Thursday, November 8, 2007

Guadalupe Mountains

The sound of the crickets at the campground in Guadalupe Mountain National Park was almost deafening. This was actually a good thing as it drowned out the voices of the loud campers at the nearby group site. It also reminds me of home, sleeping with the windows open in the summer.

Brian ventured to pay for the board where you pay for campsites, which were up by the RV camping. The RV camping was really just a big parking lot. Luckily, the tent sites were significantly nicer. Anyway, in the area where Brian was paying for the campsite, there was a really loud cricket. Brian struck up a conversation with an RVer, who was also there to pay and said he’d had a bad experience with crickets. Apparently, one night he had been staying in a motel and there was a cricket by the door that was interrupting his sleep. He got out of bed, swung the door open and before the cricket could dodge, swatted it down. He was so focused on the cricket that he forgot he wasn’t wearing any clothing – that is, until he noticed the people in the parking lot who were now staring at his bare butt. Oops!

We were up and making breakfast by sunrise the next morning. It’s not hard to be up before sunrise when the sun sets at 6:30 pm and doesn’t rise again until just after 7:00 am – there are plenty of hours in the day to get our beauty sleep. Here are our favorite sunrise shots from the campground:

The striking thing about the Guadalupe Mountains is that they sprout up out of a landscape that is otherwise incredibly flat. The campground sits at the base of Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest point in Texas at 8,479 feet tall. We were planning to do a long day hike and thought we’d climb to the top of Guadalupe Peak. It’s a 3000 foot climb from the campground and about 8.5 miles round trip. At the visitor center, a ranger recommended that we do the Bowl Trail instead – it’s a similar-distance hike but prettier. The Bowl Trail circles Hunter Peak. In 9.5 miles, it climbs steeply up Bear Canyon, meanders through a high alpine bowl with tall grasses and trees, and then descends back into the valley. The ranger said it had the best variety of views in the park so we decided to go for it.

Here is the view as we started off from the campground for our hike:

The initial climb was steep with little shade and we soon became thirsty. When we stopped for a drink, we realized that the water in both of our Platypuses tasted like plastic. Blech! We later discovered that this was not due to the Platypuses but rather to the five-gallon container we’d been storing water in for situations where the campgrounds didn’t have running water, which is pretty common this late in the camping season. We’d filled the Platypuses from that water jug, which is made by Reliance and seems to be the standard for large camping water containers, but apparently it’s leaching something nasty into the water. We still haven’t been able to find a good substitute though. The Platypuses do a good job of holding water without giving it a plastic taste, but they only come in up to 96 ounce containers.

Anyway, we continued along and after huffing and puffing up some more of the canyon decided to stop in the shade of a little tree for a snack. At that point, we discovered that the tortillas we’d brought were molding. Brian tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to eat around the mold, but luckily, we did have a few other snacks, and the scenery kept us distracted from the lack of good nourishment. As promised, the views on the climb were expansive:

The Bowl offered a must appreciated reprieve from elevation gain. Along the other side of the trail, we had a full view of Guadalupe Peak. We also had ample time along the hike to discuss current social values, government social programs, the environmental impact of current societal norms, and politics. I’m not sure we came to any conclusions, but it was a lively discussion.

Near the end, I stopped to take some photos of the prickly pear fruit:

I didn’t realize that prickly pear cacti produced fruit. We actually found it for sale in the grocery store once we got to Houston and bought one. The inside of the fruit is bright magenta. The fruit itself tastes OK, but isn’t particularly distinctive, and it is filled with very hard black seeds that you can’t eat or easily scoop out. We ultimately decided it was more hassle than it was worth, but it was kind of fun to try it once.

The hike ended in the RV parking lot and we ended up chatting with a retired couple who are now full-time RVers. They were quite interested in hearing about the places we’d been and comparing notes on the places that they enjoyed the most. (Maine was on the top of their list – and I didn’t even prompt them!) They seemed intrigued but a little taken aback by the idea of being a full-time tenter though.

People were hanging out in lawn chairs in various groups around the RV lot. The RV scene seems a lot more social than your typical tenting campground. I don’t know if it is the close quarters or the fact that many RVers are sharing a similar lifestyle on the road whereas most tent campers are merely on vacation for a week or two.

Back at the campsite, we got out our camp chairs and popped some popcorn. Dinner takes the prize for our strangest meal yet. Sarah had been perusing her backpacking cookbook trying to find uses for the varied, and somewhat strange, assortment of food that had been left in the pantry and ended up coming with us. She decided to make Kasha Burgers. Kasha is a grain that is best described as “earthy” and is a little strange by itself. Made into burgers – and with an excess of tomato paste, due to a measurement accident – it became this semi-solid goop that didn’t quite stick together. Good thing we were hungry.

The wind howled all night long. Wind always seems louder in a tent and woke Sarah multiple times in the night. By the morning, she woke up feeling like she’d step out of the tent and into Oz (complete with ruby slipper-clad feet poking out from under the tent). The tent was well staked down though, and hadn’t really moved.

Next, on to Houston, across over 600 miles of Interstate 10!


Dharshan said...

Very cool Sunrise....

PunIntented said...

Thanks Dharshan! The campground at Guadalupe is a great spot for sunrise shots -- it doesn't really take any effort at all to get a good shot!