Angel Fire, New Mexico

I spent 5 nights in Angel Fire, New Mexico, a small village of around 1200 people that is a popular winter skiing destination due east of Taos. It also happens to be the home of the Angel Fire Endurance Run, a trail running competition that covers distances ranging from a half marathon to 100 miles. I chose to run the 100 miler. Or not.

I actually don’t trail run – I am a hiker, not a runner – but I do have a friend who I met in Austin, TX who does run and she knew I was in the state so I was invited to come hang with her and 7 others who travelled from Austin to participate. I make a great spectator, so I showed up to do my best spectating.

I arrived in Angel Fire after spending a lovely evening/day at Bandelier National Monument and spent the next day doing the Enchanted Circle while I waited for everyone else to arrive at our destination a mere 8500 feet above sea level. The Enchanted Circle is, well, a circle that includes Angel Fire, Eagle Nest, Red River, Questa and Taos and takes you through some spectacular scenery and funky little towns/villages (though some tended to be a bit too touristy for my taste).

After a great Wednesday evening getting reacquainted with my friend and meeting her team, I was invited to participate in the week’s activities (though I passed on the whole running thing as that sounded like too much work). Thursday morning had us off to do some white water rafting on the Rio Grande out of Pilar, NM. This was my first time doing any sort of river rafting and I had a REALLY great time. I mean it was tremendously fun getting soaked as we shot the rapids. We ended up having 12 people in our group split over 3 rafts, and some got wet. Really wet. As in went swimming wet. The only semi-close call our boat had was getting high-centered on a rock in the middle of the river. However it ended uneventfully as we actually did what the guide told us to do and we didn’t go for a swim. Whew!

We then went off to the Taos Pueblo which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site just north of the city of Taos. We took a tour of the pueblo which was both interesting and depressing. Enough said.

(Note: I don’t have any pics of the raft trip as my iPhone has a distaste for water. No pics of the Taos Pueblo as it didn’t speak to me asking to have photos taken.)

Friday was another fun-filled day. Off to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which oddly enough is a bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge. 565 feet up. 1,280 feet across. Did I mention it is 565 feet up? Yikes! I actually stopped by this bridge on my way from Bandelier to Angel Fire a few days earlier, but was very happy to make a return visit. The runners of the group took off on an hour run. I was joined by one of the runners who was in a non-running mood and we did a very non-strenuous 1.25 mile walk. We had every intention of walking further, but got sidetracked by a very inviting bench with a spectacular view of the bridge and the gorge. Yeah, got sucked into the beauty and suddenly got unmotivated to progress further until the runners started coming back. We then walked the bridge and peeked over the edge. And tried not to freeze from a fear of heights. And tried to not drop our cameras.

Then it was time to see a naked old man in a hot spring. Truth! I can’t make this stuff up. Down some dirt road was a hot spring right next to the Rio Grande that came with its very own local old dude that apparently likes to drink Busch beer while soaking in the nude. In very clear water. Yeah, we all got to see more than we really wanted to. But the hot springs were wonderful, despite the local color. No pics of the naked dude. Sorry.

Next stop was Taos Mesa Brewing, a place I visited during my Enchanted Circle drive and I was more than happy to stop at again. This is the coolest looking brewery I have yet to experience. Don’t believe me? Check out the pics. Sorry, no nude old guys (enough already!).

Saturday brought us to the main event. The reason for the trip. Everyone (and by everyone I mean not me) was running the half marathon, or approximately 13 miles. Which doesn’t sound like much to a real runner (but does to me!), but this 13 mile course included climbing up the side of a mountain gaining over 2000 feet vertical elevation. Did I mention yet how glad I am I didn’t do this? I mean it probably would have made a spectacular hike if I had a spare 12 hours or so to kill. But my job was to spectate, so what better place to spectate from than the top of the grueling mountain climb? This was also the location of the start of the descent back down said lovely mountain. I received directions to the top and off in the Jeep I tore up the side of the mountain on some brilliant gravel roads. Much better than running up the side if you ask me.

I was joined by one of the runners who sobered up when she saw the run profile and decided that Saturday wasn’t the day she wanted to kill herself running, though she did decide to join my friend back down the 4-5 miles on the descent. Being the supportive spectator that I am, I took pics of most of our group as they reached the top of the massive climb. To my surprise they were all in pretty decent moods. And so was I because I wasn’t doing any work. Just observing. Watching. Taking in the beautiful sights. Yeah, I make a great spectator of running activities.

After I made contact with the last of our group I tore back down the side of the hill to watch the group finish. I didn’t see the first two finish – one of which actually won the half-marathon. Then it was back to their cabin to celebrate the end of a great few days in Angel Fire.

I had a spectacular time in Angel Fire and was very fortunate to be included in the group’s activities. Some random guy that was a stranger to pretty much the entire group but became one of the them (minus the actual work – running). I am thankful for these opportunities and look forward to more of them in the future.

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