Franklin Mountain North • Highpoint: El Paso County
• Range Highpoint: Franklin Mountains

Date Climbed
December 31, 1999

Elevation
7,192 feet

Distance
8 miles round trip

Time
4 hours

Gain
2,000 feet

Conditions
Beautiful

Prominence
2,982 feet

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Franklin Mountain
from the west side

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Summitpost


The end of the one-thousands millennium was upon us, and I wanted to do something interesting to celebrate the great odometer roll-over, as 1999 turned into 2000. I decided to spend it drinking at some little bar in the middle of West Texas. The location of the bar would be determined as I drove through the little towns. Ultimately, I chose to aim for Big Bend National Park as my principal destination, a place I have always wanted to visit. Thus, the trip was planned: a couple days of driving to get to the Big Bend, with a couple peaks and a few beers en route (although no drinking and driving).

I left Phoenix on the afternoon of December 30th, and arrived in El Paso around early evening, staying at a Motel-8 in the community of Anthony, just over the Texas state line coming in from New Mexico. The weather was cloudy and cool, which I hoped would clear for tomorrow's planned hike of Franklin Mountain's North Peak, the highest point in El Paso County. The Franklin Mountains rise dramatically above the deserts, and neatly cleave El Paso into two halves. The Rio Grande runs south then bends east here, leaving a little room for the city of El Paso. The bigger and nastier city of Juarez (Mexico) is just across the river. The shantys on the Juarez hills are just a few miles distant and easily visible. The river isn't much here, so the two cities meld into one very large city (over 2.5 million people total). Culturally the two cities are very similar; El Paso very much feels like a slightly Americanized Mexican city. Of course, venturing into Juarez was out of the question.

Well, the next morning came with more low clouds, but nothing too threatening, with some clear skies off on the western horizon, so I had hopes of clearer skies as the day wore on. From my hotel it was a short drive of maybe 10 miles to the trailhead of the Franklin Mountains Preserve on the west side of the range off the Texas Mountains Scenic Road (Loop 375). I paid a small fee, parked, and got myself ready for the hike.

The hike itself follows old roads all the way to the summit. On the west side, the roads cut up across the headwall of a side canyon, switchback a few times, then come to the main range crest, roughly two miles from the trailhead and about halfway up in elevation. The weather was cool and cloudy, and not terribly exciting. I was the only person on the trail so far today. As I crested the range crest, I heard what sounded like gunshots, but were in fact two bull deer locking antlers and having a tangle, presumably for eating and mating rights. I watched from a respectful distance. This went on for a minute or so and was quite interesting.

I continued my hike, now on the east side of the range where I had tremendous views east across the sandy Chihuahuan deserts of the Fort Bliss Reservation and far beyond. The route to the top was just the road, and there was even some smatterings of snow from a storm a few days ago, and evidence of tire tracks, suggesting people do drive up here from some entry-point unknown to me. I made the summit after about two hours on the trail, a flattened mountaintop with some small communications apparati sitting there. The clouds did begin to clear and I had sunnier, albeit cool, conditions. Overall, very lovely.

From the top I picked out the surrounding ranges, with the Organ Range in New Mexico being the most obvious. I spent about 30 minutes on the summit, enjoying the views and solitude. I was surprised there weren't more people hiking today. In any case, my hike down went without any trouble, and I was back to my truck after about four hours total on the route, a pleasant way to send off 1999 and ring in 2000.

From El Paso I continued east through Sierra Blanca into Van Horn, then south through Marfa and into Alpine. There was still the matter of a drinking establishment to decide upon. I found a nice-looking place on the main drag in Alpine, and after checking into a local hotel and cleaning up, went on down to the place (called the Railroad Blues Bar or something like that) and had a good time having a few beers, eating some good Tex-Mex food and listening to a really good band. Alpine is a college town, but the clientele here was more a mix of everyone, not the brainless yahoos you might expect at a college-area tavern.

And so ended the years beginning with "1". At midnight, 2000 came into being, and the world didn't end after all. I slept like a log at the hotel, and the next day, rang in 2000 with a great hike up Emory Peak in Big Bend.

(c) 1999 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.