I find myself waking up in Carlsbad, NM. I just spent the previous day enjoying Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It was a great side trip for me, as I wasn't sure I was going to have time for this on my vacation. As it turns out, I'm happy I got to go there, and if you go, check out the bat flight.
Having got badly sunburned in Oklahoma two days beforehand (I wrote a trip report about it), I wasn't about to go through that ordeal again. It was going to be hot, and the sun was going to have clear skies to inflict its misery. I decided I would start this climb at first light. So I got up early, and left Carlsbad under the cover of night. I saw at Carlsbad Caverns the day be fore’s sunrise was at 5:40am. As it turns out, I got to the trailhead at about 5:30am. It was still kind of dark, but it was getting lighter, so I started off.
I was all worried about rattlesnakes again, but the trail is well cut, so I don't think one can really sneak up on you, as long as you're paying attention. There was a sign about mountain lions too, and the only real chance of an encounter would be dawn, great for me! But I didn't think there would be any chance of coming across one. Though after I was coming back down later on, a deer did jump out of the woods right in front of me, giving me a scare.
Dawn. It's got to be the best time to climb. Watching the sunrise as you go. Seeing the sunglow on the rocks. Everything takes on this terrific glow. It was just outstanding to be out there.
The trail switchbacks often, and you gain a lot of elevation early on. I was feeling it those first couple of miles. Surprisingly I saw another hiker coming down the trail after a ways. I thought he was a ranger, because he had this patch on his vest, but it was just another fellow hiker. I asked if anyone else was up there, and he said no, I would have the summit to myself, which I did. It was a nice feeling when I was up there to know that of all the millions of people in Texas, I was the one standing the highest.
Early on in the hike, I saw some deer up close. It was neat. I've never really seen deer up that close before. It was great. Deer like 25 feet away. It was nuts when I saw them really high up there too. I saw some running out to El Capitan on the ridge!
The trail is just filled with views from start to finish. Hunter Peak is your companion throughout most of the hike. I loved looking at Hunter Peak, especially as the sun got higher in the sky. It was like every 15 minutes it just looked a little different than before.
You don't really get a good look at Guadalupe Peak till you come near the bridge. There are a couple of "false" summits blocking your view until then. Though as you discover once you're really switch backing up Guadalupe Peak itself, the hike in the beginning is really separate from Guadalupe Peak. I don't know if it's another mountain, or if it is considered a part of Guadalupe Peak.
I remember finally getting to the point before the summit where you get this terrific view of El Capitan. It was great. I've been looking forward since the colds of January for this trip, and specifically this climb up Guadalupe Peak. After seeing countless photos of El Capitan from the Guadalupe Peak trail, it was quite awesome for me to finally see it with my own eyes.
I knew I was getting near the top, but I still haven't seen the pyramid marker, and then it just comes up on you, and you're there. It was a nice moment for me, and I'm proud of getting there. I drove all the way from Florida, stopping at various highpoints along the way, seeing parts of the country I've never seen before, and I was able to do all I set out to do on my vacation, and more. It truly was an adventure. I went from FL to TX, and back in 7 days. 3500 miles. I'll always remember it.