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."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Around the Franklins

I have been trying to find the loop route all the way around the Franklin Mountains for several years now. I knew one existed because of the Puzzler Mountain Bike Event, a 50, 35 and 13 mile race and, new this year, a run of full or half marathon.  (See map of route)

Hearty trail runners Mike, Angelica, Ryan (L to R)

During several trial and error runs through sections of the mountains, I often found myself in a dry wash wondering which way to turn next. After the publication of the GeoBetty Map, I was able to find my away around much easier and, earlier this year, I solved the puzzle.

My next goal was to run all the way around the course at one time, which would mean a 23-25 mile run. To finish that distance in the summer would mean caching water along the route so that is just what I did. With the help of my dogs, I carried bottles of water several miles into the mountains from Anthony’s Gap, NM and also dropped some off at the State Park on Transmountain Rd in El Paso, TX

Sierra and Lucy on a water stashing mission
This past weekend some other hearty trail runners joined me for an arduous jog through the rugged terrain of our beloved mountains. We started off from Heinrich Park in N.E. El Paso with four participants. The first part took us past some abandoned tin mines up to Mundy’s Gap. Unfortunately, one runner turned back after a few miles, because he had been recovering from an injury.

Ryan gettin' it done!
The climb was very steep after passing the mines but it was no match for our only female runner, Angelica who set a fast pace. The view was spectacular when we reached the pass so we all posed for some photos. That is when we recognized Run El Paso Club member, Miguel, who missed us at the start. He must have ran like a gazelle up the steep trail to catch us in time. Well, now we were back to four runners which was good news.

Miguel doesn't even look tired
Following a sobering descent we ran through the State Park on the Tom Mays trail where, at mile 8, we stopped for a water break. We then ran down a steep section known as Big Bertha which most of us have run up at the end of the Jack Rabbit Classic Trail Run

Once at the bottom, we forged on towards New Mexico through a 6 mile stretch of isolated desert. The trail here winds along sharp curves and dips in and out of many steep cut drainages in the alluvial features of the lower slopes. After running through a large arroyo for a short distance we turned right and started climbing back up the mountain. 

Anthony's Nose
The other runners were surprised when I stopped and pulled some bottles of water out of the rocks at mile 14. Several days earlier I stashed them inside a makeshift stone cooler using several flat rocks for the top. After a short break, we zig-zagged up a series of switchbacks to the Northern Pass and then descended down to the East side. 

Zigging and zagging up to Northern Pass
This descent is one of my favorite areas in the Franklins because the trail follows the contour of the mountain and twists and turns like the lines on a topographic map. I know when I’ve almost reached Hitt Canyon because the soil and rocks become very red, because of the thunderbird rhyolite rock, so named because of a formation on S. Franklin Peak in the shape of a red thunderbird.

After passing through a dry wash, we continued on a dirt road to the Bowen Ranch windmill and stock tank. There was no sign of Ryan, our lead runner, so we assumed he made a dash for home since he is familiar with trails on this side of town. At this point we were all feeling the effects of the sun and were ready to be done. So much so, that Angelica could only think about cold beer and lime. 

The rest of the journey was along a straight ranch road with rolling hills until we reached the Bowen Round House. Here we took the Lazy Cow trail, a flat curvy path with blooming barrel cacti. The entire route was 24 miles total and took us six hours to complete. When we returned to our starting point, Ryan had left a note with some cold drinks for us. 

This is a tough route with spectacular scenery, so consider running the Puzzler on January 19th, 2013. If 26 miles is too much for you, the half marathon will be well worth it. 

See you on the trail.


  1. You really do have some great places to run - well done for navigating the loop as well. Top marks! The pre-stashed water is a pretty neat idea, but I don't think my stashes would last long in th wilds of Guildford. Keep well. Richard

  2. Thanks Richard. Guildford sounds pretty awesome too. I used to frequent the Mildenhall Air Base in the 90s and loved running over there. With all the rain, you probably don't need many water stashes.