Posted by: Juniper Road | March 22, 2013

Peak Bagging in Texas


Peak bagging in Texas? It sounds crazy to think that state has a land feature identified as a peak? It just so happened our journey has taken a swing to the north, after a mini dip into West Texas. Stopping to rest in Guadalupe Mountains National Park for the night, we found ourselves at the base of the “tallest” point in the state. Towering above the surrounding Chihuahuan Desert landscape, the 8,749ft chunk of rock was something that I needed to stomp around on.


The above picture shows our “base camp” in the bottom right hand corner. The picture below, is a shot forward and back at the first major turn after the main series of switchbacks that give a boost to elevation and sets you on your way.


Guadalupe Peak, and its neighboring chunk of mountain called El Capitan, are basically the southern most tip in the Sacramento Mountains that stretch up into almost the middle of New Mexico west of Roswell. In years past, this place was a landmark used by travelers moving to California for a rest and resupply stop between Missouri and San Fransisco, as they chose an easier southerly route that bypassed many of the larger and more dramatic mountain ranges. It’s a picturesque area. There is a ton of hiking potential within a variety of Eco-Zones that are still on the mend from negative impacts of ranching and mining over a century ago. History is around every corner.


Considering the fact we all make our own histories on a daily basis, well, I just couldn’t sleep thinking about the noteworthy summit within a few minutes from where we were camped. I woke early, turned lights on, made noise making coffee, and wrestled around with my gear. All the information boards indicated the Guadalupe Peak hike was extremely strenuous and required a 6-8 hour chunk of time. Not wanting to be out in the hot afternoon sun, and not wanting to start in the dark, I left as soon as the sky was light and the trail visible.


For the first 45 minutes the trail was switch backing straight up, and I could still see camp the whole time. The ball of sun crested the horizon and I was quickly blinded and hot. It was about 0800 and I zipped off pant legs, removed a layer, and put on my floppy hat. The sun giveth life, and the sun can punish ye too. About an hour into my ascent, the trail went into a shaded area of the mountain, and caused a natural air conditioned feeling that was welcomed. The views along the way prompted me to halt progress every ten minutes or so to take some pictures. I offset this down-time by running some of the flat sections, and was working my hiking poles like a robot for the rest of the way.


The trail was well improved, and horse friendly, with a few sections signed for riders to dismount due to particular skinny-ness and drop-off features. I was feeling good. My bursts of speed on the flat sections seemed ridiculous, but I enjoyed a properly functioning body. The last peak I climbed, Mt. Whitney, left me fighting with myself for every few feet and this climb was pleasurable in comparison. As I climbed it looked like I was almost at the top after an hour and a half, but I knew once I got around the corner I would see the bigger part of the mountain looming in the distance like some cloud-reaching specticle.


Nope. I crushed the advertised travel time and stood on the TALLEST PEAK IN TEXAS after two hours, with nobody around. I was way ahead of schedule and would be back with my family before lunch. The winter gear, including micro spikes, were not needed and simply added to the morning’s exercise. I texted my sweet wife from the top, while eating a javalina and cheese sandwich, encouraging her to start heading up so we could hike down together. I goofed off for a while waiting for someone to come to the peak, thinking I’d get a picture of me “planking” on top, but no one was visibly on their way.


Heading down, I ran into people on their way up. I told them they had about a half hour to go, and they asked if anyone else was on the top. I said no, and that was met with shock. Evidently, there can sometimes be a hundred people up there! How lucky was I to miss that scene?!?! Cool. With a pep-in-my-step, I asked everyone I passed on my way down if they’d like me to take their picture. Many were delighted, and I believe the others who declined were too shy. Treating every hiker’s picture like a photo shoot, I’m certain they had something, or someone, to talk about and pass the time while they hiked.


Like planned, Cassie climbed up and met me on the side of the mountain. With a great distant view on nearly every part of the trail, she beat down first part of the trail, which was the hottest in direct sun with no cover, steepest, and not on the air conditioned side. What a trooper! After heading back together, we packed up, had a wonderful visit with our next door neighbors who we recognized from our stay in Death Valley, and just squeezed through our noon “check out” time before bouncing down the road to our next destination.

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Responses

  1. Cool (although it sounds like it was somewhat hot at times!)!!!!!!!!

  2. I love your description of the hike, it sounds really fun although didn’t look that much like the Texas I know I love surprises like that. I hope I get to check it out one day!


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