Forgoing the drunk-fest that is the Vitalis Sun Bowl, my husband and I decided to take a trip from our home in El Paso to hike up Hunter Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park on Friday, December 30, 2005. The weather was ideal – sunny, temperatures in the upper 50’s at the Park, and a morning check of online weather sources pegged the wind at less than 10 mph.
We left the Pine Springs Campground trailhead at about 12:20 in the afternoon. We chose to take the Tejas Trail for the trip up. The trail is significantly less steep and less rocky than the Bear Canyon Trail. The sun was warm on our backs as we walked, but anytime we paused, the wind immediately chilled us through our sweaty clothes. The views were tremendous. Shortly before the intersection with the Bowl trail, I was startled by a deer running no more than 15 feet in front of me. During this hike we saw about three times as many deer as people, which isn’t a bad ratio! At the Bowl Trail intersection we crossed paths with a pleasant gentleman coming from Bush Mountain. We would meet only one other group of hikers on our trip, about 10 minutes later.
The Bowl was gorgeous, although I think it would be even better to see in the summer, when the deciduous trees are leafy and green. It was in the Bowl that we decided to “increase the SNIVELCON”, and put on a warm layer and wind shell. (SNIVELCON is a military joke playing on well-known DEFCON and the common usage of the term “snivel gear” to describe cold weather clothing.)
We followed the Bowl Trail a quick half mile to the side trail that took us to the windy top of Hunter Peak sometime around 2:30. The benchmark was very obvious on the small flat summit. I didn’t look for a register, as the wind was ripping across the summit and it was making it very cold. (We estimated the wind speed to be greater than 40 mph).
The return trip down the Bear Canyon then Frijole Trail was as steep as advertised. We slipped and skidded downwards for well over an hour. We saw a lot of rusted metal pipes (attached to nothing) and other assorted rusted metal. Not sure what that was all about. The Bear Canyon Trail merges with the Frijole Trail, which gently rolled up and down the foothills for just over a mile. We hiked in the sunset, and finished shortly after the sunset.
When I signed out on the register around 6pm, I didn’t know whether to chuckle or groan at the variety of comments posted there. Someone left a several page diatribe (written in a notebook), apparently on the direction/routing of a trail. I didn’t bother to read it after the first paragraph. Someone else complained in the register that markers were needed for every mile on the Guadalupe Peak trail, so they wouldn’t have to keep asking other hikers how much farther they had to go. That’s a pet peeve of mine. I think there should be a law against asking “are we there yet?” after the age of 10.