Top of Texas

Guadalupe Peak summit marker.

A 4.2-mile trail with 3000 feet of elevation gain, leads to the summit of 8,751 foot high Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. After we struggled our way to the ‘Top of Texas’ I had expected to see something a bit more rewarding than this odd-looking monument built in 1979 by American Airlines. I don’t mean to disparage the airline because it was actually the weather that interfered with what should have been an inspiring vista.

We had planned two days of hikes in Guadalupe National Park and knew before we left Albuquerque that there was wet weather in the forecast. But that usually doesn’t turn out to be much rain here in the desert so we took our chances. After all, the Guadalupe Mountains are on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert, which I would have expected to be warmer and drier than the high desert of northern New Mexico. But I was sure wrong about that. The weather reminded me of a rainy, foggy day in the Appalachian Mountains or on the Oregon coast.

There was only one brief downpour the first morning so we waited that out before setting out on the hike up Guadalupe Peak. The cool weather was good for hiking, but because the fog and clouds never lifted, we couldn’t see much more than the immediate surroundings.

The first morning shower ended with a rainbow.

Parking lot for campground in lower left; Hwy 62 in the distance.
Stairway to a foggy summit.
Would have been nice to see what was up ahead!
An interesting bridge across a chasm on the trail.
Many places along the trail had clusters of imbedded quartz crystals.
Lots of this plant covering rocks along the trail.
The trail behind us with one of the many switchbacks.
A small break with a short-lived patch of blue sky,
An almost view.
Click on map for interactive version.
Elevation profile of hike.

That evening the rain arrived in earnest. For the most part, we stayed dry in our tent and hoped that by morning the storm would be over. No sun the next morning either, but, instead, a steady drizzle that showed no signs of lifting. We packed up our wet tent and drove to another area of the park, hoping to still do some hiking. But after getting our shoes and pant legs thoroughly soaked walking a short nature trail, we decided to cut short our visit to Guadalupe National Park.

Desert camping? Where’s the sun?

This rock looked like a giant insect perched on the cliff.

This was a real insect walking across the road in the campground.
Second day’s hike turned out to be a wet walk on a short nature trail.

Left Turn Next Time

Trail sign
Yesterday we went straight ahead at this trail marker. The next time we are on this trail we have promised ourselves that we will be turning left here. Our goal will be the summit of New Mexico’s highest peak, Mt. Wheeler. We have intended to do that hike for quite some time but never seem to get around to it before the weather gets too cold.

The trail marker is just a 2-mile hike from the parking lot at Taos Ski Valley. It’s at the edge of the lake’s basin and just a short walk from there you find yourself overlooking the small sub-alpine lake.

Williams Lake
Williams Lake

We were on the hike with a dozen other people, not so much as a hiking expedition, but as a field trip with the Native Plant Society of New Mexico. The society’s annual conference this year was in Taos and we took advantage of the location to learn more about the area.
Plant people2

Plant people
Lee is the one taking notes as the leader explains details of the plant.

Of course, the main reason to attend the conference is to learn more about native plants. For someone like me, the field trips are interesting, but they can be a challenge because of the slow pace. Lee is a much more serious scholar, taking notes and asking questions and sharing what he has learned.

I do know that this is a Purple Aster and a Bellflower. Purple asters are everywhere this time of year. The bellflower is more elusive, hiding at the higher elevations.
Bellflower

The prettiest flowers around Williams Lake were the Gentian, but I couldn’t get a picture that did justice to their beautiful blue color.

Gentian (have to ask Lee which one of the types it is)

We had a nice lunch at the edge of the lake before heading back down. I kept gazing at the view of Wheeler Peak across the lake. One of the women in the group has hiked up to Wheeler Peak a number of times and she could point out where the trail goes after you take that left hand turn back at the junction. One of these days I will get up there.

Wheeler Peak
View of Wheeler Peak from Williams Lake.

A few of the aspens on the slopes were beginning to change colors.
Fall colors
The photo below doesn’t have anything to do with the field trip to Williams Lake. There were other scheduled activities for the 3 days of the conference. Driving back to our hotel on Friday evening after a museum tour the sun was setting in the west, adding a golden color to the mountain range east of town.
Sunset
Driving home from the conference we took what’s called the High Road to Taos. This was an interesting and scenic tour of yet another part of New Mexico we haven’t seen.

High Road to Taos.
View of Taos from Hwy. 518.

We didn’t even know that just south of Chimayo on Hwy 503 there is a small lake on BLM land with a campground overlooking the lake.

Santa Cruz Lake
Santa Cruz Lake from campground.

As always on our expeditions around New Mexico, we learned new things and added more activities to our list of future explorations.

Mt. Taylor Revisited

View of Mt. Taylor from highway west of Grants, NM.

Mt. Taylor, about 1-1/2 hours west of Albuquerque, is a prominent landmark visible from many of the viewpoints on our local hikes. We hiked the trail to the top shortly after we moved here. I’ve wanted to do it again every time we see it on the horizon or drive by it on Interstate 40. The problem has been the rough 14-mile dirt road that leads to the trailhead. We still had our Subaru Forester when we drove there the first time, but trading that in for a sedan a few years back has meant giving up the ability to navigate really rough roads.

When I recently saw the Mt. Taylor hike listed on the schedule for one of the Albuquerque senior centers, my desire to do the hike won out over my dislike of traveling and hiking with large groups. There were 13 of us who did the hike but it was a good group and a good experience for me to be a bit more sociable. Lee really appreciated the group experience and the slower pace. He said that when it was just the two of us I kept rushing ahead and he got tired trying to keep up with me. I think that he’s a stronger hiker now than when we first did it and that’s why he found it less tiring. But, whatever the reason, it was an enjoyable day for all, well worth the 2000-foot elevation gain to get to the top.

2000-foot elevation gain.
Click on map for interactive version.