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Daytripper with Chet Garner: Guadalupe Mountains

Most of my day trips consist of a handful of museums, a bit of outdoors, and lots of great food. But then there are the trips that take me into the remote reaches of Texas; to places without restaurants and streetlights but riddled with adventure. My recent journey was of this kind, as I set out with friends to summit the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak.

8:00 a.m.  We pulled into Guadalupe Mountains National Park as the sun crested Texas’ tallest mountain range. We could have spent hours at the visitor center learning about the ecology of this unique range, but our adventure awaited us. After a quick check-in with the park rangers, we were out the door.

8:30 a.m.  We arrived at the trailhead and did our final gear check. Backpack, food, first-aid kit, toilet paper, and—most important—water! There’s no available water on the trail, so we squeezed in every drop we could carry from the camp faucet and hit the trail. Roughly four miles ahead and 3,000 vertical feet above was our 
final destination.

9:00 a.m.  Only a half-hour in and I already felt exhausted. It was obvious that the oxygen at 6,000 feet above sea level is much less than back home in Central Texas.

9:30 a.m.  Another half-hour and I already felt better. I was finally able to look up from my feet and notice the vegetation of the Chihuahuan Desert. Among the typical prickly pear cacti was an amazing Texas madrone, which looked as if someone had covered its trunk and limbs in bright red paint.

12:00 p.m.  The elevation rose and our surroundings changed drastically as rocks and cacti gave way to grasslands and towering pines. It was incredible to think that we were still in the desert, and that this entire mountain range used to be an underwater reef.

12:30 p.m.  We crested a rise and suddenly we were standing behind “El Capitan.” As awe-inspiring as this formation is from the road, it was twice as stirring to look down upon its grandeur. After catching my breath, I looked to my right and there it was: Guadalupe Peak.

1:00 p.m.  The last stretch of trail seemed twice as long as the entire hike before it. But finally, after hours of hiking thousands of vertical feet, we reached the summit of Guadalupe Peak. Suddenly, I was standing on the TOP OF TEXAS at a magnificent 8,751 feet. The spot is marked by an obelisk honoring the stagecoach drivers who once delivered the mail through this rugged land.

1:15 p.m.  For the first 15 minutes, my friends and I didn’t say a word. To the north, I could see Bush Mountain and Shumard Peak, the second and third highest points in Texas. To the west I could see the park’s vast salt flats. And to the south, I could see more of Texas than my eyes and heart could contain.

2:00 p.m.  After an inspiring hour, we decided to start our descent. The entire way down we chatted about the climb, the view, and where we were going on our next adventure.

5:00 p.m.  We arrived at our car and shed our hiking boots. For dinner, we would head south to Van Horn. But for the time being, we were content to lie on the ground and bask in our glorious feat.

Reaching the top of Texas requires stamina and an entire day to accomplish, but it’s worth every rocky step. While our highest peak may not be as tall as Mount Everest, the view and the feeling you get staring out across Texas is just as epic. So, whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.

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