Sunday Hikes – Guadalupe Peak

Located in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas and is the 14th highest state peak in the US. An 8½ mile round trip trail takes you up to the 8,750 foot peak with about 3,000 feet in elevation change. My friend Elijah and I set off to reach the peak on a slightly chilly January morning after camping in the Pine Springs Campground (one of the two campgrounds in the park). There is a sign at the trailhead with a small box for admission fee (instead of charging you at the entrance like most national parks, Guadalupe Mountains just has an honor system fee by the trailheads) as well as trail maps and lists of hiking necessities. We started off on the trail that quickly takes you upwards via many steep switchbacks and then takes you right along the side of a cliff around the mountain. Eventually the trail crested a ridge and opened up the view of the bowl created by the mountain. 


From here the trail is much was much less steep but the wind was so strong on this side of the mountains that it almost blew my glasses off my face. After a couple miles the trail opens up some and passes the backcountry campsite on the side of the mountain. Just after the backcountry site we crossed over a very cool wooden bridge that passes over a steep drop down on the side of the cliff. 


Not long after this we noticed a little bit of snow on the ground along the sides of the trail. 


We hiked through the ponderosa pines as the trail took us to the other side of the mountain again where there were less snow and no trees. Soon we had reached the rocky and windy peak and we excitedly took pictures and stared off at the views. The peak marker is a unique pyramid monument built by American Airlines to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a stagecoach mail route that passed by the mountain with a small ammo box stating the peaks elevation and a register inside. 


We had our lunch and quite enjoyed the views while trying not to get blown off the mountain by the wind. After our lunch we quickly descended the mountain and were back in the campground to read and chill after our hike. I would love to go back and hike Guadalupe Peak again sometime soon as well as explore other parts of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. 

Thanks for reading – Josh

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is a park that I didn’t know too much about going into it. I knew it was a really big cave in New Mexico (my favorite state) and that was about it. So when myself, my sister, and our friend woke up and left our campsite in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and drove about 45 minutes to Carlsbad Caverns (stopping at Mckittrick Canyon on the way). The park road travels about 7 miles from the entrance at White’s City to the Visitors Center. We parked our car and briefly looked around the visitors center before getting in line to get our tickets to go in the cave. We decided to take the elevator in and take the natural cave entrance the next day so we showed the ranger our park pass and she gave us a green ticket and pointed us towards the elevators. Here a ranger explained all the things we aren’t supposed to do in the caves and then opened up the elevators for us. The elevator quickly drops you 750 feet straight down into the Caverns below. Where most elevators have a light indicating the floor you’re on this one told you how many feet you were going down starting with 750 and ending at 0. Once exiting the cave it felt somewhat eerie because there was no one we could see or hear and their weren’t any employees around either. So we looked at the snack bar and souvenir table and went to follow the self guided tour. This is where it got really cool. The cave is lit and the path follows a loop around some of the caves most famous features. The size of the rooms (particularly Big Room making up 8.2 acres) is amazing and the stalactites drip down from the ceiling with the stalagmites ready to catch them.


 We passed the many impressive rock formations such as the Temple of the Sun, the Bottomless Pit, and the Rock of Ages. When we sadly reached the end of our self guided tour we took the elevator back up and further checked out the visitors center and then drove to our campground for the night and played some poker and then had dinner and a campfire before calling it a day and heading to bed. This night was the coldest of our entire two week trip and when we woke up there was ice on the tent and on my hat and sleeping bag. We checked the temperature and it was a chilly 14F so we headed straight for the free hot showers at our campground. We packed up our tent quickly and hopped in the car. With the heat blasting we headed back towards the cave that we knew was a constant 52F and stopped at a pull off featuring an alcove in a cliff with some petroglyphs and picnic tables to make breakfast of peanut butter bread with granola and honey as well as some coffee because we can’t function without coffee. While making our breakfast it began to snow on us. We drove back up to the visitors center and as soon as we walked inside my glasses fogged up so bad that a park ranger gave me a tissue when she saw it. We got another green ticket and headed towards the natural cave entrance. We walked in the snow and through the auditorium that surround the entrance for viewing the bat flights (hundreds of thousands of bats exit the cave together every evening from April to October. We visited in Early January so unfortunately missed it). The cave entrance is quite large and the snow was sticking on the bushes around the entrance. The beginning of the trail in is long and steep switchbacks and eventually straightens out somewhat. We passed a bunch more signs telling us about various cave features as well as one that told us the dark void right in front of us was the bat cave. Not where Batman dwells but where all the bats were currently hanging out. The natural entrance is a lot of fun and took us about 1.5 hours to complete. After we reached the surface again it was still snowing and we decided to do the Walnut Canyon Desert Drive, an 8ish miles dirt road that Takes you through the New Mexico desert. We did a short trail along the way that was not very well marked and hard to follow but still fun. After that we left Carlsbad Caverns National Park and head towards the town of Carlsbad for some late lunch of huevos rancheros. 

I had such a good time at Carlsbad Caverns and I would love to go back sometime to do some guided tours and hike some of their few trails above ground. If you have a chance to go to Carlsbad Caverns then you should 100% take it and I hope you had as fun of a time as we did. 

Thanks for reading! – Josh



90 foot ladder climbing down into the abyss. Used by Jim White and others to explore the second level of the cave. 

Picture of the Day – Purple Prickly Pear Cactus

ppc

This is a Purple Prickly Pear Cactus. One of about 60 cactus species contained in Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. I just spent two weeks in Big Bend, Guadalupe Mountains, and Carlsbad Caverns National Parks so this will be the first of many blogs containing those three parks from me. – Josh