We pulled up to the campsites and found last year's site (#12 with a nice tree) was taken so we cruised the loop looking for something with shade. About 2 weeks before the start of our trip, I thought why should we try to cram 2 tents on one site when we could pay for 2. At $8 per night, it was worth the extra money to not have to share a tent. I thought I might feel weird about taking 2 sites as we were just one party but I got over that as soon as we picked our sites, 8 & 9, right beside each other. Site 8 had a picnic table under a tree that would provide afternoon shade so we used that site for cooking meals and eating and relaxing together. The other site had the tent right out in the open with no shade.
Disclaimer: Pictures are not as good as they should be - I'm blaming it on the sun and autocorrect limitations!
Here's site #8
How about a morning sunrise?
That's how the day started. After a good breakfast, we were ready to tackle Guadalupe Peak. Let me just say it now, ignorance is bliss! If I knew then what I know now, I might not have even ventured up that trail! It is rated strenuous and while my sister and I both did a fair amount of walking before the trip, it's just not liking walking at all! Strenuous means strenuous and I don't think that sunk in until much further along in the day on our descent. If you want to enjoy the fantastic views and successfully climb to the summit, you do want to be in good shape and have decent to excellent stamina. I will confess a 75 year old lady passed us on the way up!
Anyhoo, here we go! We're maybe 4-5 switchbacks into the hike and the parking lot is below us.
And a little further!
In the above picture, you'll see a mound rising up to a peak. I believe that is Nipple Hill. I took a picture of that last year on our Smith Springs hike. That is about 6 miles from the park!
We had several people pass us and that was no surprise. Lots of encouragement along the way. Somewhere as we got around what I refer to as the parking lot side, I remembered reading about a backpacking campsite that is about 3/4 of the way there. At that moment, my mindset was where is it, where is it? Mentally I was having a tough time, grinding it out physically. Maybe an hour later while we were taking a water break, a man and woman stopped to talk to us and the man pointed out the campsite sign just ahead of us. Oh Lordy - I was never so glad to see a sign as I was to see that one!!! So on we went. We were making progress, getting over and beyond the bridge but then things came to a screeching halt. With the peak in sight, Mary said she just couldn't go any further. My heart sank. So much time and effort invested and we were literally 2 zigs and a zag from that obelisk and signing that notebook. She told me to go without her but I just couldn't leave her there. After 20 seconds or so of disappointment, I was over it. I knew I lived here in TX and could try it again. This was kinda her lone shot at it. A woman who had passed us told us that the summit is however high we get, that was our summit. And so it was. We got high enough to get a picture of the backside of El Capitan and I tell you this picture doesn't do that view justice!
I took this next picture of the top of the climb from the same spot that I took the picture of El Capitan. You can clearly see that there's just not anymore peak to climb except for what you see.
So it was back down the mountain. Here's a picture of looking down on the bridge. Lots of people asked us if we made it to the bridge - we did and beyond.
There are several trails that start where the Peak hike starts. In the picture below, you can see another trail way off!
Again on the descent, you can see lots of switchbacks. You don't really notice them on the way up but those suckers are there. On the way down, I did ask several times if we were making any progress. We were but geez, you sure couldn't tell by me.
There was a fair amount of shade on the back side and the smell of pine trees was heavenly. I found seeing pine trees and cactus so close to each other rather unimagineable but there they were! Existing peacefully!
We finally got around to the parking lot side but I confess my knees were just giving me fits. I knew I was tired but did my best to be careful about how and where I stepped. And then it happened. I was using trekking poles to assist me as I need extra balance going down. However I no longer call them hiking sticks - I'm a veteran mountain climber now! I get a little top heavy and really didn't want a head over heals tumble. So instead, I opted to put my foot on some loose gravel, lose my balance and roll on my sides over two steps and finally brought myself to a stop with my butt right at the edge of the open side of the trail. I think my sister almost turned white when she turned around to see what had happened. I remember I hit my forehead really hard and being amazed that my sunglasses didn't break! I laid on my back, telling my sister I was OK but not to touch me. I was not in any pain so I figured nothing was broken. It took me a minute to catch my breath and sit up. Then I realized where I was. I carefully scooched back onto the trail and got myself on my feet. After taking inventory of several bloody scraps and a big ol knot on my forehead, we got going again. The rest of the trip down was uneventful! We got to the bottom and Mary signed me in so I could get in the car and rest. The only driving my sister did on the entire 1946 miles trip was from the trailhead parking lot to our parking area!!! I was pooped! My knees were aching something fierce. Back
at camp I took a couple of anti-inflammatory pills and sucked down about another gallon of water and noshed on a sandwich and apple as we sat there and discussed our foolhardiness to even attempt that hike. We were never in danger of harming ourselves (OK, maybe me once) but we kept saying what were we thinking? What lunacy drove us to attempt that? It was my sister's idea to do it but I was game and went along with it!!! What an experience!
I learned that I could walk for 9 hours and I learned water is worth its' weight in gold. We each had about 100oz in our backpacks. More would have been in order!
We woke the next morning to another beautiful day. I was anticipating stiff muscles and soreness but surprisingly enough, it was just my knees that still ached a bit. We had planned on doing nothing but lazing around all day, reading and whatnot and that was just the ticket. I did take the opportunity to hike around the camping loop looking at campsites. I found # 13, right off the road, had some nice shade and I found one site that had what I figured was a 10x20 padsite. There are also two group sites. The 2nd night we were there, a large group from a charter school in AZ came in and boy were they loud - well into the night. Apparently they didn't realize how sound carries and it wasn't just the kids that you could hear clearly. Fortunately I was too tire to give a crap!
And for you madrone tree lovers, this is for you. Found it at one of the campsites!
Lots of cactus here!
On our last morning we got up about 7:30 for breakfast and starting taking camp down. I heard some noise behind the tent and discovered a herd of muledeer grazing. Sorry the picture is crap but if you look hard, you'll see one buck with his butt to the camera!
As we were lugging our stuff back to the care we had an ephiphany. We decided we'd get sleeping bags! Yep, gonna cave in and get something nice and warm! Lugging all those blankets got old and since space in the car is at a premium, it just makes sense.
What a grand time we had at this place. It is rustic yet inviting. It's a hiking park but you can camp there. Solitude is yours if you want it. And yes, after some discussion, we're considering coming back and trying that peak again. We both laughed when one of us suggested it, knowing what we'd just gone through but that summit beckons me and I'm too stubborn to let it get the best of me.
My favorite picture of the trip - another sunrise at GMNP.
About 10am we were off to Junction. Lots of 80 mph ahead of us but still a long drive. Six hours later and we were rolling into South Llano. We got my new favorite campsite, #17, pitched our tents one more time and then headed into town to do laundry. Ah, fresh sheets and clean undies! While I kept an eye on the dryers, Mary went to the grocery store and picked up food for the next 3 days. Got back to camp in the dark, took a marvelously long, hot shower and then an easy meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup. Since Mary did all the cooking, I got KP duty. Got that done and did some stargazing. We saw the Milky Way there too - who knew it was at Junction as well?!! LOL Soon we both retired to our tents for some reading and then lights out.
Friday was a trip to Fredericksburg to hit the Christmas store and a great lunch at the Buffalo Nickel. Had another prickly pear margarita, frozen this time! Yum! Had some bison reuben sliders and a great salad. Finished the meal with pecan pie a la mode, drizzled with caramel. Yum yum! An hour later we were back at camp and doing just what we wanted to do - nothing! OK, both of us did some serious reading that day, a quick hike to a bird blind and then dinner. I am still using my bricks and grilltop for grilling. The bricks fit under a seat and the grilltop lays flat so that's easy to store. We've learned we don't have to bring the whole Lil Smokey outfit! Dinner was a great ribeye steak and salad. After cleanup, it was time to get out the TV/DVD combo that we'd been dragging around for 6 days since we finally had electricity - yeah! Watched Midnight in Paris and then hit the sack.
Saturday was almost a repeat of Friday. More lazing around, visited another bird blind, more reading and a happy hour with a cold adult beverage or two. Saturday night's dinner was sort of a mixed grill, cleaning out the leftovers, a little of this and a little of that. We did get to see a terrific lightning show off in the distance. It just kept spreading across the sky and my fingers were crossed that it would pass over completely. That evening's entertainment was several episodes of NCIS, Season 3. I am an NCIS junkie. My sister had to shoosh me several times - guess I knew more lines that I thought! Finally bedtime and off to dreamland. Sometime about 3am I heard some light showers and then later, around 5am or so, there was a really good rain shower, lasting maybe 45 minutes or so. Wouldn't you know it - camped all week and no rain and then 4 hours before we had to pack up our tents, it poured! Well, I guess they needed the rain. We ended up putting the tarps in an empty cooler. They were pretty wet and muddy. When we got home, I got the tents out and spread them out on the balcony to air out and dry. The next day at lunchtime, I took them downstairs to the parking lot to fold up again. Dang it - the wind was blowing almost as hard as it was at BiBe! I had to laugh. Payment I guess for such good weather during the trip.
I didn't take any pictures here except of some cardinals. I do have pictures from my September trip if you want to see those. No? Had enough? OK, I get it!
All in all it was a great trip. I was pleased we didn't have any car trouble on this trip. First trip was the check engine light that turned out to be a catalytic converter needing to be fixed and last year, it was a flat tire in the pouring down rain. Nice to get through a trip without any extra car expense. Put another 1946 miles on the car but it held up like a champ!
Like sisters who get along well, we laughed over a lot of silly stuff. Driving from Valentine to Van Horn, we passed some sort of military place and I went back to their drive to read a sign. Something about satellites or whatever. I swear, 5 minutes later the state po-po was on our tail. Didn't want us but we joked about how we knew too much and we'd soon be seeing the black helicopters. We kept embelllishing the story until we got to the park. Silly girls!
Then there was the map reading. More like the map folding. My sister couldn't get the map to fold right to save herself. She looked so absurd and I was laughing so hard I had tears coming down my face. Well, after 8 hours of driving, you get a little stir crazy! She made all kinds of noise with it and by the end of the trip, we had to toss it. Folds had torn and it was a mess. I had just bought that the morning we left! There was alot of other hilarity but I won't bore you anymore!!!
Next year's locations are set. We have decided on Mustang Island State Park (she's never seen the Gulf before) and SLRP next year. Watch out Gulf - the Snag Sisters are comin' your way!
Sure hope you've enjoyed the commentary and pictures. It was a fantastic trip and I wanted to share our good times with y'all!