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Dr. Blanton's hiking/backpacking adventures


2023 Bataan Memorial Death March, White Sands Missile Range, NM - March 2023


Friday March 17, 2023: Our destination for this weekend was White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico, the setting for the Annual Bataan Memorial Death March, a 26.2 mile journey across the New Mexico desert.

The group (Tom Pressley, Bryan Sutton, Cornelia De Riese, and Mike Blanton) left Lubbock at 9 A.M. bound for WMSR. We stopped in Cloudcroft, New Mexico for beer and lunch and then set up camp at WSMR, which is located on the eastern side of the Organ Mountains between Las Cruces to the west and White Sands National Monument to the east.

WSMR camp

Saturday March 18, 2023: We awoke to see that snow had covered the Organ Mountains! Following breakfast at the Frontier Club on the WSMR base, we made the drive to the Soledad Canyon trailhead on the western side of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peak National Monument.

We were then joined by  Curt Pfarr from PLF School of Medicine in El Paso. 

The contrasting colors of the snow and rock made for some stunning images on this very pleasant ~ 3.4  mile hike.

hiking group

snow and mountains

Later in the day, we picked up our Bataan hiking materials at the convention center in Las Cruces, had lunch at Sparky’s in Hatch, New Mexico (Green Chile Cheeseburgers!), and then headed over to the Frontier Club for the traditional carb loading fest - all you can eat pasta and spaghetti dinner. Our stomachs full, we headed back to our tents to get some sleep before the big day.

Sunday March 19, 2023:  As Saturday turned into Sunday morning, the snow was gone and the weather was  becoming very pleasant - cool but with just a gentle breeze! We enjoyed the ceremony commemorating  the sacrifice of the original Bataan Death March survivors, with the roll call of survivors getting ever shorter with each passing year - this year Valdemar De Herrera (103 years old!) was in attendance.

de herrera

By 6:45 A.M. the roar of the cannon announced the start and some 5,000 marchers started off across the New Mexico desert.  

This year everyone in our group proceeded at his/her own place - which given the numbers is reality anyway. The weather was perfect - cool and only a gentle wind - it is always a joy to watch all the different participants and not to be disappointed the guy that dresses up like Will Ferrell in the SNL skit “More Cowbell” was here again urging on the participants!

more cowbell

marching group

Having completed our 26.2 mile journey, we savored our government issued meal and beer and limped back to our tent to rest!

Monday March 20, 2023: Following breakfast and coffee at the Frontier Club, we packed up camp and what was left of our tents and started the drive back to Lubbock. The first stop on the way back was Truth or Consequences, New Mexico - Riverbend Hot Springs … we soaked our aching muscles in the natural hot springs as we watched the Rio Grande river flow by

…1 hour...we could have stayed here all day! Our next stop was the Buckhorns #7  in San Antonio, NM …. World famous Green Chile Cheeseburgers for everyone … and then back to Lubbock, TX by 10:30 P.M.

Another great outing!  You can view our trek by going to my Garmin map share page. 

Next hike -  Guadalupe Mountains National Park - Texas (tent camping and day hikes)


2023 Hiking Schedule

  • March

    • Bataan Memorial Death March, New Mexico
  • April

    • Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
  • July

    • Alpine Lakes, New Mexico
  • August

    • Mount Kilamanjaro, Tanzania, Africa