Run Free! A tribute to Caballo Blanco Part 1

Caballo Blanco & Odin taking a quick break on Day 3.
Micah True, also known as Caballo Blanco, died at age 58 last week while out for a run in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico. He was recently made somewhat famous by Christopher McDougall's book Born To Run.*

Blessed with some serious good luck, I  experienced the most incredible hike of my life in la Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) in Mexico with this amazing man.

El Paraiso del Oso
It was back in the year 2000 and I was living at a remote lodge--El Paraiso del Oso in Cerocahui, Chihuahua, Mexico. By remote I mean that to get there you take a 6 hour train ride from Los Mochis (in the south) or Chihuauhua in the north, get off in Bahuichivo, then hitch-hike down a dirt road or meet the hotel van for ride to Cerocahui.** At the time, Cerocahui was  completely "off the grid". The town had a generator that ran for some hours each evening-- but that's it. Being a a mile or so out of town, El Paraiso was even off of the Cerocahui grid. There were solar panels for the refrigerators and there was also a generator that ran once in a while.

The owner, Doug, paid me a stipend to be a resident English speaker during the summer off-season when he was away from the lodge.  I assisted as a  guide on horse-packing and backpacking trips with mainly European tourists into the Urique Canyon. (Bonus: I also learned Mexican-mountain-style Spanish and got to hike with my dog, Odin, every day in the wilderness basically following butterflies and bouldering. One time I even found the coolest natural rock water slide tucked in between the madrones and pines that was about 100 feet long..

but I digress....
One August night, Caballo Blanco and his friend, Jay showed up at El Paraiso. Caballo lived in the Copper Canyon every winter and ran hundreds of miles through the mountains (which is how he got the name Caballo Blanco).  The native Tarahumara also run hundreds of miles through these mountains. That's just what they do. To subsist, Caballo guided tourists through the canyons--but not just any tourists, he told me. No whiners.

Caballo and his friend were embarking on a 3 day, 50 mile hike into the Urique Canyon, back up the other side and then down into Batopilas canyon. Caballo suggested that I join them, and Doug (who knew him) said to go for it, so I did. The next morning, I headed out with  a couple of peanut butter sandwiches, a water bottle, my Teva sandals, a back-up crappy pair of low-hikers and socks, a Ridge Rest foam pad and an old flat sheet for sleeping, a sun hat and some sort of camera. Maybe I had an extra shirt and pair of long pants?  No joke, that's all.  That's just how I roll. (Ahem....or used to....before kids. Oh, how I miss feeling that free...)

The first day we hiked 23+ miles into the Urique canyon, first climbing 1600 feet in elevation and then descending 6000 feet through pine forest and down into lush subtropical land with macaws and mango trees. My Teva straps blew out in the mud on the way down, so I switched to the really old, cheap hiking shoes. We cooled off in swimming holes and Caballo  taught me how to run efficiently down hill through the trails.

About seven hours later we were in the town of Urique and found a  room to share at the Hotel Canon Urique followed by dinner and Tecate at Mama Tita's. We sat in the picturesque courtyard of Tita's home and restaurant while she whipped up fresh salsa, frijoles and other deliciousness. That night, I lay in bed with my legs up the wall-- my feet swollen and throbbing.

To be continued....
Next up: We head out for an easy, 8 mile day--although straight up. ...and then Odin takes out a baby goat.

* Born to Run is such a good book, by the way. I don't think you have to love running to like it. In fact, Jason despised running until he read the book.
**When I moved there, I actually drove in from the north-- but I wouldn't advise it (think flash floods, winding, dirt mountain roads and drug cartels)! That's a story for another time.


  1. So cool Col - Ryan just read the book and is literally so sore from running 3 miles on Saturday BAREFOOT! He is so inspired by the book that he is bound and determined to train his feet to take him 50 miles in a one shot dash. Can't wait to share with him this post & hear part 2! xo

    1. I want to hear Ryan's story too. I was really inspired by the book and have been training my feet too.

  2. I love that you are putting this into writing. Your Mexico stories are some of my very favorite.

  3. What a great account, Col. I'm going to get the book and get inspired... I guess AFTER my knee heals from a pulled/torn ACL... Ugh!

    1. Thanks for reading, Beth... Torn ACL?! yikes. I'm so sorry.

  4. Colleen - so sweet that you met and hung out with him. I read the book last year and loved it. So sad to hear that he died so young.

  5. This is amazing to hear about, Colleen. What an interesting man but such a sad loss... and your pre-kids life is riveting. Wow. More please.

  6. @Blake, she's pretty awesome post-kids too :)

  7. Thanks so much for reading & commenting, everyone-- I'm having a hard time finding time to write it in a way that isn't too wordy...


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