By Jody Benson,
Pajarito Group Chair
If you’ve tried to hike the Frijoles Canyon Trail between the Headquarters and Ponderosa Camp Ground since the 2011 Cerro Grande Fire — and worse, since the 500-year flood of 2012 — you struggled through a Canyon scoured into unrecognizability and barred by piles of burned trees stacked like fortresses.
Before new growth began to heal the canyon walls and mesas, annual floods precluded wasting time and effort on rebuilding the trail.
But if you’ve been into Frijoles Canyon this year, you would have been delighted by the month-by-month progress on the trail. A gang of dedicated volunteers, primarily Sierrans from the Northern New Mexico and Pajarito groups, has been among those helping Bandelier Trail Boss Kevin Stillman to reroute the trail above the flood plain.
From headquarters, the trail for about two miles beyond Alcove House (Ceremonial Cave) has been rerouted/rebuilt almost to the beginning of “the Narrows,” where you can route-find along the stream. From Ponderosa Campground, the trail has been rerouted/rebuilt to within a mile of the Narrows.
Because of the fires, subsequent flooding, and only the barely-treading-water-funding for the parks (which means there is only one paid Trail Guy for Bandelier), the Monument’s trails were, in many areas, decimated. Lost trails meant that if you wanted to explore the backcountry, it would be helpful if you already knew how to get to wherever you were going.
Stillman, however, has worked to organize multiple organizations of volunteers whom he takes into the backcountry so that, little by little, Bandelier trails are directional again. You are invited to join the effort and be rewarded by a trail appearing through a previously impenetrable pile of logs, ankle-twisting washout, or burned-over expanse of rocky mesa.
The strenuousness of tasks ranges from raking trail and pruning brush to sawing logs and building big-rock-based walls. You work at your own level. Stillman will school you in not only the task, but the proper engineering of a wilderness trail.
The work is appropriate for any age that can hike a few miles, work several hours, and focus on the task. Trail work is ongoing and will continue through the year as weather permits. Please contact Kevin Stillman at email@example.com to get the volunteer alerts.