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, September 25, 2011

The Window

Once again I’m up at zero dark thirty for another hiking adventure. This week I’m scrambling up to “The Window” near the S. Franklin Peak. If you follow my blog, you will remember that on 9-11 I trekked up S. Franklin. This morning I will start on the East side of the mountain and hike the Ron Coleman Trail to Smugglers Gap on the West Side.
First I drive up Trans Mountain road to the parking area where I will finish my hike. I lock up my bike and drop off some water. The sun’s rays are just beginning to peak around the mountains. I finish my commute and arrive at McKelligon Canyon. This is a beautiful spot in El Paso that includes an outdoor amphitheater built into the rocks. El Paso was recently named the number one “Can Do City" in the US by Newsweek Magazine and also won the award of All American City by The National Civic League in 2010.

El Paso get’s a bad rap because we are located next to Juarez, Mexico, the so called murder capital. Governor Perry doesn’t help our image by saying things like “...bombs are exploding in El Paso....” According to CQ press, our border city is the safest large city in the US. Let’s keep that our little secret though; we don’t want scads of people moving here and crowding my running trails. (Read Fact Checking Perry)
The beginning of the trail is steep and leads uphill towards a cave. When I arrive, I climb in the cave and start taking photos. Last week I took a bunch of blurry shots so I am being more careful this time. The directions I got from Localhkes.com say to go to the right of the first cave and to the left of the second. 

The right of the first one makes for an arduous climb so I stop for a rest.  A Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterfly lands on a bush, sits perfectly still, wings outstretched, and invites me to take his picture.
I make it to the second cave and then finally attain the main ridge line. The view is stunning and I can see my neighborhood below. I meet an older gentleman named Santigo on the trail and he shares some information about routes that he walks on a weekly basis. I keep moving up the ridge line and stumble upon a millipede that curls up in his defense position.
I must be getting close to the window, because my walk is starting to get hairy. I now have a precipitous drop off to my left so I need to stay focused. After traversing the west side of the mountain I come to a cliff with a chain attached that leads straight up. 

I grab on and pull myself up the craggy face. I follow some blue dots that mark the route and reach another obstacle with a chain. After scaling the second part I make it to the porthole in the rock with a beautiful view of East El Paso.

Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
I precariously balance myself agains the cliff and begin to take many photos through the window. Suddenly a Rock Wren lands just a few feet above my head and thinks to himself: I’m safe because no human would be stupid enough to climb up here. Well, I take a few close up pictures before he realizes his oversight. Birds are a plenty up here and I also enjoy watching Swallows and Canyon Wrens.
I continue on my way and walk just below the FAA towers that have been built on the mountain top. I start my descent down towards Mammoth Rock and see many wildflowers. This is the same trail I walked last week, but I don’t remember seeing this many blooms. Before long, I’m back down to Smugglers Pass where I have a peanut butter sandwich and hop on my bike.
The 16 mile ride is mostly downhill, but after descending the mountain, I realize how hot it has become. I pedal a few uphill sections and really begin to feel fatigued. As I ride along the east side of the mountain I notice signs that warn of unexploded ordinance. This land is the former Castner Firing Range that was used by soldiers at nearby Ft Bliss. The land is to be added to the State Park when the ordinance can be cleared and the land made safe again. 
After much effort I make it back to my starting point having made a complete circle of around 20 miles. I hope you have the opportunity to hike the Ron Coleman trail for a peek out the window someday. It is well worth the exertion and you will also enjoy our very safe, “Can-Do”, All American City!

See you on the trail.

N. Franklin Peak as seen from S. Franklin


  1. beautiful photos and knowledgeable commentary. i've always loved rocks, but thought more trees and ferns were necessary to enhance their glory. not so, anymore. your landscapes are mostly rock with little to no green decoration. and they are absolutely breathtaking!!! add that to your big skies and few places could boast a more wondrous backdrop. thanks for sharing!

  2. The desert has its own beauty. I do miss the trees back home, but I appreciate the greenery even more when I return. Thanks for reading.

  3. Greg, yesterday I hiked to the Window. What a climb! I used your blog entry as reference. Thank you for sharing trails that you hike. You share the excitment and energy that trail descriptions can't offer.

  4. Cool, sorry I didn't answer your other post. Did you go all the way to Trans-mountain or come back down to McKelligon? The N. side isn't as bad. Most people go all the way over (and get a ride) since coming back down the chains can be difficult. Happy trails. -Greg

  5. My friend and I went from McKelligon to the Window. We'd planned to hike through to Trans (we'd parked my vehicle there), but we stopped at the Window. The chains were intimidating, and we worried that there would be more ahead. Compared to you, we're couch potatoes! Glad to know the North side isn't so bad. We won't scratch that trail from our want to hike list. Thanks for your input, Greg! We're military, and unfortunately most people we know have barely entered the Franklins. Your blog is a great resource. Happy trails!

  6. Thanks to you and your family for your sacrifices. I'm retired AF myself and loved the travel while I was in. Enjoy El Paso while you are here.