Sunday, I returned to the area where rain and fog and wind plagued my route to Carlsbad Caverns. This time, I stopped just short of where the Caverns are located. I was greeted with a far different landscape – one where I could actually view the mountains and valleys that surrounded me which had previously been shrouded by clouds and precipitation.
The clear, sunny, 70-degree day was perfect for exploring Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Sadly, I had actually never heard of this park before I drove through it on my way to Carlsbad, but I certainly recognized the signature shape of the iconic peak that it proudly boasts – El Capitan (now that I could finally see it).
At around 8,000 feet, El Capitan is pretty impressive. However, Guadalupe Peak (nearly 9,000 feet) has the bragging rights to status as the tallest mountain in Texas. I had really wanted to hike to the top of one of these peaks, but with the 2.5-hour drive to the park and the limited daylight hours this time of year, I thought better of that idea. Maybe I’ll become a rattlesnake snack another day. Instead, I selected the Devil’s Hall Trail that ends at a narrow canyon called (you guessed it!) the Devil’s Hall.
The park was gorgeous, and while there were a fair number of people there enjoying it, it was far from crowded. I had plenty of opportunities to stop for a moment and hear nothing but the peaceful sounds of the canyon around me.
Guadalupe Mountains was a surprisingly lovely place to enjoy fall colors, my favorite being the bright hues of the Bigtooth Maples. Another interesting surprise - the park features one of the most extensive fossil reef formations known on earth. The remnants of life from 250 million years ago are above, beside, and below you as you travel through the canyon – a very different experience from that offered at the Falls of the Ohio back home.
I left the park just in time to enjoy a gorgeous sunset and the super moon rising in my rear view mirror – a pretty fitting end to a “super” day. :-)