Hiking with the Bears

A great Sunday for a hike up in the Franklin Mountains!  Jack and Bernie love hiking, from smelling all the nature smells, to chasing lizards and mountain bikers.

Our hike started from our home which is conveniently situated about 1/2 mile from the Chuck Heinrich trailhead for the state park.  We made sure to carry enough water for all four of us since we live in the Chihuahuan Desert and there is no water to speak of up on the trails.  Well, I guess we could strip water out of a cactus, but I don’t know how to do that nor do I want to be desperate enough to do so.

As we entered the park, we started on Tin Mine road which is an old jeep trail.  We took the first left onto Cardiac Road which begins a pretty good climb up some hills.  Eddie and I like to get up the hills before we let Jack and Bernie to sniff, but the bears have a different agenda!  Since we only get to the trails about a couple of times a month, I’ve found Jack and Bernie need to sniff more than if it was our usual route.  So, we make sure to give them some time, but also make sure to get our momentum back.  The weather was cool and a bit windy.  Since we’ve lived here in El Paso for a couple of years, we know what Jack and Bernie are capable of during specific times of the year, so we definitely plan accordingly and get our hiking in during the earlier times of the day and during the cooler times of the year.

We continued up Cardiac until we reached a trail which intersected with Tin Mine and we hiked back down.  The entirety of our hike lasted about 2.5 hours.  They sure do love getting outdoors and exploring…..

Bernie Exploring Tin Mine Cardiac Trail Jack on Cardiac

Some tips for hiking with your dogs:

1. Make sure you plan your route accordingly.  Know your terrain and get a sense of the duration of the hike so you can be sure you bring water and food, if necessary.  Water is a definite!  You can check out http://www.geobetty.com for ideas for routes and printable maps.  You can also visit the local state park ranger office for guidance.  There are 2 (that I know of) in El Paso.  One is at McKelligan Canyon and the other one is located at the Tom Mays Unit of the Franklins.  The park rangers are friendly and can answer any questions.

2. Know what you and your dog are capable of in terms of exercise.  The last thing you want to experience is that you or your dog weren’t ready for a major hike, say up Mundy’s Gap to North Franklin Peak.  First of all, there are some major climbs, but also the duration of the hike could take you easily all day.  You want to be sure you are able to safely get to your vantage point and safely make it home.

3.  I would highly encourage you to read the guidelines for taking your dogs in to the state parks.  Check out https://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/franklin-mountains to read more on the park rules.  Jack’s love/hate relationship with mountain bikers most certainly keeps me on my toes.  Most weekends, the trails are packed with mountain bikers, so I make sure Jack stays on his leash and I maintain awareness of my surroundings wherever in the park.  Some mountain bikers are good with alerting you they are behind you, but at times with a curve in the trail, sometimes  feel like they come out of nowhere!  For that reason and for it being rattlesnake country, I make sure both Jack and Bernie are leashed and not poking around under bushes.

4. A part of the park rules and is a rule of thumb, pick up after you and your dog!  Its important for the ecology of the park and for everyone’s enjoyment to ensure you take out trash which includes poop.  I know I hate carrying around used poop bags, but they make backpack for dogs, so now your dog can carry his or her own waste!

5. I would also suggest to read Good Canine ‘Trail Etiquette’.  This gives some additional tips and things to consider when out for a hike with your dog.  Rules for Hiking with Your Dog

Enjoy the trails and I hope to see you out there 🙂

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