Thursday, December 6, 2012

West Texas Bucket List

We are not going to live in El Paso forever. We probably will not even be here much longer than another year. And while I have known that on some level the entire time we have lived here, it struck me this week that there are things I want to accomplish while we live here. Who knows if or when we will live in this time zone again? I have races to run, places to see, and things to do before we leave.
So here is my bucket list. It is by no means comprehensive, and I will probably think of twelve things to add as soon as I hit the publish button. Also, I might not be able to accomplish all of them in the next year, especially the races. But I plan to try, and it's enough to keep me busy for a while!

Races to Run

Bataan Memorial Death March

March 17, 2013
This marathon through White Sands Missile Range honors a group of  World War II heroes who, after being surrendered to Japanese forces, were forced to march for days through the hot Philippine jungles. Their story is worth reading, here and here.

Cedro Peak Ultra

April 13, 2013
Three things:
1. My sister lives near here, so free lodging and a sister visit? I think so!
2. The race is environmentally friendly and all proceeds go to charity (exactly what charity, I couldn't find--worth looking into).
3. And the distance choices are delightfully odd: 45 miles or 45k (27.9 miles). A great stepping stone distance on the way to a 50 miler, or a small step up from a marathon for someone's first ultra!

Jemez Mountain...Round 2?

May 25, 2013
I enjoyed running this 50k last year--my very first (and to date, only) ultramarathon. Or maybe I'm only able to say that now, seven months out from the pain. I would love to go back and run a faster time this year, or even try for the 50 miler...but I also want to try new races in new places. Torn.

Palo Duro Canyon Ultramarathon

Photo credit: TPWD

One of my favorite state parks, Palo Duro Canyon is gorgeous and I would recommend it to anyone, whether you like to run, hike, camp, mountain bike, ride horses, or just enjoy the scenery. It is about seven hours away from El Paso, just south of Amarillo, Texas, but I figure this is probably the closest we will ever live. And, okay, I really just want to go there. When I found out they have a race in October, I considered it for 2012. The timing was bad this year, but I am committing for 2013. And hoping to coerce convince as many of my friends and family members as possible to come run with me. Three distances are available--50 mile, 50k, and 20k--so there is something for everyone!

Transmountain Challenge/World's Fastest 10k

The Franklin Mountains run north to south through El Paso, cutting the city in half. Transmountain Road is the only route through the mountains, winding steeply up above 5,000 feet and then back down. I hate driving it. Oh, but I would run a race on it! The World's Fastest 10k is March 23, and starts at the top, finishing on the west side. The Transmountain Challenge is a half marathon that goes up and over. It takes place in October, which might be bad timing with the Palo Duro Canyon race, but they have a relay and a 5k as well.

Places to See

Carlsbad Caverns

NPS Photo by Peter Jones

This national park is about two and a half hours east of El Paso in southern New Mexico. My parents took our family here when I was younger, but I don't remember much of it. There is a self-guided tour and several ranger-led tours for a range of fees.
Like many (if not most) national parks, Carlsbad does not allow pets outside of paved surfaces. But I learned while researching the park that Carlsbad Caverns Trading, inside the park, offers a kennel for day boarding so visitors with pets can explore. What a great idea! We have often wanted to take Bruno and Howdy along on our trips, but left them behind because of concerns about how they might limit our activities.

The Grand Canyon

Okay, so the Grand Canyon is not as close as one might think--ten hours from El Paso. But I still think we should visit while we live here, because it's a longer drive from almost everywhere else. The Grand Canyon is one of those places that I just have to visit at some point--it's non-negotiable. I have long wanted to backpack into the canyon. There are also mule outfitters in the park, which sounds like fun!

Things to Do

Hike or Run Mount Cristo Rey

A 2.2 mile (one-way) trail leads to the top of Mount Cristo Rey and its 42 ft sculpture of Christ, at 4,675 feet of elevation. They say it's best to do this in a group because of the trail's proximity to the border.

Wine and Vineyard Tours

El Paso and the surrounding New Mexico area boasts a large wine culture. According to the official Santa Fe travel site, New Mexico is the oldest wine-producing area in the United States. There are a few vineyards and wineries close by and all over New Mexico, which would make for a fun weekend getaway! The New Mexico Wine Growers Association even has a passport program--you can earn stamps and rewards for visiting New Mexico's wineries and wine festivals!

 Climb Guadalupe Peak

NPS photo by William Leggett
 The highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet in elevation, Guadalupe Peak is located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, only two hours east of El Paso. We talked about doing this recently, but after a weather check, we realized this might be a trip for spring or summer, as temperatures are low and winds of up to 80 miles per hour are not uncommon. In addition to this 8.4 mile round-trip hike, there are over 80 miles of trails in the park.

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