Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guadalupe Peak, Highest Point in Texas!

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Who: Sean Moore, Aaron "Lu" Lawler, and myself (Alf)
Dates:  March 5-7, 2010

James 1:6, "But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." In this passage, James was warning and really, condemning attitudes that questioned whether or not God can be trusted. He uses the metaphor of being tossed by the wind...when your start to doubt your trust in God...you can easily be knocked down! I can physically relate to being knocked down by  the wind...hence, the Guadalupe Mountains...one of the windiest places in the U.S.! In my first trip to this National Park...I met these infamous winds.
The first day we arrived, we took it easy...well, relatively easy. We decided not to go up to the peak...but instead would do a couple short day hikes...one around "El Capitan"  via El Capitan Trail pictured behind Sean and I ( El Capitan is also the first picture above, but pictured from Guadalupe Peak) and Smith Spring Trail. We started on the El Capitan Trail off of Guadalupe Pass and got on the Salt Basin Trail Loop first...so no, we did not do the entire El Capitan Trail from the headquarters...that would have made for a really long day. But anyways, I digress...

This trail was really cool...but we could not get past how brutal the winds were on this day...they were a constant 35-40 mph headwind from the West with gusts up to 50 to 60 mph...and though it was a sunny day...it was a cool one. Now add the strong winds and viola! It was cold...Now, I will admit...there were a few times, I had to brace myself...the winds kept knocking us off...and it was one of the few times I felt like I had to concentrate to stay upright, especially near ledges.
We finally stopped at this point pictured above...it was right below El Capitan...with it's 1000 ft vertical cliffs rising over us...but we were also thousands of feet above the desert floor...which made for amazing views and gave us an appetizer for the day to come! At this point, there was nothing blocking the West winds...so we literally had to get as low as possible to enjoy our lunch...I was hovering a few inches above my food so it would not blow away...

The winds at the Guadalupe's are a definite reminder of how powerful nature is...it is also a powerful reminder of the scripture above...For a novice hiker, in the unforgiving terrain, experiencing strong winds, and being miles away from anything...it makes you aware of how lonely and vulnerable you really are. Maybe you begin to doubt...and this is when panic sets in...and we have all seen plenty of "I should not be alive" TV to know what happens next...

This metaphor of winds James speaks of...I can totally relate. See, when I begin to doubt God and struggle to trust Him and His word, I find myself exposed on a ledge...winds blowing like crazy...and panic starting to set in. It's a really scary feeling...It's a feeling that leads me to spiritual "I should not be alive" TV because reality is...my panic will lead me to to get lost and drive me to dark, cold places without belief and trust in God!

So...
We came back from this hike and drove over to Smith Spring Trail Head...This loop trail is not long at all...took us maybe an hour to complete. You see a few cool things...nipple hill which literally looks like a boob with a nipple on top and this really gnarly tree pictured below:





On Saturday...we knew we had a big day ahead of us...we were super stoked! For starters, we were greeted with this sky when we woke up...
We knew it was going to be a good day...everything was right on. We all got some decent rest, could have been better...but it was difficult with Lu's horrific snoring and winds blasting our tent in the morning...

Guadalupe Peak
Mileage: 8.4 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 3000 ft
Time: 6 hours...snow slowed us down!
This rocky trail is superb. It is very well maintained all the way up to the summit (A few very exposed sections as well!).

But on this day, we would not have known, since all portions of the trail on the Northside of the mountain was completely covered in snow!
But it made for a real interesting hike nonetheless...Something really cool about these mountains is how different the terrain changes from one side of the mountain to the other. From the trail head, the trail basically wraps itself around the base of the mountain and coils back the other way near the top. So you get to hike on the East, North, and South Sides of the mountain. And let me tell ya...the North and South sides are completely different. On the North, it feels like Colorado...with pines and spruces all over. On the South...it's completely arid...with few Mesquites and several Yuccas...One side of the mountain is exposed rock and small desert brush...the other is lush green vegetation with tall trees...it blew me away. But what surprised me the most, was when I got my view of El Capitan from up above...it was absolutely beautiful!
To see El Capitan from above, with the desert floor thousands of feet below was awe inspiring...and right above us was the summit!
 And there, on "The Top of Texas", stands this stainless steel monument...a three sided pyramid commemorating an old mail route...I dunno, random. But it's really cool...and it made reaching the summit even more awesome!

Two noteworthy experiences at the mountains:
1) Sean received a phone call from the wifey (Jen) and was given the good news of a new baby. They were in the process of adoption...baby Addy would come a few months later and join the Moore family.
2) A skunk literally walked right under me...really, right in between the legs of my chair, where I was sitting...a blind skunk casually strolled underneath me...paused...and did us the favor of not spraying us.