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 2, 2010

Running Solo at Kilbourne Hole

Is it really 4:15am? What am I doing up at this time of the morning on a Saturday? Oh yeah, Kilbourne Hole run. What is Kilbourne Hole you ask? It’s a shallow crater, or maar, on the east side of the Potrillo Volcano Field in Southern New Mexico

Kilbourne Hole was formed when underground water was heated by magma and then escaped from the Potrillo fault causing a sudden explosion of rock, sand, and basalt. Most of the material fell back into the depression filling it, but some rested on the edge creating the lip of the maar. I can’t wait to get there and run around the rim of this geologic wonder.

The drive to the hole proves to be an adventure all in itself because the route is poorly marked dirt roads through the desolate Chihuahuan Desert. There is no civilization or cell service out here so if my car breaks down or gets stuck in the sand I’m screwed. If anything happens, my plan is to put on my camelbak and run back towards town a distance of 20-25 miles where I can call for help.

When I arrive at my destination the sun is rising. We have had severe wind storms here for the past few days, so I’m glad to be greeted by a calm chilly morning. Perfect running weather. I take a few moments to peer into the crater and take a few photos of the stratified cliffs. The cliffs are made of volcanic tuff or ash that has been hardened and then eroded by wind.

I start my run in a counter-clockwise direction and before long I’m trudging through soft sand. The fine granules are making their way into my shoes even though I’m wearing my Dirty Girl Gaiters. It seems to be going right through the mesh of my breathable trail shoes. As long as I’m running it stays in the toe box, but as soon as I start walking the uphill sections it becomes very uncomfortable. How long will I be running on these sand dunes?

After 30 minutes or so I spot some animal tracks in the sand and stop for a quick look. The prints are quite small. I can’t seem to identify them. The view is fine up here on the rim. I can see the Organ and Franklin mountains to the east and Mt Riley to the west. There is an isolated pair of volcanic looking mountains in the distance as well. As I run, I keep seeing very strange Devil’s Claws protruding from the sand. They are produced by a stinky flowering plant (Proboscidea sabulosa) that produces a large pod that splits in half when it dries. The result is a double claw looking capsule.

I crest a hill and then descend. I can see all the way across the hole where I started. The terrain is less sand dune like and I can run a little easier. I can still feel the sand in my shoes, but don’t stop to empty it. I may be right back in it again soon. I approach an area littered with volcanic rocks. Apparently magma blobs known as xenoliths were also thrown up during the explosion and a mineral called olivine formed in some. Rock hounds search for peridot quality olivine down in the crater.

After running for a while longer I hear a tweet of a bird and see a flash of yellow. A beautiful Scott’s Oriole is flitting merrily in the creosote bush. I’m able to get my camera out and fire off a few shots. He soon takes flight into the safety of the crater.

I’m almost all the way around when I come to the basalt cliffs. A jumble of broken column like rocks forms the side of this part of the maar. These cliffs are similar to the Devil’s Post Pile in California which I will be visiting this summer.

More running and then I meet up with some hikers. “Did you run all the way around?” one asks. “Yes, I have one more loop to go.” I say. She looked a bit surprised and then congratulated me. I have completed about 7 or 8 miles and can feel a blister starting to form from all the sand in my shoes.

I stop by my car to empty out the sand, fill my water bottles, and have a quick snack. Feeling refreshed I start out for loop number two. Not five minutes later my shoes are filled with sand again. After running past the sand dunes I stop and empty the shoes again. The blister is feeling better and I pick up my pace for a while.

Something darts across the trail. A large lizard of some sort, about 8-9 inches long. I watch him for a few minutes and then get going again. In no time I’m back to the car and decide to do a little more running on the road towards Mt Riley. After four more miles I’m back for a total of around 20 miles.

I bump into one of the hikers returning from her trek. “Did you see anyone else on the trail?” she inquires. “Not a soul”, I respond and then she asks, “Aren’t you afraid of being out here in the middle of nowhere all alone?” In pondering this question, I must say that I’m comfortable running solo in the wilderness and accept the risks. To quote America’s number one desert rat, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.” —Edward Abbey

See you on the trail.


  1. What a unique place to run. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  2. Looks like some pretty good running there Greg. Great pics too! Good job.

  3. Thanks John and Richard for reading.