Saturday, September 05, 2015

Day 15: Las Cruces, New Mexico to Carlsbad, New Mexico via Guadalupe National Park

We were mellow getting up because, quite frankly, we figured we had no chance at hiking Guadalupe Mountain’s summit because of thunderstorms.  So we were very mellow, very reflective of the rattlesnakes, and very done with ever seeing them again.

We drove south and entered Texas and we weren’t really impressed.  We didn’t really enter El Paso, we just took a highway loop road that went around the north end of town and through Fort Bliss Army Station.  It was boring, desolate, and well, Texas.   East of El Paso we hit a Boarder Patrol checkpoint. 

Yes, we are American citizens.

We are from California.

No, I don’t mind waiting.

Wait, what’s that dog doing behind my car.

Have a nice day!

The amount of border security we’ve seen in the last two days is almost laughable.  We aren’t bordering North Korea you know.

It was probably 100 miles from El Paso to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and in that span we saw a dozen Texas State Police and half of them were pulling people over.  We did our research yesterday that said that Texas was nasty on speed breakers and it paid off today.  Cruise control, a smile, and patience. 

Guadalupe  Mountains is a neat sight in the flatlands of Texas but we realized that we were still not going to be able to climb it.  South of the park looked dark and ugly and the worst possible feeling is being stuck on a mountain with lightening.  We asked the ranger at the Visitor’s Center about the ascent and she simply looked at us, smiled, and said “There’s a 50% chance of thunderstorms.  Wanna risk it?”  I love park rangers.  They’ll subtly tell you that you are stupid but let you make your own choices.  We opted for another hike.

We decided on hike up McKittrick Canyon to an area called The Grotto, a formation that was in the side of a riverbank that looked like the inside of a cave.  Our immediate concern?  Rattlesnakes.  The ranger told us that the chances of us running into one was extremely slim.  But the weather was not hot (low 80’s and a tad humid) and it was still somewhat desert.  We even thought about letting a family go before us to shoo any snakes away but shook ourselves, got our focus going, and made the hike.  It was a nice, mellow hike with wide trails and it meandered along McKittrick Canyon.  The Grotto was fascinating, and it’s really is a cave formation in the side of a riverbank cliff.  It has columns and dripping water and all.  It was worth the walk and fairly easy.  On our way back we ran into the family we were going to let go before us, a nice family from Texas. 

“Yeah, we heard you guys talking about snakes.  Funny thing, we saw a two foot rattler on the trail where you passed just outside the trailhead, about ten minutes after you left.”

You have got to be shitting me. 

We hiked back now under stress, waiting for the rattlesnake that would block us yet again for our car.  I was so focused on the trail that it gave me a headache.  But no snake was seen and we got back to the car, relived that there was no encounter. 

Until we started driving.

IMG_0533

That’s from the safety of the Outback, and that’s number four.  A little shorter and a lot thinner than the trailhogger that we saw at Chiricahua.  We are done with rattlesnakes.

We wanted to finish with one more quick trail called Springs Canyon Loop but it started to rain on us and we heard thunder about a quarter of the way up the trail.  Off we went, out of Guadalupe, past Carlsbad Caverns, and into a driving monsoon.

It was the flooding, crazy thunderstorm that made you wonder if the world was ending.  The driving was down to 30 mph and the lightening was never ending.  We made it Carlsbad in one piece but ended up soaked as we unloaded during Noah’s flood or whatever the hell monsoonal moisture this storm cooked up.  We are soaked and tired, and tired of snakes. 

Trails hiked:  McKittrick Canyon to the Grotto, Spring Canyon to Manzanita Springs.

Miles hiked:  7.2

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