June 02, 2006

A Sore Butt on Memorial Day Weekend

Cactus flowers in bloom on McKittrick RidgeAs far as I know, Texas, despite its huge size, has very few national parks. When we lived in San Antonio, we managed to drive the 8 hours to Big Bend National Park, which because of its remote location and its wide variety from low desert to almost alpine conditions, rapidly became one of our favorite parks.

However, looming on the northern horizon were the Guadalupe Mountains, Texas' other national park. We were always curious but never able to to make arrangements to get there. However, fortune presented us with the opportunity this Memorial Day. Megan had to attend a conference of cross-border business in Chihuahua, Mexico the day before Memorial Day. On Thursday night, she drove down to Santa Teresa, just north of El Paso, and grabbed a bus with other conference attendees to Chihuahua while I batched it at home. On Friday, I took an evening plane to El Paso and met Megan in a slightly worn motel called the Cliff Inn. We got some awesome, and I do mean awesome, Tex-Mex food at a joint called La Questa while being serenaded by a guy on guitar, drum machine and foot pedals. Evidently they didn't get too many Anglos in the place, because you could almost hear the needle scratching off the record machine when we walked in. But the food was great, and I suspect the musician switched over to some music to satisfy us -- we heard La Bamba and a Mexican version of a U.S. country and western hit.

Mike looking over McKittrick CanyonThe next morning -- Saturday -- we got some breakfast at another local Mexican place. We ordered chilaquiles, a favorite of ours from our Texas days, but Megan was disappointed because she thought they were supposed to have eggs and they didn't. Besides that, the spices were burning her nose hairs off. After breakfast, we shopped for camping food, and then we were off to the Guadalupes.

The Guadalupe Mountains, unlike a lot of the other features in West Texas and New Mexico, are not volcanic in origin. They are the remnants of a 270 million year old reef from when the area was under a vast sea. They run in a crescent through West Texas and southern New Mexico, and Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at over 8000 feet. We could see them on the horizon for about 50 miles or more, and driving close to them you can see just how massive they are. Geologically they are very impressive.

The first two campgrounds were full, meaning that we had to drive 60 miles around, passing by the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, to come back into Texas to the third and last campground. Fortunately, they took us in despite the fact that the tent camping was full also...they let us pitch the tent in the RV section.

On Sunday, we made the big hike from Dog Canyon up to a trail junction, and then decided to continue onward on the McKittrick Ridge trail until we got tired. The trail wound along the top of the ridge above the spectacular McKittrick Canyon. Unfortunately, we could not hike long enough to get farther along the canyon, but what we saw was pretty awe inspiring. The wind was very strong at the top of the ridge, and the sun was also strong. I got sunburned where I was less than vigilant about my suntan lotion.

All in all, we hiked about 8 hours through some rugged and beautiful country. The trails on top were relatively smooth, but going up and down were very rocky. By the time we got back to the tent, Megan was complaining about her thighs and my butt muscles were very sore (probably because I was the designated pack animal and carrying the backpack with the lunch and water).

Megan in wind on McKittrick RidgeWe drove out Monday, taking back roads through the interior of New Mexico. We stopped for lunch in Cloudcroft, a cutesy, touristy, ski lodgy type of town filled with stores that cater to the rich and famous that visit there during ski season. We drove along the east edge of White Sands National Monument, with a promise to visit there soon, and along the north edge of the missile range where the first atomic bomb was tested. We got home after about 8 hours of driving, sore and tired, but ultimately refreshed.


Anonymous Pauline (the sister) said...

So... How is it that a backpack makes your ass hurt?

11:48 AM  

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