Saturday, November 26, 2011

National Parks and High Points

We may be off the AT, but we are still making the most of being unemployed and homeless! We are proud to be temporary vagrants and for the last couple of days and next couple of days, our home is the road in Texas.

Texas can easily be described as a land of oil rigs, ghost towns, rodeos and tall hats and desolate roads. But we'd like to say we went beyond those stereotypes and found the state's best gems.

So far, we have explored 2 National Parks.

In Guadalupe Mountains National Park, we met up with our thru hiker friends (NOBOs 2010) Misti/Ridley and Chris/Panther. While they backpacked basically all around the park, we joined them for about 25 miles.
The mountains are part of a fossil reef that was under the Delaware Sea more than 260 million years ago. Hard to believe this, as the are is now very much landlocked. When the sea receded, the mountains dominated the landscape and left rich geologic history and diverse plant life.
Our first trail led us up to the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak. At 8,749 feet, it is no easy task, but so worth it. We actually camped up top thanks to a beautiful and clear night, and were blessed with a breathtaking sunset and sunrise all to ourselves. When we descended on Thanksgiving morning, we must have passed at least 25 people making their way up. I call that great timing!




The next trail we hit was McKittrick Canyon Ridge on the other side of the park. It is dubbed as the most beautiful spot in Texas. We concur. Besides boasting sweeping views, the canyon changes from desert to pine-fir-aspen forest over the miles making for a very scenic and remote hike.






After we left Misti & Chris, we jumped the border of TX to New Mexico to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Deal had been here (as well as Guadalupe), but you could probably come day after day to explore the great caves of Carlsbad and never get bored. Unfortunately, we underestimated the popularity of the park during the holiday weekend and did not book the more challenging private caving tours we wanted in advance, but we still did 2 self-guided tours and 1 ranger-guided tour.


The caverns had the same geologic start as the mountains. But, hydrogen sulfide from gas and oil deposits combined with oxygen and ate away at the limestone, thus creating a whole world 800 feet below the ground. I really can't describe the cave system in words; it's just so surreal with huge rooms (like 8.2 acres large!) and miles of winding passageways.



Right now, we are camping in Marathon, Texas, the busiest town (population 500) in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it is the gateway to Big Bend National Park, our next (unplanned) stop!

3 comments:

Misti said...

Yay! Y'all are fast, it will be a day or two before I post. We got snowed on a bit yesterday morning and then it was nasty that day y'all left, but we made it to Dog Canyon before the worst of it arrived.

More later! Have fun in Big Bend!

There's a blue hole or a sink hole you should go to. Very cool. You can drive most of the way.

Anonymous said...

Appreciated hearing about the trip - enjoyed the pics-- I'm Chris' mom. Enjoy your times in Texas!!

Anonymous said...

I wanna go!
Bolt