Early March in Colorado, after a warm and dry February, has exposed the waters of the Rio Grande from its icy lid and the river is flowing steady, silent and dark. Worth a stroll, a run, a bike ride or taking your dog for a walk along its bank trails to take in the sights and sounds of the water and all else that goes with the trails of the Alamosa City Ranch Trail System. Soon, the snowpack in the high mountains will begin melting, putting more water in the river, and greening up the valley. We take what weather Mother Nature gives us because we have no choice. Could be an early spring, but, we've seen late March and April make a triumphant return to winter in previous years! Hard to believe that 5 weeks earlier we were having the Rio Frio Ice Fest and we were running on the river.
So, on a 60 degree afternoon in early March, it was time to check out what was happening on the Alamosa trails. I started my journey at the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park, where most of the playground equipment is for kids, but I found one piece where I could do pullups and warm up before my trail run. After several sets of pull ups and light stretching while enjoying the views in all directions, I headed north along Highway 17 on the Maddox Loop Trail. Afternoon traffic was heavy on the road and with the light east winds blowing at me, I was getting a good dose of diesel smoke. That ended at the one mile mark as I reached County Road 6 where the trail goes left and turns west. The Alamosa Ranch Grazing Area & Open Space is now to the South. As it was calving season, I ran by lots of momma cows with many young fresh faced calves among them, being frisky, playing together and enjoying the warm sunny afternoon like me. Up ahead, two ranchers were dropping bales of fresh dry hay for the cows' dinner. A few cows watched me pass as I ran on the other side of the fence but most were intent on feeding. The calves were not yet weaned and seemed confused by what their mothers were doing with the hay, not knowing that hay turns into their favorite nutritious meal, warm mommy's milk, fresh from the tank (udder).
I reached the junction of County Road 6 where North River Road heads south back to Alamosa and I observed the irrigation ditch valve gate on the corner, which was closed. The ditch stays dry for the winter. It is too soon in the irrigation season to be diverting water from the Rio Grande into the pastures as grass remains dormant during the short, cold days of winter. Wildlife ponds and marshes, that seem inactive now are getting ready for some heavy duty spring action from plants awakening and growing, turning sunlight and nutrients into fresh green plant tissue, flowers and seeds, animals of many species appearing or coming out after hibernating in the mud below the pond, and migrating birds soon arriving. The processes happen in concert with warming temperatures, longer days of sunlight, and of course, fresh snowmelt water! From this junction, I crossed North River Road and continued Northwest on to the Twin Peaks Loop Trail. Soon it turns west from County Road 6 and becomes a gravel road on the north side of Cattails Golf Course. The course was open and golfers were playing! Shoulda brought my clubs but I thought it would still be winter.
As the Twin Peaks Loop Trail turns back south, there is a parking lot where the Disc Golf Course begins. The course is open and is part of the Rio Grande wetlands, a sensitive riparian zone with a sign that frisbee golf players be respectful of the wildlife and plant species that reside in these valuable wetlands along the river. I look northeast and see the Crestone Peaks and Kit Carson Peak to the left of the Great Sand Dunes. The elevated gravel trail has the golf course on the left and the wetlands on the right as it heads south. I soon look into the wetlands and see two waterfowl silhouetted against the setting sun. I recognize them as a mating couple of Canada Geese. From my wildlife studies, I know that they mate for life so I am observing a happy pair.
Next up are three golfers teeing off. One sprays his ball into a natural area and his quickest route to look for his ball is to hike up on the trail with me. He laughs and tells me that he has run this trail for 35 years but it is not where he wants to be when playing golf! We discuss the condition of the course which he says is playing great... though he's not! I stop and help him look for his ball. He gives up but I have looked for a lot of golf balls in my days of playing and something in my nature hates to lose golf balls, mine or anyone's, so I continue into some deeper brush. I soon spot a ball and have to battle through a scratchy bush to retrieve it and identify it. I yell ahead to him and ask, "What were you playing?"
"A Titleist 3," he yells back, "with a red circle around the 3."
"Got it," I said and tossed his ball forward to him. He thanked me and I returned to the trail. Soon I see a young couple coming at me running and in front of them is a red Doberman who spots me and hits his accelerator. "He's friendly!" they assure me, yelling ahead. The dog is unleashing puppy energy as he rockets at me, then past me, then back and forth on the trail at blurring speed. As we humans pass, we share a laugh about the energy level of their hyper pup. I soon come to the State Street Bridge where the parking lot for dog walkers and others park to catch the trail. I cross the State Street Bridge going south across the river and pass another runner absorbed in her headphones, cross the road east, jump the guard rail and pick up the Maddox Trail again, head to the Cole Park Foot Bridge, cross the river to the east and end up once again at Healthy Living Park. My adventure was a 5.2 mile jaunt with many fun elements. I was not finished yet! To cool down, I jump in one of the swings, enjoy the sensation of being a kid again with the back and forth motion, a cool wind in my face and a mountain sunset in my view.
To achieve a bit of personal harmony, if only for a short time and a short distance, I highly recommend any of the trails in the system with easy access. Parking is easy to locate.
More info. alamosa.org > Things To Do > Scenic Wonders > Alamosa Ranch & Open Space.