Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Failed Attempt at Anthony's Nose

Last night I camped in the BLM lands off the Sierra Vista Trail. I noticed another dirt road just across the highway from where I spent the night and so this morning I decided to give that road a try. Sure enough there was a BLM sign indicating that the area is off-limits to target shooting. Despite the sign there were shotgun shells and bullet casings everywhere. As I parked the car I realized that the area looked familiar. Noelle and I had hiked from the parking lot several years ago to visit Anthony Gap Cave.
Noelle in Anthony Gap Cave

Anthony Gap Cave Entrance

I made my way up the trail to the top of a ridge and then descended into a pleasant little valley. There were lots of small peaks all around and I decided that the one that looked the most like a human nose must be Anthony's Nose.
Summit Objective
I decided to make that peak my objective for the hike. There was a user trail that ran through the valley, eventually leading to the junction of two canyons. I headed up the canyon on the left, eventually finding myself on a well defined trail. I made a right turn onto the trail and followed it for a bit until I came to an area of slatey looking rock. At the slatey looking rock I headed uphill to a small saddle. There was a cairn of small, brown stones there.
Cairn and Mountain
One of the stones had a name carved into it.
Carved Rock
Another of the stones had the name of the saddle scratched into it. Unfortunately, I could not make out the name. From the saddle I started to make my way up a ridge. The ridge was covered in thorny lechuguilla plants. I've never seen the lech so thick. It was difficult to find places for footing, and sure enough I accidentally stepped on one of the spines. It went right through the sole of my boot and pierced my foot. Luckily, the wound was not deep, but it sure hurt!

Soon I found my way to the top of my objective and quickly realized that it was not Anthony's Nose.
Eric on Summit
I didn't consider the trip a failure though, as I gained considerable intelligence from that high precipice. I could see the ridge that I could take if I ever again decide to attempt an ascent of Anthony's Nose ever again.
The High Franklins
It was a quick, downhill walk back to the car and I was able to stop and admire some of the wildflowers as I made my way down.       

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Franklin Mountains State Park: Ranger Peak

I packed up camp this morning and hit the road. I would be headed to the western side of the Franklin Mountains to the trail-head for the 1000 Steps Trail to ascend Ranger Peak. I took Stanton Road to its end and found a nice, shady spot to park in. I grabbed a bagel for breakfast, filled my water bottles, readied my gear, and then hit the trail.

The trail first followed some old roads. After about a mile it turned into an actual trail. The climbing was pretty steep. Soon the views opened up to the west. I had a bird's eye view to Sierra del Cristo Rey, which Noelle and I had hiked one Good Friday years ago.
Sierra del Cristo Rey
Then, about halfway up the peak I stopped in the shade of an old stone shelter, built by the power company in the '30s, to rest and drink some water.
Stone Hut
When I resumed my climb more views opened up to downtown El Paso and across the Rio Grande to Juarez, Mexico.
Downtown El Paso

Soon I arrived at a 3-way junction with the Ranger Peak Loop Trail. I decided to take the portion of the trail that headed south.
Ranger Peak Loop
It slowly climbed and then skirted the ridge on which the peak sits.
Hiking the Ranger Peak Loop
I passed another stone shelter and then climbed up to the peak.
Ranger Peak Summit
The Wyler Aerial Tramway was running and I watched as some people got into a car on the top and then descended to the parking lot.
Wyler Aerial Tramway
Then I walked around the small summit area before getting back on the trail. I took the Jackaloop Trail to the other side of the Ranger Peak Loop and then detoured off the official trail to take a look at the B-36D Bomber crash site. I had seen a sign on Stanton Street that mentioned the crash.
Bomber Info
There was a lot of wreckage scattered about. Most of the larger pieces of the plane had long been removed, but a section of engine
and some landing gears had been left behind.
Landing Gear
More Bomber Wreckage
Bomber Wreckage
There was also a memorial attached to a rock at the site, commemorating the lives of the crew who had perished in the crash.
Bomber Crew Memorial

From the crash site, I decided to follow the drainage in which most of the wreckage lies, down to the trail. Once back on the trail the hiking was fast and I was back to my car in no time!              

North Anthony's Nose

After my hike up Ranger Peak, I headed through El Paso to get to the interstate. Along the way I stopped at 7-11 to get some Gatorade and then moved north to the town of Anthony which lies in both Texas and New Mexico. From there I headed east on NM highway 404 to Anthony Gap. The plan was to hike up Anthony's Nose. The information I got at Summitpost was quite vague though, and I couldn't figure out where the trailhead was. Instead I focused my attention on finding the trailhead for North Anthony's Nose. I had a tough time finding it at first on account of the fact that I was unsure of my mileage from I-10. I drove my car on some rough dirt roads. just when I was getting ready to throw in the towel, I saw a white gate off to the side of the highway. I decided to give the gate a try and sure enough I found a brown BLM trail sign.
Sierra Vista Trail

I closed the gate behind me and drove as far as I felt comfortable. Then I packed my pack, refilled my water bottles and hit the Sierra Vista Trail, an old road on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. It was hot in the afternoon sun, but I was determined to make a go of it. Soon I had great views north to one of my favorite mountain ranges, the Organ Mountains.
Distant Organ Mountains
There were lots of yuccas in bloom
Yucca Flower
and some claret cup cactus as well.
Cactus Blooms
Soon I found a faint road heading up a small canyon near my objective, North Anthony's Nose.
North Anthony's Nose
I followed the road until it turned into a faint trail. I then followed the trail further and further up the canyon.

When the canyon split I took the left side and then started my way up a ridge. Before I knew it I had wonderful views in all directions. To the south were the highest points of the Franklin Mountains,
Looking North From Summit
to the north the Organs. I soon found myself on the rocky summit. There was a small cairn with a register inside it. I signed the register and looked through it. One of the more recent entries was a message of condolences to Whitney Houston.
Summit Register
After signing the register I relaxed on the summit for a long while before finally heading back down to the car.
North Anthony's Nose Summit
On my way down I found some nice fossils in the limestone including some crinoids
Crinoid Fossils
 and a brachiopod.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sugarloaf Peak, Franklin Mountains

After my hike up and down South Franklin Mountain, I was still ready for some adventure. I opted to take the short climb up Sugarloaf Peak which, although still in the Franklin Mountains, lies outside the boundary of the state park. It was a short drive down McKelligon Canyon road to Davis-Seamon Road and the unofficial trail-head for my hike.

My walk started with me bypassing an old quarry on an old road trace. Then I started my climb up Sugarloaf in earnest. There were lots of little desert flowers in bloom
White Flowers
and lots of plants with sharp, prickly spines to look out for. Before I knew it, I was on top of the peak.
Eric on Sugarloaf Summit
There is an old metal structure on the top.
Sugarloaf Summit
I guess its some type of old military beacon. There were lots of great views which I admired, and I even caught a glimpse of this interesting looking insect before heading back down to my car.

Once back at the car, I drove up to the Transmountain Road and headed to the part of Franklin Mountains State Park that allows camping. I set up my tent at site #5 which has a great view of the Aztec Caves.
Campsite and Aztec Caves
Noelle and I hiked up to the caves (again just rock shelters really) several years ago. It's been a great day reacquainting myself with the Franklin Mountains!       

Franklin Mountains State Park: South Franklin Peak

I woke up early this morning, packed up the car, and hit the road. I would be headed for El Paso, Texas and the wonderful urban oasis of the Franklin Mountains. The drive was a long one. I saw a few pronghorn along the way, but not a whole lot else. Soon I was into the sprawl of east El Paso, with its countless auto salvage yards, taco joints, and strip clubs. The mountains beckoned though. I soon found myself in McKelligon Canyon and the trail-head for the Ron Coleman Trail. I paid my entrance fee and hit the trail.
Ron Coleman Trailhead

The trail made its way past two small caves; they are in actuality rock shelters.
First Cave
It was a pretty steep climb up to the ridge and there were lots of braided user trails that made route-finding a bit challenging. Soon I had some great views of some of the higher portions of the Franklins. Eventually I ran into a large group dressed in red. It turns out that they were from El Paso Search and Rescue.
SAR Team on Ron Coleman Trail
Were they running a drill or was there a real search in progress? Shortly after passing the SAR team, the trail got really interesting.
South Franklin Mountain

The views got even better and the trail climbed some steep cliffs using chains bolted into the rock.
Climbing Chains
There was an excellent view from the Window.
The Window
As I moved further up the mountain there were far reaching views into west El Paso
Near South Franklin Summit
and my objective for the hike, the tower-covered summit of South Franklin Peak was getting closer.
South Franklin & Ocotillo

Soon the Ron Coleman Trail would bypass the summit of South Franklin Peak. Since my objective was to summit the mighty peak, I set off sans trail and followed a lightly-used social trail to the fenced-in summit. I admired the view for a bit and then retraced my steps back to McKelligon Canyon and my car. 
Summit View

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Photo of the Day: Mescal Bean in Bloom

Mescal Bean Blossoms
Spring is definitely here. The mescal bean or Texas Mountain Laurel as it is otherwise known, is in full bloom. As pretty as the flowers are, my favorite part of the blossoms is their wonderful smell!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photo of the Day: The Spadefoot Toad

Spadefoot Toad
I was getting the garden ready for spring today when I dug up this fat little spadefoot toad which had burrowed itself deep in the soil of our garden.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park: Smith & Manzanita Springs Loop

This morning we woke up, ate breakfast and hit the road again. This time we would be doing less driving as we were headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to do a short hike. The whole family went, I was happy to learn that even Dad was down for a little walk in the desert.

We started at Frijole Ranch and checked out the grounds there. Unfortunately, the house itself was not open and so we headed over to Manzanita Springs.

Hiking to Manzanita Spring
There is a large pond there and the water in it is beautifully clear.
Manzanita Springs
After a quick stop we hit the trail again. There were lots of flowers in bloom including madrones
Madrone Flowers
and many others I could not identify.
Yellow Flower
Little Yellow Flowers 
There were also lots of great views in all directions.
Dad & Nipple Hill

Eventually we made our way to the shady oasis of Smith Spring.
Smith Spring
We sat on a stone bench there where we ate some snacks and then headed back onto the trail which looped back to the car.
Noelle and Dad Hiking
It was a wonderful hike with some wonderful people!