B-36 Crash Site in El Paso (1953 crash)

With the aid of an iPad compass app, I was finally able to locate the site using the coordinates. The last time I went out there, I went up the wrong peak. Later that day, I went up the correct peak (after reading a few blog posts), but I was several degrees off. I decided that since it’s such a difficult climb (off-trail on unstable soil) that it would be best if I would just bite the bullet on the 99 cents app to help me navigate. BTW- there is excellent cell phone reception up there, which includes 3G for the iPad. I got plenty of work-related calls on my (supposed) day off to hike the mountain. It gave me a chance to sit and rest, I guess.

What was nice about the app was that it would ‘ding! ding! ding!’ when I was getting closer.This meant that I didn’t have to stop and take it out of my backpack towards the last .5 mile. Big time-saver.

When I came upon the first bits of metal, I was shocked at the small size of the debris. Shards of metal were all over the place–lying there as though someone tossed them about the mountain only a few years ago. As you get higher up the peak, though, you find larger airplane parts. That’s when you finally realize the sheer force of the impact. Quarter-inch thick metal is torn apart as though it were aluminum foil.

I came down a more precarious route than I had come up because I wanted to see what other debris had been cast down the mountain. There were bits of electrical wiring and shreds of tarp, along with other pieces of twisted metal I was unable to identify.

The pictures I took are less documentary in nature than most other blog posts out there. My intent was the examine how the aircraft reminants had become part of the landscape over the decades. They overlook the city–almost in a guardian-like fashion. You can’t see them from the ground at all, especially since the parts have rusted and now blend with the colors around them.

Some parts, like one of the bent propellers, have created havens for plants to grow. Other reminants just seem oddly out of place and time, like the shiny jet engine. And, some pieces would just look like trash to the casual observer.

Here are some links to other sites which discuss the history of the crash and provide more of a documentary account:

http://www.elpasoridgewalkers.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=169:b-36-crash-site-hike&catid=1:el-paso-ridgewalkers-latest-news&Itemid=2

http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/FMSPB36_2320.asp

http://www.cs.utep.edu/novick/hikes/B36/01.%20B36%20Crash%20Site,%20Franklin%20Mtns,%20March%202006.html

http://on-walkabout.com/2010/01/25/exploring-the-franklin-mountains-b-36-crash-site/

I should warn you that this is a very strenuous hike that is off-trail with no markings. You make your way up an arroyo to the site. Because I am impulsive and like think I am invincible, I did the hike on my own. However, for most folks, I would recommend you take a partner or group with you. I cannot stress this enough: you are off-trail on a dangerous mountain-side with little room for error. The cacti and succulents are of a most vicious nature, as well. So, while it would presumably be safer to climb in the vegetation, you will actually have more chance at injury.

I know you’re thinking, “Wah, wah. What’s a measly thorn going to do to me?”

Well, I just got over an infection in my knee joint after kneeling on a mesquite thorn and having it penetrate almost an inch deep. 10 days of anti-biotics–because I rushed to the doctor a day later when my knee felt warm and hurt like nobody’s business. If you wait longer, they have to cut you open and drain the infected synovial fliud.

Charming, right? So the lesson is that you should avoid spiky, spiny plants if you can. I am more certain now than ever: they hate humans.

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