The desert never gets old. It often surprises.
On Memorial Day weekend, a time of somber remembrance that marks the beginning of a sizzling summer to come, many of El Paso’s hiking trails reopened. We couldn’t resist getting out of the house and giving our kids, ages 4, 8 and 9, a change of scenery.
In the morning, before it got too hot, we drove across town to walk the Lost Dog Trail. We hadn’t tried the trail before and heard it is a lovely walk for the dogs and kiddos.
Turns out it is, although we left our dog at home. A miniature dachshund, he doesn’t have enough clearance to navigate a rocky trail.
You can find the trailhead by googling “Lost Dog Trail El Paso.” The parking lot is near Helen of Troy Drive and Redd Road. And the trail is clearly marked.
The area, covered in red rhyolite, is dotted by creosote, lechuguilla and ocotillo plants that have been socially distancing before socially distancing was a thing.
Atop a stalk, amidst the brown, olive green and blue, was a bloom the color of an El Paso sunset. Drenched in sticky nectar, it hummed as pollinators darted in and out. A gluttonous butterfly lounged among the stamens drunk. Behind was a sky with no limits. Below lay the spiny remains of a prickly pear, dried, curled at the edges, brown and half covered in sand.
Have you noticed how the impossibly thin, wavy stalks of the ocotillos, covered in tiny circular leaves and topped by red blooms, look like aquatic plants rising from a seafloor?
The hike was enjoyable for the whole family, and we even ran into some friends we hadn’t seen in a while.
It’s obvious the surrounding community has taken ownership of the trail, and it’s well loved. It was pristine with no signs of garbage.
The community rallied in 2018 to save the trailhead from future development. And, in the end, El Pasoans voted overwhelmingly to preserve the 1,007-acre area of open space that includes the Lost dog Trail.
All of it – creating the trailhead, maintaining the trails and saving them – is an effort led by volunteers and the community, especially the Borderland Mountain Bike Association.
“I’m a morning person, and get out early,” says association board member Don Baumgardt. “If you start early enough, even if the sun is up, it’s roughly an hour and a half before it comes over the mountain. You have a long period of time in the shade, and then you get to watch the sun come over the top of the mountain.”
Lost Dog is also a great place for walking as the sun sets, Baumgardt adds.
“We hope one thing that comes out of the pandemic is more people enjoying the outdoors. You are really seeing more people saying I want to get outside because I can socially distance or get exercise,” he says.
How do you get to know a place? You meet its people, eat its food, hear its songs, stories, myths and history, explore its languages, feel its climate, patronize its businesses and walk its landscape – whether urban, wild or both. El Paso is rich in all those things – in traditions – which give it a texture all its own.
It could take a lifetime to get to know all of El Paso’s, but taking a hike isn’t a bad place to start.