BY SHANNON KING
GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS , TEXAS
Driving Highway 652 west across Texas , the horizon becomes a wall . It ’ s not hard to imagine what the first settlers must have thought as they crested these hills in horse-drawn wagons , seeing such a roadblock as the Guadalupe Escarpment for the first time .
Within the Sacramento Mountains , a segment of the southern Rockies , the Guadalupe rise from the sleeping desert and stretch . Crossing Far West Texas into southeastern New Mexico , the arms of these mountains embrace two national parks ( Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains ), sections of Lincoln National Forest , and the Mescalero Apache Indian reservation .
Established in 1966 , Guadalupe Mountains National Park protects an exposed section of the Capitan Reef , a 260 to 270-million-year-old fossil reef . The mountains make up one of three sky islands in Texas , standing tall surrounded by Chihuahuan desert , and enclose four of the highest peaks in Texas .
Terrain here is diverse . Climbing into highland forests of ponderosa pine , aspen , and Douglas fir , then crossing west through the gypsum grains of the Salt Basin Dunes . After miles of driving through flat desert and pump jacks , the peaks of Far West Texas are a welcome sight .
But hiking to the top of Texas , the goal of many who come here , requires courage , persistence and determination . The 8.4-mile out-and-back trail up to Guadalupe Peak ascends 3,000 feet in elevation along narrow cliffsides and steep staircases ; rocks tumble – dodging footsteps along the way . From the peak , the trail continues 100 miles to Carlsbad Caverns National Park .
CARLSBAD CAVERNS | GUADALUPE RIDGE TRAIL
Riding tonight I sense a change in hoofbeats as my horse moves through the desert . A hollowness unfelt before .
As I contemplate the consistency of his steps , a barn owl rises from a jagged hole of white strata . Layer on layer of rock descending into the earth . Soaring to the sky , his soft and fluffy underside
14 Cenizo Summer 2022