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, September 26, 2010

Dripping Springs Spooky Adventure

This morning’s running adventure takes me to a place rich in history, nature, and the supernatural. Legends abound as to the presence of ghosts of those who died in the Boyd Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Dripping Springs, New Mexico. This is sure to be a frightening adventure.

My mission today is twofold as I aim to get in a good training run for the Transmountain Challenge Half Marathon coming up and to also deliver a special item to my sister-in-law who lives in Las Cruces, NM. Because we have a baby shower next week for our expected arrival, Crew Chief Cara has given me explicit instruction to deliver madeleine pans to her sister, the master baker. I don’t even know what a madeleine pan is, but by the seriousness of the conversation (i.e. “You must deliver the pans this weekend!”) they must be very important.

I feel something like Pheidippides, you know, the ancient Greek messenger who ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of Persia and then collapsed and died, thus starting this whole long distance running craze. Thank you Pheidippides. In a future post I will report on the outcome of the madeleine baked goods.

I begin my run on Baylor Canyon Rd just west of Las Cruces, NM because the Dripping Springs Recreation Area doesn’t open until 8am. Now would someone please tell me why I would want to start my run two hours after daylight? I’m usually 10-12 miles into my run by 8 and firmly believe that sleeping in is overrated.

Anyway, I have an opportunity to run a dirt road along the spectacular Organ Mountains. Soon after starting, I see some ripe buffalo gourds growing along side of the road. This is a sure sign of autumn and these gourds have been used for medicinal purposes for over 9000 years by Native Americans. According to Dayna Drollinger and Claudia Rodriguez (NMSU), they have also been used as food, cosmetics, detergents, and insecticides as well as the one most of us are familiar with; the ritualistic rattle.

I run along some rolling hills and come to the classic symbol of the American West; a windmill. Windmills have been providing livestock with drinking water since the mid 19th C. In fact, many ranches still use wind powered water pumps today. The Aermotor Company of San Angelo, TX has been selling windmills since 1888 and is still in business. I take a few pictures and notice that the tail of the windmill has been used for target practice –typical.

After returning to my truck, the gate to the visitor center is now open and I proceed into the park where I get some helpful route advice from the attendant. After having some Hammer Gel mixed with Chia seeds, I’m ready for the rest of my adventure. I run along a trail which leads to the spring and the Boyd Sanatorium. Along the way I see some fine examples of Alligator Juniper, a tree that has bark which resembles gator skin. The mountain views are gorgeous on this overcast, breezy morning.

Soon the dripping spring comes into view with the towering Organs in the backdrop. I reach the sanatorium ruins which were purchased by Dr Nathan Boyd (1917) for use as a tuberculosis clinic. Eugene Van Patten owned the property before Boyd and had developed it as a mountain resort. The ruined buildings have a creepy look to them and rumor has it that ghosts of the deceased patients haunt these grounds as well as the Fillmore Canyon nearby.

The website Lost Destinations writes, “there have been reports of campers in the nearby canyon campgrounds being terrified by strange visions and horrific nightmares featuring torturous treatments undergone by gaunt and ghostly ‘patients,’ even though some of the campers are said to have no prior knowledge of the nearby sanatorium's presence.” Hmmmmmmmmmmm………..

Following my visit to these ruins I take a spur trail up to a small waterfall and holding reservoir that was used for drinking water during the resort heyday. I take some nice photos and can’t resist the temptation to climb up on the area rocks to see what’s above the falls. Some water polished rocks with smaller ripples, pools, and cascades greet me. Beautiful. I continue on the trail to the little reservoir surrounded by rushes, moss, and trees.

I now backtrack to the main trail and then come to the Van Patten Mountain Camp ruins. I check out the ruins and get an eerie feeling that I’m not alone up here in the mountains away from civilization. Perhaps restless spirits are here after all. I take a few quick shots of the buildings and large oaks in the area and high tail it out of there.

The trail is a nice downhill now and I’m able to make up some time from all the dawdling I’ve been doing. I come to a junction where a trail goes right towards the cueva (cave) where a hermit used to live. I take the turn and then notice a type of grasshopper that looks red when it flies, the red-winged grasshopper (Arphia pseudonietana). There are many of these insects leaping and flying as I run by them and soon they are hitting me in the face. I wish I could get a picture, when they are in flight because they are a beautiful deep red in color. I’m only able to take a picture of one while it is on the ground. They make a very interesting sound as they surround me which resonates like electricity through high voltage power lines.

Soon I’m at another junction where a trail leads right into the haunted Fillmore Canyon. I look at my watch and notice that it is already past 9 O’clock. Should I take the trip into the canyon or not? I decide to pass on the canyon trip. Not that I’m scared or anything, but… you know, the madeleine pans must get delivered in a timely manner. The canyon will have to wait until another adventure; maybe when I’m not alone.

I continue on around a large rock outcrop and then come to La Cueva. This shelter was used by the Apaches in the 18th and 19th C. and was later used by a hermit. Juan Maria Augustiniani or “El Ermitano” lived the last years of his life in the cave and allegedly healed locals with herbal medicines. In 1868 he was mysteriously found dead with a knife in his back; clutching a crucifix.

After my visit to the hermit cave I make my way back to the visitor center having enjoyed an adventurous morning of running, nature, history, and even the paranormal. Dripping Springs is a must see if you are ever in the Las Cruces area. Baylor Pass and Aguirre Springs are two other nearby hiking and running destinations that I’ve previously written about. Now for part two of my mission; delivering the precious madeleine pans. See you on the trail.

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