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, December 13, 2010

Dinosaurs Ran Here

I’m running with dinosaurs this morning or at least where they once roamed. Cara is dropping me off at one of our nation’s newest national monuments -Prehistoric Trackways National Monument near Las Cruces, NM. In March, 2009, Barack Obama signed a law setting aside this area for important fossil finds. This land has or had some of the best examples of Paleozoic tracks in N. America. The reptile and invertebrate fossils found here actually predate the dinosaurs. The unfortunate side of this story is that most of the fossils have been removed and relocated to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque, NM.

Nevertheless, there are many miles of trails that need to be run this morning so I bid farewell to my crew chief and 5 week old daughter and start running the dirt road towards the foothills of the Robledo Mts. Some strange erosion formations appear as I near the entrance to an unmaintained trail. Better not try to run that one.

I have no idea where I’m going today, but at least have a trail map (with no land features) and my trusty gps. I’ve studied the lay of the land using Google Earth and have seen many jeep trails and arroyos. My contact at the BLM office told me of a mountain bike trail that I may find this morning.

I see a road ascending to the right and decide to run it, but when I get to the top it dead ends. I can see a vehicle across the way so figure all the good trails must be over there. When I arrive at the car, a lady is returning from a walk with her dogs. “Do you know these trails?” I ask. “Pretty well”, she replies and then explains several ways that I could go.

There are three types of routes in here -jeep roads that traverse the high country, arroyos and canyons down below and some single track bike trails. The cool thing is that you can combine the high roads with canyons to make some interesting loops.

Click here to get a visual. (.pdf map 3.23 MB)

I decide to take the steep jeep road up the mountain. The road is treacherous with loose footing at first, but then gets a little easier. Before long I’m at the crest of the hill and can see Las Cruces, the Rio Grande, and the Organ Mountains to the east. Someone has built a little rock fireplace up here at this nice little camping spot.

I carefully make my way down the other side of the mountain and come to a livestock water tank. I can see Mt. Riley in the distance and then, after more running, observe a very steep road that descends into the canyon. I decide to explore the arroyos below to get a different perspective. The going is rough and I almost eat the dirt while slipping down the slope. Eventually it becomes less steep, but now I’m in the canyon where rocks and boulders are all around.

My ankles and feet are twisting in ways that they haven’t turned for quite a while. My plantar fascia is not happy and I’m starting to get some pain in my right big toe. I realize I have a rock tumbling around in the toe box of my shoe, but am too lazy to stop to take care of it. These canyons are very rugged and I have to stay alert so I don’t completely wipe out. This type of technical running is anything but boring and I start to think about the Chili Challenge that is run on this course.

Chile Challenge is not a running event, but a premier four wheel drive, rock crawling festival held here every February. As I run along dodging rock after rock, I cannot imagine navigating a vehicle through this steep gorge. Drivers take their machines over boulders; through the most severe terrain and even drive up dry waterfalls and cliffs. If you don’t believe me just watch this video.

After destroying myself for a while I come to another arroyo that leads back to the high road. I ascend quickly at first, but then have to power-walk when the grade becomes too steep for me. When I make it to the top, I’m greeted by a breathtaking view of the mountains that surround me. I enjoy running along the road with good footing for a change, although the pain in my toe is too much to bear. Finally I take a break and remove the rocks from my shoe and enjoy a PBJ and some pretzels while taking in the view.

Following lunch, I continue running the road and come to another track that leads back into the canyon. As I run I’m always on the lookout for fossils, but have no idea what I’m looking for. I see areas of what appear to be hardened mud with some strange patterns and designs. I bet this is the type of stone where fossils are found. I enjoy looking at all the different shapes and colors of rock. Some are stained with bright red patches while others are all together yellow in color. One even has a cactus growing right out of the middle.

These two look like they could be fossils. What do you think?

Looks like something from another planet

As I cruise through the dry wash I realize I’m heading back from whence I came, but via the canyon instead of the high route. I could probably make it all the way through the canyon, but my feet would not be too happy. Eventually I come to another arroyo that leads me back to the road where I continue running. When I’m almost back I notice the mountain bike trail and run along that for a while.

When I get back to my starting point I realize that I have 45 minutes before my ride will return. I can see the entrance to the main gully below me. This route has been dubbed Patzcuaro’s Revenge by the four wheelers, so I decide to go and find out why. Those crazy rock crawlers (as if trail runners aren’t loony) have named all the routes in these hills. Ones like Habanero Falls, Hopping Jalapeno, Cayenne Crawler, and Tabasco Twister. I hope to tackle all the trails in here someday, but my morning is coming to a close.

I make my way through the “Revenge” and arrive at some rocks that I have to scramble up. After continuing on I come to another obstacle that I have to climb and then realize that I must turn around to make it back to my ride in time. I can now see why they call it Patzcuaro’s Revenge. I don’t think any vehicle could make it through here, but I’m mistaken. Nevertheless, I prefer my own two feet to travel around these hills and dales. I can go anywhere a four wheeler can go and more.

Watch a video of Patzcuaro’s Revenge

After four hours of running, sliding, tripping, hiking, dodging, and scrambling, I complete my adventure through the Trackways. My feet are feeling the pain, but this is definitely a place worth spending the day. I will surely be back for more punishment. After Cara returns for me, we enjoy a much deserved meal of Mexican with her family. Steak Patzcuaro with habaneros and jalapenos smothered in a tabasco cayenne sauce. Ouch! See you on the trail.

Arroyos are abundant in the Trackways

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