Hiking the Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains

I was looking forward to this trip for months!!  In August I started collecting camping/hiking gear and researching the Guadalupe Mountains.  This was my first official solo hiking trip EVER but most definitely will not be my last.  I had such an amazing time and met some pretty cool people on this trip.  The picture up top was taken after a 7 plus hour drive right after a coyote ran across the road (thus my first sighting of wild life).  I quickly pulled over for a picture but the coyote was long gone.

I arrived around 9AM, found the only remaining camping spot available and set up my home base.  The original plan was to hike to Guadalupe’s Peak (the highest point in Texas), Devil’s Hall (because it sounds awesome) and El Capitan (because why not?).  You the see the flat basin on the top left corner of the photo above?  Say hello to El Capitan, the eight highest point in Texas.

Right before attempting my summit of Guadalupe’s Peak (around 10:45) I sent a quick message to my family (they are worry warts) and told them I would be back around 4pm (5 hours later).  This is an 8.5 miles round trip and the National Park Service estimates 6-8 hours to complete the hike.  I failed to take into account the following:

  • Altitude change
  • Ultra slow hiking because of my fear of snakes
  • Me taking pictures and taking in the beautiful scenery
  • Hanging out at the peak for 20 minutes

All of this added an additional 3 hours to my hike, which I’m not complaining about because this was truly an amazing experience.

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The first 1.5 miles of the hike was strenuous because of the steep incline and the small gravel, however the way down was much more difficult. Look at the middle, right of the picture and you can see a parking lot, that’s the trail head, and not far beyond that is the camp ground.  That waterbed in the background is what I would be hiking the next day to Devil’s Hall and everything that surrounds the mountains is the Chihuahuan Desert.

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See what I mean about the gravel.  80% of the hike was like this, thank goodness f0r my hiking pole because this ended up saving me from multiple falls on the way down.  As part of my research I listened to rattle snakes on YouTube, I was concerned with them hiding under these rocks and I figured if I could hear the rattle I would have plenty of time to run or freak out which ever came first.  I heard one rattle coming from the bushes on top of a boulder, the second I heard it I ran up the mountain.  Okay . . . fine, I sprinted up the mountain but only for a few seconds because I quickly ran out of breathe and had to stop for another break.  Aside from that one rattle, crickets, birds and butterflies were the only wildlife I saw on this hike.

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I’m not sure what my fascination was with the trees but I took way to many tree pictures.  Some were still in full bloom, others were decorated in foliage and loosing leaves and some were dead.

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Dead but beautiful.  I have never seen tree bark like this before.  See this is what happens when you get out of the city and venture into the wilderness.

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Made it to my first but not last summit.  A few people suggested I turn around because it was getting late and they did not think I could make it down before dark.   One guy mentioned that two people had to be rescued from the peak the night before, things were not looking good for me.  I am however a persistent individual and after hiking for 3+ hours there was no way I was going to turn around.  Three guys passed me on the way up to the peak so I told myself that if I saw them head down I would turn around and call it a day.

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Here’s the view of El Capitan from Guadalupe’s Peak.  Once I reached the summit I knew there was no way I was going to be able to do the El Capitan hike the next day.  My poor joints were in so much pain.

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Here are the awesome guys who passed me earlier in the day.  The strangest thing . . . I reached the peak, sat down and proceeded to talk to them as if I had known them for years.  I am socially awkward so the fact that I made new friends on day 1 made my trip that much more special.  We talked about jobs, dogs, hiking trips, travel hacking, bears and so much more.  Eventually we hiked down the mountain together, good thing too because we didn’t make it out until well after dark.  Honestly, I do not know if I would have made it down on my own, it was dark and strange noises echoed everywhere.  I would have become a statistic and quite possibly ended up being the third individual that needed rescue that weekend.  At the trail head they graciously shared some of their salt and vinegar chips, gave me camera tips for shooting stars, gazed at the milky way and finally parted ways. . . but not before exchanging contact information.

And so day 1 of my first solo hiking trip to the Guadalupe Mountains ended on a good note with new friends, excruciating joint pain and a red face.

“Sometimes it’s not about the journey or the destination . . . but about the people you meet along the way.” – Nishan Panwar

 

 

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