Bulldozing a trail

As many know there was a really big fire around Los Alamos last month, called the Las Conchas fire. Someday I will write about it, but not today. A fair bit of our trails were heavily fire damaged, including the nordic ski area, but today I will write about what it looks like when they bulldoze a trail to make a fireline. I ran up the Quemazon trail about 3/4 of the way up to the Pipeline Trail intersection. The fire crews ran a bulldozer more or less right up this trail to create a potential fire break for the western area and the rest of town. I probably have run or ridden this trail 2-3 times a month in the warm months since I moved to Los Alamos in 2003. It is a rocky technical climb that is fairly continuous with lots of tricky bits and some really fun slick rock esque tuff rock sections. There are still wagon wheel ruts in the tuff rock (enhanced by peds and bikes) from when this trail connected the grazing grounds of the caldera and the los alamos mesa.

Anyhow, technical soft rock trail does not really hold up to being bulldozed.

You can see some burnt trees from the 2000 cerro grande fire up in the top of the picture. The trail was a narrow doubletrack with technical bits here. Now it is pretty smooth. You can see the bulldozer track scars on the tuff rock.

Bulldozed it good.
Same deal as before. You can see what was individual rocks now sort of smooshed together where the tracks went. Most of the trail looks like this now. I am pretty impressed they could get a bulldozer up the steeper parts and through some of the technical section. Fortunately they went around the first technical section right near the bottom with the step in it:

But that is pretty much it for the tricky bits.

I got a pretty good look at the upper southern part of Los Alamos canyon. It either burnt heavily or was backburned. The slope is steep and completely denuded of vegetation. LA canyon goes right alongside of town. The major fire fighting effort to save town and my neighborhood was to keep the fire from spreading down the canyon. It worked. This trail bulldozing was a part of that.

The dead trees in the foreground are from the 2000 cerro grande fire which heavily damaged this trail. The south side of the canyon and the east side of the ski hill is visible and fireblackened.

Here are some pics and videos from pre-Las Conchas:

Quemazon trail.

Quemazon trail

Quemazon trail, with Pajarito mountain behind.

Ma on the quemazon trail

All the rocky lumpy bits are smoothish and the single track is now bulldozed width. The wagon ruts are dimished, but are still there, with overlaid bulldozer track scars. I think the few large remaining ponderosa pines next to the trail have been knocked down. There are some large bulldozed firebreak/clearings where the trail gets near LA canyon. There may have been one major reroute, but I can't really recognize much of the trail now. I will try to ride the trail this week to the top to see what it really looks like.

The good news:
1. The town and my neighborhood did not burn thanks to efforts of the fire crews, this bulldozing is part of that effort. Looks like some pretty intense burning was well within 3 miles as the crow flies of my house.
2. Most of the trail did not burn (the very top reportedly did, but I was too tired to run up there today)
3. Shoots from aspens, locust and scrub oaks are already coming back in the some of the bulldozed sections, so the trail will narrow up pretty quickly.
4. Trail work crews have already constructed waterbars on the steeper dirt parts of the trail to hopefully prevent major damage.
5. The huge aspen grove was widened a bit, but was not damaged too much. There may be shade yet on this trail. The aspens were a couple feet high when I first moved here. Now they are 10+ feet high.

Anyhow, kind of a bummer, but all told, it is still a good trail and I still have a house. So it is in the plus column in the big picture.


cyclotourist said...

Now's the time to make some trails! Whenever there's a fire here in Socal (semi-weekly?), it becomes an opportunity to lay in some new trails as you have great line of sight with the foliage burnt off. Here it's more chaparral vs. actual trees like there in LA, so it grows back really fast. But with great singletrack.

Tarik Saleh said...

Yes sir, I think the trail building will start in earnest in the spring. There is a lot of remediation of firelines and light burn trails right now. The really heavily burned regions are still closed and apparently tree roots are burning away merrily still, creating the potential to fall into a smouldering hole! I moved here 3 years after the last really big fire. It took another 2 years before the trail network was in really good shape. Hopefully we can turn it around a bit faster.