Ranger Mike not only knows his park but is incredibly passionate about the outdoors and protecting our planets wild places. We had many wonderful conversations and his advice on where I should go and what I should see was priceless. He suggested I climb The Notch via the McKittrick Canyon day use area. This entrance is 7 miles north of the main park entrance and does not open until 8 a.m., but because I made friends with the rangers one of them came and opened the gate for me at 7:30.
The McKittrick Canyon trail is the best trail I encountered in the park. It is mostly flat, wide, and rock size is consistent. It crosses wash after wash after wash and then a pleasant stream until it arrives at The Grotto. There is very little shade and it was one of the hottest days I experienced.
The sun is a different kind of hot and bright in this part of the country making it very difficult to take photos that are not completely washed out.
At about 2.4 miles the trail arrives at a short out and back to Pratt Cabin. It is worth a look. In the 1920’s geologist Wallace Pratt bought land in McKittrick Canyon, and in 1959 donated his land to the National Parks service. Thanks Wallace, sweet cabin!
The trail continues until it hits The Grotto and Hunter Line Shack at 3.5 miles. This is where most stop but I continued up McKittrick Canyon Trail to The Notch (6,376’). The trail eventually leads to McKittrick Ridge (7,716’) and into some deep Texas backcountry. Someday I will turn this into a long run.
All of the 1,800 feet vertical gain comes in a short 1.3 miles. At one point there are crazy steep steps built into the side of the mountain. This part of the hike reminded me of Hawaii as it has a very junglesque feel.
The Notch opens up to a picturesque view. I could not take a photo that would accurately depict how beautiful it was from this small opening in the ridge. It was difficult to set up a good shot because the area was steep and far to expansive.
I continued up the trail a bit farther just because I loved the view so much.
On the way back I made the short out and back to The Grotto and Hunter Line Shack where I had a snack.
My favorite plant of the trip is this wiry fake Christmas tree looking thing called Ocotillo that produces pretty red flowers. It is also a favorite of fist wasp. Like a two year old, I like to touch things. For example, I don’t like the taste of rice crispy treats but I love to squish them in my hands. The whole trip I wanted to bend Ocotillo’s green arms into designs of my choosing, so I tried. I was immediately stabbed a dozen times. It is covered in daggers. If you get the urge to play with this plant, resist….you’re welcome.
As I drove out of the park a massively colorful stalk jetting out of the desert landscape like a sore thumb caught my eye. At first I honestly thought it was a radio tower but then I saw multiples so I pulled over to investigate. My eyes could not believe what lay before them. That horrid Agave plant grows out a 6-8 foot stalk that produces the oddest looking flowers I have ever seen. The dead ones are all over the place but this one was alive!
As a complete and total Biology nerd I had to research how the Agave plant carries out its demon life.
Although it is called the century plant, it typically lives only 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-green leaves of 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly margin and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone. Near the end of its life, the plant sends up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms, that may reach a total height of up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) tall.
Its common name derives from its semelparous nature of flowering only once at the end of its long life. The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth.
Well that wraps up Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I spent the entire Memorial Day weekend in the park and it was void of big crowds. This part of the country is overlooked giving it a super raw lawless vibe. It matches my personality well.
Onto El Paso…..
When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.
When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.
When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.
When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.
When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.
When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.
When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.
When times are tough, dare to be tougher.
When love hurts you, dare to love again.
When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.
When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.
When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.
When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.
When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.
When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.
Dare to be the best you can –
At all times, Dare to be!”