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Guadalupe Mountains

Sunday, 30 March 2003
written by Teresa

Texas Madrone The sight of a man dressed in a plastic yellow rain poncho crouching under a tree in the middle of the desert while talking to someone on a walky talky radio is bound to raise my interest. When two other people, one dressed in bright purple trousers, begin to pick their way through the sharp spiky vegetation towards the rendezvous point and the three then huddle together in close consultation before separating in arm waving argument, my interest is further piqued. Unfortunately my noseying abilities do not run to lip-reading and I can report no more on this particular incident.

Along with keeping a close eye on the amp-hour meter, another of our favourite entertainments has become watching people in campsites. We are considering permanent name changes to Mr Nosey and Ms Curiosity but are still debating the point. It has to be said that we try and be discreet in our noseying and this is aided by the fact that we have tinted windows. We have discussed the possibility of devising a questionnaire to give to fellow campers in order to glean the details we're interested in but have yet to complete it. However, it has to be said that we are mere novices in comparison to the droves of people who blatantly stand gawping at the dish and or the camper little realising that we are inside, able to hear every word.

Looking out to the plains Guadalupe Mountains National Park is tucked away in the western corner of Texas and rises dramatically from the desert floor to over eight thousand feet. Texans flock here to climb Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in their state but we choose a quieter route up to Hunters Peak and in the seven hours we were out, we only saw one other person.

The path climbs two and a half thousand feet switch backing across the slopes covered with their desert vegetation. With each turn of the trail, the views expand laying out the plains stretched to the east and revealing the inner folds of the mountains. The air cools and thins, the breathing gets heavier and the pace slows. Looking back it is possible to see the narrow line of our route etched out below but the path ahead remains largely hidden, tucked into the nooks and crannies, folds and turns of the mountain. An occasional note of bird song or the tumble of a rock kicked loose by our passage are the only sounds to break the silence as we pass through this startling landscape.

Our first destination on the plateau is an alpine wood nestled within the curves of a natural bowl, totally at odds with its desert surround. There is a strange sensation of literally stepping over a line into another ecosystem where the air is colder, snow still lies on the ground, woodpeckers pound at the pines and the movement of wind rustles through the needles. The so-called trail in Bear Canyon Mud is thick in this humus rich environment and clings to our boots tenaciously leading to some interesting sliding progress on the slopes.

Up and out of the bowl the way climbs to Hunters Peak. Perching on the very edge of the range looking out over the ranch lands, falling off in a three thousand foot drop, this rock promontory is definitely a table with a view. Sitting to eat our heavenly tasting sandwiches, squashed to perfection on the walk up, the views surround us and we are inordinately pleased to just be there and to have reached the high point of the day's journey.

Psychologically there is always an advantage to ascending on the way out and descending on the homeward journey when the legs and the will may be lagging. However, this is a delusion. The path from the peak, down Bear Canyon is incredibly steep and covered in loose rock that is given to movement with very little provocation. Thigh and calf muscles come to resent the level of control needed and by the time we reached the bottom we were glad to be within a couple of miles of our little house and very necessary showers.

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