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


I wanted to do something memorable for the 1999-2000 New Years weekend instead of staying home or going to one of those block parties where half a million people are jammed into a square mile. That stuff does not interest me. I thought it would be cool to find some bar in some way-out-of-the-way town in West Texas, and celebrate the New Year that way. As I hashed out my plans, I ultimately decided to visit Big Bend National Park, a place that I have always wanted to see. I decided to break up the long journey with a day in El Paso, hiking its signature peak, Franklin Mountain.

The Franklin Mountains cleave El Paso into two parts, a western half and the eastern half which is also home to Fort Bliss, where I lived as a small baby when my father was stationed there. Of course, I have no memories whatsoever of my time there. Driving through El Paso, one can see the shantys of Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande. The two cities are essentially one big city. However, venturing into Juarez was out of the question.

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. The weather was cloudy and cool, which I hoped would clear for tomorrow's hike of Franklin Mountain. The next morning started with more low clouds, but nothing too threatening. There were clear skies on the western horizon, so I had hopes of better conditions as the day wore on. From my hotel, I drove 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. 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 the road, and there was even some smatterings of snow from a storm a few days ago, and evidence of tire tracks, suggesting people drive up here from some entry-point unknown to me. I arrived to the summit after about two hours on the trail, a flattened mountaintop with some small communications boxes on top. The clouds began to clear and I had sunnier conditions.

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.

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 started, and the world didn't end. I slept like a log at the hotel, and the next day, rang in 2000 hiking 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.