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."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back to Back 15 mile runs

Well, this is the last big push before I run the Jemez 50 mile endurance run in two weeks. I’ve got two 15 mile runs planned for this weekend. The first is a flat 15 along the Rio Grande with my three canine running partners. The second is another 15 mile run through the Organ Mountains in New Mexico. My plan is to tire myself out on Saturday and then run on tired legs in high elevation on Sunday. This will partially simulate what I will be dealing with during my race.

Day 1 (2:30pm): I usually prefer running in the morning when the sun is low, so this afternoon will be a good opportunity for some heat training. My three dogs are excited and ready for their adventure. We start at the trail head and run upstream. I try to keep my pace fast since the route is flat.

The Upper Valley of El Paso is a horse and farm community and we see a farmer cutting some fodder of some sort. Perhaps alfalfa. The field is lush and green which is a pleasant sight after seeing the desert most of the time. The river is flowing fast, because of the release in the Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs upstream. After a while we come to a shady spot where a bridge crosses the river. I let the dogs take a little swim. I’m always careful to make sure they stay cool and get enough fresh water which they carry in their saddle bags.

Feeling refreshed we continue on and cross a road. A small pecan orchard is on our left. The Mesilla Valley further north is a large pecan growing region. The orchards are flooded with rio water to ensure they produce fine nuts. More running and we are approached by a “junkyard” pit-bull who charges out of the backyard of a trailer along the river. I’m a little scared, but stand my ground and go “Cesar” (Dog Whisperer) on him. “Tshhh, tshhh, NO!” He backs down and we go on our way, adrenaline flowing.

In an hour and a half we are at our turn around point and head back the way we came. Some nice wildflowers are blooming along the side of the trail so I stop to take a few shots. Another man is playing with his Lab who comes over to say hello to my three. They do the usual dog greeting protocol and we continue on our way. A Red-winged Blackbird is flying amongst the bushes and I stop for some more pictures. After three hours of running we are back to our starting point feeling hot and tired.

Day 2 (5:00am): Today I’m heading to the Pine Tree Trail in the Aguirre Springs Campground on the E. side of the Organ Mountains. I could drive all the way around the mountain to the trailhead or park on the W. side and take the Baylor Pass trail over the mountain to the Pine Tree trail. Being the adventurer that I am, I decide on the latter. Why waste gas driving when you can run?

I arrive at the Baylor Pass trailhead east of Las Cruces, NM at 6:00am. The crescent moon is shining above the towering mountains and the air is nice and cool. I start running a slight incline towards the pass. My legs are very heavy and kind of rubbery feeling from yesterday’s run. I soon reach a steep part and back off to a fast walk. I continue running and walking until I near the pass. The trail begins to switch back up the steepest part to the saddle.

After a little more than an hour I’m at the top with fine views to the valley. I can now pick up my stride and cruise down the mountain towards the campground. This is my favorite trail to run in this area because it is less rugged with good footing. All along the trail this morning I see flowers of every sort to include cactus blossoms. Many bushes are covered with beautiful white flowers and the air has a sweet fragrance to it. Small rabbits are abundant snacking on the green spring vegetation.

In two hours I’m at the Pine Tree trail and begin the journey on the 4 mile loop. I soon arrive at a babbling brook flowing through a canyon. I stop for some fluids, fuel, and electrolytes. I thoroughly enjoy this beautiful little place under the trees and then continue up hill.

I wonder why this trail is called Pine Tree because I’ve mostly seen Alligator Juniper which has bark that resembles alligator skin. One tree is oddly shaped with the appearance of another tree growing horizontally through the trunk. I’m amazed at the splendor of the dead and gnarled trees in these mountains. I could sit here and admire them for hours, but I still have a long way to go.

After running and hiking uphill for 45 minutes, I start to see the large Ponderosa pine trees that the trail is named for. Mahogany and oaks are also plentiful and the shade is welcomed as the temperature is rising. Finally, I arrive at the half way point at 6880 ft elev. I’m very close to the “needles”, jagged peaks that tower above the mountain range. They are said to represent the pipes of an organ hence the name of this range.

The trail now proceeds downhill past many boulders. I come once again to the stream I passed earlier, but this time I’m higher on the mountain. Several small waterfalls cascade over the rocks.

I continue running and suddenly hear a large mammal bolt down the mountain. I try to get a look to identify the animal to no avail. I suppose it was a mule deer because the area’s mountain lions would be much stealthier and only out at night. After running a little longer I spot several lizards chasing each other on a boulder. I’m able to get very close and get some good photos.

Before no time I’m back down to the campground and try to find somewhere to fill my camelbak. I think I have enough water to make it back over the pass, but like to be on the safe side. I search for a while and then ask a BLM worker who tells me there is no water up here.

I go on my way and start the trek up to Baylor Pass. The return trip isn’t as steep and I’m soon at the top. I cruise down the mountain and am back down in 45 minutes. Yesterday I ran 15 miles in three hours and today it took me five. What a difference a mountain ramble makes. I prefer the mountains over the flatlands any day and usually avoid the path of least resistance. The challenge is rewarded with fresh air, natural beauty, and fine views. See you on the trail.

Pine Tree Trail view

The "Needles"


Odd tree


  1. You're running for miles and miles on mountains and trails, and I'm just losing weight and walking 4 miles a day, but it inspires me to know that you're also out there putting one foot in front of the other.

  2. Way to go Tom. No one needs to run 50s and 100s to stay in shape. Just keep up a routine. Take a hike sometime to keep it interesting. Maybe Springer Mt. GA.

  3. Thanks for your comment on my blog Greg - I have to say your pictures are stunning though, you've got some crackers up there on you two 15 mile runs! Looks like you had a ball. Great writing. I take it the dogs didn't join you on the second day?
    Good luck for the Jemez 50 mile in a couple of weeks as well. Will look forward to hearing about that.