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"The majority of you will arrive on Saturday. Both volunteers and runners will have packets to
pick up. We get to meet each other face to face (always humorous to see if we look like our email exchanges), you get your goodies and runners get your bib numbers. . .  [information about
more things going on] . . . I think you can all see that Saturday is a full day. Please let me know if
there is some reason for a late arrival. Sunday pre-race registration is only allowed with prior
"okay" from the race director. It is not convenient for me - there is a lot going on - so if you're
going to give me an excuse, make it something highly entertaining ;-}"
- in an e-mail from Ghost Town RD Susan Reynolds in early December

We woke up to bright sunshine and 35° F. temps at the Reynolds' property on Saturday morning, the day before the 4th annual Ghost Town 38.5-mile race in southwestern New Mexico. This is the schedule that Susan posted for the day:

Saturday, January 17
9:00 a.m. – registration opens at the studio at my place
Noon – Q&A session in the studio while registration continues with the help of volunteers
Afternoon – registration in studio
4:00 p.m. – Q& A session if anyone is interested
5:00 p.m. – Volunteers mtg. at the studio
5:30 p.m. – property closes down so everyone can go to the pasta meal
6:00-7:00 p.m. – pasta meal, door prizes, bit about Imerman’s Angels
7:00-8:00 p.m. – late registration
8:30-9:00 p.m. – all campers/tenters/vehicle-sleepers in the fenced area, gate closes

I offered to help with registration but runners were trickling in so slowly until the middle of the afternoon that Susan gave me the morning off.

After breakfast Jim and I drove up to "Cemetery Hill" just outside of town to get and send e-mail, as there's no Verizon cell signal at the Reynolds' house or in town.

View of range and cattle from Cemetery Hill

While Jim was on the computer Cody and I wandered around the interesting cemetery. I noticed many unmarked graves,

some unusual markers, some very tidy and/or more elaborate family gravesites,

and a lot of babies and young children who died around 1916-18. Matt later told me they died during an epidemic.

The child buried in the grave inside this little fence died the day after it was born in 1912:

I was in dire need of a run. I was hoping to run on part of the race course out on the dirt road (FR 157) but we still had the water tank on the bed rails of the truck and didn't want to lose it driving back the bumpy road. So I ran and walked a few miles out and back from the cemetery on NM 27, down into Hillsboro, and out to the Reynolds' house.

That gave me the opportunity to burn off some energy AND see the little historic town up close.

Old implements and wooden wagon outside a business; community center on hill in background.

According to a marker at the edge of town, Hillsboro was founded in the 1870s after gold and silver were discovered in the nearby Black Range. The town developed into an important mining and ranching center. It was the site of several renowned trails and reportedly had the last operating stage line in the U.S.

This sign on one of the buildings captures a bit of that history:

I spotted two crumbling structures on the hillside that I thought were photogenic and probably had some historical significance. Indeed they did. Matt, who is the local circuit judge, told me they were the original jail and courthouse from the era when Hillsboro was the Sierra County seat (1884-1939):

Hillsboro became a historic district in 1986. Located on a popular route between Silver City and Truth or Consequences, it now relies more on tourism and ranching than mining to stay alive.

Barbershop B&B and cafe

Like many other towns in New Mexico, Hillsboro is home to artists, writers, antique dealers, and other small business people catering to visitors who come to the area for its history, recreational activities, and reputation for fine arts and regional crafts.

General store

Percha Creek Traders (art galleries)

I enjoyed walking through town, taking photos of interesting architectural details and plants on the outside of several homes and shops, browsing inside an art gallery, and talking to one of the local "characters" named Stretch, who claims to be from the oldest Hispanic family in the area (Matt says several unrelated families make that claim, however).

Catholic Church; there is a Protestant one, too

Period porch art

Kokopeli, ubiquitous symbol of New Mexico

Howdy, pardner! Cowpoke at entrance to ranch on outskirts of town


By the time I wandered back to the Reynolds' property and ate lunch, more runners were arriving to check in. Susan was able to keep up with the flow and still didn't need our help so Jim and I mostly socialized and worked on drop bags.

Three of our friends, Angela Ivory from Tennessee and Kendel and Walt Prescott from Georgia, arrived at the same time. Here Angela (L) and Kendel get their race packets in the studio:


Last year Walt completed a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail so it was fun to talk with him about that adventure.

Most of the runners checked in by 4 PM and left their drop bags in designated piles for the aid stations. It was great to see a large contingent of folks we knew from Hardrock and other assorted races throughout the country: John Hobbs, who we'd recently met at Across the Years; Mary Croft; Bobby and Diana Keogh; Dave Coblentz; Kris Kern and family; Jason Halliday; Andy Jones-Wilkins; Bill Geist; Scott Eppelman. Throughout the weekend we'd meet more runners whose names were familiar but ones we hadn't yet met: Mark Dorian, Marty Duchow, Jim Simpson, Bobby Biles, and others.

Soon the yard was full of vehicles whose owners had reserved a camping spot at the race start/finish.  Several runners slept in small RVs and camping vans. Others slept in their vehicles or in tents in the back yard. The weather was fairly cool but warm enough to enjoy sitting outside to socialize while waiting for the runner briefing at 4 PM, the volunteer briefing at 5, or dinner at the community center at 6.


Over a hundred runners, volunteers, family members, and friends enjoyed the pre-race meal prepared and served by one of Susan's friends, Maree, who is a caterer and runs the Enchanted Villa B&B.

Susan sent out e-mails to all the runners and volunteers well before race time requesting input re: what we wanted to eat. She then chose a variety of pasta dishes to please both vegetarians and meat-eaters: lasagna with and without meat, spaghetti with meatball or plain sauce, pasta with olive oil, salad, garlic bread, cheesecake, apple crisp, and beverages.

Runners, volunteers, and guests line up for the pasta buffet. Gabe and Tasha are in the foreground.

This was the only meal for which runners had to pay all weekend. It was worth the cost -- very good!.

Since Susan allowed more runners into the race this year she knew there wouldn't be room for everyone at the cafe where she's previously held the pre-race meal. This year's event was held at the library/community center -- and we filled that large room. Jim and I had the pleasure of eating with Kris Kern and his wife, Marty Duchow and his friend (left foreground in photo below), and the Powells (next to Jim in right foreground below).

After dinner Susan awarded door prizes, gave last-minute instructions to the runners, thanked the volunteers and sponsors, and let one of the runners present information about the charity he runs for, Imerman Angels. We were back at our camper by 7:30 to relax and prepare for an early night's sleep before the race.

Next entry: race day and post-race activities

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil