If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you surely know we’re on a quest to visit all the national parks, and we continue to creep closer to our long-time goal – adding three parks in West Texas and New Mexico this spring break. Our first stop after leaving El Paso was at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. After driving through miles of flat, arid desert, we saw the mountains rising in the distance. Checking the GPS, we realized they must be HUGE, because we were still quite a distance from them. We were right. They soared into the bright blue sky, a stark and beautiful contrast to the area all around them.
We had planned to spend the afternoon at GMNP and then return later in the week, but Jeff got a tummy bug, so we only had one afternoon there. We started out at the visitor’s center which is small but has a great display of area animals. We learned that, “Guadalupe Mountains National Park is the world’s premier example of a fossil reef from the Permian Era.” Out in the dry desert of West Texas, it’s pretty hard to imagine it was once a sea! While we were there we also talked to some folks who climbed to the “top of Texas”, on the Guadalupe Peak Trail. They had a little guy with them – maybe 6 or 7 years old, and they’d done the 8.5 mile round trip hike, which includes 3,000 feet of climbing, in about 6 hours. It was pretty warm out when they finished in the late afternoon, so it might be a good idea to start that one early and bring lots of water if it’s on your to-do list.
After checking out the visitor’s center, we headed over to the Frijole Ranch area of the park to do some birding. This area has a large spring on it and was a working farm for many years. The family grew crops and would drive 80 miles overnight in a wagon to sell their vegetables. I honestly do not think I would have survived back in the day. I’m too wimpy!
The Smith Spring Loop Trail begins at the ranch and goes along a small canyon. It was beautiful and had some shade, so we weren’t too hot. We saw a few birds, but mainly LBJs – little brown jobbies – that we couldn’t identify. Since we’re so easily amused, however, that was fine. We also saw a couple of big deer and two rabbits playing quite a game of tag. They were hilarious to watch.
If we’d been able to come back for another half day, we would have done some early morning birding up in the Pine Springs section of the park, and if we’d had a third day and some hiking poles, we’d definitely have done more hiking. Maybe even the Guadalupe Peak trail. With over 80 miles of hikes to choose from, we’d definitely have found somewhere to hike. As it was, we got a nice short introduction to this park. This park isn’t in our top ten list, but if you’re in West Texas, it’s worth a stop. It’s pretty and peaceful, an it’s not every day you can climb to a state’s highest point or hike on a reef, after all.
Enjoy your week or your weekend!