Across The Entire Park With The Park Patriot!
By Lone_Star on 5/23/2013
Distance: 15.70 Miles Duration: 10 hours, 6 minutes
During my stay at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I met a really nice 65 year old park volunteer (VIP) named Ted Davis from the Mineral Springs/Fort Worth area who was serving as the Pine Springs camp host. In talking with Ted, a Vietnam Vet (U.S. Navy), he told me that he had hiked every trail in the park except for one - the Marcus Trail.
We talked awhile and hit it off right away. I told him I was an avid hiker and he asked me if I would be interested in hiking with him from Dog Canyon to Pine Springs, taking the Marcus Trail along the way. Of course, I was interested! Ted really did not want to hike this long trail by himself, so teaming up with me made him feel more comfortable and I enjoyed his company as well.
There was a logistical problem, however. Getting out to Dog Canyon is close to 100 miles by car. If you leave your car there, you have the problem of how to get back to your car. Since we only intended to hike one-way, we were wrestling with the undesirable thought of having to take another car out there to get the car we left and then driving both cars back. That's a lot of time and a lot of gas...
This is when the first bit of trail magic appeared. A trail angel (name withheld) volunteered to drop Ted and I off at Dog Canyon. That simplified matters tremendously and I will forever be grateful to this trail angel for doing us this HUGE favor. She went out of her way to make this happen.
Dog Canyon is an extremely remote ranger outpost. The trail takes you up the canyon. The Marcus Trail is not a heavily used trail and slightly overgrown, but fortunately it was well-marked with rock cairns. As we came out of the golden grass lowlands and onto the Tejas Trail, we ascended into green forested areas that provided more shade.
I really wanted to hike "The Bowl", which would have added about 3 miles to our hike, but I noticed clouds moving in on the horizon so Ted and I decided to stay on the Tejas Trail and keep moving.
This is when the second piece of trail magic occurred. As we were starting our descent of Hunter's Peak, we ran into Mike, a Park Ranger, who was coming up the mountain and heading for a cabin where he planned to stay overnight. Ted had always wanted to visit this "hidden" cabin and the weather was rapidly deteriorating, so we decided to head back up the mountain with Mike to the cabin. Soon thereafter, lightning started, the temp dropped from 95 to 55 degrees, and then hail started to fall. Had Ted and I decided to hike "The Bowl", we would have missed Mike and been stuck out in this terrible weather!
We thought about staying overnight in the cabin since it was fully equipped with beds, food, and supplies, but after an hour or so, the weather cleared abruptly so we decided to head down the mountain. Amazingly, the ground had absorbed all of the moisture, so it was not slippery or muddy. This allowed us to get back to Pine Springs before sunset. Again, more trail magic.
It's truly remarkable sometimes how serendipity can come into play that makes you take notice. Our hike felt into place beautifully, piece by piece, and every decision we made that day turned out to be the right one. We were truly blessed that day.
I was honored to have hiked with Ted on the day he completed his last trail. At 2:00pm, when we finished the Marcus Trail, I gave him a high five. Ted didn't have a trail name, but at age 65 he was in incredibly good shape (he runs half marathons!) He moved like a man half his age, so I nicknamed him "Superman." He wasn't too keen on that name, so I named him "The Park Patriot" instead, which he liked. Ted's a good man and we are all fortunate to have people like him that volunteer their time to help the NPS so people like you and I can enjoy these national parks.
Unfortunately, I am unable to upload my GPX file for this hike because the ranger cabin is off trail at an undisclosed location (by design) and my GPX file would disclose where it is.