This weekend the GeekGrl and I went for a run through the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. It is one of our favorite places to run together because there isn’t any significant climbing but it all takes place at pretty good elevation, between about 9250 feet and 10,450 feet. It is also an incredibly beautiful area of mixed conifer forests interspersed with groves of aspen, open grasslands and highland marshes.
However, because the trails we run start about 10 miles north of the small town of Cuba, NM, which is about a two hour drove from our home, we don’t get out there much. Because there are the highland marshes there is always some water to contend with even apart from the numerous little streams that run through the area but for the most part the trails are dry. That was definitely not the case today. There was water, water, water and even on the segments of trail that didn’t have standing water there was mud, some of which had been churned up by the several cows that roam the area.
As we were starting our little run I thought a nice big loop would be a nice change from the out and back that we have done in the past. The main trail we take is the Vacas trail so we took that for a couple miles until we hit the Damian trail…that should have been an omen.
Shortly after heading out on the Damian trail we discovered that the trail quickly became a thin trace of bent grass which became a trackless wilderness. I never run wilderness trails without a topo map. Coupled with my Garmin from which I can get elevation I always feel confident in finding my way around. If I really feel like I’m going to somewhere remote I’ll also bring along a compass. My experience with the San Pedro Parks is that the trails are clear and very well marked. I was not familiar with the miles of space that were generously called trails so there I was without a compass.
In order to make sure the GeekGrl and I remained living members of the civilized world I had to reach back 20 years to my Marine Corps days when I didn’t just drink and cuss and play Rugby but I was also an expert in Land Navigation. My skills were rusty at first and I led us off track once for about 100 yards or so but then things started to click. Before I knew it I was running along map in hand making note of the way the land rose and fell around me and keeping alert for any of the tell-tale signs of prior human presence in the wilds. Our progress was slower but I was having a great time.
Of course it wasn’t all a trackless wilderness. There was plenty of premier New Mexican trail, two foot bridges built strictly to instill a sense of irony in the soggy sojourner and even a bit of forest porn for those lonely nights on the trail.