First hikes in the Desert

Trip Start Jun 01, 2011
1
5
60
Trip End Jul 31, 2011


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Where I stayed
White's City Cavern Inn Whites City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Hike Guadalupe Mts. National Park

Flag of United States  , Texas
Sunday, June 5, 2011

Today was the first real day of the vacation after driving for three days. The park was just 35 mile south to us (just right down the road out here in the west). All the way down the highway you had flat ranch and oil lands to the east and the Guadalupe's to the west. The Guadalupe’s are actually an ancient reef that has been pushed back up. The flat areas were actually the bottom of an inland sea (called the Delaware Sea for some odd reason). For much of the 35 miles it was a four-lane highway for no reason – there were very few cars or trucks going the other way. In my travels around the US this is a common phenomenon – four lane roads in rural America to nowhere. Politicians will tell you it is to spur development even though rural America is losing population all over. Anyway, it does make off-interstate highway travel easy for me. With so many cars not traveling the highway, my guess was that we’d have the Guadalupe’s all to ourselves – which is different from the Disney style crowds at Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

First stop, as always, was the visitor center. At 9 in the morning there were only two other cars here. The first thing that impressed us was this dead tree called a Manzanita Tree. It has smooth bright red bark. With such light visitation the visitors center was very small. The intro film was just a slide show with voice-over (the pictures were great). Our first trail started at the VC and is called the Pinery Trail. This is the trail you take if you only have an hour at the park. It is a paved trail through the typical flora and fauna of the park with the mountains in the background. At the end of the trail was the ruins of a stagecoach station on the Butterfield route which led from Chicago to San Francisco. This station marked the halfway point.

Next we drove one mile north to the Frijole Ranch area of the park. The old ranch was located next to several springs so it was like an oasis in the desert. We took a two and a half mile Smith Spring loop trail which takes you to two of these springs. The trail leads you up to the base of the Guadalupe’s through the desert, in and out of arroyos (dry stream beds) to the Smith Spring. For several acres around this spring was a true forest of tall pines. So this was a nice rest spot on a desert trail. There is enough water here to support a homestead. Back down the trail we had great views of the flatlands below. Toward the end of the trail was the second spring, Manzanita, which was just a small pond. We did meet one other family on the trail (major traffic!!).

From the Frijole Ranch we traveled 10 miles up the road to our next destination - McKittrick Canyon. This trail went through a high walled canyon through the Guadalupe’s for many miles. Due to the fact that it was the afternoon in the desert, we just walked a small segment of it (though the heat made it feel long. We hiked almost three miles in to a place called Pratt Cabin – another desert homestead close to a water source. The trail was very rocky so it was smart that we carried our walking sticks to keep our balance and not twist an ankle. This trail too led through desert flora and fauna and in and out of arroyos. The Pratt Cabin was like another oasis in the desert – except this time there were nice chairs on the back porch. So we crashed on the chairs for half an hour of much needed respite from the desert afternoon. But now we had to head back for almost 3 miles in the 95 degree heat. Luckily, there were several trees along the way for shade. If this was the only trail we did today, we could have gone farther on it – but by Pratt Cabin I had drank almost half my water. At the end of the trail we talked to a ranger about the area and then we were back on the road back to the RV.

The bad news at the RV was the AC went out which was not good for our dog. Since we are in a desert for most of the trip, I also have a portable AC for times like this. However this did not work either. For a back-up to the back-up I have a fan blowing at all times. At least this worked. The AC was running so much that the pipes froze. So it just had to defrost. The portable AC just needed to be re-booted since it was not used for several months. So with everything working the RV cooled down in a few hours. Now I know not to run the AC all the time – we’ll use fans at night. For dinner I cooked a nice ravioli. At night I worked on the blog with the good Wi-Fi here.

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Comments

Mom on

Have you seen any of the smoke from Arizona burning? I heard that the smoke is as far away as Iowa.

scoonpooh
scoonpooh on

P- Yes we have been seeing big smoke arising from somewhere in the mountains for 3 days now. It was caused by lightning

rowdy gardner on

Hay I'm doing some research over here in carlsbad have yall ever herd of the hunter homestead or radar ridge if so could you send me a link my email is killinandrellin@gmail.com

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