Earlier this spring, the publisher of Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different, Richard Polese, and I planned a walking with kids day. The City of Santa Fe liked the idea. Now, just before the official beginning of summer and a day before Father’s Day, it’s happening!
Santa Fe’s first official “Take a Kid Hiking Day” is this Saturday, June 17. Adults and youngsters are encouraged to get out of the house and walk together into a bit of local nature. Gathering begins at 8:30 am at the Sierra del Norte Trailhead, a short 2.5 mile drive up Hyde Park Road. Bottled water and snacks provided by local merchants. The planned hike is an easy 1.2 mile walk on trails through the forested wilderness. No heavy boots or packs needed, no cost, and reservations not required. The hike route will take about an hour. Come and enjoy nature together! Information: 505-983-1412 or 505-629-5647
Excerpted from Chapter Eight of Santa Fe on Foot-Exploring the City Different
SIERRA DEL NORTE OUT AND BACK
Distance: 1.22 miles
Time: 45-60 minutes
The walking and bicycling paths of the Dale Ball system provide a gateway to the Santa Fe National Forest. Clearly marked with numbers, the Dale Ball trails interweave with other foot routes such as Dorothy Stewart, The Nature Conservancy Preserve, Dorothy Stewart, Atalaya, and Little Tesuque Trails. However, the 23.7-mile Dale Ball system are not just a gateway to the mountain forests, they are splendid in their own right.When I first began walking and hiking in Santa Fe, it also took a car with chains to get to the ski basin area for winter skiing or snowshoeing. In fact, the reason I wrote Santa Fe on Foot in the first place is because of the daunting nature of driving “to the top” in snow and ice.
Fast forward a few decades; enter retired banker Dale Ball, a man who grew up by the Oregon Trail and who envisioned nature trails that would not require fair weather and a 13-mile drive from Santa Fe. He wished for trails that would become an important part of the community and through ceaseless effort—collaborations and negotiations—he made that wish come true. Among others who helped create this hiking legacy were the City of Santa Fe, Santa Fe County, the McCune Charitable Foundation, the anonymous donor who gave $100,000 for the undertaking, more than 50 volunteers who contributed in various ways, and, of course the Santa Feans who granted easements through their land. The anonymous donor of $100,000 insisted that the trail system be named after Dale Ball.
One of the most daunting challenges that must have faced Mr. Ball as he sought access through private land was convincing homeowners to allow public egress. The persuasiveness and diplomacy he employed must have been driven by his passion to serve the common good.
Completed in 2005, the trails are truly a gift that keeps on giving. They give locals and visitors alike a treasure trove of pleasant walking, miles of, beautiful swooping switchbacks, cameo views of the high desert plateaus stretching out toward Los Alamos and the Rio Grande Valley’s mountain ranges, panoramic lookouts that open up to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, quartz-studded rock formations, wildflowers in season, and easy access to pinon forests.
The general shape of today’s walk has led some people to call it the “lollipop trail,” but actually it is shaped more like a westward facing tree. It follows this series of juncture signs: from trails: #1 to #2 to #3, then a long stretch back to #1.
After securing your car, making sure to leave nothing at all of value inside, start at marker #1 and walk on a low path toward the left. When you reach the juncture sign #2, take a right. You’ll be gaining elevation fairly rapidly, but the path is flat and spacious.
Except for the right hand choice at your first encounter with juncture #2, the motto for this trail is to always keep left.
You will see another path midway between juncture sign #2 and #3, but do not take it. Stay to the left until you reach the sign announcing juncture #3. Keep to the left. Following this point, you will be on the main part of your walk. In another 15 minutes the path will be intersected with another walking option on the right. Ignore it and keep left. Except for the right hand choice at your first encounter with juncture #2, the motto for this trail is to always keep left.
On your way back you will again come to juncture #2. This will take you back to the parking lot and dog park. If you accidentally happen to end up coming out on Sierra Del Norte Road, the worst consequence is that you will need to turn left and walk back to the parking lot. Meandering about is allowed. As J.R.R. Tolkien famously said in The Hobbit, “all who wander are not lost.”