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Friday, May 6, 2011

Farewell run with 'El Cabrio' up Dog Canyon

In early August of 2010, on a long mountain run up in the Sacramento Mountains of NM, my good buddy and running partner Clifton 'El Cabrio' Trujillo shouts out to me nearly breathless as we grinded our way up a long single track climb, that he intended to re-enlist in the US Navy under a reserve status. I didn't think much of it, mostly because the inside of my mouth was tasting like blood and iron and my legs were burning, so I encouraged him in his decision to serve his country and provide for his wife to be how he saw fit- the pros at the time grossly outweighed the cons. Steady income, benefits, retirement potential, career opportunities, these were all the items with stars assigned next to them in the verbal checklist he spouted off as we ran fleet footed among ponderosa, aspen, fir, and spruce tree in the cool air high up near Argentina Peak overlooking the significantly warmer Tularosa Basin below us. The cons, in particular upgraded status to "ACTIVE" duty and "DEPLOYMENT" to (insert middle eastern country here), were not exactly on the radar for him...yet.

Fast forward to November, a month after his wedding, and I get a text message from El Cabrio saying: "Hey, dude, I'm being deployed to Afghanistan, leaving in March." Clifton is a full time prankster, keeping people around him frosty at all times, so I didn't wholly believe his message at first, considering he had only just a few weeks prior finalized his Navy Reserve enlistment process. With the sting of military issued vaccinations on the arm and a beautiful new wife, his orders were officially issued, he would be leaving at the end of March 2011 for Afghanistan to provide on-base IT support.

Being the stud he is, he didn't become raw about his freshly acquired orders and accepted the terms of his duty with a level head, but in typical dirtbag runner fashion told me, "I intend to run every opportunity I get before I get on that damn base!".

These are the few photographs I popped off on our last run together before he had to leave in early April, after his orders were pushed back. We both mutually are more inclined to run hard in the mountains for a few hours than line up at a local road race and bump elbows with a bunch of weekend warriors and receive a complimentary banana and a cheap massage at the finish line, so we chose to head for Dog Canyon as a way to say farewell for the time being- a nice steep, hot, dry, technical trail run up a 15th century Apache route and stronghold, that would later in the 1800's be appropriated by European settlers and used for cattle migration.


Looking out the window from Oliver Lee Memorial Park visitor center right before our run.

Canon del Perro, aka Dog Canyon, was home to some of the fiercest Apache skirmishes with un-welcomed European settlers migrating in the area during the 1800's. The numerous geological features and breathtaking views of the canyon draw day hikers regularly, retracing the paths of the ancient people that have used Dog Canyon for thousands of years, however the steepness of the trail with it's 3,200+ft. gain in elevation to Joplin Ridge and higher Lookout Mtn. keeps many runners at bay. Bring on the suffer fest!


Immediately from the parking lot the trail spills out the backside of the visitor center and great views are awarded.


3/4 mile mark, looking down on the Oliver Lee Memorial Park visitor center, 500+ft above in short order.

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Our buddy Dan struggling up the early portion of the climb due to an poorly timed green chile cheeseburger meal minutes before our run, he would later blow past me on the downhill run with preserved legs and a full gut.


This was an oasis of shade at the mid point in our run. We only stopped for a few seconds to take it in. This box canyon has a tiny exit chute, we would make our way up and out from here.

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Mixing running and powerhiking at this point, gradient was over 40%, the worst pitchy sections were like running up massive stairs, not easy running. I looked up at one point to catch 'El Cabrio' doing what he does best... running up anything that doesn't require rope and harness.

After leaving the brief shaded area in the notch of the box canyon, we headed up the last section of trail that gains altitude at the base of an exposed limestone cliff face.


Clifton and Dan enjoying a gel, water, and a brief retreat from the sun

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Hamming it up for the camera, we didn't want to leave this spot, mostly because the views were so killer, but there was still 1,000 ft. of altitude to run and our legs were primed and warm for the last portion of the climb.


Nearing Joplin Ridge, overlooking the Tularosa Basin to our West, the Franklin Mountains of TX, and the Organ Mountains of NM slice through the upper 1/3rd of the photograph. Wonderfully desolate country.


'El Cabrio' posing next to the trailhead post at the turnaround point of our run, from here it was a 3,200ft. descent on rocky single track back down to the car where melted Clif bars and warm Gatorade awaited us.

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Back at the trailhead, we threw some quick fist pumps, and snapped a quick photograph with Dog Canyon behind us as a memento. We drove to El Paso, TX, post run, blazing across the flat sun-scorched desert with A/C cranking with beer and Mexican food on our minds and absent from our stomachs. 2 1/2 lbs. of sirloin and fresh made corn tortillas, salsa, and lime was split up between the three of us and we talked for 2 hrs. about past runs, future run plans and dreams, and the joy of the day in Dog Canyon. It's amazing how much happiness some dirt and two legs can bring a man.

Catch you in 11 months vato!


  1. Eugene,
    So pleased to be in touch again. Your photographs are just fabulous as always. Keep them coming.

  2. Nice writeup man.
    A good reminder on why we go; getting outside and working hard alongside good people can't be beat. A great way to part ways with a friend.

  3. Thanks Craig. Gotta love the instant commonality and understanding you gain in getting out there in it all and sweating, cramping, smiling and laughing.