Local mountain biking

South Boundary Trail signs keep fat tires on the right track

No more lost mountain bikers

By William 'Backpackerbill' Kemsley
For The Taos News
Posted 6/28/18

It sounds like so little, but the recent work by a sign crew will relieve Río Fernando Fire Chief Russ Driskell's need to rescue so many lost bicyclists.

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Local mountain biking

South Boundary Trail signs keep fat tires on the right track

No more lost mountain bikers


It sounds like so little, but the recent work by a sign crew will relieve Río Fernando Fire Chief Russ Driskell's need to rescue so many lost bicyclists.

Last week Carson National Forest ranger Craig Saum led a team of eight youth from Durango to fix the signage on the 21-mile South Boundary National Recreation Trail.

The youth did the heavy lifting for Saum, installing 21 mileage markers and several directional signs on Taos' premier bicycling trail.

The trail traverses beautiful mountain forestlands all the way from Angel Fire down to Taos.

Heeding the call

Saum responded to the fire chief's request to help cyclists find their way through sections of frightfully confusing sections of the trail.

Driskell's fire department, along with Taos Search and Rescue and Emergency Medical Service team, has a long history of rescuing too many bicyclists who become confused where the trail meanders through a hodgepodge of unnamed two-track roads and crisscrossing trails along its route.

Saum said his boss, Amy Simms, gave him "a gift" this year. She contracted with Jordan Burningham at the Southwest Conservation Corps for team of eight stalwart young men and women for the task of marking the trail better.

They spent the week of June 13-20 camped out along the trail under the guidance of the team leaders, Sydney King and Zach Rice.

Each day they hiked out to the various locations to install directional signs as well as to "plant" the 21 sturdy mile-post markers.

Sounds like rather routine trail work, but a considerable amount of preparation went on well before the installation could begin.

Saum had to go out with his Forest Service cohort, "Mugzy" Muggleston, to walk off distances with a measuring wheel and GPS to more accurately pinpoint mileage points.

He also enlisted Chris Ellis of Turquoise Tours to design and get signs and mile-markers manufactured and delivered to easy access points for the installers.

Saum also had to draw upon the local expertise of Roger Pattison to sort through logistical trail access issues.

And most important, early this season Saum brought in the muscle of members of the Enchanted Circle Trails Alliance, Del Norte Mountain Trail Bikers Alliance and Moreno Valley Trekkers to clear the trail of 35 trees that had blown down during the winter.

A trail with a national fan base

It's a rare day in summer not to see a significant number of vehicles in the El Nogal parking lot with out-of-state license plates topped with bike racks, awaiting tight-suited, helmeted cyclists to finish a run from some access point farther up the trail.

The South Boundary Trail is famous with cyclists all across America who come specifically to make the 21-mile ride from Angel Fire.

Some at least ride halfway from Garcia Park, which is a mile-wide meadow eight miles deep in the forest's interior reached by a 7-mile jeep track from the nearest highway.

Trail access

The west end of the trail is accessed from the El Nogal parking lot on Highway 64 east of Taos.

Bikers normally take a shuttle from Taos to either the Angel Fire or Garcia Park access points.

And most cyclists ride the trail east to west starting from Garcia Park or doing the full trail ride from Forest Road 76 in Angel Fire.

From there they enjoy the section rightfully named "Heaven on Earth . . . a consistent, flowy side-hill single-track descent through conifer forest and aspen groves."

Another reason riders take it east to west is the thrill of riding the last five miles descent into El Nogal.

One trail guide describes this section as a "challenging final descent: fast at times, loose at times, stair-steppy at times, scary at times, and exceedingly fun at times" with "many riders feeling more comfortable walking through the tricky bits."

Bicyclists' trail courtesy

Cyclists, at least those on the South Boundary Trail, have an etiquette that is pleasing to trekkers. They stop and pull off to one side for hikers as they work their handle-bar skills on the trail.

More than one has told me that this is in their book of trail etiquette.

Year-round hiking trail

The SBT has a wide variety of terrain, which appeals to hikers as well as bikers. The lower portion leading out of El Nogal parking lot is one of Taos' most popular trail for Taoseño hikers, many of whom walk their dogs daily on this section of the trail.

I'm one of the hikers most often walking my dog Stanzi on this section when I'm not off on some other trail for a longer hike.

The South Boundary is a perfect hike in hot weather for the cool shade of its pines, aspens and junipers.

While the trail is not suitable for bikers after winter snowstorms, I've yet to be the first to set foot on it after the deepest snowfall.

There is always someone who got up earlier than me and trod the first footsteps after a big snowfall. Even when I've measured a foot of new fallen snow, someone else's footsteps are ahead of mine.

William Kemsley, Jr. is founder of Backpacker magazine and co-founder of American Hiking Society. He is an inductee of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame. He lives in the mountains with his wife, Joy, and dog, Stanzi, just outside Taos.


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