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 spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Monday, March 22, 2010

What do poppies have to do with running 100 miles?

This morning I’m preparing for the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile endurance run. I’ve been planning for this race for around two years now. I ran the Bandera 100K trail race in January of 2009 in under 17 hours which qualified me for the TRT100. I could have run the 100 mile race last summer, but I first wanted to see how I would perform at higher altitudes as I had never run long distances over 4000 ft elevation. I finished the TRT50 mile event, which ascends to over 9000 ft, in around 14 hours so I feel that I’m ready to try the 100 mile event in July.

One of the requirements to run the race is to volunteer for 12 hours of trail maintenance or some other community service. Since most of the trail work projects are done during the warmer months I haven’t been able to find a work project. Instead I’m volunteering with the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition (FMWC) for the annual Poppy Preservation Celebration in El Paso, TX.

The event is put on each year to showcase the unique flora and fauna of the Franklin Mountains and the Chihuahuan desert. Mexican Gold Poppies are the star of the festival because this beautiful flower blankets the foothills of the Franklins in yellow when sufficient rain falls. Many years the poppy doesn’t make a good showing because rain must fall in the autumn for the plants to grow and then rain must fall again in the spring for the flowers to bloom.

According to Judy Ackerman of the FMWC, only one poppy was present at last year’s celebration and someone had trampled it by the end of the day. As you can see by these pictures the poppies have come up in abundance this year. We are very fortunate to be having a great poppy year.

In the morning when I arrive at the celebration club members and volunteers are bustling about setting up tents, tables and chairs so I jump right in and start working. The Franklin Mountains State Park is also involved and one of their employees has recruited me to ride a shuttle from the parking area to inform guests of the day’s events. Since I have a few hours before my shift I start to photograph the poppies and check out the vendors.

I enjoy listening to some Native American drumming and then have a bowl of buffalo stew with green chilies. I wander around and listen to various preservation groups and learn about invasive species, native plants, birds, trees, and wildlife. A live wolf is visiting from the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary in Ramah, New Mexico. His handler, Leyton Cougar, explains that his sanctuary rescues wolves from people who try to keep them as pets. He is much larger than I would expect a wolf to be and he has a beautiful thick coat of white fur. I believe he is an arctic wolf.

Soon it is time to continue the volunteering efforts so I board a shuttle and become a tour guide for a few hours. “Welcome to the Poppy Preservation Festival everyone. It is a preservation celebration; meaning we want to preserve the poppies so please don’t pick them. Also, stay on the designated trails because the Army once used this area for exercises and there are unexploded ordinance in the poppy fields.”

It is true that the eastern portion of the mountain known as the Castner range is owned by Ft Bliss. The FMWC is working diligently with the Army to have the area cleared of UXOs and for the land to be turned over to the state park. Through volunteerism and hard work by our coalition and with cooperation with city, state, and federal officials we hope to succeed in adding more open spaces to our beloved Franklin Mountains. After all, FMWC was responsible for the founding of the park in the first place.

So now you know what poppies have to do with running a 100 mile race. I still need more volunteer hours so next week I’ll be taking a wildlife rescue class with the Chihuahuan Desert Wildlife Rescue. See you on the trail.

Poppies, poppies everywhere

Poppies close their petals each night

  P.S. On 29 March, 2010 the El Paso County Commissioner  introduced a County resolution to preserve Castner Range as natural open space. It passed unanimously as the first item on the Commissioner’s Court agenda. The resolution reads as follows:

The State of Texas

County of El Paso Know All Men By These Presents:

WHEREAS, it is the desire of the El Paso County Commissioners’ Court

to protect the environment and the natural resources unique to the El Paso

region; and,

WHEREAS, there is an opportunity to guide and plan for future

development and the protection of valuable open space that could

potentially be lost if action is not taken; and,

WHEREAS, Castner Range is located in a mountainous area of El Paso

County and is owned by the United States Government (the “U.S.”); and,

WHEREAS, the Commissioners’ Court wishes that the land be preserved

and not developed, and wishes to request that the U.S. Department of the

Army work to achieve a Conservation Conveyance so that the whole of

Castner Range is preserved and no portion is developed so that it can be

used by the public for passive recreational use.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the El Paso County Judge

and Commissioners’ Court advocates the preservation of Castner Range

for future generations and that it not be developed in whole or in part.

SIGNED, this 29th day of March, 2010.

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