My friend Jake and I decided one day in October, 2000 while sitting at my house in central Illinois that we needed to backpack the Guadalupe Mountains after seeing an article in backpacker magazine about the area. So after what seemed like two very long months we headed out on December 23, 2000 for western Texas. Neither of us had ever been to the area.
We arrived at Guadalupe National Park just before noon on Christmas Eve. After speaking with a Park Ranger at the visitors center and getting our backpacking permit we decided to hike to the summit of Guadalupe Peak to finish out the day. The 4.1 mile one way hike with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain seemed very doable to us.
I had just quite smoking a few months earlier and the extra weight I had gained (15-20 pounds) made the initial switchbacks much more difficult. As we accended up the trail, the desert ecosystem gradually turned to more of a foothill ecosystem with evergreen trees and bushes replacing the desert scrub near the trailhead parking lot. The trail had just enough exposure and cliffs to make it fun but not dangerous. We saw desert bighorn sheep.
My friend Jake was a geology major in college and explained what all of the rocks were and how these mountains were in fact a petrified barrier reef from the Permian Age. It was amazing to imagine that if we had been on this trail 230+ million years ago we would have been under the ocean in the middle of a reef system similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The views from the top of Guadalupe Peak were simple amazing from the distinct shape of El Capitan, the desert over 4,000 feet below to the south, to the evergreen forest in the bowl at 8,000 feet to the north. We could make out the Tejas trail leading from the trailhead to the bowl. Make sure to bring plenty of water even in winter on this hike as the air is very dry in the desert.