We had spent the morning at Carlsbad Cavern, but just 32 miles south is Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GMNP). This park is located in Texas.
The park is part of the same ancient sea reef that Carlsbad Cavern in located on. There are no caverns in GMNP but fossils. It is considered the world’s premier example of a fossil reef from the Permian Era. Geologist from around the world, come here to explore this phenomenon. 260 million years ago an ocean covered portions of Texas and New Mexico. Over millions of years; sponges, algae, and marine creatures, in combination with lime deposits, formed the 400 mile long, horseshoe shaped Captain Reef. Today, this ancient reef, towers above the Texas desert, as part of the Guadalupe Mountain range. El Captain is a prominent feature of the range, as well as Guadalupe Peak, the highest mountain in Texas.
We stopped at the park visitor center and learned that throughout time, the Nde (Native Americans also known as Mescalero Apache), pioneers, explorers, stagecoaches, US Army troops, and conservationists have been part of the park’s history. Until the mid 1800s, the area was mostly inhabited by the Nde. In the 1920s, a geologist for Humble Oil, Wallace Pratt, was impressed by the beauty while surveying the area. He purchased 6,000 acres and built two summer homes. In 1959, his estate was donated to the National Park Service. More land was obtained from J C Hunter and in 1972, the area was officially declared a national park. It now covers 86,367 acres, with half of that declared a designated wilderness, making it the largest wilderness area in Texas.
We also obtained information on the hiking route that would be best in about a 4-hour time frame, as the park is mostly known for hiking and backpacking. The rangers suggested we hike Devil’s Hall. We would not see any fossils, but the hike would be beautiful. It is 4.5 miles around trip.
In keeping with the trip’s tradition we took a picture between trees (in this case yuccas) as we hiked the trail.
As we hiked up the small canyon, the surrounding peaks were amazing.
You continue above the dry wash and about halfway, the trail drops into the wash.
We scrambling up and over boulders…
The rangers at the visitors center had warned us about Devil’s Staircase. It is about a 15 foot rise and took a little rock climbing. During a rain storm, it is probably an impressive waterfall.
We hiked a bit further up the wash and thought we had reached Devil’s Hall, so we stopped and took a picture and headed back to Devil’s Staircase.
A gentleman appeared behind us and asked, “Why didn’t you hike to the Hall, you were only 200 yards short”. Well thank heavens he came along because we would have missed the best part.
Wow.. we lucked out because we would have felt bad missing Devil’s Hall. It is a very impressive area. We headed back down the wash to the parking lot and back to New Mexico. We got one last glimpse of the Carlsbad Cavern Visitor complex from the highway.
Our campground was in Midway, New Mexico and feeling like we had accomplished alot during the day, with 2 national parks and 8 miles of hiking, we stopped in Artesia for dinner. We also enjoyed the sculpture of the “Cowboy”
The next morning we headed toward Santa Fe, but first we stopped in Roswell for an Alien Encounter.