on the side of the trail texting on her phone. After walking about a mile and a half I reached the saddle at 10:50am. There is a trail map here and if you look closely there is a little note that says "You are here. Breathe deeply.". Here I took a little break and thought "That wasn't easy - that was more at the very least, moderate!". But it didn't really matter, I made it to this point. At this point a lot of people take the trail back down through the canyon to the parking lot to make a loop of the hike. But I love the meadow and creek at the end so it was time for me to head down to the creek.

This part is easy as it is pretty much all downhill. During this part of the hike you go through a small streambed that usually doesn't have much water. This is also a little rocky in places but not anything too bad. The trail here is more shaded and protected. At this point I encountered a man and a woman returning from the creek. Shortly after passing this couple I reached the junction of the Winsor Trail (#254) with trail signs. Here you can turn left and continue down for the Tesuque Creek hike or you can turn right and walk a little ways up the trail to a meadow with a large granite boulder. You can also continue up the Winsor Trail as far as Santa Fe Baldy if you are so inclined. For today the meadow was my destination and I arrived at 11:20am. The creek runs behind the boulder so I made my way there and found a spot to sit right next to the creek and have a little lunch and enjoy the sound of the creek passing over rocks and the songs of quite a few birds. I spent about half an hour here just relaxing. I saw a woman sitting next to the creek about 200 feet from me who left about two minutes after I arrived, a man on a bike passed the meadow going down the Winsor Trail and another man with a dog was heading in that same direction about 10 minutes later. Other than those sightings the place was pretty deserted. After about a thirty minute break it was time to head back to the car. My only disappointment was the lack of wildflowers. I saw a few but either I was too late or too early.

I left the meadow at about 11:50am and walked up the Winsor Trail and turned left at the trail sign and headed back up the Chamisa Trail. This part for me is the hardest. It is all up hill to the saddle. So I took my time taking frequent breaks to catch my breath and take pictures. I wasn't in a hurry and I was breathing pretty hard so I didn't want to push it. During this part of the hike I didn't see anyone else and was enjoying the solitude. As you get closer to the saddle the trail makes close to a 90° turn to the right. In my opinion this is the steepest part of the trail as you make the last little climb up to the saddle. It took me 180 slow steps taking a break after each 50 steps just to catch my breath. Seeing the map at the saddle made me very happy. I arrived at the saddle at 12:25pm. While taking a break I started to hear thunder and noticed a few black clouds moving in. I didn't see lightning or feel rain yet but I decided it was time to move along and get back to the car just in case.

From the saddle back to the parking lot I took the same trail I used coming up. I much rather this one over the one in the canyon. This part of the hike is pretty easy as it is mostly downhill and for me I know I am almost done. During this part of my hike I passed six mountain bikers. I am not sure if they were all together or not since I passed them at different times. There were four men and two women and they all seemed to be having a challenge getting up to the saddle. I turned the last corner and only had 50 feet or so to go to get to the parking lot and I could see my car, which was only one of two in the lot. As I put my backpack in the car I noticed the time was 1:10pm. So it took me three hours and fifteen minutes to do the hike - even with all my breaks. I checked the hiking guide to see what they said about how much time it would take to do the hike and I realized I didn't do too bad. Maybe I am not in as bad of shape as I first thought, but I know I have some work to do. Hopefully I will get out and hike more - that should help. Overall the hike was fantastic. We had some rain last night so that helped cool things down. There was also a light breeze during most of the hike and the sky was its beautiful New Mexico blue. I also noticed the lack of smoke haze from the three nearby fires (Jarosa, Tres Lagunas and Thompson Ridge) - thankfully the rain from last night helped to minimize that.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful trip report, Mark. The anecdotal details you provide make for an very satisfying read.

I did the Little Tesuque/Sidewinder/Chamisa loop today. We are blessed to live in close proximity to such natural beauty.

Thank you,
Michael Stewart

Mark said...

Thanks for the comment Michael. You are right - we live in a truly beautiful area.