* Looking north, Redondo Peak backdrops the ridge of Los Griegos Mountain from the Fire Lookout tower on Cerro Pelado. Runners will ascend Los Griegos from the west, run the ridge, then drop into the saddle and ascend to the Fire Lookout.
One of my favorite sections of trail starts with a climb up a dozer line, which I was told was cut last year during the El Cajete fire; it’s rough, loose and steep enough that it caused the course to change direction. Flanked in Ponderosa, Fir and Aspen the wide path is a rocky scar with drainage berms; wildflowers are flourishing in the turned soil. It nearly crests the ridge before giving way to single track over narrow ridge of rock and shrubbery. The rock is still stained coral from the slurry drop and though the steep face to runner’s left is covered in darkened trees burnt in that fire; the right side is more sloping and green and healthy. I felt like an excited kid as I steeped out on it, even more so when I found the old call box nailed to a tree; the phone that the fire lookout and patrol rangers used to call the ranger station in the Jemez Springs village is gone, but remnants of the phone line remain. An abandoned chain left from a sawyer hangs nearby, and a summit register that I didn’t notice my first trip up holds the names of two fire crews who worked the El Cajete and Los Conchas fires. It may sound silly, but given the fact that this was not the original course and the purpose of the race, these finds had me on cloud nine; no one can make me believe I was not supposed to find these items and route the course this way!
The trail follows part of the old “high line” route that the fire lookouts traveled on daily patrols by foot or horseback; runners will drop off the ridge to the saddle on the south, then ascend to the top of Cerro Pelado, where they will find aid and refreshments at the base of the current Fire Lookout. After a pause to refuel and take in the views, they will descend the steep, grassy slope below the powerlines to Keddy Lake (Ranger Keddie used to man the fire look out, which also was where supplies would be brought for rangers at other lookouts farther south; from what I was told, he dug the pond for the horses to water). From here runners will leave the high-line trail and head north through a beautiful mountain meadow, surrounded by fir trees and aspen, on a gentle descent on wide, runnable paths covered in short grass, flirt with the edges of the El Cajete scar and take in spectacular views of the older Los Conchas burn area and Valles Caldera.
*clockwise: climbing up the dozer line on Los Griegos; Los Griegos Ridge line (north side burned during El Cajete in 2017, while the south side was not); Ridgeline still painted from the slurry drops and a sawyer’s chain remains; Fire lookout can be seen on the summit of Cerro Pelado from Los Griegos.