Wow what a wonderful day to work on a rail trail. Sunny. Warm. Lots of help. Twenty-four volunteers showed up, approximately half from Holloman Air Force Base. Nothing like having a group of strapping folks ready and willing to work. We claim that while helping us they are making themselves even more fit. We even had a 10-year old volunteer. Exciting. Maybe we have gained another young hiker. We had more folks than we were expecting, but the Forest Service brought plenty of trail working tools to keep everyone busy.
We concentrated on the Salado Canyon Rail Trail below High Rolls on CR A60. The Mexican Trestle up near Cloudcroft is more famous, but this trestle’s claim to fame is that you can walk on it and see and hear the tiny waterfalls from the year round creek underneath. You can see most of the trestle in the photo below.
One team enjoyed the soothing sounds while replacing the stairs leading down to the interpretive sign. The original 10 steps, installed in 2006, were not made of railroad ties, and even though they were treated periodically and are in an arid climate they still weathered poorly. We were able to reuse the 9-inch nails and the 4-inch wide side rails used in the original construction. Now fitted with new railroad ties the steps are in fine shape. If you mosey on down that way to the sign you can see in the right side of the photo, you can learn about the names of all the lumber that makes up a trestle.
The second team hiked a quarter-mile to the 41-step stair case and replaced three steps. It’s not easy working on such a steep slope. Just carrying the equipment up the stairs is a good workout.
By the way hikers this is a good place to work on the cardiovascular aspect of hiking. If you can get up the steps without gasping and wheezing, you are doing good. The more hardcore hikers have been known to tread it multiple times.
Although it wasn’t planned, with such a large number of volunteers, a team was able to groom the seldom maintained quarter-mile trail past the trestle. They cleared brush from the trail bed, trimmed brush to make the trail a certain width, and filled in holes. It wasn’t easy. After years of low rainfall the ground is like concrete.
This section of the trail bed is a “trail to nowhere” since it ends at private property. (NMRTA hopes to change that in the very near future.) There is no actual End sign. [CORRECTION: Private property begins about 370 yards past the small broken trestle. ] The team cleared from the big trestle to about halfway to the end. So right now the trail is in unusually good shape for walking and sightseeing. Come on. Keep walking. Who knows what you might see.
Finally, another team helped the Forest Service “hide” access to some unwanted “shortcut” trails. Some of the trails you will see are not man-made. Cattle and wildlife trails crisscross the hiking trail and they have shown they can get up and down easier than two-legged critters. If you take one of those trails, you might find yourself going somewhere rougher and pricklier than you expected. So when there is a row of rocks or a shrub branch across a smaller path that means don’t go there.
At noon all volunteers dispersed. We hope that the same number show up next month at the next workday. News will be posted at this site about a week before the day. And don’t forget. Come out and hike the Salado Canyon Rail Trail before it gets hot.