There was one other mountain I wanted to climb in the park, Hunter Peak (8,368’) and that is exactly what I spent the morning doing. In 2013 there was a massive flood event which closed down Bear Canyon Trail and access to the Dog Canyon park entrance. Because I am a runner, Ranger Mike suggested several 19-25 mile loops out of Dog Canyon and for this reason, I must return once it re-opens. The Bear Canyon trail closure restricted access to Hunter Peak making it 11 miles round trip with 2,800 feet of vertical gain via Tejas trail. Per usual this deterred people and I had the whole experience to myself.
The morning began as most except I immediately got lost in a wash. The Tejas trail starts out of the Pine Springs camp ground but the flood took out a nice chunk. There are cairns that lead you across the wash but I missed them and ended up walking through a bazillion rocks to the visitors center. I finally found the crossover (31.89810N 104.82517W) and the real fun began. The Tejas trail is extra loose but the views are jaw dropping. It was 90 degrees by 9 a.m.
I had my running pack on so I was moving but so many of the Texas trails are un-runnable because my ankle is in kindergarten learning its alphabets. My motto is you do what you can with what you have.
At the top of the Tejas trail there is an obvious junction (31.91574N 104.84496W). Left goes to Bush Mountain, straight continues on the Tejas trail, and right starts up the Bowl trail which leads to the Hunter Peak spur. There is no sign that specifically says Hunter Peak. The Bowl is nice and meanders through the high country forest of pine and Douglas fir. I welcomed the shade. With a little effort I reached the sign that does say Hunter Peak. The Bowl continues around in a loop.
It’s a steep push to the summit which raged with some of the most extreme wind I have ever experienced. But fierce wind produces action hair!
In the southwest there are lizards everywhere. They dart out and try to trip you, they rustle in the shrubs to scare you, and sometimes they do pushups and flex at you. But they rarely sit still. On the way out a very special lizard let me put my phone all up in his grill and snap a photo.
When I was almost back to the wash I passed a group of backpackers and talked with them. Mid sentence a rattler popped off. It was in the cliffs above us. Terrifying.
I went back to camp, ate lunch, and headed out to do a high noon run of the Smith Spring trail. This short 3 mile loop with 500 feet of vertical gain starts out of Frijole Ranch which is two miles north of the main park entrance. It was incredibly hot but led to a nice watering hole.
At this point it was late afternoon but activitying was far from over. I headed back to camp, packed my camera gear in my Lowepro bag, and set out to do Devil’s Hall. I heard mixed reviews about this hike from my French Canadian neighbors. The general consensus was “eh.” I knew it was not runnable because 80% of the “trail” is the wash. I really had no idea what to expect but it ended up being my absolute favorite part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This one is a must do.
There is a definite trade off to carrying camera gear. It would not be a big deal to most but I like to move it move it…I like to move it, MOVE IT! I am a runner…we like to run and I cant with 20 pounds of camera gear on my back. Having already had my fill of running for the day I treated this evening exploration as a casual stroll. Much to my surprise, casually strolling is super lax. Perhaps it was the evening light, the cooler temps, and the night birds song, but I was the happiest I had been in a long time.
The trail dumps into the wash at 1.2 miles and from there it is a really fun scramble. Follow the cairns, or as they call them in Texas, “the zen rocks.”
Eventually the wash leads to an intimidating set of natural stairs. It is not obvious to go up them but if you want to get to Devil’s Hall, you must.
Devil’s hall is a passage and there is a sign. Although there are cairns beyond the hall they ask you please stop because it is a protected wild life area.
On the way out I found a nice place to sit and try to take a decent photo of a Turkey Vulture. Wild life photography is incredibly difficult and requires patience.
The Devil’s Hall hike was 4.8 miles with 1,300 feet of gain bringing my total for the day to 19 miles with 4,600 feet of gain.
With day two successfully under my belt I had a beer and star gazed with my neighbors. I probably should have tried my hand at star photography but sometimes I have to be present in the moment. Some photos I only need my brain to take and my memory to process.
Next up…my last day in the park.
“Never did the world make a queen of a girl who hides in houses and dreams without traveling”