Rio Grande Nature Center and tiny wheels on the bosque bike trail

April 11, 2008- It's 3pm and I'm at the Rio Grande Nature Center. I had a small mountain of beignets for breakfast and it's time to work them off. The nature center provides good access to the bike trail that runs along the east side of the Rio Grande. There are also parking lots on Alameda and Central for this purpose, but I was in the area. If you've never been there before, get on Candelaria and head west. When you come to the end, you're there.

In a few weeks, the Nature Center is going to be a great place to walk around in its own right. Most of the plants are still sleeping, though if you're into waterfowl and turtles there's plenty to be seen even now. Here's a quick shot of their foam-rubber-map-under-glass.

It's a little tough to read with the image shrunk, so here is what you might want to know. The black line in the bottom left of the green field is Candelaria. The brown line that follows off is the unpaved bike trail. The brown line that heads right of Candelaria is the way to the parking lot. The blue figure 8 with an extra loop is a pond where you'll see a bunch of geese, ducks, and turtles. The white lump next to the pond is the nature center and gift shop- complete with flush plumbing. The long blue line from the top left toward the bottom right is an arroyo (the bike path is on both sides for a short while south, but is primarily sandwiched between the Rio Grande and the arroyo. The brown squiggles above the bike path is a nice unpaved nature walk. There are cottonwoods everywhere, just waking up. Soon the hummingbirds will arrive.

In our youths, we all engage in some form of activity that requires wearing a humiliating outfit, only we're young and don't know we look ridiculous. Later we find out, but we're already hooked and not going to stop. Today, it's rollerblades and safety equipment (beats a speedo and goggles). Breath easy, no picture of either will be provided.

The nature center puts you right in the middle of the bike route. The sign that you can't quite make out clearly says, roughly, "If you skate to the north and south end, by the time you get back your car will be locked in for the night." I cross the bridge and head north.

When just cruising along, a lot of the trail looks like this. Not too much green yet, but it isn't bleak either. There's 3 different surfaces to use- the blacktop, the gravel road on the side for rangers, and down below is a dirt road for horses. I've never been blading and taken pictures at the same time, but it's like driving a car in that you tend to steer in the direction you're looking. This is a bit of a problem for composition, but hopefully you'll see something that makes you want to come out here.

This is where Montaño cuts through, only a mile from the nature center- previously there was just the left side of the fork. Now you go right and underneath unless you feel like a game of frogger.

The wind is blowing from the NW at 20-30MPH today and most animals aren't out, but normally you'll see everything from emus to camels across the arroyo.

You can't see it very well, but there's a grouse in there. As I was rolling along at 10mph I heard loud rustling in the leaves. Really loud. Louder than the wind blowing- and I rolled up within 5 feet of two grouse (grouses? grice? sigh). The first one "flew" away, the other ran under this brush. I had the camera in a zipped pocket at this point, but resolved to carry it in hand for the rest of the ride so I wouldn't miss them next time (there was no next time).

The snow on the Sandias was an unexpected treat. Normally when I'm down here the trees are covered in leaves and the mountain range fades into the background.

There was a surprising amount of new construction going up. Bit by bit, even properties west of Rio Grande are getting subdivided.

Shortly after passing under Paseo Del Norte, there is something new to me.

Is this a section of the river-water->drinking-water treatment plant?

Here's the parking at Alameda, about 5 miles from the nature center entrance. Alameda's entrance has the distinct advantage of being paved which is helpful when your wheels are only 76mm large.

This is the old Alameda bridge. I find it hard to believe that my school bus went over it every morning and afternoon.

Half way across the bridge there's still some islands in the river. The birds love it.
Goose Ducks

Speaking of the river, it's really full! If you've looked at it in fall for the last many years and despaired of the trickle, this is a great time to go back. This picture doesn't capture it too well, you're really only seeing half the width (Taken from the west side).

My GPS tells me it's 5.6 miles from the nature center access point to the west end of old Alameda bridge. Time to turn around.

There were a number of raptors in the sky, here's one of them, probably a turkey vulture.

Later on I saw a very small hawk, but couldn't get a picture of it. Also what appeared to be a swallow.

Back on the east side now- the bridge is just to the left of this picture. There's also a nice park down by the river. This is where pavement ends and Corrales begins as far as going north is concerned. Horses like dirt. Something for everyone.

They're penned up, but that's 1 camel and 4 llamas (or similar) back there.

Looking toward the Rio Grande, you see many of these flood-plain debris traps (they're all interconnected with wire). As large as the Rio Grande is now, it must have really earned its name before we had upstream flood control. I've never seen the water near these, but it must be quite a sight.

Every half mile or so there's a shaded bench to stop and rest at. Not so important now- much more so when it's hot and dry.

If you happen to be new to rollerblading, this is a good posture for going over bumps and cracks. Put more weight on your back foot at the beginning of the obstacle, then shift your weight to the front foot after it's cleared the obstacle. This is especially useful on the nature trail when 1) Crossing the 2x10 wooden bridges and 2) Going under the overpasses since there's usually a divot at the bridge joint.

As a few other words of wisdom, be mindful when skating in wind. Today most of the wind was a cross wind, but I took the headwind forward and had a tailwind on my way back. The reverse if less agreeable. Many years ago I made it to Alameda in record time and it seemed there wasn't a bit of wind. Actually, I'd had a tail wind the entire time and getting back took an extra hour. Today's trip was 11.4 miles and took 1 hour 15 minutes (Including munching an apple and drinking some water on the bridge). Also, beware of taking the trail during sunset once it warms up. Flying bugs come out to party at sunset. Once my roommate and I were out at sunset with a couple miles left to go. It was a debacle that she wouldn't consider it funny for months to follow.

Finally, for those with strong stomachs, I offer you motion sickness cam- skating down under Montaño and back up again while clutching the camera to my chest. It's more exciting in person without a brake. You need to go as fast as possible down, or getting back up again is more difficult.

Views: 231

Comment by bleve on April 12, 2008 at 8:33am
If you're traveling on the bike trail, inside the Nature Center is a quiet floor to ceiling glass outlook to view ducks, geese, turtles, muskrats, cranes, beavers etc. Its a great place to take a break and meditate on the glory of nature.
Comment by Luann Wolfe on April 12, 2008 at 10:26am
We were out at the Nature Center late in the afternoon last Thursday. It was cold and cloudy so the place was pretty much deserted except for the wildlife. Afterward we agreed that being out there experiencing a few moments of tranquility in the natural world was the best part of our day.
Comment by Sí Serrano on April 12, 2008 at 11:20am
Thanks for the tour. I need to get down there as soon as it warms up a bit and the wind stops blowing.
Comment by Brendan on April 12, 2008 at 11:32am
If you wait for the wind to stop blowing you may never make it down there. Go on foot and take the nature walks- the cottonwoods are great windbreaks.
Comment by Brendan on April 12, 2008 at 11:35am
A couple more pictures at the nature center. The first is a wall that comes off the west side of the nature center building. The holes provide a way to watch the animals without disturbing them.

Here's a view behind the wall. Didn't upload it since the autofocus went to the cat tails instead of the geese and turtles in the background.

Comment by brendisimo on April 13, 2008 at 12:22pm
nice post Brendan. I love that trail and have traveled up and down it many times. I like to ride my bike north to Corrales, stuff my face with pizza at Village Pizza, and then work it off on my ride back. That trail is a treasure...
Comment by Brendan on April 13, 2008 at 1:59pm
Brendisimo- If I the trail went all the way to La Entrada, I would certainly end up at Village Pizza every time. Sounds like a good reason to get a bike again!
Comment by Dianne P. on April 13, 2008 at 6:13pm
we were actually at the nature center today. my kids found some bones and were so excited to ask the rangers what they might be.

turns out there used to be a slaughter house where the nature center stands, and they find cow bones all the time when they dig there. blleeeehhhh...


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