Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Long Awaited Guadalupe Mountains National Park

After two incredible months wandering throughout several beautiful parks and forests of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, these past two weeks on Texas soil have made for a wonderful coming home party.  A picture perfect week at Davis Mountains State Park only got better when followed by 5 nights at South Llano River State Park.  Davis Mountains is one of the rick-man’s favorite places; South Llano River is one of mine.  These two weeks have made for great camping, but the absence of cell coverage and wifi was a reminder of the remoteness of these two beautiful west Texas parks.

Before arriving at the Davis Mountains, our first two nights under west Texas starry skies found us roadside at a KOA in Van Horn, Texas.  This two night stay provided the convenient base camp for a long awaited visit to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park has been at the top of my “wish list, but never been list” of Texas Parks.  Ever since I started acquiring Mickey Little’s wonderful park guides for Texas, I have wondered about this national park’s 80 miles of trails that explore desert, canyons and highlands of the Guadalupe Mountains.  My research of this locale confirmed that it is not an easy reach for any west Texan, much less an Upper Gulf Coastie resident.  And I knew that this park, by reputation and infrastructure, is mainly a backpacker’s paradise.  The convenience of a campground is constrained by no hookups and camping slots (visualize a small parking lot) for rigs much shorter than the Airstream’s and Suburban’s almost fifty feet. 
I realize that those who know this park well would be embarrassed by the idea of a simple day trip as a way of claiming an experience in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  But this long awaited visit is my beginning, and I have every intention of going back and spending much more time exploring the trails and the habitat of this rugged, remote and beautiful place.  Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if I still had my Sportsmobile; and if only I had those twenty-something backpacker legs and knees of long ago…

The Guadalupe Mountains span an elevation range from 3,650 to 8,749 feet, with Guadalupe Peak being the highest point in Texas.  I learned that this Permian basin includes the Capitan Reef, the most extensive fossil reef from the Permian age on record. 
The early morning drive, headed north on TX 54 out of Van Horn, was a beautiful drive--remote with few signs of human habitation.  The early morning light and cloud cover provided playful lighting on the mountain range:

And this morning’s eastside view of the White Mountains accentuated the reason for their name:

This one day trip was more about scouting several areas of the park and less about experiencing long hikes in any one area.  But partial hikes around Hunter Peak and McKittrick Canyon provided beautiful views:

The McKittrick Canyon trail provided opportunities for viewing a variety of plants and wildlife, with the textures of tree bark again drawing my attention:

A last stop at the GMNP's Frijole Ranch site provided a perfect ending to a perfect day: adding the Sage Thrasher to my life list.  I have chased after habitats throughout the Texas valley longing for truly good views of this thrasher, only to get BVDs (better views desired) that did not warrant life list status.  And here two Sage Thrashers were, in perfect habitat, dancing and prancing alongside the trail in open brush.  “Look at me; look at me; look at me.”  I will, when I come back and stay a little longer.

1 comment:

  1. When I'm out birding with a group and say "I want to get BVD's", everyone looks at me funny.


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