We'd planned on not intruding too long at Dan's place, but he was keen to show us around, and it's not like we actually had any place we had to be. So when Dan said he'd shuffle a few appointments, and take us hiking around the Franklin Peaks above El Paso before work, and then we'd all go up to Las Cruces for a show he was putting on that night, we didn't exactly protest very hard.
Dan took us up for a hike along the South Franklin Peak. We started off up the trail, but quickly turned off to take a direct path up one of the gullies that leads straight to the ridge line. Dan has walked all over this short range that rises up straight through the middle of El Paso. El Paso forms a bit of a Y, with the Franklin peaks nestling between the top of the Y.
This was quite an interesting walk, as you rise up through a reddish sandstone? layer into grey/cream coloured limestone layer, complete with fossils. I think the correct term is "highly fossiliferous". Have a look at the pictures below. Of course, it was also covered in all the beautiful desert flora, covering the full gamut of prickly and ugly, through to prickly and beautiful, with even a few pricklefree flowers thrown in for good measure.
The scramble up was quite an adventure, with loose rock, the odd stumble into a cactus, and some more loose rock, but very enjoyable. Dan and Katie proved much more proficient at madly scrambling up the slopes. I must be too old. :) But it was all worth while, as it popped us up ontop of the ridge, with a sudden expanse of landscape coming up from the other side. All of the south eastern portion of El Paso stretched out in front of us, and we had a stellar view of the North Franklin ridge as well. the smatterings of bright green plantlife contrasts very well with the reddish rocks. Not your everyday landscape. (Unless you live in the desert)
We continued on up the ridge, with Katie trying to take the most death defying, direct route along the absolute highpoints, Dan taking a slightly more cautious path now that the cliff fell off both ways, and me taking a path somewhere in the middle. This took us up to some FAA towers, and presumably some public communications towers as well, given how many of them there were, and then it was time for our next destination. We weren't going to simply wander on back down the track, we were going to "The Window" or el portal, or a mixture of the two in the sort of bastardised white spanish that is fairly common in the area.
We followed more sort of tracks further south along the ridge, coming across a series of blue paint dots, as if someone had been laying a trail for an event or similar, and eventually, after some downclimbing, and more scrambling, found ourselves at the window. Which is indeed a window in the rock. It's in a fairly exposed situation, and has a nice breeze, but is certainly a cool place to go, and certainly not something the average El Paso visitor would see. Dan tells us you can see it from the right parts of town, but only if you're looking.
Time for Dan to get to work, so we headed off down the actual track this time, which was quite quick comparitively. A lovely stretch of the legs, and nowhere near as hot as you might think. It was quite breezy, and a little overcast, which was apparently fairly normal for this time of year around there.
Katie and I did some shopping, some sleeping, and then loaded up Dan's car and went to pick him and his guitar up, and head off to Las Cruces. Destination, The High Desert Brewing Company . Dan, occasionaly with an accompanying percussionist plays here fairly regularly, so Katie and I went along as roadies/fans/barprops. Had a wonderful evening. We met a bunch of local straight away, it's a very tightknit community pub, and enjoyed many of the fine brews created at High Desert. Some wonderful music, and even a show by one of Dan's ex students with some of her work. Then more taste sensations, a t-shirt, and eventually some more roadie work, and a drive home.
An interesting corner of the US, desert, but not the south-west, and not texas either. Well worth a stop over if you're in the area. And if you want to hear some of Dan's music... You know where to find it
Walking up into the South Franklin peak area
Fun with strata
Cool intrusion in the limestone
Katie demonstrating the terrain
Dan and his chosen path
El Paso from South Franklin Peak