Trails: Winsor Trail has storied history

Bob Ward bicycles along the Winsor Trail. The path is named after a family who moved to the area in the 19th century. Courtesy photo

The Winsor Trail is Santa Fe’s premiere trail, leading from its trail head in Tesuque to deep in the Pecos Wilderness.

Along the way, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians pick up the Winsor from the Borrego Trail, the Norski trails, the ski area parking lot, the Rio Nambe Trail and others. Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans used what we call the Winsor to search for food. It runs along the Tesuque River on west side of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and along Winsor Creek on the east.

So who were the Winsors? The Winsor family had a dude ranch near Cowles in the Pecos called Winsor Camp and later Winsor Resort and Boarding House beginning in the late 19th century. The Winsor family settled in Kansas, but moved to the area in the 1880s for health reasons. The dry climate of Northern New Mexico attracted many who suffered from tuberculosis.

The family built a sawmill at Tres Lagunas, then at Cowles, where the Pecos River and Winsor Creek join. Henry Dyke Winsor raised cattle at the ranch and contracted with a Santa Fe meat market. He packed beef and wild game along the Winsor Trail on horses. In 1911, the boarding house was sold and was renamed the Mountain View Ranch. Henry and wife Flora Ball moved and rebuilt Winsor Resort just up the hill, west of its original site, which the family owned and operated until 1949. In the 1970s, the U.S. Forest Service bought the land and razed the buildings.

Ball had an uncle named Tom Stewart, for whom Stewart Lake is named. The nearby Los Pinos Ranch was owned and managed by Katherine Chaves Page in the 1920s, and Lake Katherine was named for her. A notable and frequent guest at Los Pinos was J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The question remains, where did Henry D. Winsor and others veer off the Big Tesuque drainage to make their way to Santa Fe? At the Borrego Trail? At the Chamisa Trail?

Speaking of trail names, the Santa Fe Conservation Trust is sponsoring a contest to rename the “Grand Unified Trail System” initiative. It is a partnership of local organizations working to create soft-surface, single-track trail connections around the greater Santa Fe area. Picture a web of trails — or a wheel and spokes — that hikers, bicyclists and equestrians can use to get out to and between any of Santa Fe’s trails and trail systems.

Got an idea for the new name of this initiative? Email it to trails@sfct.org by Jan. 15. All submissions will go to the Grand Unified Trail System Steering Committee. The winner will be announced at the end of January, and will get a CamelBak, a compass, an SFCT hat and the trust’s deepest thanks.

This community-based planning initiative is aiming for significant accomplishments in the evolution of Santa Fe’s trails. As Charlie O’Leary, of O’Leary Built Bicycles, says, “Not just more trails; our ultimate goal is to connect all these trails.”

Tim Rogers, trails program manager at the Santa Fe Conservation Trust, said, “We’re not naming a loop, we’re naming an effort. What we love are dirt trails that can be built and maintained by community volunteers and don’t take massive public bonds to accomplish. We want to create routes around the city that trail users can follow in order to gain access to and connect existing trail systems.”

Margaret Alexander is a founding member of Trails Alliance of Santa Fe.

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