We were expecting a storm to pass through the area, so we decided to hole up for five whole nights at our campsite in the Guadalupe Mountains. The “campground” was just space set aside in the parking lot at the trailheads by the visitor center. But at $4 per night on asphalt, with rain coming, it sounded like a good idea. With limited spaces and a holiday weekend approaching, we were lucky to get a spot.
It became our home base for a couple of jaunts back into Southeastern New Mexico. Then it was time to explore the local area. Turns out Guadalupe Mountain National Park is a favorite hiking spot – and apparently one of the few places in Texas with mountainous trails. Kind of hard for this California native to imagine.
While the weather became quite windy, the rain mostly missed us. But it was unpleasant enough that I wanted to stay in one day when Tom went for a nearby hike to Devil’s Hall.
The weather cleared up. He had fun. I worked on our tax return.
The next day we hiked the 2.3 mile trail to the Frijole Cabin and Smith Springs. It was an interesting home with a spring and outbuildings like a barn and a red schoolhouse.
The house was in an area like everything around (desert) but as we got into the second spring at the top of the hike, there were large trees.
Some of them I found out were Texas Medrone trees, and I fell in love with them.
It was a fairly nice day and a nice hike, and we met and visited with some nice people. Nice!
On our final full day there, we drove to the trailhead of the Pratt Stone Cabin and Grotto in the McKittrick Canyon (still in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park). There were signs posted that the gate closed at 5pm and a nice unmanned visitor center that showed a film with Mr. Pratt talking about how he found this area and fell in love with it. He very eloquently described how he thought it was the prettiest place in all of Texas.
This was a spectacular hike and the weather was perfect. It was about two and a half miles to the cabin, so we stopped there to have a snack and spend some time talking to the docent inside the cabin. Mr Pratt obviously had a lot of money when it was built as a summer home in 1931. We admired the stonework and marveled at the stone roof.
There were large cottonwood, maple and oak trees all around. Beautiful area along the stream bed that was lined with white rocks.
Roughly a mile up the trail was “The Grotto” – who wouldn’t want to go there? So we continued on up in to the awesome McKittrick Canyon. Then Tom thought to ask what time it was.
Unfortunately, because the area is right on the line between Central and Mountain Standard time, we miscalculated the time. We were afraid we wouldn’t make it back before the gate closed. So we turned around and hoofed it back. I was in tears that we couldn’t continue.
Of course, when we got back to the visitor center we realized our mistake. Note to self: get an old fashioned watch and don’t rely on cell phones that go in and out of time zones! Turns out we had hiked 6.3 miles and were probably only a quarter mile away from the Grotto.
That’s okay. I hope to be back to this area. The Madrone trees were incredible, and there were many maples and oaks as well, and I can only imagine how beautiful this area would be in the summer or fall.
Also next time I’d like to tackle the all day 8.5 mile, 3,000 foot climb to Guadalupe Peak – the “Top of Texas” at over 8,700 feet (the tallest in the whole state). There’s even a marker at the summit. We read about a trio of disabled vets that spent five days pulling themselves and their wheelchairs up to the top. Very inspirational.
But for now we move on through Texas.
Peace & Love, Joy
Glad to see this post as this is a future destination. Concerned about the campground situation if there isn’t a spot available.
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Yes, we were concerned also, so we arrived early – and before the weekend. Our plan B was BLM at mile marker 10 – just a pull out off the road.
Adding this to the ever-growing list, too! 🙂