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, April 30, 2018

Everyday is Earth Day

Earth Day was last weekend where many people went out to hike or run a trail, clean up a park or plant a tree. Well, without fear of sounding like a Birkenstock wearing hippie tree hugger who greets everyone on the trail with namaste, I have to admit that, to me, everyday is Earth Day. I spend almost every morning running a trail and taking in nature. The visual beauty of West Texas where I live is stunning, but there are also the smells, sounds and even the feel of the Earth that I enjoy when I’m out on the trail. 

Moonrise Quitman Mountains in W. Texas

This time of year the wildflowers are in bloom as well as the cacti. Claret cup and ocotillo cactus sport their vibrant shades of red while the prickly pear and Texas rainbow cactus bloom in various shades of yellow. Cold-desert phlox dot the hillsides in pink and Indian paintbrush adorn the edges of the trails.

Ocotillo cactus
Claret cup in the Organ Mountains
I enjoy the buzz of the cactus wren, the intermittent downward trill of a canyon wren or the ka-ka-ka of a Gambel’s quail as I run. The fragrance of a blooming bush stops me dead in my tracks at times. Occasionally I can’t tell where the scent is coming from, but at other times I spot the little yellow balls of sweet acacia. I’d much rather feel dirt and rocks under my feet than pavement and technical trails complete with rock gardens help keep me alert while I tackle the rugged terrain. 

Gambel's quail
Western kingbird
I have recently read several books that talk about how spending time in nature makes us happier, more even-keeled and possibly even smarter. In The Nature Fix by Florence Williams, the author writes about how spending time in nature can make us feel better physically as well as mentally. In a world where we work many hours indoors and are so attached to our electronic gadgets, we need to make an effort to spend more time outdoors. Doing so can make us happier, healthier and more creative. 

Indian paintbrush in the Franklin Mts
Typical trail in the Franklins
Another book, Your Brain on Nature (Selhub and Logan), describes many research studies that look at the effects of nature on healing and mental well being. Many cities are adding open natural areas within their city limits so people can easily get away for short walks. Patients in hospital rooms with windows looking out into natural settings heal quicker and have fewer complications than those in rooms with no windows.

Texas rainbow cactus
The most enjoyable book I’ve read though, was David Haskell’s award winning The Songs of Trees where he writes about the interconnectedness of trees and humans. He writes:

Because life is network, there is no “nature” or “environment,” separate and apart from humans. We are part of the community of life, composed of relationships with “others,” so the human/nature duality that lives near the heart of many philosophies is, from a biological perspective, illusory. 

Nature is such an integral part of who we are as human beings that we have to do our part to take care of our Earth. Everyone can do something, no matter how small, to make a difference. Drinking from a refillable water bottle, taking your lunch to work once a week instead of eating out, using energy efficient lightbulbs or planting a tree are simple things that any of us can do. 

Prickly pear cactus
Scarlet ocotillo buds, a W. El Paso neighborhood in the background
I spent a lot of time Earth Day weekend running in our mountains. The Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban wilderness park in the US and El Paso, TX wraps around the park so, no matter where you live, you are close to a trailhead or natural area. I climbed up to the N. Franklin Peak where I shot this video of one of my favorite views in my little corner of Earth. (Look at all those rocks!)

I also ran the Baylor Pass National Recreation trail in the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Las Cruces , NM. I’m very fortunate to live close to many other natural areas where I can train for ultramarathon trail races. I’m currently training for the Jemez Mountain 50 miler in Los Alamos, NM where the course takes you over the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area at over 10,400’ elevation. 

Cold-desert phlox
Unfortunately, as Earth’s climate gets weirder by the year, the Santa Fe National Forest is under extreme fire risk conditions and the race course has been altered to ensure runner safety. The race director writes, 

The Los Alamos area has had an extremely dry winter with almost no snow. The Pajarito Ski Area, which is on part of the course, was completely free of snow this year by the middle of April. There are typically still some snow patches on the ski hill during the race in mid to late May… the Los Alamos area has been placed in Stage I Fire Restrictions, the earliest on record that fire restrictions have been issued for the Los Alamos area.

Hopefully we’ll still have an enjoyable race in Northern New Mexico this year despite the logistical challenges. 
Mule deer in the Franklin Mts
After many years of regularly hiking and running in beautiful wilderness areas, I have come to realize the many benefits nature has had on my mind and body. I’ve become more in tune to the flora and fauna and deal with stress much better. I encourage everyone to get outside at least once a day even if it’s just for a walk around your neighborhood or to enjoy your lunch under a shade tree. It really will make a noticeable difference in your well being. Now if you'll pardon me, I'm going to head out and go hug a cactus because every day is Earth Day. Namaste!
See you on the trail.

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