Like many towns along the Rocky Mountain corridor, Santa Fe has easy access to endless singletrack that spans many mountainous ecotones. You can pedal from town at 7000′ all the way above tree line to where our bike-legal trails top out at 12,500′, on almost exclusively singletrack.
This dense network of trails is stewarded by our local organization, the Santa Fe Fat Tire Society, and over the years, they’ve been putting in work adding new, legal trails, keeping the current trails running smoothly, cutting deadfall, fixing blown corners, and adding signage in a hope to bridge the various trail users in this community…
Yesterday, I went out with the crew to build a literal bridge to reduce the number of river crossings, making it better for our rivers and the riders, hikers, and equestrians that use these trails.
As an angler, river health is important to me and when cyclists, hikers, and equestrians have to cross streams (or in New Mexico, sometimes this constitutes an actual river!) it can silt the water and distrupt habitat for our native Rio Grande Cutthroat, which have been slowly making a comeback in this mountainous riparian zones. Plus, who wants wet shoes and creaky bottom brackets?
We had to carry all the lumber, hardware, and a chainsaw down. A task that was no small feat in its own. The haul spanned 3 miles and a 1,100′ elevation loss, down steep, rocky, loose trails. Those of us who made it down quicker than the crew who had to haul down the 16′ x 2″ x 12′ pressure treated side rails got to it clearing deadfall and brush from the new approach to the bridge.
Rogues and Mcleods flung over shoulders, moving earth to build up the landing for the bridge, while river rock, and gravel was compacted at the rebar-enforced bearing plates on either side of the shore. Pleasing Fungus Beetles flew in the hot afternoon sun and Black-Necked Garter Snakes came from their burrows to inspect the structural integrity of the U.S.F.S. approved bridge construction.
Trail users that came through the worksite ran the gamut from trail runners with the grace of a Pronghorn who leapt across the creek, to groups of hikers out for a stroll, cyclists in full face helmets and pads, a crew heading out on an overnighter, and plenty of thankful users who stopped and asked how they could help next time.
The before and after is remarkable. The Fat Tire Society has already added several bridges over the past decade. The crew is finishing up this bridge today and there’s another work weekend August 5th and 6th to put in another. Our hope is to have a few more bridges in by next year, eliminating creek crossings for good.
I want to thank everyone who came out, slung a tool, moved earth and made this wonderful place even better. When you can build literal bridges for the various trail users, there’s nothing more rewarding.