Stratovolcanoes are lumbering hulks; steep-sided cones made of lava, ash, and cinder that jut from the surrounding landscape. Depending from where you come they are objects of myth, threatening giants, and the most charismatic of mountains. The more popular that come to mind are Mount Fuji, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Cotopaxi, and Mount Kilimanjaro. The stratovolcanoes of the Four Corners region have their own style. Though they still rise defiantly from the surrounding deserts, they have already blown their tops, spent the last of their fiery breath, and have relented to pine forests, aspen stands, and wide open grassy expanses. 12,637' Humphreys Peak (which watches over my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ) is a classic example of this. Western New Mexico's 11,305' Mt. Taylor is another stratovolcano I've admired from afar on trips across the west on Interstate 40. It sits close enough to see from the car window, but just a tad too far off the beaten path for an exploration detour. When I saw the inaugural Mt. Taylor 50K "pop" up I thought this would be an excellent excuse to bag a peak, explore new trails, and get in some solid miles with some friends.
Mount Taylor's high ground with La Mosca Lookout on the right.
Quite simply the race was a blast. It was a race born by ultrarunners for ultrarunners. You could see this in the race's energy, course markings, the aid stations, and the finish line buffet and awards. The race course wasn't a joke either: The lowest elevation of race sat at 9,000', the high point at Mt. Taylor's summit (~11,300'), and there was more than 6,500' of elevation gain. The course threw the gamut at the runners: Technical single track, both smooth and rocky dirt Forest Service roads, and steep climbs and descents. The scenery was worth the trip alone. Here are some of my favorite shots taken by Danny Messex and Paul Gordon. If you're an ultrarunner add this one to your "to do list."
The pre-dawn start.
The first 1,500' climb to La Mosca Lookout.
Nearing the top of the steep climb (near mile 2.5).
Finding my groove while churning through Spud Patch near mile 10.
Arches of aspen.
Cloud formations and hundreds of miles of New Mexico vistas.
The slopes of gold.
The author ascending, at a snail's pace, Mt. Taylor near mile 23.
Single track & switchbacks.
Looking back down along the course.
The summit and high point of the course.
Looking down into Water Canyon and the old caldera of Mt. Taylor.
Sweeping, steep grasslands on the mountain's slopes.
Katie Arnold from Santa Fe, NM won the women's race in 5:22:43.
Shaun Martin, of Chinle, AZ, won the men's race in 4:17:26. Read an excellent story about him in Trailrunner Magazine here.
Your Moment of Zen
The Mt Taylor 50K benefitted the