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, February 7, 2011

Snow Day

What to do on a snow day when you can’t run? Well, the doctor said I could walk, so that is what I shall do this morning. We have had unusually cold weather for 3-4 days here in the desert southwest and a little bit of snow. The snow isn’t what prompted the snow days, but a shortage of electricity. Our power plants have frozen over and can’t produce enough electricity so schools and businesses have taken a few days off to conserve energy.

The first snow day was fun and relaxing, but after 3 days, I have a touch of cabin fever. I haven’t yet ventured out because the temps have been down in the single digits. OK, so I’ve grown soft since living in this comfortable, 300 days of sunshine per year climate. I did once camp in the mountains of Virginia in sub-zero degree temperatures and have a good frostbite story as a result.

Anyway, I’m here at the edge of my neighborhood with Lucy, Sierra, and Taz. We plan to explore some trails here in the Franklin Mountains with hopes that one will lead to the mountain ridge and Ron Colman trail. The weather reports say it is 17 degrees, but it feels much warmer to me. The wind is calm and the sun has not yet shown itself over the mountain.

We start our short adventure by walking through a dry wash patched with powdery snow. The dogs are as excited as I am to be out of the house and are pulling on their leads. Soon I let them off and they enjoy running to a good spot to sniff. After a short jaunt through the arroyo, I see a trail that leads along the side of a steep canyon. I was hoping to see a route going up the incline, but this seems to be our best bet this morning.

The trail is easy going except for a few slippery spots. The landscape is completely changed with the addition of the snow and the succulents and cacti look out of place. I usually equate this type of vegetation with hot and dry, not cold and snowy. I worry about slipping down the slope and into the unforgiving flora. I hope the trail doesn’t get too steep or treacherous. My four legged friends seem to have no problem and I wonder if I should have brought my trekking poles.

I can see that someone else has been up here before me so I just follow the tracks in the snow hoping that I’m still on the trail. After a while I come to what appears to be a dead end. A steep gully has cut off the trail, but on the other side I see footprints. Do I really have to climb down this and back up the other side? OK, I’ll try, but must be careful not to lose my balance and end up at the bottom of the gully.

I make it to the other side and am envious of the dogs as they effortlessly negotiate the obstacle. The way is flat for a while and I come to an abundance of bear grass (Nolina texana?) on the slope. I don’t see bear grass growing around here very often, but it seems to be very happy in this spot. Perhaps the shaded canyon prevents the ground from drying as much as more exposed areas.

A few short switchbacks take me higher above the canyon and then I come to another gully that I must cross. As I’m contemplating the best way to get to the other side, I see a lechuguilla (shin dagger) stalk that has been scraped by some animal. Maybe a mountain lion, chupacabra or some other dangerous creature was sharpening his claws. Probably nothing that exciting, but perhaps a mule deer was scrapeing his antlers.

El Chupacabra?
After crossing the gulch, I forge ahead on a narrow trail with a steep slope to my left. I try to lean to my right for fear that I might slip and end up sliding through the biting plants all the way to the ravine below. The further I trek, the less inviting the trail becomes until I seem to have come to the end. I see no more tracks in the snow and have come to another obstacle to cross. Did the hiker before me turn off and go another way? Did she climb up the ravine to a better trail above or did he lose footing and have a really bad day? El chupacabra? Let's not go there.

As we backtrack, the sun shows itself and warms the air. I hear the distinct sound of the cactus wren and see some smaller birds flitting between the ocotillos. As I’m climbing back up one of the gullies, I misplace my hand which now looks like a pin cushion. At least the thorns are the big ones that are easy to pluck out.

Ironically Taz is working on his paw when I catch up to him. After helping him remove a few thorns he continues on like nothing ever happened. Lucy and Sierra also have a great morning enjoying nature and my cabin fever has subsided for now. See you on the trail.


  1. Making the best it Greg! Very impressed. You seem to live in a very beautiful part of the country and your pictures as always, are great. Hopefully your dogs will forgive you for a while now :-) Keep well.

  2. Thanks R, it's nice having the mountains in our backyard. Come for a run when you are all healed up. -Greg