Taos Region

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JBella
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Re: Taos Region

Post by JBella »

fmarrs3 wrote:... I ask partly because some trails, e.g. the Wheeler Peak trail (as marked by OnX, and #90 according to NFS), run through it. ...
This is private land known as the Northside at Taos Ski Valley, it was owned by the Pattison family for several decades and was sold last year to Robert Caroon, Jr. acting as the Taos Land and Cattle Company; https://www.taosnews.com/stories/busine ... rief,57488.

Where the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 crosses this property is a long-established public easement on which the general public has legal access to use this trail, however not to leave the trail on either side until it re-enters Carson NF lands near the Bull of the Woods Mountain - Frazer Mountain saddle. Access to the Northside property for mountain biking and hiking during the summer, and snowshoeing/xc skiing during winter has long been via purchasing a daily or seasonal permit. It is unclear what the new owner's intent is, however word going around last year was that he was going to keep the property open for permitted access as had been done in the past. There's some really sweet mountain bike trails that a lot of us have dedicated a lot of time to building and maintaining, and I feel confident to say our community really hopes these trails stay open.

As for the pictures Marc posted via the ONX app; SOMETHING FISHY IS GOING ON REGARDING THE PUBLIC LAND/PRIVATE LAND BOUNDARY ALONG THE OLD, HISTORIC WILLIAMS LAKE TRAIL. These plot maps, and others I've seen show the boundary being much further west than EVERY National Forest map I have seen except one (see below about the mtb trail project), including current and historic maps.

Please compare Marc's screenshot here with the photographs and screenshots of other maps I've examined, including official Forest Service and BLM maps;
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These photographs are of an official BLM land management map published in 2015;
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This is a section of the Carson National Forests official Motor Vehicle map for the Questa Ranger District;
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These maps were attached to the TSV mountain bike trails project which was approved by the Carson NF and began last year, which included re-routing the lower section of the William's Lake trail. https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/n ... 415063.pdf

When the project was first going through the approval process, the original map included reflected the historic boundary clearly, where the trail zig-zagged back and forth along the private land boundary south of the service road;
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Then when the project was approved, a different map was attached showing the boundary further to the west;
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It appears this boundary was altered/changed to accommodate the private development that is underway in this area. Since all historic maps show the public land boundary in one area, and now newer maps and surveys show a different boundary, it seems something is not right. I can find no records of the boundary being changed, no land swaps with the Forest Service and have looked at master title plats at the County Recorder's office and the BLM office in Santa Fe which seemed to reflect the historic boundary was intact. Were there some back-door, closed-door deals between the Forest Service and TSV, Village of TSV, and/or private interests who own adjacent lands to the east? I don't know, but something is not right and this is affecting our historic access on and to our public lands. Even mylandmatters.org which is the go-to resource or mining claim info in the west and updates their database regularly shows the current boundary being where all the historic maps show it, on both their topo and satellite views;
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I've been working on this for a while, something is up and we need to get to the bottom of it. The Carson NF has dodged my inquiries about why the map was changed during the middle of the mtb trails project and has not responded to my calls or emailed letters about this matter, and I cannot find any documents online on public databases explaining what is going on here. This is important because it appears that a swath of Public Land has mysteriously been transferred to private hands without anyone knowing!!!!!!!
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JBella
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Re: Taos Region

Post by JBella »

BTW, thanks Marc, for working with the community on this and conveying direct responses from the FS. And Kerry, Bob, for your continuous posts about all these matters and conditions reports!

To grace the subject of accessing the Northside property; it has always been off-limits for downhill skiing, they've allowed cross country skiing and snowshoeing only on designated trails - many of which may cross avalanche paths although there has never been an incident involving any trail users. The Mine Slide incident last year brought a lot of awareness to the potential there, it hit and crossed Kachina Road and then hit multiple houses, and this path could likely produce a larger slide that would fan out, and hit more houses along Twining Road as well as the road. Most locals know these areas are off-limits regardless of the fact there have never been signs in place on the Phoenix Switchback road, but signs had been posted for several years at the trailhead gate for their property, where the Wheeler Peak Trail enters the property, and at various locations along the upper section of Kachina Road.

I've worked with Big Al from time to time, assisting him as a snowmobile tour guide by gathering and sharing information about conditions. His policy has always been no skiing or snowboarding on Northside land, including himself, per respect for the Pattisons as well as for safety. Even though that property is within the Village of TSV much of it could be considered remote wilderness, it certainly holds those characteristics, and there is a healthy abundance of wildlife including mountain lions along with the bighorn sheep and deer.

Regarding Long Canyon - yes there are two or three private inholdings - one area on the east side comprised of three patented lode claims (I don't know if this is one or two separately owned properties now, it used to be two) and one on the west side consisting of the Gold Queen patented claim near the summit of that ridge, this one was listed for sale last year on a few different real estate sites. I haven't looked for a while as it was beyond my budget but it may have been sold by now. Unlike Colorado, New Mexico statutes require private property to be posted if the owner doesn't want people to enter or cross their property, nothing is posted in Long Canyon so anyone skiing who happens to cross these areas should be fine. Colorado requires a person to know if they are entering private property or not, hence a lot of the battles in recent years in and around the Silverton area, and on some of the 14ers in Summit and Park counties.
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JBella
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Re: Taos Region

Post by JBella »

This is the general Special Use Permit that the U.S. Forest Service uses;

https://www.fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/spe ... 700-5b.pdf

Please pay attention to section 1. F.;

F. Area Access. Except for any restrictions as the holder and the authorized officer may agree to be necessary to protect the
installation and operation of authorized structures and developments, the lands and waters covered by this permit shall remain
open to the public for all lawful purposes. To facilitate public use of this area, all existing roads or roads as may be constructed by
the holder, shall remain open to the public, except for roads as may be closed by joint agreement of the holder and the authorized
officer.


To facilitate public use of this area...

My interpretation of this would be that any areas on public lands which a permit holder is permitted to use, which are not directly used to house or operate a structure (such as lift towers, lift shacks, patrol huts, lodges and restaurants, snowmaking facilities, explosive storage huts) and on which no active developments are underway (such as when and where the Gazex system was installed last Summer), are open for the general public to use. Grey areas - is grooming considered an approved development? Avalanche mitigation? Snowmaking? I would think not, as developments are generally projects such as the Gazex, or new snowmaking equipment installation. And roads - I believe this clause is meant to be relevant for Summer - roads are roads, ski trails and undeveloped slopes are not roads. It has long been generally believed that the roads going up the mountain from the base of lift #4 are not open for anyone to drive up, unlike Breckenridge for example, but this road has always been freely open for us to mountain bike and hike on, when I lived in TSV for several summers we rode on this road regularly.
Marc
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Re: Taos Region

Post by Marc »

"National Forests in NM to Close Developed Recreation Sites; Visitors Still Welcome
Taos, NM– March 23, 2020 – The five national forests in New Mexico, including the Carson National Forest, will begin the orderly closure of developed recreation sites as early as Monday, March 23, to protect public health and safety and align with state and local measures already in place to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Although campgrounds, day-use sites, restrooms and other developed recreation facilities on the Santa Fe, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln national forests are likely to be closed, the vast majority of the forests will still be available to visitors who want to spend time outdoors. At this time, recreation opportunities include hiking and biking on trails, dispersed camping and other activities that support social distancing and small groups.

The Carson National Forest asks members of the public to recreate responsibly by avoiding high-risk activities, like rock climbing, that increase the chance of injury or distress. Law enforcement and search and rescue operations may be limited due to COVID-19. In addition, visitors can help mitigate resource impacts while recreation sites are closed by bringing home their trash (pack it in, pack it out), and by appropriately managing human waste by burying it at least 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water, trails and recreation sites. Visit the Interactive Visitor Map at https://www.fs.fed.us/ivm/ for more information on available activities.

“We know how much our communities and our visitors value all the recreation opportunities the national forests have to offer,” Carson National Forest Supervisor James Duran said. “This decision was not made lightly, but we believe people understand the serious risks posed by facilities that draw large numbers of people into close proximity with each other. We appreciate your patience and understanding of our efforts to mitigate those risks to protect public health and safety.”

The developed recreation site closures will remain in effect until further notice. The Forest Service thanks all New Mexicans, visitors and partners for their cooperation. Please report any instances of vandalism to facilities to the local ranger district office.

All SFNF offices are conducting business and providing services virtually. The Carson National Forest will continue to coordinate its COVID-19 response in alignment with all federal, state and local guidance. Visitors to national forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nc ... ntion.html.  

Contact information for Carson National Forest Headquarters and the ranger district offices is posted on the forest website. Updates on the Carson National Forest response to COVID-19 will also be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

###

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender."
Kerry
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Re: Taos Region

Post by Kerry »

From the Taos Avalanche Center, "Road access has been closed to the main trailhead in the area. Out of respect to the Village of Taos Ski Valley and their wishes during this time we have decided to shut down, as we don't have access to make observations to produce forecasts." I spent Tue night through Sunday van camping in the resort parking lot, the NF portion, and looked into the "road closed" signs which were finally removed late Saturday. Referencing NM Roads, NM DOT had not closed Twining Rd. I asked the village police officer if he knew why the signage was there; he said, "no earthly idea." The police officer returned about an hour later to say there had been plans to excavate Twining Rd for infrastructure repair, which didn't happen; he expected the signage to be removed soon. Signs were gone the next day.
Most concerning to me in recent weeks has been the flood of communication centered on COVID19 and the lack of personal effort to determine credibility of the information. Unfortunately, where epidemiology is concerned, I lack the skills to determine as I did with signage, what is credible, and have to gauge the source of information. This is very similar to avalanche information... always work to reduce uncertainty and base actions on presumption that we won't know the absolute truth in many circumstances.
Back to TSV conditions...Saturday evening I saw over 8 x R1D1 wet looses on all aspects below TL and E-S aspects @ and >TL in the TSV base-to-Wheeler area. The snow along the Williams Lake trail up to TL was mostly very moist on top, manky, no fun. I saw snow blowing in all directions >TL, mostly along ridge tops. Temps dropped on Saturday right after sunset and a convective storm moved into the area. New snowfall on Sat night ranged from 3" in TSV parking lot and at Powderhorn SNOTEL to about 10" in the Sin Nombre area. On Friday, my two clients and I laid 5000' of tracks in the cirque; I added 2800' solo on Saturday...none were visible or even palpable with a ski or pole on Sunday when I skied mostly the same lines with a new group. The moist snow of Sat formed a supportive and carvable base to the new snow, which was chest-high blower in the trees. Wind affect in the alpine along E side of LFP ridge was minimal, no crust. I put a group of 5 on isolated short 48-degree pitches and ski cut a couple of isolated convexities...the new-old bond was good. Just >TL near Sin Nombre, I got CT11 RP down 8cm within the NS, and CT21 BRK down 38cm likely on a decomposing wind crust on a NE aspect; top 80cm was right-side-up; deeper weak layers were probed; HS > 270cm. Hand shear tests on E aspects required moderate force. No cracking more than a few inches from skis, no whumping, no natural slides, nothing more than dry loose R1D1- ("sluff") skier triggered on Sunday.
More than ever, being cognizant of what others are doing above and below you is important where I rarely would see another BC skier. In the last 5 days of skiing, I saw about 8-12 BC skiers per day, not including the ones playing on the resort pistes with sleds or skis/boards.
Although I think snow stability is very good, there is still a low, not negligible, potential for persistent slabs on most aspects @ and >TL. In the unlikely event that one releases, it will be large to very large. The PS problem is intermittently a wet slab problem when subjected to high temps and/or solar gain sufficient to introduce liquid water to the snowpack. For us in recent days, cornice fall and wind slabs have been a much more observable, and avoidable, event.
I wish everyone the best in reducing uncertainty and keeping your sanity.
Kerry
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Joined: Fri Mar 16, 2007 5:17 am
Location: Albuquerque

Re: Taos Region

Post by Kerry »

On Thursday, skied 1100 to 1500. Temps in the mid to upper 40's above 10k'. Sunny, light breeze. Snow was perfect...able to skin to LFP summit without crampons...soft surface and low ski pen everywhere I went. Skied dry-moist loose wintery surfaces on upper N aspects like LFP and Sin Nombre...wind skins had softened. Still feel weak layers with probe on upper N aspects, but I'd be very surprised if we see any more slab activity other than wet slab until the next storm...exercise caution when temps rise enough to put liquid water in the steep N aspects. Fri and Sat fx another nice day, probably not too warm until late afternoon.
Skied corn on SE aspect of LFP and lower alpine areas like Talus Field. Snowpack has a very solid foundation, no trap door, punchy conditions, even in trees. SE aspects feel like they've gone through full depth thaw freeze.
All fresh avalanche activity limited to shallow wet loose, mostly D1.5, from rocky S aspects and some NE aspects in bowls.
Kerry
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Location: Albuquerque

Re: Taos Region

Post by Kerry »

On Saturday morning temps were about 4F colder than previous two mornings. I chose to stay on sun-affected slopes to ski beautiful corn, first run about 1000, second at 1130. The northerly slopes surfaces had scattered melt-freeze crusts all the way up LFP. LFP's SE aspect was worthy of a second climb. Nothing substantially different about stability, which is very good until solar gain introduces liquid water. On Fri, I triggered two D1 (very small) wet looses on E-S aspect pitches about 45-degrees near rocks, both flows remained shallow, about 4" deep.
Looking forward to getting a clean canvas out of the upcoming storm.
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