2 Feb 2014--It's been a while, but Cathy and I are on another trip, finally, with our 1st stop a bit more than 500 miles west of San Antonio...El Paso, TX! It took us the better part of 2 days to get here, but once we got settled into the RV park this sunset greeted us, so the ride was worth it!
Yesterday we headed out to take a drive of a scenic route up in the Franklin Mountains State Park, and we were not disappointed. The 1st pullout we stopped at gave us a great view of both El Paso and its sister-city in Mexico, Juarez. The mountains you see in the 1st pic below are the Franklin Mountains here in the US, while in the 2nd pic over Cathy's shoulder are mountains in Mexico. With the naked eye you cannot distinguish between the 2 cities, so you have this feeling of one, massive city spread out before you.
From the platform we were standing at we could tell something was written in the mountains in the distance, and as luck would have it a man with his 2 young boys was standing beside who was from Juarez and he told us it says, roughly, "Read the bible, it's true".
You have to blow up the pics to see how crowded these 2 cities are, but whether you do or not, basically Juarez, Mexico starts behind and to the right of that big red X you see in these pics. The combined population of the cities is approximately 2 million people, with Juarez weighing in at around 1.2 million of that.
We actually shot this pic from another spot on the mountain, but what you see here is none other than the "Rio Grande", and this spot is directly in front of, and to the left of, that big red X I talked about. It looks like you should be able to at least shout across it to your neighbors, and it is really pathetically small for a "Grand"! haha
Further along the scenic route we stopped to take a tramway to the top of the mountain. This is the largest urban wilderness park in the US at about 7000 square miles, and almost the size of the state of Massachusetts they said. You can see a couple of the trams in the 2nd pic...they take you up 940 ft to the top of the mountain. And there are the animals you may see...we didn't see a one!
To the top we go...5600 ft at the peak.
A park Ranger told us about a trail we could hike to get back to the bottom, saying it circled the mountain near the top for some great views before then heading back down to the parking lot. Also said it would take about an hour and 15 minutes or so, and that the trails were well marked. That is all he told us, and we didn't see this sign in the 2nd pic until 2 hours later when we got to the bottom again. haha Although bundled up, look how fresh I look here.
Good Lord! Here we go right out of the chute!
This is actually the area where that warning picture was taken.
Maybe it's just that I'm getting old, but do these look like "well marked" trails to you? Most of the time we felt like we were making up our own trails. haha
But all in all, some of the views were definitely worth the effort.
At this point we have completely circled the top part of the mountain, and are ready to head down. We have been hiking about an hour, and think we are headed into the easy, 15 minute or so home stretch to the bottom. NOT! It's not only treacherous in spots, but with the sun out it is also getting a bit warm, so I am not as fresh as when we started. (And will someone tell me what that park Ranger was thinking when he sent Cathy and I towards this trail? Do I look ANYWHERE close to my 20s anymore?! NOT!!!
This was another sign we didn't see till we got to the bottom another hour later. The lime green loop is where we spent our 1st hour, an occasionally challenging but fun 2 mile circling of the mountain top on Ranger Peak Trail. But then we had to follow the red line, to descend, the Directissimo Trail, a "short" drop to the bottom that took the other hour. What the sign told us was that the 1st trail was designated a "moderate" hiking trail, while Directissimo was rated "strenuous"! I would agree with those designations, but I really think the Ranger should have told us that at the top, no? haha
This hiking excursion was a bit more strenuous than we had anticipated, but the scenery was beautiful and we are delighted to be back on the road, so we couldn't be happier. We will be gone till June, headed to different spots in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California, so stay tuned!