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 four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Friday, September 21, 2018

Tarantulas Are Pretty Fast!

One of the benefits of being on the trail for many hours at a time is that you get to see amazing wildlife, cacti and wildflowers along the way. The saying goes, “If you run long enough, something is bound to happen.” Usually those happenings are good like seeing a colorful bird flash by or stumbling upon a herd of elk (read my previous post). Occasionally the thing could be bad though, like eating the dirt, falling in the creek or being chased by zombies during your all night run.

Indian Paintbrush in the Franklin Mts State Park, TX

Nevertheless, there is rarely a dull moment on the trail around here in the Franklin Mountains in Far West Texas. Just a few weeks ago I was running my usual weekday route when I took a turn to run down a gentle slope. I was feeling pretty good and decided to open up my stride to see how fast I could bomb down the hill. I glanced at my Suunto gps watch which read about 7mph (fast for me). Well, when I looked back up a rattle snake was stretched out across the trail and I instinctively took a hard right off the path. This wouldn’t have been a problem except that I had to jump over some shin dagger (lechuguilla) while plowing into an ocotillo cactus. They have long whip like arms about the girth of a broom handle and are full of pointy thorns. After dropping a barrage of “F-Bombs”, I assessed the damage. A few cactus thorns in my hand, some scrapes on my arm and a little soilage in my running shorts. Other than that, I was OK.

Desert Willow
When I’m not busy jumping over venomous snakes, I’m taking in the splendid views that our mountains offer up. I call this place God’s Country and refer to my time spent here as going to “church”. It really is a religious experience especially when you climb to the top of N. Franklin Peak and are greeted by a colony of convergent ladybugs (lady beetle). Every year in the summer one particular bush on the peak is covered in these red beetles with black dots. This species is collected in some parts of the US and sold to gardeners for pest control as they voraciously feed on aphids. The expansive view from the top of N. Franklin Peak is like no other. You can see Mexico, Texas and New Mexico with views of the Organ, Franklin and Hueco Mountains, and the Potrillo Volcano Field which includes Mt Riley and Cox.

Lady Bugs!
This has nothing to do with running, but here's a humming bird picture I took.
One morning when I was running down from the peak I came across a tarantula in the middle of the trail so I stopped to take a closer look. These huge hairy spiders look menacing, but they are actually so docile that people keep them as pets. Although they are venomous, a bite, which is rare, would feel no worse than a bee sting to a human. Anyway, I pulled out my camera to get a little video of the big hairy critter and all he did was stand there so I gave him a little touch with my finger. He took off like a rocket and did the two yard dash in about five seconds! I was Amazed at how fast he could run.

Watch how fast a tarantula can run:

On another adventure, I guided a friend up the Aztec Cave Trail in the Franklin Mountains which is part of the Franklin Mountains 50K course that Trail Racing Over Texas puts on in November. It’s a SkyRunner USA Series race this year, so you will definitely want to look into it if you haven’t already signed up. This year will also feature a vertical K and a 27K race as well as the usual King/Queen of the Mt, Half Mary, 10K and 5K. There’s a distance suitable for everyone so you don’t have any excuses. After arriving at the grottos, my friend and I climbed a very steep rock outcrop above the caves to continue on a faint path. A beautiful olive frog with puce spots was hopping around up there on the rocks and I figured he probably hatched in a small pool that had collected water from recent rains. I was astonished to see a frog in these harsh desert conditions. 

The view from Aztec Cave
Pink polka dotted frog
Over Labor Day weekend, I spent some time running at the ranch where I completed a 26.2 mile training run through the Quitman Mountains Pass. The route is a windy dirt road through the desert with nothing but wide open spaces in every direction and is the former route of the Butterfield Overland Mail. There’s nowhere more peaceful on Earth that I know of. Almost halfway into my run, I spotted a rattlesnake with its telltale black and white striped tail stretched out across the road. Luckily I spotted in him in plenty of time so I didn’t have to dive into the cacti again. It was a beautiful run, but the heat got to me in the last hour or so. When I returned to the ranch I laid on the floor and drank lots of cold water with a splash of lemonade. It took me a good half hour to recover from the heat.

Ocotillo cactus

All my long training runs and climbs in the Franklin Mountains have helped boost my confidence and my physical condition which has prepared me for my race, the Mt Taylor 50K (11,300’) near Grants, NM, that I will run next week; God willing and the creek don’t rise. I also have an ambitious race schedule planned for 2019 and hope to run the Franklin Mt 50K, Bandera 100K to get my 500K jacket, the Lone Star 100K, Old Pueblo 50 Miler, the Bataan Death March, Jemez 50 Miler and maybe the Lean Horse 100 Miler. Whew —I'm getting tired just writing that!

The ridge you will climb if you sign up for the Vertical K or King/Queen of the Mountain

See you on the Trail.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Lookout Mountain and Crest Trail

The stinging nettle plant contains thousands of tiny hollow hairs that release histamine and formic acid when broken off, creating a nasty burning sensation on the skin. Well, that sounds like something to avoid, doesn't it! More on stinging nettle later, but what I wanted to tell you now is that I recently went to the White Mountain Wilderness near Ruidoso, NM to do a little altitude training to get ready for my upcoming race, the Mt Taylor 50K. This race takes runners to the top of sacred Mt Taylor (11,300’) which is near Grants, NM. Near Ruidoso, I climbed Lookout Mt (11,580’) which is a bit higher so this was a perfect training run to help me prepare for my race. I tried this hike over spring break, but the snow was still very deep and I wasn’t able make it to the top.

Lookout Mt and Sierra Blanca Peaks
Crest Trail
I began my adventure at Ski Apache at around 10,000’ elevation and took the Scenic Trail (T15). The narrow path climbs a grassy slope with lots of wildflowers. In a little more than a half mile, I reached the Crest Trail (T15) which is a 20 mile route that traverses the mountain range. Unfortunately, the Little Bear Fire burned much of this area in 2012 and parts of the this trail are difficult to travel. More on that later.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Running Almost Mexico

I recently spent some time running our southern border in Hudspeth County, TX. With only three fourths of a person per mile it is the 45th least populous county in America. Loving, TX is number 5 with only a tenth of a person per mile. In comparison, New York County, NY is the most densely populated with 69,468 people per mile! (Wikipedia) No thank you! I prefer Texas, so the fam and I went to our family’s ranch in West Texas to enjoy a very quiet weekend in Almost Mexico.

Hudspeth along the border is much like the Big Bend area of Texas with a high wall of mountains in Mexico, the Quitman Mountains in the US and the Rio Grande slicing through the valley between the two countries. On both sides of the river, as far as the eye can see, is dry desert, rocky outcrops and sand hills dotted with creosote bush and gnarly vegetation. With only around nine inches of rain per year, it is one of the most inhospitable regions imaginable where everything bites, stings or scratches. It’s also one of the most beautiful. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Heart Attack Canyon Lincoln National Forest

As the name indicates, Heart Attack Canyon is no joke! I went to Cloudcroft, NM a few weeks ago to get out of the desert heat and enjoy some time in the Lincoln National Forest. I ran the Bluff Springs, Willie White and Wills Canyon trails that you can read about in my last post. Several years ago I ran the Rim Trail that mostly parallels the Sunspot Scenic Byway and noticed a sign pointing the way to Heart Attack Canyon. I became very intrigued by this side trail and thought to myself how hard could it be? Well, I went back to find out.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Bluff Springs Lincoln National Forest

I recently had an epic running adventure in the Lincoln National Forest just south of Cloudcroft, NM. Bluff Springs waterfall is a beautiful little spot along the Rio PeƱasco Rd off of Sunspot Scenic Byway. Water tumbles over a bluff that is adorned by a hanging garden of riparian vegetation including mosses and ferns as well as a smooth algae covered stone. Tall majestic spruce and fir trees tower above the cliff. A short trail leads to the top of the waterfall where water weeps out of the Sacramento Mountains into a lush marshy area before plunging over the scarp.

Bluff Springs, NM

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Jemez Mountain 50 Miler

A young lady is bent over retching along the side of the trail as I approach. A photographer walks up to her. “Are you OK?”, he asks. “Oh yeah, I’m good,” she replies. I know she isn’t. We’re at 9000’ elevation on a hot morning at mile 15 of a 50 miler and have another 1500’ of climbing ahead of us to reach the top of Pajarito Mountain (10,440’). I have a lot of pressure in my head and am definitely feeling the altitude. Hopefully she can pull it together when she reaches the ski lodge aid station in another half mile.

The Jemez Mountain 50 Mile Trail Run started at zero dark hundred this morning with about 150 runners toeing the line. They offer three distances —50 mile, 50K or 15 mile. Pick your poison. There was a bit of drama leading up to the race because the Jemez Mountains, where the race is held in Los Alamos, NM are in an exceptional drought (D4, the worst possible) with very high wildfire risk. The course was changed because the forest is in stage 2 fire restrictions and rangers wanted to keep runners closer to town. The Atomic City knows wildfires. In 2011, the Las Conchas Fire, the largest in New Mexico at the time, burned over 150,000 acres threatening the town and the Los Alamos National Lab here. In years past the 50 mile course took us through the gorgeous Valle Caldera National Preserve, but no such luck today. The good news is that we only ascend Pajarito Mountain once, although we have another significant climb up to about 9600’ later in the day.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Everyday is Earth Day

Earth Day was last weekend where many people went out to hike or run a trail, clean up a park or plant a tree. Well, without fear of sounding like a Birkenstock wearing hippie tree hugger who greets everyone on the trail with namaste, I have to admit that, to me, everyday is Earth Day. I spend almost every morning running a trail and taking in nature. The visual beauty of West Texas where I live is stunning, but there are also the smells, sounds and even the feel of the Earth that I enjoy when I’m out on the trail. 

Moonrise Quitman Mountains in W. Texas