Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guadalupe Peak...at Sunrise!

Psalms 37:5-6 "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,..."

I have seen the rays of the sun at dawn...I've seen them from the highest point in Texas...and let me tell ya, there is not one sunrise in Texas better than the one here...The colors are more brilliant...the sky more clear...and you can see all the way to the horizon in a 360 degree view. There is nothing more clear!

Trusting God, and committing your ways to him will lead to a life of righteousness. Or another way to think of it...Trusting in God will lead to a more brilliant life...one that is clear in direction...one that is clear in purpose. If you have a panoramic view of what God wants for your life...and you trust in that view...you will shine like the dawn! Because God promises he will make your righteousness like the Guadalupe Peak sunrise!

Who: Brad Hardin (Brother in Law) and me.
Pine Springs TH elevation: 5734 ft
Guadalupe Peak: 8,749 FT
Elevation Gain: 3015 ft
Mileage: Round Trip 8.4 miles
(El Capitan in the forefront and Guadalupe Peak behind it)

Guadalupe Peak (11/23/10)

We left Big Bend on 11/22/10 at 10:30 a.m. after completing a 17.8-mile trip into the back-country. Brad (brother in law) and I jumped in the Prius and headed out of the Park and started our way to the Guadalupe Mountain National Park. We went through the towns of Marathon, Marfa, and Alpine.

We came up from the South so we had a 20-minute view of El Capitan. We finally arrived before sunset and parked the Prius in front of El Cap on the highway. We also visited the Salt Basins, which lie West of the park. After the sunset we headed into the park.

We parked at the Pine Springs TH parking area and set up for the night. We set up our sleeping bags in the Prius, cooked dinner, and got ready for bed. We were both out in minutes. Must have been the Big Bend trip? We were planning on getting up at sunset to start our way up the highest point in Texas.
( I was this night's entertainment...)
We both woke up at 1: 30 a.m. to use the restroom and lay back down. I looked over to Brad and asked, "Do you want to head out now and see the sunrise on the peak?' Brad said, "Let's do it." I said, "**** yeah!"
We were ready and on the trail at 2:20 a.m. Now, this is my second ascent of this peak…but the first time, the Northface of this route was completely covered in snow which made it really difficult. Also…supposedly it takes 6-8 hours to complete the trail. So we took all of this into consideration. We made it up to the peak in 2 ½ hours the dark. Which was great, but there was another 1.5 hours before sunrise. It was 34 degrees with 30 mph sustained winds up top. We hunkered down and waited for the sun.
When the sun came out, it was all worth it. We took tons of great pics and enjoyed the top of Texas. We were down in 1.5 hours!
Little Bonus Picture:
These are the mountains we backpacked the month before...you can read about it in a previous trip report...Pine Top is to the right and Bush Mountain on the left...from the Peak, it gives you a good idea of the butt whoopin we took the month before!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Bend-The High Chisos

The wilderness...obviously it's wild. But it can be beautiful, exciting, adventurous, and altogether scary, dark, and lonely.

The wilderness of sin...obviously it's wild. But it also can come in the form of beauty, excitement, adventure that will result in being afraid, in the dark, and alone.

I enjoy the wilderness...I especially enjoy knowing I am in the middle of nowhere...there is a sense of freedom and excitement you can't get anywhere else. I'm in a sense of heightened awareness that I cannot replicate anywhere else...Everything is clear. I see better. I smell better. I hear better. My body responds and kicks into fight drive...you know, that fight or flight syndrome stuff...

Big Bend National Park is the wilderness...it's not like other parks or mountains. There is nothing out there...the land around the Park is barren for hundreds of miles in all directions. It's not easy to get to and you are often reminded...either on the park's website, trip reports, or right as you drive in of all the animal activity in this place.
Of all the places I have ever been to...this is the place I do not want to get in any trouble.

Big Bend offers you the Wild. It is beautiful, exciting, and adventurous...it is also scary, gets really dark...but, at no time did I ever feel lonely. I was with a good group of guys.

Who: Brad Hardin (Brother in Law), Andrew Lind, Kevin Mullis and son Cole Mullis (13 years old), and me.
When: 11/20/10-11/22/10
Destination: South Rim
Mileage: 17.8 miles
Elevation Gain: A whole lot when you add Emory Peak
Chisos TH: 5,500'
Emory Peak: 7,825' (Highest point in the Chisos)
South Rim: 7,375'
( A view of the "Window" looking down at desert floor right above Chisos TH)

Day 1:

TH-Started at the Chisos Basin TH at 10 a.m. and headed towards our first campsite via Pinnacles Trail. We arrived at Pinnacles 2 (PI2) in about 2 hours or so. High Chisos is dry, so you have to carry your own water. We were planning on being in the mountains for 3 days so our packs weighed near 50 pounds…if not 50+ pounds. Let's just say those first few hours were the most difficult. The pinnacles trail up to Emory Peak Trail is on the Northern side of the mountain…so we hiked in Junipers, Oaks, and different trees I don't know anything about. However, there were some trees that had fall colors…really pretty.
When we got to camp, we set up our tents and got set up for the day. Our plan was to hike to Emory Peak from this point. It was another mile up to Emory Peak from our campsite. So from the Chisos TH to Emory Peak TH it is 3.5 miles and almost 1500 ft of elevation gain.
(Drew doing a little goofin when we got to camp1)
( A view up to Emory Peak Trail Junction)
Emory Peak TH branches of the Pinnacles TH and starts going up to the highest point in Big Bend. It is another 1.6 miles to the peak and an extra 800 ft or so to the top. Check out some of the views up to Emory...

The last 30-40 ft is an awesome scramble to one of the best views in the park.
Brad, Drew, and I made it to the top. There is some exposure, but it is well worth it.
After taking a few pics, we hiked about 2.6 miles back down to PI2 campsite. We hung out and enjoyed dinner...Brad realized he forgot his spoon...so he used what he could find.
Day 2:

Left PI2 at 9am and started heading back up towards Emory Peak TH so we can make our way to the South Rim. I believe the toughest part of all the High Chisos trails is the section between Pinnacles campsites and Emory Peak TH. You gain quite a bit of the elevation between these points.

We hiked 3.8 miles from our first campsite via the Pinnacles Trail and Boot Canyon Trail. After the Emory Peak TH…there is not much elevation gain to the South Rim. There are some sights to see though...including the boot...which is a rock formation that looks, well...like a boot.
The South Rim is stunning. Absolutely beautiful. However, make your way West around the Rim and you will be treated to the best views in the park on the Southwest Rim. There are some serious cliffs on this portion of the trail. We spent a few hours on the rim eating lunch, laying down, taking pictures, and enjoying this marvelous place. After all the time spent up there, we started to make our way towards camp 2.
After 6.3 miles of hiking our way around the Rim from PI2, we finally arrived at Laguna Meadows #3 (LM3) campsite.

Day 3:

We started early from LM3 and headed down towards the High Chisos TH via the Laguna Meadows Trail. This trail from LM3 goes down the whole way. We hiked 3.3 miles down to the TH in a little over an hour and completed our backpacking through the High Chisos.

...back to my wilderness thoughts, oh yeah...

Your spiritual walk is a lot like the wilderness...obviously it's wild. But it can be beautiful, exciting, adventurous, and altogether scary, dark, and lonely. What seperates you from God is sin...and when you are seperated from him, you are in the wilderness of sin. As we all know sin entices you through beauty, excitement, and adventure...and if you engage...well, we know where that leads. We all live in the wilderness called life... and we are often enticed.

The good news...God gives us life through Jesus...so we are no longer seperated...and we can live in this wild life...and experience the beauty, excitement, and adventure that God offers!!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Guadalupe Mountains...Tejas Trail

Camaraderie-a spirit of familiarity and trust existing between friends...

Who: Gary Blackwelder, Josh Causey, Jeremy Hendrix, Dee Peppers, and me...
When: 10/20-10/22/10
Where: Guadalupe Mountains (Tejas Trail/Blue Ridge Trail)
Mileage: 16.7 miles
Elevation gain: A whole lot...like several thousands a lot.
Guadalupe Mountauns...Tejas Trail...Day 1...is definitely the hardest day of backpacking I have been on. I've backpacked the Grand Canyon, Ouachitas, Ozarks and hiked throughout Colorado and this is hands down, the most difficult so far...Reason why? I've never been to a place where there is no water source. I carried three days of water on my back, which easily added 20+ pounds to my pack. Let's say the first day was absolutely brutal…I now realize I've taken for granted backpacking areas where rivers, streams, and lakes are a plentiful...I also have taken water for granted in general.

I knew what to expect though…I am very familiar with the terrain since I had paid a visit to this beautiful park back in March. However, we car camped and did a day hike up to the Guadalupe Peak. Which, by the way, is awesome…when you look south and see El Capitan's peak a ½ mile off and a few hundred feet below…it's awe inspiring. Also…if you get squirly, you can scramble down a few gullies and make your way to the edge and literally look 1,500 ft straight down…those faces are huge and intimidating but freakin awesome. This trip called for us to ascend up to Pine Top via Tejas Trail and over to Bush Mountain on the first day...the trail was rocky, arid, and one switchback after another...

(There were a few bends in the trail that was rocky and steep)
(If you look closely, you can see the trail and how it switchbacked...)

…we started at 9 a.m. on Friday morning. We started on the Tejas trail and our goal was to make it to Bush Camp near Bush Mountain. The TH start is at Pine Springs TH, elevation 5,734 ft. Bush Mountain is at 8,631 ft and exactly 6.2 miles from TH. This is an elevation gain of 2,897 ft. The views were great...but, for those who know…hiking with 50 pound packs, going 6.2 miles, and climbing 2,897 ft is (you fill in the blank)! This was a long day of hiking...we stopped several times, we ate, complained, but kept going...
Funny thing is...we felt great when we reached Pine Top...just look at us in the picture below:
We thought we were close to Bush Campsite...we were waaayyy wrong...the next two miles were some of the most difficult miles we've ever hiked. Especially after spending the first part of the day just getting to Pine Top...I don't have any pictures form Pine Top to Bush. Why? Because I didn't care anymore...I just wanted to get to camp...the trail kept going up and down...Every time I got up another hill, I would look down in disappointment...once again, no campsites. So I'll just skip this part of the trip and move on to the next...that is, all of us dying in our tents...exhausted, sore, cold. Good news was we had a radio and could hear the ALCS, game clinching game for our Texas Rangers...We were all excited about this game. But in the end...we were all too tired to care. Just look at Josh below:
Good news though, we completed the hardest segment of our trip. Day 2 and 3 would consist of relatively easier elevation minus and gain and our packs would weigh less due to obvious consumption of water and food. Day three is going downhill the entire way…
Day 2 we hiked the west ridge of the Park on the Bush trail. The views out there are incredible…however, this has to be the windiest part of the park. The winds were howling…we were exposed quite often, but the views were completely worth it. If you ever have the opportunity and wherewithal to get to this point, you will be treated to awesome views of the foothills thousands of feet below and the salt basins west of the mountains.

As we continued on our day 2 hike…we descended into/near the famous bowl. We were treated to beautiful fall colors. Red/orange/golden maple leaves surrounded us the entire time we were on Tejas Trail as we made our way to Pine Top. We also stopped for lunch along the way...
Also, note that these mountains have two sides…On the south face it's Arid mountain-rocky and desert vegetation. On the northface of these mountains...you could not tell if you were in Colorado or in Texas anymore. Pines and Pines and Pines!!!!!! We camped at Pine Top on day 2 and were treated to the best dusk colors in Texas.
Dinner was great, the fellowship even better, but Josh's candy stash was the best!
Day 3…we were all running out of water and we booked it out of there as quickly as we could.
This was a great trip...and I believe what made it great was the group of guys I was with. I'm glad they were with me...their company in the mountains were the best part of the trip.