“Is this going to be a technical trail?”, asks Jaime. “No, I don’t think it’s all that bad.”, I foolishly reply. I suppose it’s all relative, depending on what you’re used to. To me, it’s not technical unless you have to use your hands to get where you are going.
In the Franklin Mountains, where I frequently run, jagged ankle twisting rocks cover the trail to keep you on your toes. Today we’ll be running on loose sand like a cinder running track, with smooth rounded boulders placed willy-nilly. Occasionally there are rocks stacked up like stairs in the middle of the trail which I’ll use as an excuse to walk. What’s the hurry, I always say?
Members of the Run El Paso Club, a “loose, friendly” group, are running the Baylor Pass National Recreation Trail near Las Cruces, NM. The route goes for about 5.5 miles to the Aguirre Springs Campground on the other side of the Organ Mountains. After posing for the proverbial group photo beside the public lands sign, we start running up the trail.
The ascent is gradual at first, but then becomes more steep. We enter a canyon where the wind is very powerful and then arrive at a “scenic overlook”. Following a quick photo, we keep going to get out of the gusts. At times, depending on where we are on the slope, we can barely feel the wind, but sometimes it just about knocks us over.
|Debbie, Constance, Becky, and Jaime|
I’m enjoying the purple phlox blossoms along the trail and the bright red claret cup cacti blooms. Many other flowers decorate the path including Indian paintbrush, Mexican gold poppies and some others unknown to me. Yuccas are flaunting their stuff to attract the yucca moth, the only pollinator of New Mexico’s state flower.
Three of our fastest runners have gone ahead of the main group. After almost an hour, the rest of us finally make it to the pass where the wind is blowing at gale force. Nevertheless, we pose for another picture to prove we actually made it up here. Two runners decide to turn around and head back to their cars, but the rest of us continue down the other side.
|A bad hair day?|
Once we are off the saddle, we get relief from the wind and our descent is smooth sailing until I neglect to lift my feet high enough and stumble on a rock. I wonder who put that there? Then I see Mike, one of our fastest runners, who is already on his way back up. After a quick chat, I continue on and reach a gully where water sometimes flows creating a cascade over slabs of rock. Too bad it is dry today.
|Becky, our den mother|
Soon I cross paths with Leesy who tells me that the wind had forced her into a rock, but she still appears to be enjoying her run. When I’m almost to the campground, the Rabbit Ears come into view. These towers of rock are quite dramatic, especially with all the haze in the air today. Rock climbers have given appropriate names to all the jagged spires here — Razorback, Square Top, Organ Needle, Dingleberry...
Before I know it, we are down to the Aguirre Springs where we meet up with Miguel who seems to have taken a “digger”. A scrape on his shin is the proof, but luckily he is, otherwise, alright. After having some snacks and fluids we are feeling ready to tackle the mountain again, so we start the slog back up to the pass.
When we get back over the saddle and start down through the canyon on the other side, the wind becomes out of control. I want to stop for a few more photos, but decide it is better to keep going to get out of Mother Nature’s fury. Several times the gusts drive me off the trail, but I’m still having an awesome time.
Eventually we make it back to find the fastest runners enjoying the shelter of their car. Despite the elements and technical nature of the trail, everyone enjoyed the run as much as I did. This is a wonderful trail with spectacular scenery and can be combined with a 4 mile loop. The Pine Tree trail can be accessed from the campground off Hwy 70 or by running over the pass from Baylor Canyon Rd (also off 70).
I will leave you with a few pictures of the most technical trail I’ve ever encountered. Back when I was young and foolish, hands were necessary to get to the top of the Alpspitze in Bavaria. See you on the trail....
|Klettersteig Route Alpspitze|