Ascent of North Franklin Mountain on 1999-12-31

Climber: Scott Surgent

Date:Friday, December 31, 1999
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:North Franklin Mountain
    Elevation:7192 ft / 2192 m

Ascent Trip Report

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. I thought it would be amusing to find a bar in some out-of-the-way town in West Texas, and celebrate the New Year that way. I settled on Big Bend National Park as my ultimate goal. I would break up the drive over a couple days, the first night in El Paso.

The Franklin Mountains split El Paso into two halves, the eastern half which contains Fort Bliss, where I lived as a small baby when my father was stationed there. Driving through El Paso, one can see the shanties of Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande. The two cities are essentially one big continuous city, the Rio Grande not being so rio or grande here. 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 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 follows jeep 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 range crest, roughly two miles from the trailhead and about halfway in elevation. I was the only person on the trail 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. 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 desert of the Fort Bliss Reservation and far beyond. The route to the top was the road, and there were 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 at the summit after about two hours on the trail, a flattened mountaintop with 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. My hike down went without any trouble, and I was back to my truck after four hours on the route. It was barely past noon.

From El Paso, I continued east on Interstate-10 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 down to the place (called the Railroad Blues Bar or something like that) and had a good time having a few beers, eating 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.

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.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2490 ft / 759 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Trailhead:4702 ft / 1433 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground

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