North Franklin Mountain
After flying into El Paso, Texas the day before, Kelly Bou and I kicked off our Spring 2011 vacation with a hike up nearby North Franklin Mountain on 29 May 2011.  Starting from the Tom Mays unit of Franklin Mountains State Park ($4 USD per person entrance fee), we followed an old road that switchbacks up to a high pass known as Mundy's Gap.  The initial part of the road is very rocky and somewhat unpleasant to walk on, but beyond the junction with West Cottonwood Spring, the rocks largely disappear allowing for easier travel.  The long and winding road felt mundane at times, but we were frequently captivated by the assorted desert flora and fauna.  After a short stay at the summit, we descended a rough trail along the north ridge in order to bypass many of the road's switchbacks.  As we neared Mundy's Gap, Kelly spotted another short cut which dropped us quickly to West Cottonwood Spring.  From there, we rejoined the main road, and as we passed several other parties who were just starting out, we were very glad to be back at our air-conditioned car in the rising heat of the afternoon.
The obvious road on the ridge in the distance is NOT the route up North Franklin Mountain! Kelly hikes along the rocky road near the beginning.  North Franklin Mountain is barely visible on the skyline at left.
It's amazing how much vegetation there is in a desert. Kelly marvels at some roadside yucca.
We saw a lot of these here. An earless lizard basks in the morning sunlight.
The road does not follow the ridge except near the top. Here is a view of North Franklin Mountain (left of centre) from further up the road.  West Cottonwood Spring is located behind the distant tree at far left.
Apparently being "earless" prevents sand from entering these lizards' bodies when they burrow. Another earless lizard crawls among the rocks.
The road loses a bit of elevation here before winding its way up the east side of North Franklin Mountain. Kelly rests on a bench at Mundy's Gap.  Above Kelly is North Franklin Mountain while Indian Peak is the last bump on the left.
There is a sign discouraging people from approaching Indian Peak which is actually outside the park boundary. Kelly climbs up the road on the east side of North Franklin Mountain.  Indian Peak dominates the background.
It's interesting how the lizard's spots reverse colour from body to tail. This earless lizard is much larger than the previous ones.
Don't mess with me! Here is another look at the same lizard.
Notice all the ants swarming the flower. A flower from a cholla cactus is in full bloom.
Almost there. Kelly hikes the last section of road before the summit.
Highest point in the Franklin Mountains and our first Texas peak! Kelly and Sonny stand on the 2178-metre summit of North Franklin Mountain.
It's probably a more interesting scramble than North Franklin Mountain. The most prominent peak to the north is known as Anthony's Nose.
The faint peak on the horizon at far right is probably Cerro Alto Mountain. Northeast El Paso is sprawled out behind Indian Peak.
Interestingly, there is also a Mount Franklin just south of South Franklin Mountain. To the south is South Franklin Mountain.
Sadly, the Rio Grande is but a pathetic trickle in these parts. Kelly searches west El Paso for a glimpse of the Rio Grande.
There are a few steep sections along the ridge. Kelly descends the north ridge of North Franklin Mountain.
Good way to stay cool!  A couple of beetles hide from the hot sun in a yucca plant.
Unfortunately, the spring was dry. Kelly relaxes in the shade at West Cottonwood Spring.
Our rental car, a Chevy HHR, had fantastic air conditioning. Kelly returns to the trailhead in the hot afternoon sun.
Nice and easy trip to start our vacation!

Total Distance:  10.3 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 20 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  627 metres

GPX Data