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."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

With My Dogs to Dog Canyon

We’re having a beautiful spring weather day so I am here at the base of the Sacramento Mountains ready to take my three dogs into Dog Canyon. Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is located just south of Alamogordo where the trail starts. Apparently Army soldiers found a stray dog at the mouth of this canyon when they were battling Apaches; hence the name. There are at least two other Dog Canyons in this part of the world; one in Big Bend National park and one in Guadalupe National Park; both in Texas.

(From left to right) Sierra, Taz, and Lucy
After donning their saddlebags, my canine friends and I start up the steep rocky trail. Taz is carrying the dog biscuits and collapsible water bowl while Lucy lugs the two water bottles. Sierra has it easy for now, but will carry Lucy’s pack down the mountain later in the day. I have all my necessities in my Camelbak, so everyone pulls their own weight on this adventure.

After we huff and puff, or should I say I huff and puff, up the trail for a while, we leave the state park and enter the Lincoln National Forest. This is the same Lincoln of Billy the Kid fame and the Lincoln county wars. Oliver Lee was also a prominent figure of this county, once the largest in the U.S. Lee was a gunman, rancher, deputy U.S. Marshall, and N.M legislator.

Read Tularosa: Last of the Frontier West by C.L. Sonnichsen to get a good idea of all the drama that was going on in this area from the late 1800’s to mid 20th century. Sonnichsen details the mysterious murder of Albert Fountain and his young son where Lee was a suspect, but later acquitted. The book continues the history of the Tularosa Basin all the way up to the time when a US Army ammunition depot fire was seen by ranchers for miles around. The so called fire was, of course, the secret Trinity nuclear test, the first explosion of an atomic bomb.

As we crest the top of the hill and continue our trek into the canyon, I look out at the view of White Sands Missile Range and wonder what the scene would have looked like at 5:29:45am on July 16th, 1945 when the “gadget” (nickname) was detonated. Luckily all is calm and pleasant today as I enjoy the warm breeze and take in the fresh air. We continue on and can see down into the canyon and up the escarpment which rises abruptly towering high above. Everywhere we look we see sharp vegetation and jagged rocks.

The sun warms up making us overheat so Taz decides to take shelter in the shade between a bush and boulder. I determine that we could all use a break so I get out the dog bowl and reward everyone with some refreshing water. After a few dog treats we continue on and climb a short staircase made of white rock. We begin a long section of switchbacks which takes us to higher elevations and then we finally reach flat terrain.

This plateau is characterized by brown grass, large cane cholla, alligator juniper, and strategically placed boulders. A master gardener could not have done a better job at landscaping this area most suitable for camping.

After an easy hike through the meadow, our destination comes into sight –a line cabin ruin beside a spring. I’m not sure what a line cabin is; perhaps line refers to a trapping line. Never the less, we descend a steep trail to the cabin below. The dogs cool themselves in the pool while I rest under the shade of two very large juniper trees.

My four legged friends explore the cabin and then take off to check out a nearby stream bed slick with wet leaves, moss, and lichen. This oasis in the Chihuahuan desert has been a welcomed spot for thousands of years. Native Americans used this water source and a metate which can be seen right here beside the stream bed.

After checking out the sights and having a snack, we are ready for our return journey. I’ve been told a narrow trail with a precipitous drop off continues up a very steep track to a forest road high in the mountains. We will have to save that route for a future running adventure.

The trip back to the park is much easier now that we are heading mostly downhill. Sierra is taking her turn with the doggie pack and doesn’t seem to mind since the load is lighter. She gets off easy because of all her fur. I worry that she could get too hot carrying a heavy load uphill. I was hoping to see more wildflowers, but not many have bloomed yet; although, I did spot one just before returning to the car.

Alamogordo, NM and the Tularosa Basin have abundant hiking opportunities if you are ever in the area. White Sands National Monument is also close by. The Bataan Memorial Death March, which is on my list of runs to do, will be held this weekend at the White Sands Missile Range. It has been nice to get back out on the trail today even though I’m not able to run yet. It feels like I’ve come home again. See you on the trail.

Cane Cholla

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