San Antonians can travel for 40 straight miles with new trail extension
San Antonians can now travel almost 40 miles straight without ever exiting a trail. An eagerly awaited connection between the Leon Creek and Salado Creek Trails officially opened this past Friday, Oct. 1. A newly minted trailhead at Eisenhower Park links the two sides with 2 miles of brand new trail.
One person who monitored the new trail’s progress is Xavier DeHoyos; he bikes the trail system everyday, barring rain. He emphasized the new trail’s steep nature.
“This is my Mount Ventoux,” he said, referencing the infamous mountain climbing stage of the Tour de France. At the recommendation of his doctors, DeHoyos took up cycling as a way to recuperate from vascular bypass surgery and credits the daily ritual for having healed him. He attested, “If I’m sluggish in the mornings, I get on the bike, first 2, 3 miles into it, I’m already revived.”
While two wheels may be the most popular method of transport on the trail, two feet are also common. Friends Sandra Martinez and Karen Diorio walked the round trip on the Leon Creek Trail to the Rim Shopping Center and back to the trailhead. The route’s steep incline didn’t seem to phase them as they raved about how beautiful and easy to use the new trail is.
For Diorio, who visits the trail system about once a week, there is also a sentimental aspect to using the trails. She used to regularly guide her husband, who resided in a memory care facility near the Salado Creek Trail, in his wheelchair along the trail. She explained that “he was a Korean War Veteran and always had his hat on, so people were always coming over and thanking him for his service” while they were on the trail.
For other users, it’s not necessarily the trail itself but what it leads to. Between Eisenhower Park and Highway 1604 on the Salado Creek Trail is the Medicine Wall, a cliff face popular with rock climbers.
Zack Cleveland and Liz Brown are novice climbers who were testing out the climbing gear they had just bought the day before. In fact, it was only Cleveland’s second time climbing outdoors and Brown’s first.
“I’m planning to climb all over this wall,” Cleveland said.
Brown, on the other hand, admitted to being a little scared but enjoyed it nonetheless.
It’s precisely that fear that drives Devin Cleveland — Zack’s brother — and his approach to rock climbing. Inspired by the free solo style of climbing which involves using no safety gear at all, he prefers to let the “fear factor” tether him to the wall. He pointed to a ledge about 12 feet above his head to indicate how high he made it that morning. His goal is to free solo climb all the way to the top of the wall.
“Me getting up on the wall, looking down, being like, ‘Ok, I don’t wanna end up down there’ — that drives me,” Devin said.
Any type of user can now travel uninterrupted from Rittiman Road on the city’s East Side up to Eisenhower Park and then back down to West Military Drive on the West Side. And this is only part of a larger web of trails that comprise the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System. Together, this collection of trails creates approximately 80 miles of paths throughout San Antonio.
Currently, the north and south sections of the Salado Creek Trail are separated by Fort Sam Houston, where trail construction has required special approval. However, according to Brandon Ross, a Special Projects Manager with the San Antonio Parks Department, the city hopes to break ground on this connection through the base some time in late 2022. Once this is complete, and when added to another extension that is currently underway on the south section, users will be able to go well over 50 straight miles on the joint Leon Springs-Salado Creek trail.
Anyone on the fence about trying out the trails might be encouraged by frequent user Janet Wilson. The 70-year-old cyclist laughed as she called herself old but mused, “You know, the best thing about this trail is that all ages and all levels use it.”
In other words, one doesn’t have to sprint the full 40 miles to reap the restorative benefits touted by the users above.