November 27, 2015

Back From The Barrancas

I had a weird summer, you know. Between hard personal decisions and a nagging little injury, my spirit was weighed down by many thoughts and questions. A lot of those gravitated around a place I love, a place I had come to consider a second home; Urique. I spent many moments wondering how my friends were doing, how the overall situation was and about what the future would hold for this running paradise.

So when the opportunity arose for me to travel back down to the Barrancas, even though for a very short trip, I packed my bag in a heartbeat.

On the road with a truckload of giggling chicas :)
Ever since Michael Miller and I drove out of Urique with heavy hearts, we both swore we would be back no matter what. As the year was slowly nearing its end, Michael told me he had received some positive news from the other side of the border and that there was a window of about a week where not only we could go, but we would also be joined by our good friend Patrick Sweeney, who’d just finished another awesome feat of endurance by running the Chicago Marathon, then running to New York City and running the NYC Marathon as well, Forrest Gump-style.

The positivity started from the get-go. Seeing Sweeney was a real treat, and getting to road trip with two of my best running friends put a huge smile of my face. Even though we red-eyed it all the way, there was still room for happy-hour shenanigans, breathtaking runs and hot pepper shopping.

Beautiful morning run atop Creel
Everywhere we looked, traversing Mexico’s northwest from the Arizona border all the way down to Creel, things seemed pretty quiet and relax. There was only a single roadblock on the whole way, which can only mean that things have cooled down quite significantly.

The magic of the Canyons started for me as soon as we reached Mario’s cabins, nested on a magnificent promontory in San Isidro, where our Raramuri friend Horacio was waiting to take us on an evening run to the rim. Although I have traveled to many places in the Sierra, the canyon top is one of the places I have been the least so I was delighted to discover the trails that lead to Cerro Gallego, the Urique overlook, as well as the gorgeous creek trail that descends into the village of Porochi, where both Miguel and Horacio live. We came back at sunset, just in time for drinks by the bonfire Mario had lit for us. It was perfect.

Caba├▒as San Isidro, our friend Mario's gorgeous ranch

We set out the next morning, on foot, and descended unto Urique through rugged, ancient trails that are sometimes etched into the boulders by centuries of travel. I was shocked at the amount – and steepness! of the climbs that lead to the rim before the descent begins. On the way, Horacio was generous with information on local farmsteads, connecting trails and meaningful landmarks. Our spirits were high and we felt how specially meaningful it was for us all to be coming again to Urique, on foot, together, using the ancient trails of the People we respect and celebrate.

On the way down to Urique
After a rather difficult hike, we emerged in Urique to the symbolic chant of mourning doves. It brought me a sense of peace and closure, and a strong feeling of being back home. We met with our friends in the government and exchanged meaningful words, united in wishing to perpetuate the running tradition Caballo Blanco created.

Walking to the gate at Entre Amigos almost brought tears to my eyes. The place looks as beautiful as ever, and our friends Maruca and Tomas were waiting for us, all smiles, like they were welcoming their own family. Seeing that beautiful garden once again, and the trees loaded with fruits, was a true joy.

And just when things couldn’t get any better, our friend Prospero and his wife Sabina showed up to give us great news about the Caballo Blanco Trail Project and share even more ideas for the future.

We will be back, Barrancas!
Of course, things are not perfect in the Barrancas. They never were. There are crimes committed frequently all over the Sierra. The people’s struggle with violence is very real and must not be forgotten. But as things stand right now, relative peace appears to have returned, people are back to their daily occupations, and life seems to go on.

Although the race we’ve known and loved will now be an event organized and promoted by Urique, as a runner and as a friend of the Running People, I will be back in March. And so will others.

And that’s a really good thing.

You can follow our work at Norawas de Raramuri on our official website,

November 5, 2015


Look to the sky.

Fill your eyes with the bluest of blues and lose your thoughts in the immensity of the air that surrounds you.

Touch the earth.

Root yourself through the fallen leaves, the rocks and the trickling water. Connect with the silent force that holds you, nourishes you and provides, for all.

Feel the fire.

Sense the radiating heat and enjoy the warm, comforting light. Stare deep into it and hear the roar of the passionate flames as they devour and consume everything to silent ashes.

Breathe the wind.

Take inside the pure air that has been to mountains and oceans and deserts and plains. Be nourished by the flow of life it carries and let your dreams soar, carried on the back of its playful gusts.

Be one.

Reach outwards and make a connection. Realize you are a living, breathing, flowing, loving being and celebrate your part in a Circle that is perfect, wholesome and holy.

Do this and you will obtain a reflection that is beautiful, complete and in balance. Do this and you will get a reflection of yourself.

October 20, 2015

The No-Bullshit, $50 Camper Conversion

Another DBR Series – Dirtbag Mobile Article

I keep reading articles (click-bait?) all over the Internet on “How to turn your vehicle into the ultimate camping machine”, only to end up being told I need a $1,500 solar inverter, a $20,000 trailer, a $1,500 roof rack - cargo box combo and a $300 espresso hand-pump. Seriously?!

This is bullshit.

You can turn almost any vehicle into a DirtbagMobile for almost no money. All you need is a flat surface, a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag, really. But if you do have a couple dollars to spend, you can increase your comfort and your experience significantly, and turn your DirtbagMobile into an almost-permanent home-on-wheels. Here’s what you need:

A good platform
Whether your vehicle already offers a 6-foot+ flat surface or not, what you really want is a slightly-elevated platform to put your mattress on. Why? Because you’ll have storage space underneath that’s out of the way for moving around. Figure out the shape your platform needs to be (most vehicles don’t have a flat space, so you’ll need to build your platform to custom-fit the floor. Invest the time to do this right, you’ll thank me for it), then find some containers (milk crates, plastic bins, whatever) that fit the space and build your platform supports so you can slide out those containers when you need them. Boom! You just doubled your available space!

A jet stove

All those fold-out, double-burner piezoelectric rigs are awesome, but they are usually pretty pricey and bulky. A simple, $20 jet stove will work just fine for all your cooking needs, from your morning coffee to your elaborate Mexican late-night chili :) Bonus! The jet stove gas cans are smaller, lighter and usually last longer than your typical Coleman green propane canisters. Extra bonus! A jet stove set on medium burn will warm up your entire vehicle on a chilly morning in only a couple of minutes.
LED lighting + Charging power
You don’t need an inverter or a solar rig to enjoy Dirtbag camping. All you need, really, is light and some charging power for your small electronics. Your first need will be met by getting any $5 multi-LED “puck” light and velcroing it to your car’s ceiling. These lights require almost no power to run and will last several weeks (if not months) on a single battery pack. Your electronics can be charged when the engine is running (say, like when driving in-between camping spots) by using a simple cigarette-lighter USB power outlet ($5), or you can get fancy and buy yourself a spiffy solar-powered charger for about $75-100.


20$ should buy you a cheap windshield sunshade and enough fabric to cut out to your windows’ shape and make curtains. You can use Velcro or suction cups to hold everything in place. The thicker and snugger the fabric, the stealthier you can be while camping where you shouldn’t :)
Fancy coffee
The Italians knew long before any of us that great coffee is a critical part of every adventure. So to the great benefit of the whole of humanity, they invented the Bialetti espresso maker, which requires nothing but any source of heat to work. Since this immensely clever system uses the pressure built from the heat to push the steamed water through the coffee grinds, there are no pumps, mechanical parts or anything fancy that can break. Oh! And did I mention the machine costs about $20?

Cold stuff
First of all, learn to be a real Dirtbag and drink room-temperature beer ;) OK, OK, some of you drink milk or carry food items that need to stay cold, fair enough. Unless you are going out in the bush for weeks on end without any contact with civilization (in which case you will need that fancy electric rig and a multi-hundred-dollar mini-fridge) you’ll do just fine with any respectable cooler and a bunch of ice, or a couple frozen water bottles. Bonus! Beer cans set in water will always be several degrees cooler than the ambient air. Extra bonus! Creeks and rivers are excellent natural fridges if you have some sort of net and a tether.
Seat organizers + storage
You’re not crafty enough to build custom-fit storage for your vehicle? You can get seat organizers with multiple pockets and even fold-out shelves for about $15 a piece. You just hang them on the back of your front seats and add significant space to pack extra thingies like lighters, cutlery, dishes, a cantine or trail gear. Bonus! Use cargo nets to create storage space under the ceiling, using the grab rails as hookups. Extra bonus! Go around all the storage space your vehicle already has (door pockets, glove compartment, cup holders, console, visors, etc.) and use it to fit a lot of your small items and ensure they are always in reach, and where they should be.

Final shopping list

Assuming you’re starting from absolute scratch:

  • Wood and hardware for your platform: Free – up to $100
  • Jet stove: $20
  • LED Lighting + Power: $5 – up to $100
  • Privacy: $20
  • Fancy coffee: $20
  • Cold stuff: Free – up to $50
  • Storage: Free – up to $50

Total – On the cheap : $65
Total – Get fancy! : $350 - $500

So even if you had nothing to start with, with a little creativity you can build your own DirtbagMobile for about $50 if you use this shortlist, and enjoy several years of adventure before needing to upgrade your gear, if ever. So now, there is really nothing holding you back from going out on an adventure in your spiffy camping machine and enjoy the Dirtbag lifestyle!