My visit to the Guadalupe MtnsLike most Texans, I had written off the southwestern part of the state as a vast wasteland long ago and until recently did not even know that Guadalupe Peak existed. After watching a segment on the Texas Mountains, I got up an interest in making a visit since I enjoy hiking.
I had a vague notion that the mountains existed but didn't even realize that the Big Bend region, Davis Mountains and Guadalupe Mountains were in separate locations.
After reading the trip reports, watching some well done You Tube videos and discovering that Carlsbad Caverns was nearby, I decided to check the place out with a weekend visit. Little did I know that the Caverns would be worth the trip alone!!!
After visiting the Caverns on the morning of arriving, I set out for McKittrack Canyon to finish off the rest of the day. It was an interesting hike but I had to cut it short at three miles to make it back by closing and in time for the bat flight at the Caverns which was another added bonus.
The following day, it was time to make the trip up Guadalupe Peak. Having hiked in Colorado, I felt I was well-prepared for the Peak and pretty confident I could make it in less than the reported 3 hour arrival time. But unlike most Colorado trails, this trail was a constant ascent and never gives you a break. The rocks always underfoot also do no favors compared to soft ground of Colorado trails.
Having underestimated the hike and feeling the effects of 10 miles of walking the previous day, I took off with only a light breakfast of a few handfuls of dry cereal. With all the steep climbing, I was wiped out 2/3 of the way up and really craving a hamburger. I finished off the last portion with great weakness by just putting one foot in front of the other. But finally made it to the top even if in a little more than 3 hours. Though I was the first to hit the trail, a couple of hardcore guys were able to pass me on the way up and were sitting there awaiting me. About six or eight more followed within a half hour.
After joking that I wished I had had a bigger breakfast and was completely out of gas, a guy was nice enough to offer me a handful of trail mix and it did the trick. I was quickly infused with energy and easily made it back down, even passing a number of people that had started back quite a bit of time ahead of me.
I was struck by the wide variety of trees in the Guadalupes and the gradual changes in the ecosystem. At the bottom is hard desert but as you ascend and reach the other side of the mountains which receive the rainfall, it is not unlike Colorado. The brilliant green of the pines was quite surprising to me. The variety of trees and plants was completely unexpected and makes these trails just as scenic as a Colorado hike. There is a great deal of life in this region.
I greatly underestimated all of this region and am quite happy that I decided to find out about it for myself. October was a great time to visit as the weather was perfect and a nice cool wind was a refresher from the sun.
Texas is not exactly environmentally friendly and I was shocked by the attention this region receives as well as the number of travelers. It is well taken care of and a good deal of money has been spent in providing easy access along with Rangers and visitation centers. There were probably 100 people at McKittrack Canyon and all with smiles on their faces. Guadalupe Peak also had at least 50 people visiting the campground or hiking up the trail on a Sunday.
I greatly recommend the area to anyone interested. It offers more than you might imagine.
As an additional note of information, I recommend anyone traveling to Carlsbad/Guadalupe Mtns going through Abilene on I-20 to exit Hwy 176 in Big Spring and make the drive through Andrews and Eunice NM. It will shave a significant amount of miles off the trip and perhaps as much as an hour. The internet mapping systems don't like it, but it's the straightest shot there.