day nine; guadalupe mountains national park. final stop.
after our time at carlsbad caverns we had two options, head home or check out the guadalupe mountains national park right over the border in texas. although we had read up a bit on this national park before it was not something we had planned on seeing during this trip, but with the day still young we decided to head back to the lone star state. the park is home to guadalupe peak, the highest point in texas. although there are a multitude of hikes throughout the mountains we knew that if we were going to do any of them it was going to be that one.
we head into the ranger station to inquire about hiking the peak and doing some backcountry camping near the summit. the young ranger enthusiastically gave us all the details about the hike, took down our info and issued us our backcountry permits. staying in line with the rest of his chipper attitude he also informed us that there was a chance of severe thunderstorms that night. he brought up the radar on his computer and showed us the ominous looking mass coming in from the west, and ended the conversation with a dead serious, "we've had surveyors up there in some severe storms and they lived!"
exhausted from the hours and hours of driving, lack of caloric intake and nauseous from the extreme heat we left the station feeling torn, heed the weather warning and head home or take our chances and end this trip on top of texas. we drove around in the sweltering mid-day sun constantly checking the radar for any change in the weather, trying to figure out what to do. it would be a shame to end the trip feeling defeated, but we figured we weren't really prepared to deal with the wild weather that we could encounter at 8749 feet.
while resting in the shade of an old tree on the side of the road we received a very inspirational email from our pal mike portugal. his words lifted us and gave us the energy and motivation our tired minds and bodies needed. we loaded up our packs and hit the trail.
starting on a trail filled with yucca, tumbleweeds and cacti we climbed towards the peak in the last remaining light of the day and found a place to set up our tent among the pines.
we awoke early the morning among the clouds, packed up and hit the trail to finish the last mile to the peak. by the time we reached the summit the clouds were below us, almost completely blocking the view of the surrounding mountains below.
standing on the top of the world in the cold morning air, we finished this wild trip on a literal and figurative high note.
nine days, thirty five hundred miles, fourteen national parks and monuments.
day eight; carlsbad caverns national park.
we spent nine hours driving straight from the northern edge of new mexico all the way to the southern. at two a.m. we found ourselves in a wal-mart parking lot, which would serve as a place to wash up and rest our heads for the night. we wake up the next morning, give our eyes enough time to adjust to the sunlight, and we are off.
we make it to carlsbad caverns national park bright and early. after speaking with a park ranger, we were under the impression that the hour and a half hike he informed us about was just to get to the cavern itself. as we set off for our trek, we soon realized that length of the hike he described was just that of walking through the cavern.
the cavern trail descends about seven hundred and fifty feet under the earths surface. as you descend into the massive cavern a wall of damp cool air hits you, with the average temperature in the cave being sixty eight degrees and the humidity level staying close to one hundred percent year round. after a round of switchbacks you are dumped into the opening of the cave, we were in awe of what lay before us.
stalactites above and stalagmites below all lit in a way that allowed you to see how impressive these formations really are. we are surrounded by massive columns rising fifty feet from the cave floor to the ceiling and limestone walls so fluid and smooth it looks as though they could be running water.
we spent more than two and a half hours slowly walking through the eerily silent and enormous cavern before heading back to the desert above. back in the dry, cactus laden landscape of new mexico it's hard to believe that something so other-worldly lay right below the surface.