Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Peak Fitness Challenge Begins!

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The Peak Fitness Challenge, a free hiking program for Franklin Mountains State Park and Guadalupe MountainNational Park launches today, June 21st   at the monthly meeting of the El Paso Hotel Motel Association.  A joint program of the parks, the Texas Mountain Trail regional non-profit, El Paso’s and, the Challenge encourages everyone from beginning hikers to experienced trail runners to get out on the park’s trails.  Participants can earn prizes for their accomplishments.

“Hikers can use the program to build their fitness and confidence levels to reach the highest peaks in the Franklins and the Guadalupes, if they want,” says Don Baumgardt, GeoBetty creator and publisher of the El Paso Visitors Guide.  “Participation is easy and free.  Folks can go online to register, log miles hiked and compete for prizes.  This Challenge is for regional residents and visitors to Far West Texas.” 

Information and sign up is available at .   Hikers and trail runners can compete as individuals or team members.  Participants may count the miles they log on organized hikes or adventures they tackle with friends and family members.  Everyone is invited to join the facebook community for the challenge at

Planning for the Peak Fitness Challenge began last fall, when the new Superintendent of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and El Paso native, Dennis Vasquez, approached the Texas Mountain Trail for assistance in planning the park’s 40th anniversary.  “The park had ideas for a hiking challenge similar to programs we’d been considering for some time,” said Beth Nobles, Executive Director of the Texas Mountain Trail, a regionally-based heritage tourism non-profit organization serving Far West Texas. “When we invited and their developer Phidev, Inc. to join the project and handle the technical aspects of the Challenge, the program really took off.  With the addition of Franklin Mountains State Park, we knew we had a winner.” 

From the beginning, the Peak Fitness Challenge was designed to encourage everyone to get out on our Far West Texas trails, including beginning hikers.  Adrianna Weickhardt, Parks Interpreter/Ranger at Franklin Mountains State Park, started Women’s Only Hikes earlier this year to encourage more participation at the park.  “They’re great opportunities for females of all ages who may feel some apprehension or fear about starting this new activity.  We cover the fundamentals of hiking, and we take a slower pace, starting with beginner level trails.  There’s an experienced guide along for the entire hike to lead them, assist, and answer any questions.”

To encourage new hikers, Nobles began a blog called, “One Foot in Front of the Other,” (  which features fitness tips and interviews with hikers, runners and cyclists.  The blog has several “Hiking 101” entries already addressing topics such as, “What’s a Trailhead?” and “How do I Find the Trail?”

Some of the trails are labeled “Texas Mountain Trail Heritage Hikes,” to encourage participants to learn about the heritage of the Far West Texas region.  One trail runs past a historic stagecoach route, another was the site of a murder of a Texas Ranger.  The TexasMountain Trail is a regional non-profit heritage tourism and economic development organization, representing the six westernmost counties of the state.  It participates in the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Heritage Trails Program.

In the days after the June 21st launch, participants may choose join hikes organized and led by volunteers or rangers at the participating parks:

Franklin Mountains State Park:
Make your reservation by calling:  (915) 566-6441
Bring:  Water, snacks, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, hiking stick, camera, binoculars, a flashlight for the tin mines, a map and dogs are welcome on leashes!

Saturday, June 23 –“Couch Potato Hike” on the Lazy Cow Trail   
Start Time: 8:00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Length: 6.3 miles/ 2 – 3 hours
Trailhead:  Meet at Chuck Heinrich Park/East side of the mountains (call for directions)
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  This single track trail is often used for mountain biking, but is a nice leisurely stroll as a hiking trail as well.  It is not difficult terrain to traverse, however, it is a longer distance and may be challenging for new hikers.  The plant and animal life in this area is readily seen and with the Franklins as a backdrop, this hike is beautiful.

Sunday, June 23rd– Mine Shaft Exploration
Start Time:  8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Length:  1.4 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
Trail:  Begin on West Cottonwood Springs trail, then enter the mineshaft to explore and end on the Agave Loop. *Difficulty Level:  Easy to Moderate.  Rocky along some sections, with a few short steep stretches.  The exploration into the mineshaft is fun and easy with one initial short belly crawl through the opening. 

Friday, June 29 – Women’s Only Hike – Upper Sunset Trail
Start Time:  8:00 a.m.
Length:  2.6 miles / 1.5 - 2 hours
*Difficulty Level:  Easy to moderate.  We’ll encounter some elevation gains, with some short steep inclines/declines, a few rocky/rough sections, and great vistas as we walk along the ridgeline.

 Guadalupe Mountains National Park:  All hikes begin at 8:00. Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Saturday, June 23-- Devil's Hall
Start time:  8 am.
Length:  4.2 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, but very rocky, 3-4 hours.  Meet at the Pine Springs Trailhead near the RV campground.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, June 24-- Smith Springs
Start time:  8 am   (2.3 miles roundtrip, moderately difficult, 2 hours) Meet at the Frijole Ranch Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

Sunday, July 1--McKittrick Canyon to Pratt Cabin
Start time:  8 am (4.8 miles round trip, moderately difficult, 3-4 hours) Meet at the McKittrick Canyon Trailhead.  Bring water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and wear sturdy footwear.

BONUS---1895 Cycling Story! 
 Follow along on our Texas Mountain Trail facebook page for clips, photos, and insight into cycling in 1895 as El Paso gets ready for the arrival of famed cyclist, Annie Londonderry!

We'll be rolling out the story exactly 117 years after the fact, with clippings from the El Paso Herald from June and July 1895.  

You'll learn all about the cycling craze at the time women were JUST starting to get out on bicycles and JUST starting to wear bloomers! 

And you'll see that cycling hasn't changed much in several ways...there were concerns about road conditions and safety.

And you'll see that El Paso was completely enthralled in Annie Londonderry's story (though there was at least one NOTABLE exception) and thoroughly enjoyed her visit during the July 4th holiday in 1895.  Follow along and join the fun!  

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