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Jemez Mountain Trail Run – Race Director Bill Geist Provides Wildfire, Community, and Course Update

As mentioned in my recent article, JMTR: Wildfire Update and Trail Photos, we would receive some unique insight from race director, Bill Geist, on the current wildfire and trail conditions as well as the possible impact on next year’s race currently scheduled for May 19, 2012.

After returning from the special community meeting with the forest service last night, Bill kindly answered a few questions to update the Endurance Buzz community.


[EB – What is the current wildfire status in Los Alamos and the surrounding communities?]

The fire is now 100% percent contained as of August 1st.  The fire burnt 156,593 acres, which is the largest fire in NM history.  There is still some hot spots burning in the interior of the fire, but these are not noticeable from Los Alamos.  Over 60 residences were destroyed, all in mountain communities to the South of Los Alamos.

More info can be found at: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2385/ [EB – This is definitely worth checking out. Very interesting and informative.]

[EB – As a Los Alamos resident, how were you impacted by the fires?]

Currently the impact of the fire in the town of Los Alamos are nonexistent. At the start of the fire the town of Los Alamos was evacuated for about a week and after the residents returned, spots fires could be seen on the hillsides above town for over a week and depending on the wind at times there was a lot of smoke in town.  (I actually did not experience a lot of this because I stayed up in Colorado after town opened to get ready for Hardrock.)  Right now a lot of the national forest around town is closed to the public.

[EB – Have you been on any of the Jemez Mountain Trail Run course? How much of the trail have you checked out and what have you observed?]

I have been on a small portion of the course and have seen pictures from other sections of the course.  The half marathon course only had about a one mile section of burn but the 50km and 50mi have many miles of extreme burn.  This includes the route up Caballo Mountain, North Mitchell, Upper Guaje Canyon, Cerro Grande, parts of Pajarito Mountain, and Canyon de Valle.  Many of these sections have had all the ground covered burned, downed trees, and in places the trail has disappeared.

Things will get worse as the summer monsoons erode the barren hillsides.  It is expected that the trail on Caballo Mountain will be totally destroyed.  We have already had flash floods in Canyon de Valle that most likely washed away any trail sections along the creek bed.  The forest service thinks that some of the very badly burned areas (like Caballo) may not be opened to the public for many years.

[EB – Here are a few photos courtesy of Debbi Maez highlighting the impact of some recent flash floods.]

Photo: Courtesy Debbi Maez

Photo: Courtesy Debbi Maez

Photo: Courtesy Debbi Maez

[EB – I know the 2012 race (May 2012) is still quite a ways out, but will these fires have any impact on next year’s race?]

The fire will have no impact of the half marathon course, but the 50km and 50mi will not be run on the same course.  We still do not know what access we will have to the trails that go through the burn area.

I expect that we will not be allowed to run on Caballo Mountain, Guaje Canyon, Cerro Grande, and in Canyon de Valle.  There is still at lot of uncertainty of what the longer distance course(s) may be.  We are just beginning to work with the forest service to see what may be possible.

[EB – I assume there will be a huge amount of trail work required for it to be usable once again, what is the best way for people to stay in the loop for upcoming trail work parties?]

You are very correct.  Information on trail work can be found at:

There are also Email distribution lists that people can get their names on.

We will be updating the JMTR web page, JMTR Facebook page, and the JMTR blog as to our plan for the 2012 race which is currently scheduled for May 19th.


Special thanks to Bill for providing the latest update for the Los Alamos area and the JMTR race!

All information with respect to next year’s race is still in the preliminary stages and will become more clear in the coming months as more of the trail is able to be explored, assessed, and rebuilt where possible.

If you are in the area and want to get involved with the list of projects that will likely be created after such a significant incident, be sure to follow the sites Bill mentioned above to get yourself in the loop.

There appears to be a long road ahead, we wish our New Mexico community all the best.

[8/16/2011 – Updates]

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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