April 3, 2011

Guadalupe Mountains National Park & New Mexico


TUMBLEWEED!  Yes, it does exist and we were excited to see it.  Until it continued for hours and hours and the tumbles got bigger and bigger.  Almost immediately the initial excitement wore off as dodging the tumbleweed became more difficult with huge tumbles skirting across the highway.


For miles and miles there was nothing but then.. we saw this huge blimp.  Or at least it looks like a blimp.  Not sure what purpose this thing serves or who operates it.  Another random activity in the desert that no one really knows about.


Immediately to the right of the blimp was a double decker train.  When you drive for hours without seeing anything, even trains become a source of entertainment.  Wowwww.


Almost all of the ranches in Texas have these old iron windmills.  This picture is a nice representation of ranches in the Southwest.  Rolling hills speckled with sand, thorny vegetation and a few metal structures and no people.


If I had to choose a place to represent the beautiful colors of the Southwest I would chose la casa diablo.  The mountains had a rich red hue to them.  This particular area was called house of the devil because of the red color permeates through the mountain like blood or fire.  No matter what you call it, it was a beautiful display of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and brown.


Hotel El Capitan!  Perfect for any romantic rendezvous.. you hear that Hank?


On the way to the Texas and New Mexico border we transitioned from Central Time to Mountain Time.  Lisa stood between the two signs and claimed she was not in a time zone.  As she started dancing in her own timeless world, I considered reporting her to Border Patrol.   


Five miles later we ran straight into the Guadalupe Mountain Range.  The Jeep had to climb up a couple thousand feet to reach the National Park.  The wind was so forceful we could barely open the doors.  


Beautiful lenticular clouds hovered above the entrance.  A peaceful welcome that would change dramatically during our stay at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.


After another long day of driving we were ready to lace up the hiking shoes.  There were a couple of options and they all lead up into the sky with huge elevation gains.  Note, this is prime mountain lion territory.  Knife, bearspray - check.


Option 1 was El Capitan, a sheer rock face protruding from the Guadalupe Range.  It was not quite as big as the El Capitan of Yosemite but still impressive.  Lisa was not particularly interested in rock climbing so we went for option 2.


Which was the Guadalupe Peak trail.  At 8,795 feet, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas.  This picture was taken on the GP trail looking West at Hunter Peak (8,365 ft).


The views on the ascent were amazing with lone trees sticking out against the mountains and sage brush.


Because we started the hike in the afternoon we were unable to reach the peak.  Lisa toughed out the difficult climb and the unnerving drop offs and posed in front of the granite peak just beyond our reach.



With little vegetation the peaks and terrain were well defined.  You could see every ridge and every rock of the surrounding mountains.  


Then the weather changed.  Almost immediately were were engulfed in clouds.  With the clouds came  violent wind gusts.  We passed some hikers on the way up who said the winds were blowing over 100 mph on top of the peak and they had to turn around.  Luckily we had no problems descending to our camp.


All of the vegetation was thorny or sharp.  Everything had a wonderfully defined texture.

I think we were most surprised by the diversity and abundance of vegetation.  And the colors were so rich.  Never would have guessed that in the desert.



Welcome to the Hotel Jeep.  A park ranger came by and told us not to sleep in our tent overnight.  The weather report called for 80 mph winds that night.  He was right.  Our tent poles would have bent in half if we would have set them up.  Plus they were already bent from the wild boar that ran into the tent the previous night!  As the night progressed the wind picked up.  I had to turn my car into the wind to stop it from rocking back and forth.  We set up our luxury beds, listened to the wind howl, and played some Uno by lantern.  


Again, we were treated to a spectacular sunrise in Texas.  Like the sun we rose in search of darkness.  Except our darkness was underground and involved bats. 


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Originally from Strongsville, OH, I spent 8 years in Raleigh, North Carolina and have since recently moved to Missoula, MT. I have been a runner all my life and have recently started pursuing ultra marathons. Any excuse to be outside and on the trails.