Highway Underpass To Be Built To Access Franklin Mountains State Park

It looks like there is going to be some major construction happening soon at Franklin Mountains State Park:

Local and state parks and wildlife officials say they have a solution that will make the entrance to Franklin Mountains State Park safe for both motorists and animals.

After reviewing six alternatives that only included proposals from the public and the Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department experts — including representatives from El Paso — ultimately decided on an underpass with exits on each side of a four-lane divided highway to provide access to the park. The alternatives were evaluated based on safety, environmental concerns and cost-effectiveness.

The recommendation will not necessarily be the final design, Texas Department of Transportation officials said. The transportation department still plans to seek public input at a meeting March 12 at Canutillo High School with a preferred alternative selected later in the summer. The project will be put to bid in January 2014, project engineer Tony Uribe said.

TxDOT will pay for the design, Parks and Wildlife Senior Project Manager Corky Kuhlmann said, and the one recommended by Kuhlmann and Franklin Mountains State Park is estimated to cost just more than $9 million. Texas Parks and Wildlife on Thursday approved a transfer of 7.7 acres of Franklin Mountains State Park land to the department of transportation for the project.  [El Paso Times]

You can read the rest  at the link, but this underpass is something that has long been needed for the Franklin Mountains State Park.  This underpass is even more needed with the plan to expand Transmountain Road to four lanes through the park.  The turn off into and out of the park is already dangerous during periods of heavy traffic with the current two lane road.  So hopefully the environmentalists do not kill this project because I believe the park really needs it for public safety reasons.

For those who have never been to the Franklin Mountains I do highly recommend checking the park out if ever in El Paso.  It really is an awesome park to have right in the middle of such a major city as El Paso.  You can read more about the park at the below links:

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Was Man Really Lost In the Franklin Mountains?

This story below I find very hard to believe:

A man who said he had been lost in the Franklin Mountains for the past five days was taken to a hospital Saturday, El Paso County sheriff’s officials said.

The man, 32, was trying to flag down drivers on Trans Mountain Road near mile marker 15 when deputies arrived at about 4 p.m., sheriff’s office spokeswoman Chris Acosta said.

He was dehydrated and had frostbite, cuts on his face and body and insect bites, Acosta said.

The man had not been reported missing.  [El Paso Times]

I find it hard to believe that someone could be lost in the Franklin Mountains for one day much less five days.  Just about anywhere in the Franklins Mountains the city of El Paso can be seen because the city is basically a horseshoe around the city.  Only the far northern portion of the park isn’t adjacent to the city.  However, even in the northern section of the park around the Anthony Nose area cities such as Chaparral, New Mexico on the eastern side of the range and Anthony, Texas on the western side can be seen.   All someone who is disoriented needs to do is walk to the nearest city they see.  The only way I can see someone being lost for five days is if they had extremely impaired vision.  If this guy had extremely impaired vision than what was he doing in the mountains in the first place?

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Picture of the Day: Sneed’s Cory

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

This is a picture of Sneed’s Cory in the Franklin Mountains of West Texas which is a popular location for rock climbers.

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Picture of the Day: West Texas Lizard

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

This is a picture I took of a lizard sunning himself while hiking in the Franklin Mountains of West Texas.

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On Walkabout At: West Cottonwood Spring, Texas

My final stop before heading back to the parking lot during my hike up to the summit of North Franklin Mountain just outside the West Texas town of El Paso was the desert oasis at West Cottonwood Spring:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

Most people hike up to West Cottonwood Spring as a separate day hike, but I had enough energy left after summiting the 7,192 feet (2,192 meters) North Franklin Mountain to go ahead and hike up this trail as well.  The spring lies at the base of a valley formed by the slopes of North Franklin Mountain:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

The trail wasn’t much of a trail but rather just a scramble up a slope of loose rocks that have been washed down the side of the mountain over centuries of erosion.  As I climbed up the trail I passed by this old, rusted water tank that was once used by the miners that worked the mountains for copper.  If you look at the left upper corner of the picture you can see one of the cottonwood trees that grows at the spring:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

Here is an additional look at the water tank:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

From the water tank I then hiked up the last stretch of the trail where I entered into a small grove of tall trees:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

These are by far the largest trees I have seen in the Franklin Mountains.  If anyone knows of any larger trees please leave a comment, but I have hiked all over these mountains and these are the tallest ones I have seen.  Underneath the shade of these trees there is a pair of park benches to sit down on, which I most readily did to momentarily rest my legs after yet another ascent on the day and enjoy the shade provided by the trees:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

Behind the grove of trees there is a trail that passes through dense grass and other vegetation:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

The trail slightly climbs up the mountain towards the source for all this vegetation which is this spring that drips from the rocks:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

The water dripping from these rocks is enough that it provides a very small trickle of water that passes through this desert oasis before evaporating in the desert heat that lies beyond:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

The trail also passes by this small cave that probably has served as a convenient source of shelter for many people over the centuries:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

From the cave I had a nice view of the surrounding terrain such as the desert oasis that lied below me:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

To the north I could see the trail that leads to the summit of the mountain that I traversed earlier in the day to Mundy’s Gap that can be seen in the upper right of the picture:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

Finally here is a picture of the route I had to climb to get up to this oasis and eventually had to climb back down to get back to the parking lot from where I started this hike:

Picture from West Cottonwood Spring

For those that just want to hike up to the spring as a day hike, it should take no longer than an hour for most people and it really is a nice place to hang out and have a picnic for example.  The shade and coolness provided by this oasis stands in deep contrast to the blazing desert heat that lies outside the shadows of these lush trees.  Because of this I highly recommend for people looking for a quick and pleasant hike in the El Paso area to checkout the West Cottonwood Spring.

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On Walkabout: Return to North Franklin Mountain

I often go hiking in the Franklin Mountains that run through the middle of El Paso, Texas to get some air and exercise and one of the best trails to do this on is the trail to the summit of North Franklin Mountain.  I have hiked this trail to the 7,192 feet (2,192 meters) summit of this tallest mountain in the Franklins three times before.  Each time has been enjoyable but on this hike I decided to do it early in the morning by starting my hike at 0630 AM when the park first opens.  The sun was just beginning to rise to the east which left the west side of the range with a cloak of remaining shadows:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

As I started up the trail I could still make out just a little bit of color in the sky from the sunrise that morning:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

As I ascended up the trail I was able to get this nice panoramic shot of the shadow left by the Franklin Mountains on its west side:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

After about 45 minutes of walking I eventually came to Mundy’s Gap which is on the ridgeline of the Franklins.  It has a little bench there where hikers can sit down and take in the views to the east, which in my case included seeing the morning sun rise higher in the air:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is the view down the eastern side of the Franklins as it is bathed in the early morning sunlight:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is a picture of the nameless peak that overlooks Mundy’s Gap that was taking in the early morning sunlight with me:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

To the south of Mundy’s Gap lies the twisting, switchbacked trail that take hikers to the summit of the mountain:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

As I proceeded up the trail I slowly ascended towards the summit of the mountain that loomed above me:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Along the way I made sure to stop and take a few panoramic photos of the northern portion of the Franklin Mountains which I had great views of as I ascended higher and higher up the mountain:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

In the below photo, the far left peak is that nameless peak I mentioned earlier in the posting that rises over Mundy’s Gap:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

I though this picture came out nice with the wildflowers in the foreground:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

After about a little over an hour the trail was approaching the summit of the mountain:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

The summit of the mountain is capped with this weather station:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is a closeup look at the weather station that was locked shut by a number of chains and locks:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is the view from the summit looking towards upper valley area of El Paso.  If you look closely Transmountain Road that connects west El Paso with east El Paso is visible:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is view looking more towards West El Paso and once again Transmountain Road is visible at the bottom of the image:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is a closer look at Transmountain Road as it twist and turns across the Franklin Mountains to Northeast El Paso:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is the view from the summit looking towards Las Cruces that lies to the north:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is the view looking towards South Franklin Mountain and the southern portion of this mountain chain:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is a picture of the southern portion of the Franklin Mountains with some bright orange wildflowers in the foreground:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is the view towards El Paso to the south:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

And here is the view towards Northeast El Paso and if you look closely at the picture you can see a small structure on the peak:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Before leaving the summit of the mountain I made sure to take one last photo of the northern portion of the Franklin Mountains.  If you look closely, in the distance the Organ Mountains outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico are visible:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

On the way down the mountain I decided to take a little excursion to see what the small structure on a prominent peak on the side of North Franklin Mountain was.  It required me to momentarily leave the trail in order to access this peak.  However, there is a big sign there that warns hikers of leaving the trail since this once was an active US Army artillery range:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

However, there is already a small trail leading towards the peak so I decided to follow it thinking that there wouldn’t be any unexploded ordinance on a trail that many people have already walked on.  The trail led to the peak adjacent to the one with the small structure:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

It would have required me to go off trail through some difficult terrain to reach the small structure so I decided that this was far enough, especially considering the unexploded ordinance danger.  So I just zoomed in and took a picture of the structure with my camera:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

If I had to guess I would say this small structure is a small weather station that has long been replaced by the one on the summit of the mountain.  Speaking of the summit here is the view back towards to the top of North Franklin Mountain from the peak I was currently on:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

From this peak I also noticed that there was a vehicle down in the ravine below:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is a closeup look at this vehicle that appeared to have crashed down into this ravine many decades ago:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is also a view from the peak of some of the rugged topography that makes up the Franklin Mountains:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

As I walked down the mountain I took a few pictures of some of the plants that a native to the Franklin Mountains:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Here is something else I saw on the way back down the mountain, this lush patch of trees known as East Cottonwood Spring:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

This is one of the few places in the Franklin Mountains where trees like this can grow due to water dripping out of the rocks.  There was no trail leading down to the spring so I didn’t go down there to checkout.  As far as wildlife I saw a redish snake that quickly moved across the trail that too fast for me to catch a picture of.  I have no idea what it was but it was long and fast.  Besides that this large worm was the only thing I saw:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

Finally here is one last picture of the summit of North Franklin Mountain as I descended down the mountain back towards the parking lot:

Picture From North Franklin Mountain

However, before I headed to the parking lot I was going to make one final stop along the way to see the West Cottonwood Spring.

Next Posting: West Cottonwood Spring

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Picture of the Day: Moon Over the Franklins

Clouds On the Franklins

This is a picture of the moon rising over the Franklin Mountains blanketed with clouds one early morning in El Paso, Texas.

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Picture of the Day: South Franklin Mountain On Ice

Frost Covered South Franklin Mountain

This is a picture of South Franklin Mountain covered in ice the morning after an El Paso, Texas winter storm.

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Picture of the Day: Orange Clouds Over the Franklin Mountains

Orange Clouds Over the Franklins

This is a picture of an early morning sunrise over the Franklin Mountains as viewed from extreme Northeast El Paso, Texas.

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Picture of the Day: The Franklin Mountains from New Mexico

Picture from Shakespeare, New Mexico

This is a picture of the Franklin Mountains in Texas as viewed from just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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