About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

North Franklin Peak 20 miler

This morning’s adventure begins with a wakeup at 6:00 am, because what better to do on a Saturday morning than run to the highest peak in the Franklin Mountains? I know what you are thinking, but sleeping in is overrated. I’m a morning person. I love being out and about before anyone else wakes up. It makes me feel like the world belongs to me.

It’s a chilly 25 degrees this morning, but the winds are calm. While lacing up my brand new pair of Montrail Streak running shoes, I decide to wear my ankle brace because my ankle is still a little tender from a twist I suffered a while back. I grab my Camelbak and take a short drive to the start of my run. When I park, I notice the almost full moon is still shining and the dawn sky is gorgeous. This is going to be a great day.

The run starts by walking and sliding down a very steep rocky hill and then power walking up an equally sheer and treacherous ascent. On my way up I can’t help noticing the moon and dawn light against the spiky desert vegetation. I’ve only gone a quarter mile and am already pulling out my camera. My day is going to be long indeed. I go off trail through the cacti and other biting undergrowth to frame the perfect shot. I continue up the hill and reach a ridge where I get a good view of my destination, North Franklin Peak.

This is the highest mountain in the Franklin Range at 7192'. Franklin Mountains State Park is the largest urban wilderness park with over 24,000 acres of up and down. The trail I’m on runs along the base of S. Franklin Mountain with many small canyons and arroyos which makes for very steep climbs and descents. Eventually I reach a nice downhill section with good footing and can really start to pick up my pace. I arrive at an arroyo and then make the climb up to a roadside picnic area on Trans Mountain Rd. I notice some pain in my pinky toe and wonder if the nail is coming off.

The sun is finally starting to peak over the mountains and I get a good view of Mammoth Rock. Another photo opportunity. I take many pictures and use this little break to take in some calories. Nothing like the taste of Hammer Gel in the morning. A few pretzels and some water and I’m off. I reach the highway and must run down for about two miles to the Tom Mays section of the park. As I’m running two bus size RVs are chugging slowly up the mountain road; one going 40mph, the other passing at 40.5mph. They do not want to share the road so I get all the way over to the point that my thigh is scraping the guard rail. This is indeed a running adventure.

I cross to the other side and reach a run-away truck ramp. Google maps (sat view) showed a possible short cut to the park road at this point so I go off the road to see what’s in store. I follow a dry creek bed and eventually make it to the road. My right heel hurts and I realize that I’m getting a blister. I know better than to do a long run in new shoes, but this is my second pair of Streaks and I rarely get blisters. I’m at mile 5, only a quarter of the way, and have to climb a 7000 foot peak now. I stop at the trail head to put some mole skin on my blister, but realize that I have no scissors to cut it with. Oh well, I tighten up the laces and start up the mountain trail.

It soon turns into a scree field which makes for very hard going. I don’t want to roll my ankle again so take it easy. Soon it opens up into a nice road that follows the contour of the mountain. I have to go all the way around to the north side of the mountain to pick up the trail to the summit. I’m able to run for a while and finally get to Mundy’s Gap where some hikers are enjoying the view. I ask if they’ll take my picture with the NE side of El Paso in the background which they do willingly. I continue on and come to a snow covered section of trail. Hope I don’t slip.

I approach a junction. Tin mine to the left, summit to the right. The abandoned tin mine which operated from 1909-1915 is the only one ever in the US.  More running and I see a sign that reads, “DANGER! Unexploded Ammunition Do Not Enter”. Ft Bliss Army Base owns the East side of the Franklins, so I obey the sign and continue on. I will save the tin mine and ammunition field for another adventure. Must make it to the top. I power walk up the snowy peak trail and start to wonder if this was a good idea. My heel stings with every step, my toenail feels like it’s scraping off, and I’m sucking wind in the thin air. All I can hear is the crunch of the snow, my labored breathing, and my heart jumping out of my chest. How much farther to the top?

I know I’m getting close so can’t turn around now. I try to ignore the pain knowing that coming down won’t be as bad. I switch back left and right up the trail careful not to slip. Every so often I stop to let my heart and breathing catch up. A few drinks from the camelback to stay hydrated and off I go. I round another corner and get a nice view of Mundy’s Gap and an adjacent peak. I notice I’m higher than the peak so must be really close. A few more switchbacks, a straight walk up the ridge and I spot an antennae. I’ve made it! I continue to the flat clearing and look around 360 degrees. I can see all the beautiful little peaks below poking their summits up out of their fog covered valleys. What a view.

I take a bunch of photos, have a PBJ sandwich with some more pretzels, and enjoy the panorama. I take a look at the GPS I’ve been carrying which shows my mileage at 9.9 miles. It will be a long run home, but mostly downhill. After some hydration, I start down and notice my heel again. I once read that poor circulation or dehydration can make you more prone to blisters. I remember my ace bandage and wonder if that could be the culprit. I stop and take it off which seems to help a bit. Down, down, down past Mundy’s, over the scree field, and to the park road. Six more miles to go.

I leave the park and turn left on the mountain road. I’m very weary now and this is my least favorite part of the run. I slog up the highway trying to keep a slow running pace because I want to get this part over with. Finally I make it back to the trail and continue down into the arroyo. I can barely make it up the hill to the trail that will take me home. I think positively and finally make it back to the car for a total of 20 miles in 6 and half hours.

When I get home, I have some cranberry pomegranate juice to recover. One man claimed that if he drank pom juice after a marathon he felt no effects from his run the next day. We will see how I feel tomorrow. Several hours later after some nourishment and short nap I assess the damage to my feet. When I look at my pinky toe the nail is just fine, but I notice a thorn sticking out. This had been scraping against my shoe for most of the run, as I remembered tripping over some cacti as I was taking the first pictures of the day. This run was an adventure without a doubt.


  1. Awesome. I am planning on a hike-a-bike to the top next weekend and was doing a little bit of research. I'll probably head up from the NE side of the mountain. I've only been as far as Mundy's before so it should be interesting!

  2. Good luck. There is some bad erosion on the way to the peak (from Mundy's). The trail goes through a big gully and would be treacherous on a bike. Enjoy!