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On the High End of Texas!

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User: oceanus - 8/2/2003

Location: Guadalupe Peak Trail

Difficulty:  Solitude:
Miles Hiked: 9.00 Miles  Elapsed Time: N/A

Comments: Inspired by a chapter titled "On the High End of Texas," from Edward Abbey's book "Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside," I set out for this remote location. The trail begins near the Pine Springs campground, and is 4.5 miles one way. Though the length isn't that long, nevertheless, it's a strenuous hike. The elevation gain from Pine Springs is 3003 feet, which is accompanied with an immense amount of switchbacks. The first part of the hike is in the foothills of the Guadalupes, which allows you to take in the ecosystem of the Chihuahuan Desert. There are all kinds of xerophytic plants including yuccas, agaves, sotols, creosote, lechugilla and more. The vegetation changes as you head into the higher elevations of the mountains and, as Old Cactus Ed said, you begin to smell the aroma of pine. You'll find Pi├▒on Pine, Ponderosa Pine, Oaks, Juniper, Texas Madrona, Arizona Cypress, maples, and more. The trail is easy to follow and well shaded once you get up the mountain a bit. There is one bridge which skirts a ledge when approaching the top, but other than that, it's all natural. About a mile or so from the top is the Guadalupe Peak Backcountry Campground. It sits in an open area which is exposed to the wind; there's nothing there, only a couple of logs and rocks to sit on. Continuing on, you reach the summit. It's a large area with a silver marker signifying the point of highest elevation. Unfortunately, it says something like "The Butterfield Stagecoach and American Airlines pioneering new horizons," or some similar ad slogan. That was disappointing, going all that way to get away from the grind and seeing a marketing ploy on top of the mountain. However, look away from the marker and you'll find astonishing 360 degree views. To the north, the rugged Guadalupes; to the east, desert as far as the eye can see; to the west, the salt flats (playa lakes,) which Spaniards and Anglos battled for long ago; and to the south, a view of the top of El Capitan, 800 feet below. As for wildlife, I saw a Peregrine Falcon, Mule Deer, a snake, lizards, a tarantula, a Ring-tailed Cat, and on a Madrona right on the trail, fresh claw marks (mountain lion?). Start early and take plenty of food and water. Also, I would suggest staying at the Pine Springs campground at least one night to acclimate to the higher elevation. The park is in the middle of nowhere, which makes it all the more exciting. The views are stunning and, on the trail, solitude is guaranteed. Plus, as far as hiking in Texas goes, you can't get any higher.

Area around Guadalupe Peak Trail

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Topo maps provided by MyTopo.com (purchase)

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As the first and only comprehensive hiking guide to all 130 miles of trails in these two national parks, this book features Carlsbad's improved above-ground hiking trail system as well as routes in the caverns and Guadalupe's wild backcountry. It also includes written trail descriptions, elevation charts, photos, and detailed topographic maps. Hiking Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains National Park is packed with all the information you need to plan your next trip in these two uncrowded and remote national parks.