Guadalupe Mountains National Park rests near the southern most border of New Mexico and Texas and is about an eight hour drive from Austin, TX. I told Adam I wanted to go there for Thanksgiving break months prior and we were actually supposed to go in May but there were forest fires that stretched 9,000 acres that prevented people from visiting. This time though we planned to leave the Wednesday before Thanksgiving after work to arrive in the park about 3am.
Well, the campsites are first come first serve at the main camping site of Pine Springs. When we arrived it was looking pretty full and we even saw someone sleeping on the sidewalk near the campsites cause he probably arrived late also. Luckily enough for us, we found an unoccupied spot! It was pretty visible too too so I’m not sure how no one had noticed it, but I guess it was to our advantage! So, we set up our tent and fell asleep shortly afterwards. Next morning, on Thanksgiving day, we got our butts out of our sleeping bags and headed to the visitor’s center to get a back country pass where many other folks were standing around. We had to wait an hour longer because we didn’t realize that Guadalupe Mountains is on Mountain time which is one hour behind Central time (we could have slept longer). BUT, it’s good we got there cause when we formed a line, we got up to the very front.
We got our back country permit after listening to the rangers tell us the rules of camping in the wilderness. Then we set off to gather our stuff into the car and hike to the infamous Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas). We gave our camp site away to a nice German dude and then packed our day packs before heading to the trail. CRAZILY enough, when we are going were going through the parking lot I heard someone say “Is that Sonia?!” and after a “What?” I realized that my long time high school friend Brianna from Austin was also getting ready to the do the same hike coincidentally at the same time!
The hike was tough, we made it to the top in about 2.5 hours over the course of 4 miles going straight up. The peak, at 8,750 feet has an incredible view of the salt basin, the flat land all around and the other mountains that surrounded it. We were higher than eagle shit. When we got there we ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I had put together in Adam’s kitchen the evening before. They were simple but completely satisfying after the work we put into to get to the top. Then, it just seemed fitting to then ask myself and Adam what we were thankful for. Honestly, I am just immensely grateful that we get to do things like this and I couldn’t help but thing about the native americans peacefully protesting in South Dakota to keep their land pure and protected like the Guadalupe Mountains National Park is. If we can preserve this park because of its beauty, historical significance to natives, and its uniqueness I don’t see why we can’t do the same for Lakota and Sioux tribes…
After enjoying the tippy top of Texas we eventually had to come down to Pine Springs, where we originally planned to reconvene and put together our backpacking packs to then hike to Pine Top camp ground. Well, that did NOT work out because by the time we made it down the peak it was getting dark, it took us 2 hours to get down and my knees were giving up in the last stretch. We were a little worried about not having a spot to camp at since we had given ours away but we just went back to where we had camped before and hungout with the German guy, Hamet, that we had previously given up our campsite too. The three of us shared the primitive space along with beers, stories, and soup. He was good company.
The next morning when we were making breakfast it was COLD like 29 degrees or something. So cold that while we were siting at the bench it started SNOWING on us. Little micro snow flakes fell all around us. this made us a bit nervous about spending the night in the mountains where we heard it would get down to 20 degrees and have winds of 50mph speed. However, we thought “Eh, let’s just check it out”. I carried 1.5 gallons of water, extra clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, and a camping pot up the other mountain adjacent to Guadalupe peak. It was heavy but manageable. Along the way up, we saw an older man hiking with a day pack and pistol in his pants. I was shocked to see someone with a gun in a National Park because I thought it was illegal but I guess you are allowed to carry one if you are in the wilderness. According to Adam, some parts of the park are technically “wilderness”. Interesting. We also told silly jokes to keep up morale as we climbed up and one of them went like this…
“What do you call a pine tree along the trail of the Guadalupe mountains?”
“What do you call it Sonia?”
“Not sure, it’s a cliff hanger.”
The scenery changed immensely as we got to Pine Top camp ground and even the weather. It got significantly colder by the time we up into the mountains and it even rained a little bit which worried me but Adam didn’t seem threatened by it so that made me feel better about our situation.
We took a lot of breaks and didn’t get to Mescalero Campground in the back country until almost dark, we definitely hustled the last couple of miles to make sure we got there with enough light. Beautiful hike to the spot though, Adam is right when he says its worth going into the back country, it was like we were in a different park when we passed Pine Top.
There were pine needles sprinkled all over the soft dirt, tall pine trees reaching up around us, and the air was cool and crisp. It really didn’t feel or look like Texas. Adam took this cute picture to the left of different colored leaves spurting from the pine needled wilderness floors. It makes me think of how diverse Texas is. Proven through the array of state and national parks. We were pretty exhausted by the time we got to our campsite at Mescalero, Adam cooked while I journaled inside the tent. It was shivering cold but no snow thank goodness. We ate a pretty humble meal that night consisting of sausage and pita (our diet pretty much all day) before going to sleep. Yet, it was delicious cause when you’re camping and hiking simple food always tastes 100 times better than normal.
Early morning, but we took it easy. I was feeling pretty good, got a bit of a stretch and I slept hard the night before. So hard in fact, I had some insanely vivid dreams. One being that the world was ending and the Aztec Empire of Teotihuacan was rising over Mexico city from the sand and this pink/purple pastel hair colored couple had been the ones responsible for it. All the indigenous that were sacrificed were coming back from the dead and spearing all of the citizens of Mexico with conquistador lineage. It was nuts. I should have written it down in more detail but you know how quickly you forget the details to dreams.
It made me think about the Native Americans that lived in mountains hundreds of years before, or maybe it wasn’t even that long ago because I know that a friend of mine, Joshua Tree, is Mescalero Apache and that we were close to his tribes reservation. The campsite we slept at is named after the Mescalero Natives. According to a guide book I read for the park, the Mescalero used to dig deep pits in the mountains where they would burn a species of agave plant to make the alcoholic drink of mezcal. I think the tribes that lived in Oaxaca, Mexico before the Spanish conquest would also burn agave to make mezcal. Maybe my dream wasn’t really that random….
We gathered up and then set out again after having MORE sausage and pita for breakfast and both drawing in my journal. We also had some instant coffee and took a view pictures of us and the view that we had of dog canyon. The morning air was pretty chilly but we enjoyed eachother’s company, the scenery, and the quiet all around us. Seriously though, the quiet of the mountains is so loud that you can’t hear any thoughts in your mind that would otherwise be racing. It’s powerful and humbling.
After hiking back south the way we came, we veered over onto the Juniper Trail before taking the Bowl Trail down on the way to Hunter’s Peak! Hunter’s peak is 8,365ft up. Also, a really crazy awesome view of the land below. From the point we could see Guadalupe Peak which had an intense cloud blanketing it. We were thinking “Dang you probably can’t see anything up there.” It looked surreal.
We got out kicks taking pics and then proceeded the Bowl Trail until it was time to descend Bear Canyon which is not a canyon you want to fuck with. It took us an unbelievably long time to get down, very steep, I couldn’t even fathom having to go up it. None the less, we continued to tell silly jokes to each other until we made it down and took the Frijole trail back to Pine Springs. We stopped a few times to check out the mountain goats that were peering at us from the side of the cliff next to Bear Canyon. As we were coming back we made it just in time to catch the sun setting which was perfect because I hadn’t been able to get a good sunset view in the trip yet. It was a spectacular sight to end the trip.
Purple: Thursdays hike 8 miles total
Red: Fridays hike 7 miles total
Green: Saturdays hike 9 miles