Students work to restore Caballo Trail

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The Student Conservation Assocation crew logged about 320 hours of trail work

By Special to the Monitor

ESPAÑOLA — Ten years after the Cerro Grande fire damaged it, the Vallecitos de los Caballos Trail (Trail 277) has been re-opened.

The work was completed earlier this month by a Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew through a Forest Service agreement funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act).

It was an ambitious project for a group of five college-age students. Along with the 4.5 miles of trail restoration work, there were too many fallen trees to clear in their 10-day shift. Additional help came from Myles Cartelli and Joe Lloyd of the Black Feather Trail Preservation Alliance. This off-road motorcycle organization routinely volunteers time to clear deadfall on many miles of trail in the Los Alamos area through a volunteer agreement with the Forest Service.   

The Vallecitos Trail is remote, requiring a 4.5-mile hike just to the trailhead located in Guaje Canyon (282). From there it is an additional 4.5 miles up the trail to Caballo Mountain.  Now hikers can do a loop up the Vallecitos Trail (277) and down the shorter, steeper Caballo Mountain Trail to the Guaje Canyon trail (282) above the historic Guaje Reservoir.

The trail has always been hard to find from the top of Caballo Mountain due to its grassy meadows and remote location. Now the top part of the trail is marked with cairns and flagging, while the lower section of trail is well established.   

The SCA crew collectively put in about 320 hours of trail work, while the Black Feather Trail Preservation Alliance put in an additional 32 hours of volunteer chainsaw work.

The group had to abandon the project a day early because of an encounter with a habituated bear.  Hikers and campers should exercise caution in this area, which is well-established bear habitat.

The crew spent their final day working on the Water Canyon Trail (Trail 281). Los Alamos County’s Youth Conservation Corp (YCC) led by Craig Martin will complete the Water Canyon trail work under another volunteer agreement with the Forest Service.

The crew assigned to Vallecitos Trail is one of two SCA crews working throughout the Santa Fe National Forest this summer on various trail projects under the Recovery Act funded agreement.