Woke up feeling refreshed, the campground quieted down not too long after dark after the boy scounts went to sleep. I am supposed to hike with my parents but haven’t heard from them because of the lack of signal. After 20 minutes of so I could see the Casita circulating the hikers parking lot where the park service had set up a massive well drilling rig drilling for what I assume is water.
After meeting with the parents I decided it was best to go ahead and get my campsite for another night, not knowing what the plans might be afterwards. I suggested that they get a backcountry permit for McKittrick ridge for two nights since there were no RV sites due to the water drilling. With campsites for the night roughly laid out we got ready to hike Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,900 feet.
My parents had climbed the peak in 1985, a year before I was born and the last time they had done a hike that serious. Its only 8.4 miles but with over 3000 feet of elevation gain its straight up the whole way. We started hiking around 10AM, later than I would usually start to climb a peak, because of heat and storms but its what we had to work with. Turns out the trail was much nicer than I thought it was going to be scenery wise, after climbing out of the hot valley from the trailhead the trail quickly enters the pine forest of the desert island that the mountain creates. The grade was steep and variable and the surface was very rough, with some short scrambles but I made it to the top in about an hour an a half. I love going uphill, as your heart starts to beat faster and harder and you just get into a rhythm going up the switchbacks.
At the top I took my obligatory pictures with the monument and a few of the view over the desert. There were two teenage boys up there with their father who argued with each other the entire time I was up there about who was the dumbest, so it kinda spoiled the mood. Enough of their arguing I started to head back down, wondering at which point I would meet up with my parents. Halfway back to the parking area I caught up to them, moving slowly but determined to get to the top. We took a break together for a while and talked and told them I had planned to take a detour on the way down called Devils hall that looked cool, and should add about 3-4 miles to my hike. I left them at their rest stop and continued down in search for the junction.
The Devils Hall trail ended up being both more difficult and cooler than I had anticipated as well. It followed a wash up into an increasingly narrowing canyon. Which at some points fully boxed in with really interesting horizontal rock cuts and patterns.
Check out the two photosynths I made of the hall.
I got back to the truck about 3, and ate, and did some housekeeping. By 5 I still had not seen my parents. By 6 I decided to wait at the bottom of the trail to see if I could catch a glimpse of them, bringing my headlamp along incase it got dark before they made it out. Sure enough in the distance as the sun was setting I could see my dad’s distinctive lumbering walk coming down the mountain with my mom cautiously following not far behind. They had gotten caught in a some of the small storms that had blown thru around 3 but they had made it to the top.
30 years later, they still have it.
I slept good after the hike yesterday, at first light I rolled out warmed up the car and took down my decoy tent and took off towards McKittrick Canyon where there was a chance my parents had camped, and regardless I wanted to be the first one on the trail in the morning.
I ended up following the ranger out to McKittrick road as he opened the gate for the morning, perfect timing, and it meant I would be the first one there. I have hiked McKittrick several times before, never at this time of year, but it’s always been a pleasant hike so I wanted to do it again while I was here.
I had gotten a backcountry permit just in case I wanted to use it because I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go or do for the rest of the day. But by the time I reached the grotto I was feeling like town food and wanted to see if I could get in touch with my parents and Jessie. I only passed 1 guy on the way in who was camped up on the ridge, so I had the whole hike to myself. There was water flowing in some parts of the creek, shallow but clear and ice cold.
On the way back the crowds started to roll in, including at least 25 boy scouts in a long procession in their matching blue shirts. About 2 miles from the trailhead I ran into my parents who were looking much better than the day before. Turns out they had camped in the same camp ground as me but I never got their message. We talked for a bit about yesterday’s hike and some problems they were having with their casita. I told them my plans about Carlsbad and where I was trying to get to tonight in the National Forest, I let them get back to their hike and continued on.
I have been to Carlsbad several times before, but something new this time around was the vast amount of oil drilling going on due to fracking. The town is a long linear strip situated around a canal. Mostly chain hotels and bad restaurants. There is little redeeming about it. I wanted to find a coffee place I could sit down for an hour or two and work on some pictures, but that place was not to be found. I guess coffee isn’t a big deal in Carlsbad. I settled for McDonalds instead, my hands shaking as I ate my burger from the stress of driving around town.
I headed back towards the airport where the Forest Service office was to ask about the lincoln national Forest. The woman there knew very little and kept asking if I wanted to buy various maps, which as far as I could tell were not terribly useful. After she couldn’t answer any of my questions about hiking she called out their caves guy who was slightly more helpful bit not by much. I grabbed the free maps they had and headed out after getting gas.
Dark Canyon road which leads out to the north side of Guadalupe and into the Lincoln turned out to be scenic for the paved portion. I have always wanted to go to Dog Canyon but never wanted to drive there, now that I was there the road too it was closed. The other highlight of Lincoln, Sitting Bull Falls was also closed for the season. Lots of oil activity and which always seems to include F-250s barreling down the road at twice the speed limit. I came upon a dodge truck who very obviously blew a ball joint and was sitting on its axle in the middle of the road, he already had help coming but i supposed that is a good reason to have a solid front axle. I should really check by knuckle grease tomorrow.
I drove until I hit forest road 67 the main north south road through the Lincoln. In the beginning the road was not in horrible shape but not great either. I estimated about 50 miles on this road but had no idea how long it would actually take to drive. It follows the Guadalupe escarpment which rises abruptly above the desert around it and acts as a desert island, providing more moisture and cooler temperatures than the desert below.
Found a great campsite on the ridge and set to reorganizing the truck based on my first weeks experience. And finally after picking up a pan in town I could now cook the rest of the chilli my mom made. The truck looks so much better now inside. I just need a way to secure things to the walls.