Texas vs New Mexico

The Guadalupe Mountain Range, straddling the Texas/New Mexico state line, is home to two National Parks, one in each state. Carlsbad Caverns is the better known of the two, except if you are a Texan, in which case you might realize the importance of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Guadalupe Peak, at 8751 feet of elevation, is the highest point in Texas.

As loyal New Mexicans we might be inclined to favor Carlsbad Caverns, except that hiking up peaks and enjoying wilderness trails is more our style than a tour of underground caverns. Knowing that spring flowers should be making an appearance this week in the Guadalupes we set out for 2 days of hiking at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We knew campgrounds and visitor centers would be closed, but we were totally surprised when we got there to find out that all access, even to the trails, was forbidden.

To me, one of the puzzles in these COVID-19 times is how there can be so much inconsistency in rules and regulations. When we were turned away at Guadalupe Mountains all we had to do was drive north across the state line to Carlsbad Caverns, in the same mountain range, and there all trails were available for hiking. The same mountain range, the same National Park Service managing the two parks, but an entirely different reception. I thought New Mexico’s governor had been over restrictive in her rules, but I was sure counting my blessings that we were being allowed to hike. Neither day did we encounter anyone on the trails so no fear that we were spreading germs. Hooray for New Mexico.

Both of the hikes that we did were reached by driving past the entrance to the caverns on a road that led up into the southwestern face of the mountain range.  Each hike went up a side canyon towards the ridge of the mountains.

Tuesday’s hike up Yucca Canyon was the steepest one, starting at 4600 feet and ascending to 6000 feet in less than 2 miles. Once that elevation was reached the trail leveled off nicely on a long plateau that we hiked across for another mile or so before turning around.

Approaching saddle
Partway up canyon
Looking south Guadalupe Peak is visible in the distance.
Hiking along the plateau.

Wednesday’s hike up Slaughter Canyon had the opposite experience when it came to elevation. The first couple of miles were fairly level, easy walking except for the many ankle-twisting rocks in the arroyo bottom that the trail kept crossing in and out of. The steep ascent up to the ridge started at 4200 feet and went to 5700 feet, again in less than 2 miles.

The goal was to reach the trail junction at 3.5 miles. My GPS showed 3.75 miles when we turned around with no junction in sight.

Rocky footpath in one of the sections in the arroyo.
Turpentine Bush in bloom.

Look closely back down the trail to see Lee enjoying the view

Over the course of the two days, Lee must have taken over a hundred flower pictures. With his professional camera he can capture the most minute detail of the blossoms to show off their real beauty. When I try for flower photos with my phone camera they are a disappointment. I tend to be more drawn to the cactii and here are three favorites.

Ocotillo in bloom

Rainbow cactus
Yellow cactus–not sure of variety.

Author: bjregan

Enjoying retirement activities. Main goals for retirement are to stay spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

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