About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed a few 100 milers and many other ultramarathon trail races and marathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Comanche Trail Palo Duro Canyon

Last month I spent a few days at Palo Duro Canyon State Park near Amarillo, TX where I ran out to the famous Lighthouse rock formation. 

Read about it here: Lighthouse Run

View from the Comanche Trail
I also ran part of the newly built Comanche Trail which, according to  a park ranger, is about six miles one way. The Palo Duro Trail Run is held every October and volunteers have been building more trails to eliminate some of the loops in the 50 mile course. The current 50 miler is 12.5 miles repeated four times. 

You can pick up the Comanche trail in several locations, one being at the very end of the park road across from the Cow Camp Cabins parking area (look for the sign). Another is near the Givens, Spicer and Lowery trailhead parking and another at the Mac Dick Pavillion. (Click for a map.)

I started at the end of the park road on a cloudy morning where the forecast was calling for showers. Fortunately it wasn’t cold so I attached my rain shell onto my hydration vest and took off hoping for the best. The trail was smooth hard packed dirt and took me past some red, yellow, white and tan eroded hills. Soon I was in a jumble of slanted boulders some resting on a pedestal of dirt. Here you can see how the earth was washed away leaving chunks of the caprock escarpment lying willy nilly about the countryside. Most of the vegetation along the trail is brown grass interspersed with desert plants like sotol and prickly pear cactus; juniper trees dotting the hillsides.

After less than 15 minutes of running a light drizzle started to fall. I ignored it hoping it would soon stop, but then it started to rain harder. I paused to put on my jacket and then continued on where the trail took me higher and higher onto the canyon wall. It was steep in places and my jacket was trapping the humidity inside making me feel very hot. Of course after 10 minutes the rain stopped and I had to take a break again to remove my shell and strap it back onto my hydration vest.

I continued running, much cooler now, and pretty soon was high enough to see down into the beautiful red canyon and across to the other side where I had run the previous day. I ran beneath some high rocky grey cliffs and twisted around some more boulders before climber higher on the escarpment. A trickle of water was coming out of the side of a hill filling a small rock lined pool. I crossed a side canyon that was littered with rocks and boulders that had been washed down in heavy rains.

Shortly after crossing the intersecting Rock Garden Trail, I was close to the top of Fortress Cliff, a prominent rock formation that I could see from my campground of the same name. Eons of geology are revealed in the stratified layers of this flat-topped citadel shaped rock face.  

Fortress Cliff
I was under the impression that the trail would continue above the canyon for the entire six miles, but after about three, I started to descend back toward the park road. By this time it started to drizzle which gave way to a full on shower. I reached the park road where I found shelter at the Hackberry Campground. I waited to see if the rain would stop and while I was there a flock of turkeys came strutting through the area. I watched them for a while, but after they left I grew bored of waiting for the rain to stop.

I decided to take the trail that parallels the park road back to my car instead of retracing my steps on the Comanche trail. There was plenty of slick mud in low lying areas and I almost ate it a couple of times. Periodically the rain came down in torrents and sticky mud was balling up on my shoes making them feel three times as heavy. The slippery surface made it difficult to stay upright on a few of the short steep hills and at one point I was running a narrow trail between a cliff and a steep embankment down to the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. (How's that for a name?) I felt very vulnerable as though I was between Scylla and Charybdis so decided to walk lest I end up in a watery grave.

Needless to say it took forever to get back to my car which was only about three miles away and I felt like a drowned rat by the time I got there. The sky really let loose when I returned so I simply took off my wet muddy shoes, threw them in the parking lot, took off my jacket and jumped in the car. I was starving by this point so made some lunch and ate in the car while listening to raindrops pelt the metal roof. My saving grace was that the camp shower room was across the street so I was able to get a hot shower before returning to my campsite. 

The rain finally stopped and I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon in the park resting at my campsite and bird watching.
Fortress Cliff after the rain.
The next morning I ran the Rock Garden Trail which climbs 600 feet from the canyon floor all the way to the rim (2.5 miles one-way). Once at the top, I ran a short distance on the Rylander Fortress Cliff trail which was totally flat, but had spectacular views of the canyon below. Be careful if you run this one and be sure to stay on the trail proper as it goes dangerously close to the precipitous cliff edge in spots. Several years ago a tourist fell to his death in a similar spot on the other side of the canyon while taking photographs on the CCC trail.

Rock Garden Trail

Despite getting soaked one day, I enjoyed running the trails in Palo Duro Canyon. There are plenty of options for varied skill levels from flat scenic trails to steep climbs with twisty single-track. There’s no shortage of scenery and the Palo Duro Trading Post has tasty burgers just in case you work up an appetite. See you on the trail.

Official Texas Longhorn Herd

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bataan Memorial Death March 2016

After waking up at zero dark thirty the morning of the Bataan Memorial Death March, I opened my back door to let the dogs out. Well, I was hit by a blast of wind that took my breath away. Spring in the Desert Southwest can bring wicked wind storms and this is the only place I’ve ever lived where “blowing dust” is an actual weather forecast. The strange thing is that the forecast for this morning wasn’t calling for high winds. Nevertheless, our mountains create their own weather at times bringing the worst conditions to run in.

The great plant hunter and explorer of Tibet, F. Kingdon Ward said it best, “It is this wind which makes life on the plateau…so unbearable. It has a cumulative nervous effect; possibly its action is electrical, due to the constant friction of dry air. I do not know. I only know that it is slow torture; you are waging a losing fight all the time, up against something which gradually, but no less surely and ruthlessly beats you. It makes no terms; it is war à l’outrance.”

Organ Mountains— White Sands Missile Range

Friday, March 18, 2016

Palo Duro Canyon Lighthouse Run

Last week I had the great pleasure of running in Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the Panhandle of Texas. As I was driving, I couldn’t help but think, is this the right way? There is nothing out here but grass and cotton fields speckled with oil pump jacks. The roads don’t have a single turn anywhere because there is nothing but flat, flat and more flat so how can the Grand Canyon of Texas be around here. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Coyote Alley

Last month we went to visit family at the BR ranch in West Texas. One morning I went for a run with my three dogs as well as three of my in-law’s dogs. **Cue Dog Whisperer theme music** This area is very remote so I don’t worry about them being off-leash. I’m no dog whisperer, but we rarely have any trouble aside from an occasional jackrabbit chase where the dogs only return a few minutes later empty handed and out of breath.

Taz, our special child
Harry Potter

Monday, February 8, 2016

Roundtop Trail Run

My first race for the new year was the Roundtop Trail Run in Anthony Gap, NM. This local race was put on by race director, Mark Dorion of The greatest WordPress.com site in all the land! fame. (Watch his site for future trail races.) The course was an eight mile out-and-back trail that runners could do repeatedly up to four times for a total of 32+ miles. I tend to get bored after several passes on the same trail so I opted for 16 miles. We ran on a portion of the Sierra Vista National Recreation Trail that goes from Anthony Gap, NM just over the Texas State line all the way to Las Cruces, NM over 35 miles away.

"Turn around when you see the sign that says, TURN AROUND."

Friday, January 15, 2016

Baylor Canyon and Pine Tree Trail

Last weekend I went to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Las Cruces, NM to run the Baylor Canyon and Pine Tree trails with several of my running friends. The Baylor Canyon National Recreation Trail is six miles one way, takes hikers through a saddle in the Organ Mountains with 1000’ of elevation gain and descends to the other side. We started from the western slopes of the range and ran to the Aguirre Springs Campground near White Sands Missile Range on the other side. The Organs get their name from the jagged pinnacles that jut up from the peaks that look like the pipes of an organ.

The Organ Mountains as seen from the westside

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Year in Review 2015

I hope you enjoy this slide show of my favorite pictures from 2015 (Click HERE if you can't see it.):