Do you believe in love at first sight?
In 1995 the Army told me, “Ackerman, we’re sending you to Fort Bliss.” My mind raced as I thought, “That’s in the desert, right? I don’t think I’m going to like El Paso.”
But when I arrived and found a city built around its very own mountain range, clasping the rugged Franklins close to its heart, one look was all it took. I fell and fell hard. From that moment on I couldn’t get enough of the place.
I spent many off-duty hours exploring the Franklin Mountains, and began learning some of the history of how most of the land came to be preserved as a state park.
When I retired from the Army in 2007, time freed up for me to join the efforts of the Franklin Mountains Wilderness Coalition, people who had been working for years to secure the future of the largest chunk of mountain remaining unprotected outside the park boundary: Castner Range.
You don’t have to be a hard-core hiker or naturalist to love Castner Range. In rare years when winter rains have been just right, the gentle eastern slopes of the Franklins are transformed by luxuriant carpets of golden-orange poppies, and suddenly every El Pasoan wants to be outside enjoying their beauty.