All posts by phieldnotes

TR-Guadalupe Peak April 23, 1985

It’s been quite a while since my first climb up Texas’ highest point, Guadalupe Peak (8,751′ now, was listed at 8,749′ then). I don’t have any notes from that hike; just fuzzy memories and some fuzzier photos from an old point & shoot Nikon I used to borrow from my dad.

me, approaching summit in '85.
me, approaching summit in ’85.

I was twenty-seven years old, still in the middle of my offshore oilfield career. I had read the old “Trails of the Guadalupes” guide, published by the Carlsbad Caverns Natural History Association, backwards and forwards while working on out in the Gulf of Mexico and had decided I needed to go see Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GUMO) and climb the highest mountain in Texas.

I went to Big Bend National Park first, then on to GUMO arriving very early in the morning of the 22nd of April, 1985. I don’t even think I camped there that week; I may have stayed in the parking lot of the rest area up the road a few miles the first night, then possibly a motel in Carlsbad. I hiked McKittrick Canyon that first day, then I think overnight in Carlsbad and Guadalupe Peak the second day.

There wasn’t any visitor center back then; just an old galvanized metal shed at Frijole. Don’t recall if I stopped there or not.

I started reasonably early that morning I think. The weather was sunny, windy and chilly. The wind really began to howl and push me around as I ascended up the trail the first mile or two, especially the part where it is blasted right out of the solid limestone cliff. I remember feeling a bit apprehensive and unsteady as the wind really was moving me around as I made a switchback which put me on the opposite side of the cliff and suddenly the wind was gone.

 There’s a conveniently situated boulder not far past that mini-pass, a nice place for a brief respite. The trail then leads through a forest of tall conifers which may be a surprise to those who didn’t expect it.  Some years remnants of winter snows may linger for months as packed snow and ice here on the north-facing slope, but there was none on this trip.

The trail emerges from the forest, and over the last mile or so one passes a couple of spots which may excite the acrophobic folks, one with a bit of exposure and one little wooden bridge to cross; and then the designated backcountry campsite turnoff.

Finally, I saw the horse hitching posts just below the summit, and then I was on top of the peak; actually a large flat summit area. I enjoyed the wonderful views in all directions, somewhat interrupted by Hunter (8,368′) and Shumard (8,615′) peaks to the Northeast and North, respectively. I was alone for a while, then another young man arrived; we took each others pictures on the summit.

Looking over El Capitan
Looking south over El Capitan
Me on the summit plateau 1985. Shumard Peak behind me.
Me on the summit plateau 1985. Shumard Peak behind me.

Since this trip report is from memory and not from written notes I can’t say anything about the return hike other than it wasn’t memorable.

One thing about the summit of Guadalupe Peak I didn’t realize at the time has to do with the view, and it took me years (maybe after my 1997 summit hike?) to figure it out. The vast majority of hikers, including me, will do this hike starting in the morning, arriving at the summit a couple of hours either side of noon, then returning. As any photographer knows, the noon hours are the worst for shooting landscape, as the colors wash out and there is little shadow relief to highlight terrain.  This would lead me to do an overnight to the summit fifteen years later (in February 2000) and I would be rewarded for my patience.

TR-Guadalupe Peak 1997

A very brief trip report.
I climbed Mt Wheeler, highpoint of New Mexico, in summer 1997. Along the way, to get some altitude and conditioning in, I summited Guadalupe Peak again.

I’d started out from Austin and stopped in Davis Mountains State Park. I got up early in the morning and drove to GUMO. I have some notes from this trip:

On to Guad Park–(Note: Dawn (light) not until ~7:00 a.m. CDT here.)

Arrived GMNP ~9:00 CDT. Wx excellent ~50s, -60; light breeze, clear sky. Park almost deserted. Asked young woman behind counter about old Pine Spring Cafe-she didn’t know-was before my time.)

Began ascent ~ 9:50 a.m. CDT-one break past (that place*) (at 1:08 of hike.) in the first extensive forest. Felt good-last 1/4 mile was hell, through several false summits. Summit at 12:45 CDT (2:57 hatse??less 18 minutes in breaks is 2:39 hike. Dead calm at summit. [at summit 35:07; 1:48 for descent-5:20 less 18 less 35:07 = 4:55 total hike – sign at trailhead suggests 6-8 hours.]

“That place” mentioned above, I now remember, is the spot after you finish the first part of the climb. You hike up a steep limestone wall, basically, with some of the trail literally blasted out of the side of solid stone; depending on the wind that day, you may be buffeted by 40-50 mph winds. I was, the first time I’d done that hike in the 80s. But you come around a bend, and almost magically the wind goes to nothing and you’re in a forest. And not far ahead are convenient boulders to sit on and rest a spell.

And that’s all, folks!


TR-GUMO Shumard backcountry site 11/16/2017

Gaiamaps link

Tracklog out to Shumard Backcountry site
Tracklog out to Shumard Backcountry site

CalTopo map

I spent most of a week in mid-November (2017) at Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GUMO). Camped 4 days/nights; at Pine Spring CG and in the middle an out/back overnight to the Shumard Canyon backcountry site. I don’t have a *lot* of info to add; i’ve done the El Cap/Overlook trail several times over the decades so didn’t take many photos. I had never done the Shumard Canyon stretch before so this was all new to me. It turned out to be quite challenging due to the trail conditions, and I took very few pics (even though i’d intended to do some night photography). That happens. Continue reading TR-GUMO Shumard backcountry site 11/16/2017

Ken Sleight-Seldom Seen Smith

Ken Sleight was an old river runner/desert rat who was the inspiration for Ed Abbey’s character “Seldom Seen Smith” in The Monkey Wrench Gang.”

I like that he calls Lake Powell “Lake Foul.”

“It was probably foolish and masochistic of me to have hung around and watched it happen. But I just had to. At first it would rise a foot overnight, and you saw things you loved go under. First it was Music Temple. Then it was Gregory Natural Bridge. Then Cathedral in the Desert. I’d think of those fools that said this was a good thing, that we needed this dam. Then I’d see Hidden Passage or some other lovely spot with no name go under…it was unbearable.

“And I’ll always remember the sign at Rainbow Bridge. There was a Park Service sign along the trail and it read: ‘God’s Work. Tread Lightly.’ The next week, the lake came up and buried the sign and the trail.” By late 1964, the reservoir had reached Hite and Glen Canyon was gone…for now.”

Here are historical data on the levels at “Lake Foul,” among other things…U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Martin Litton

Martin Litton was an uncompromising conservationist of the West, and another legendary foe of the Glen Canyon dam.

He was the movement’s Jeremiah — the crier in the wilderness who spotted the threats, condemned the desecraters and rallied the leadership to the defining preservation conflicts of the early 1950s through the ’80s.

David Brower, who as the Sierra Club’s seminal leader in the last half of the 20th century was compelled to make some of the compromises Mr. Litton fought, was known to call him “our conscience.”

–New York Times

NY Times obit

About Martin Litton

Roger Reisch-GUMO NP

I discovered his obituaries in the regional media websites (Trans-Pecos Texas, Southern New Mexico) when I was looking for info for  the NPS ranger I’d met way back in my earliest trip to Dog Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

(I include the NPS page here, but I’ve also captured the page to a PDF if the park service changes the link in the future.)

I’ll start from way back when. Continue reading Roger Reisch-GUMO NP

Wheeler Peak-New Mexico Highpoint

[Original date August 31, 1997]

Trip report from a hike to the summit of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico (13,161′) undertaken August 31, 1997.

Wheeler Peak is the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161′. The hike to the summit via Bull of the Woods is about 15 miles round trip, and has an elevation gain from 9,000 to 13,161′. This climb is non-technical during most of the summer. But extreme care should be taken during the thunderstorm season-July and August-since much of the Wheeler Peak trail is above timberline and exposed. Getting to and off the summit before thunderstorms this time of year will entail a near-dawn departure.

Continue reading Wheeler Peak-New Mexico Highpoint