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Thread: My Vacation

  1. #1
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    My Vacation

    GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - TEXAS



    Day 1 – Travel, Setup and Devil’s Hall Trail

    I got an early start on Columbus Day, destination Pine Springs Camp Site - Guadalupe Mountains National Park. After miles and miles of Texas I made it to Van Horn on I10. I stopped one last time to fill up for the final 65 miles north on TX-54; the final 10 merging with US-62 E. The first thing that struck me was how gorgeous the drive was leaving Van Horn heading towards the mountains. I was awed at Texas' beauty. With curves and quick dips, the two lane blacktop flows into the Guadalupe Mountain Range with impressive climbs and “wooo!”-inducing descents. I remember thinking that everybody raved about the park but no one said anything about the fun drive up.







    Upon park arrival I checked in at the Visitor’s Center 13:40. I grabbed a park map and a day hike guide. I also paid my camp site and park entrance fee (they do take cash or credit). Be advised to change your watch to Mountain Time zone which is an hour behind CST. Some phones may have trouble detecting time (a few people I met mentioned this). The time zone line is cutting right through the park area so, have a stable clock or be confused the entire trip, like me and the other park goers lol Before leaving the VC I met a group of three from Houston. We chit chatted friendlies and parted ways. I turned my phone off. It was my vacation after all.

    A quick drive to the tent site area, I picked one and setup right away. I walked my registration envelope to the drop box (which is near the trail head) and bumped into the Houston party getting ready to embark on Devil’s Hall Trail. They were chipper and ready to not work too hard on their hike – perfect vacation right? It was closing in on 14:00 and I planned to do a short hike to stretch my legs. Since I was hungry for lunch I returned to my site, organized my stuff and prepped a meal. With that put away I grabbed my pack and headed out for Devil’s Hall at 14:45.





    Devil’s Hall is rated as a moderate ~3.8mi trek taking ~2.5hrs along the Pine Spring Canyon. I took the bank trail for the first mile which was relatively uneventful and easy, then it dropped into the wash. I ran into the Houston party, they were asking where the trail was and in none too good a mood. They had jumped off the bank trail into the wash before the trail marker (which isn’t wrong, but does make for a slightly longer hike). I told the guy my GPS had us tracked at a mile and Devil’s Hall was further in close to 2. He got irritated and insisted it couldn’t be “this way” but that they had already walked all the way from “that way”. I’m not a master map reader or anything, but when a destination located in the river canyon that only goes “this way” or “that way” and you’ve already covered “that way”, process of elimination says keep going “this way”. I told the guy I believe we need to keep going further up. He didn’t agree. Well ok, no skin off my back. He and the other two scampered up the bank trail. I pulled out my map from my pocket, looked at the markers, looked at my GPS and kept trucking. I never did see those three again. Hope their day got better. I would have thought the day sucked if I worked hard and didn’t get to the reward of the finish.









    Now in the wash is where it got challenging scrambling boulders and stepping on river rock. Didn’t see much wildlife except birds and lizards. Then a Tarantula and I scared each other walking over the same rock. I quickly scampered imagining it would launch at my face at any second. He wasn’t real fond of me either. He stopped, backed up and took a suspicious-of-the-human stance. I grabbed my camera, zoomed way in and got as good a shot as I could without getting closer. I snapped the picture and took off. I ran into three other hikers coming down, we exchanged pleasantries and they confirmed it is gorgeous up there, but to hurry, we’re losing daylight. So I hustled.





    I finally rounded the bend after what seemed like a lot of climbing over boulders. My legs were getting gassed. The bend in the canyon signals the Staircase is close. When you start seeing the shale you’ll anticipate the final stretch. I was happy. And I was impressed at the size of the Staircase when I finally laid eyes on it. It is much taller in real life than the online photos make it out to be. I climbed up on all fours – well in my case, all threes, up the right side of the form. It is somewhat steep so I made certain to keep my weight forward. Be careful making the top, there is a small pool on the left side that is filled with green water. No idea how deep it is. I discovered it as popped over the top. To get around I had to walk along this narrow ledge against the right side wall. I kinda felt like Indiana Jones but without the hat. A short walk through a shale hallway and some more boulders and there it is, Devil’s Hall. I had the place to myself. It was beautiful.



    Staircase




    Devil's Hall


    I didn’t spend much time in Devil’s Hall, long enough to get photos, reflect a bit on the day’s journey and enjoy a pack of raisins and some water. I was quickly losing daylight in the canyon. While I had my headlamp and flashlight, I didn’t want to get caught in there in the dark. I began the return trip.

    First obstacle, getting down that Staircase that I just mountain-goated my way up. When you’re one-armed like me, the climbing down is a little tougher when falling off is not an option. I didn’t take the same route down, rather scooted to the left of where I climbed up. It curved around to a broader ledge where I backed down nice ‘n easy. With that out of the way it was literally all downhill. Once I made it out of the wash and onto the bank trail it was a quick hike back. Plus there was more daylight. Popping off the trailhead and back to my camp site I refilled all my water, got dinner and was in for the night.

    After an early start, a long drive and quick setup, the Devil’s Hall Trail was just the right amount of hike to get a taste of what laid ahead.

    END PART 1, CONT...
    Last edited by Shorts; 10-30-15 at 10:29.

  2. #2
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    PART 2

    Day 2 – Guadalupe Peak Trail


    With solid sleep I awoke at 05:00 to a frisky temperature. The forecast called for lows in the 50s and it felt like all 40 of those degrees below the temps I am used to. I was warm in my sleeping bag (rated 50*) on top of a REI Cirrus inflatable sleep mat in the REI Passage 2 tent. I was up early as I wanted to be on the mountain to see the sunrise. After lollygagging at breakfast, twilight started coming around so I put cook gear away, closed up tent and headed towards the facilities for one last stop and water refill. I chatted with one guy signing in.



    My GPS started at 06:30 on the nose for Guadalupe Peak Trail. I used my headlamp briefly but light came out quickly head of the sun so I put it away not long into it. The first mile of the trail is supposed to be the steepest and most strenuous. Having completed the hike I wouldn’t agree. To me it was the easiest because my body was fresh. The sun popped over the horizon right about 0700 on the nose and it was a lovely sight. After enjoying the view and taking photos, I got moving with the realization I was a sitting duck for the sun’s heat blasting the east side of the mountain. While the temperature was mild and gorgeous, being exposed wasn’t ideal. I made haste and Around the Bend about 45min later.

















    From there I entered into a piney woods area. The shade was a relief. Some way through I decided to take a break, get a granola bar, and eat a Chinese candy (for the salt) and some water. The silence was broken by faint voices in the distance. I grabbed my stuff and got moving again. Soon I met two hikers coming down. They had stayed at the backwoods site the night before and made the summit for sunrise. We said our good-byes and I kept on. I heard another sound. I realized that the guy who I met at the trailhead was hot on my trail. Now, this isn’t a competition and the phrase “hike my own hike” kept popping into my head, but the competitor in me would not relent. I pushed harder up the trail. On this hike that is easier said than done. Tangent alert: The word “strenuous” is thrown around a lot in the park literature. And the trail is strenuous, that is for certain. But I think strenuous is too nice of a word for this trail. It should be more like grueling. Or phrases like “your heart will burst out of your chest while your legs explode and give way and send you tumbling off the mountain side” would be more on target. Needless to say, after 2mi of that incline, terrain and pace, it was a tough climb. I didn't get many if any photos here, I was concentrating on the climb.





    At the 3mi mark (2.5hrs in) came the Guadalupe camp site. It was a welcome site. The hike to this point had begun to hurt. My HR was pegging out. It was interval workouts to the max now. Soon the trail rounded over a ridge to the final mile of what would be very rocky terrain. My GPS battery started flashing low. Not cool.
    The next feature I encountered was the wooden bride. It is perched on the side of a cliff with a spectacular view inside the mountains. (We’re on a mountain, what view isn’t spectacular?). Some photos, snacks and water and I was off again.














    At 3.74mi, 3:11:27 and 8451’ my GPS watch died. I was bummed I wouldn’t get the entire ascent. At ~.25mi and 300’ below the summit, it was so close. By this point I was hurting. The trail was all rock and each switchback was visible from the next. They looked so steep and they just kept going. Where in the world do these things go? Over the top of a rocky ledge I soon found out.

    CONT...
    Last edited by Shorts; 10-30-15 at 09:12.

  3. #3
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    PART 3

    There it was, my first view of El Capitan down in front of me. I stopped to breathe, enjoy the view take photos and then hike another switchback, leather, rinse repeat a couple times. I saw a lizard perched on a rock. Two other guys had blazed their way up and were passing the guy behind me and now me. I nodded, said some pleasantries, but I was a little bummed I wouldn’t be the first hiker from the trailhead to summit. Meh. A final few small switchbacks and there was the sign for the Peak. It was next to the stock tie outs. Honestly I can’t imagine piloting a horse all the way up there (poor horse!). Whoever has is a gutsy adventurer.







    Can you spot the lizard?








    The final climb up wasn’t much of a path but boulders that you climb. The monument is visible from there. I finally summited at 10:05 after starting at 06:30. Not bad I guess. There was 7 of us who hung out, ate snacks chatted and took photos for each other. It wasn’t a super clear day but it was clear enough to enjoy the Top of Texas. I did not begin descending until 11:05 so I took my sweet time while I was up there. Took me long enough to get there, I was going to enjoy it. I made sure to sign the log book and take lots of photos. I was really proud to take my Mt Fuji walking stick up there. I figured it made it to the top of Japan with me, it’s surely going to the Top of Texas too.







    Signed the logbook






    Westward & Salt Flats


    East


    North


    South






    GP Descent


    When I left I hustled my way down. Made it back in 2.5hrs. My knees and toes were getting worn out but smart management of momentum and good foot placement made quick work of it. Passed about 10 people going up. Biggest impression "Boy, they still smell good"

    I was absolutely spent when I got back to camp. I stripped off my hot clothes, wiped down with wet wipes and changed into a clean shirt and shorts. I dumped my snacks on the picnic table in the shade and chowed down. I craved a cheeseburger and a beer with a madness. Snacks would have to do until I got back to town. Once satisfied, cooled down and barefoot, I kicked back on the picnictable in the shade and caught a nap.





    The Last Night

    I had the camp site to myself for 30min and then the next batch of campers started coming in. Within a couple hours the place was full again, much to my chagrin. They were noisy. I just wanted to chill in quiet lonely peace. I rounded out the evening visiting a couple I met on the trails. We talked until the sun went down and it got chilly. It was my cue. We parted ways and now my bedtime.

    I did have a two-legged critter come snooping around my site about 3-4am that night. He was walking softly but I felt him come in. I started unzipping the sleeping bag zipper to get out and he heard me and took off. I hollered at him. He was smart to go when he did, but stupid to try that in the first place. After that I couldn’t sleep. I laid outside a while to look at the beautiful sky full of stars. It looked like a gravel road. When it was reasonable, like 5am, I packed up and pulled out within the hour.


    THE END

    Random pics will be added to subsequent posts
    Last edited by Shorts; 10-30-15 at 09:36.

  4. #4
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    Mmm cheeseburgers.... it was always steak or fried chicken for me, after a long trip. Nothing like some spicy yardbird from Popeye's.

    Sorry to hear about the two-legged "guest". Yet another reason for carrying in the back country.

    Post some pics when you get the chance. it would be neat to make a sticky thread where people could search for vacation ideas.

  5. #5
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    Copy on the pics. It was beautiful out there, words alone don't do it justice.

    Definitely need the EDC. You never know. That reminds me, I need to clean mine. I sweat all over it carrying IWB. Will need to reconfigure carry method.

  6. #6
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    I was pretty bummed that I wasn't able to get out there, but it looks like your trip went well. It's a good thing that you kept your awareness. You just never know when something bad will happen. There have been times when I thought I might save that bit of weight, and leave protection behind. I have since decided that a handgun and reload is essential equipment that is always in the pack or on my belt. There is no way that I would carry IWB on a hike, though.

    Every time I hike the peak trail, if someone is behind me, I do the same thing you did and have experienced the exploding heart feeling. I really just want to be alone, but I don't want to get passed, either. I thought I was the only one.
    To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. --Theodore Roosevelt--

  7. #7
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    Thanks for posting the pics. I am glad they still have the logbook in there. The photos of the sunrise and sunset brought back memories.

    By the way, is that a Mount Fuji climbing staff? I have one stashed here at Rancho Serious, with all the little stations branded into it. Good times.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXBK View Post
    I was pretty bummed that I wasn't able to get out there, but it looks like your trip went well. It's a good thing that you kept your awareness. You just never know when something bad will happen. There have been times when I thought I might save that bit of weight, and leave protection behind. I have since decided that a handgun and reload is essential equipment that is always in the pack or on my belt. There is no way that I would carry IWB on a hike, though.

    Every time I hike the peak trail, if someone is behind me, I do the same thing you did and have experienced the exploding heart feeling. I really just want to be alone, but I don't want to get passed, either. I thought I was the only one.
    I had a big reply typed up referencing your thread and things you commented on and I accidentally closed it out...

    Starting fresh....
    It did go very well. Very satisfied. My soul needed this trip. I was telling a coworker I was so exhausted, that evening, after wiping down and changing clothes, I felt that high again. You know that workout high you get? I had it, it was back and it was awesome. Over the past year or two I haven't felt that after my daily workouts. My stress wouldn't clear my mind from physical activity. This trip, this hike actually did it. I'm craving the next one.

    I was wondering if you'd make it out. I meant to PM you my number before I left. My brain was in go mode and I blew right past it. I realized it when I was setting up my tent.

    I was uncertain how IWB would go with comfort and carrying the pack and whatnot. But I was surprised, it carried pretty well and stayed put with all the jumping around I did. (Must say I'm a little flattered as the holster is one of my designs). Comfort wasn't an issue as far as fit but what was uncomfortable was the leather on my side holding the heat in. Same for my carry belt. Between the pack, my belt and holster it was hot. I'm considering switching to a nylon belt for hikes, just generally (my pants fall off if I don't). And I'm looking for other option for holster/pack. I've seen the HPG Runner's kit and similar products, but let's be real, that real estate is already occupied I'll keep looking

    As for a pack, will definitely need one with waist straps to carry the load. I feel I carried more than I needed to for the trail but thinking ahead to doing more backcountry hikes, I'll have to also carry the things I left back at camp. That makes my shoulders ache.


    Quote Originally Posted by SeriousStudent View Post
    Thanks for posting the pics. I am glad they still have the logbook in there. The photos of the sunrise and sunset brought back memories.

    By the way, is that a Mount Fuji climbing staff? I have one stashed here at Rancho Serious, with all the little stations branded into it. Good times.
    Word.

    That is a Mt Fuji climbing stick. Felt it important that it make the trek with me. Didn't let me down.

    Now, if I can start a walking stick wood branding business on the trail....

  9. #9
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    Congratulations! Good on ya for doing that hike.

    I was going to head out that way today to do the hike tomorrow, but the rain was awful here in Austin and I decided I better stay around in case there were any problems at the house.

    I am not a camper, so my plan was, and will be, to drive to Pecos and overnight there, do the hike the next day and return to Pecos for the night, and drive home the next day. I'll be watching the weather for a good window to get out there. It will be at least a week before I can do it, but I want to get it done this year.

  10. #10
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    Awesome. This makes me miss Texas.

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