Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Chihuahuan Desert and Guadalupe Peak

I went to Carlsbad Caverns, which most people think of as a huge, amazing cave. And it is. But it's under some pretty terrific landscape, the Chihuahuan Desert. It's not super eyecatching at first, but when you start looking, you see quite a variety of plants. Agaves predominate, and the lechuguilla agave is endemic to the Chihuahuan Desert.

I didn't actually spend much time on the surface of Carlsbad. After a full day in the cave, I headed to nearby Guadalupe Mountains National Park and spent the night with a friend.

We had a lovely evening catching up and then she had to leave for work very early the next morning. So good to see you, Carolyn!

Since it was really early and I had a lot of energy, I decided to tackle a trail run. And not just any trail run, why not Guadalupe Peak? It's the highest peak in Texas at 8,751 ft (2,667 m). The trail starts 3,000 feet below and 4.2 miles away. Well, that sounded a lot like hiking Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park, just starting 5,000 feet lower. I've recently signed up for a high elevation marathon, so I needed to get training, and this sounded ideal.

The trail quickly switchbacked up the mountainside, and I enjoyed great views into the Chihuahua Desert.

After about 1.5 miles, the trail went to the north side of the mountain, and I saw trees! The protection from the hot sun creates a nice microclimate.

The trail also flattened out a bit, making running a lot more manageable.

After running through the trees and more switchbacks, past a campground, I came back out on the south side to more wonderful views.
And then finally I was at the top! I passed two people on the way up and was the first one on the peak that morning.

I put on my jacket, as it was very windy, and took a selfie with El Capitan in the back.

This rock used to be a barrier reef during the Permian time period, and fossils abound.

After about 10 minutes alone at the top, a nice guy joined me.

We talked a bit, then I was getting cold, so I headed to the subpeak and then down.

The views of El Capitan and beyond were amazing.

 It was quite a bit faster going down. I had a better view of this bridge.

I passed 22 people on the way down. It was a great run, even though I wasn't super fast. It made me feel like maybe signing up for the marathon wasn't too stupid of an idea. And it was great getting to know the high country in the Chihuahua Desert a little better.
If you go, go early in the day, I can see how this could be a very hot hike. And enjoy the views!

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