Summiting the Highest Peak in Texas
I began my hike just as the sun was beginning to rise; smeared against the cotton candy colored sky were baby pink clouds. Two very important things I have come to understand while hiking would be these:
1. Start your hikes early.
I began hiking at 7a.m. and throughout the entire ascent never saw a single soul. It’s a different experience having the entire trail to yourself and not being interrupted by other hikers journeying to the same destination. It’s just you, your thoughts, and the endless trail before you. Another perk to an early hike is getting to wake up with the day by watching the sun rise as you begin your ascent. As I arrived at the peak, I came upon one other person, and only as I began my descent did I run into other hikers and families. One after another they trekked to the top, but because I was headed the opposite direction, much of the trail remained all to myself.
2. If hiking in Texas, take your big trips in the winter months.
Having visited Big Bend National Park in January and now Guadalupe Mountain National Park in December, I can confidently say the weather during these times of the year are impeccable. The days are just chilly enough for you to break a little sweat, but not be sweating buckets as you would in the summer months. The feeling of the sun warming your skin while also being cooled down by a crisp breeze is the best hiking weather a person could ask for. If camping, the weather can be quite chilly at night; however, if you plan accordingly, this too can be a wonderful experience. From my research and experience, campsites are often offered at a discounted rate at many State and National parks.
I trekked the winding series of switchbacks and long expanses of gradual inclines. Throughout the entire hike were the most breathtaking views of Hunter Peak, directly adjacent to the Guadalupe Peak trail, and the deep blue rolling mountains and plateaus of the desert landscape. I’ve grown to be observant, or at least trying to be mindful, of my surroundings at all times. It’s natural to glue your eyes to the grown and watch your every step, but then you often miss nature’s hidden beauties. You would think the top of the peak would be the highlight of the hike, but more often than not it’s the journey to the top that gets me. The little plants and wildlife that often go unnoticed as hikers race to the top are what make me stop in admiration.
I reached the top of the peak only to experience the most extreme winds I have ever found myself in. I had checked the weather prior to beginning the hike and saw the winds were to be 30mph…but that was not the case. The only other hiker on the peak informed me the winds were in fact 50mph. I had to scoot myself across the top for every time I stood, I was blown every which way. I sat and took in the views expanding far and wide; it’s these very views that make me appreciate Texas beauty a little more. After I’d had my fill, I snapped my picture with the Guadalupe Peak Monument and made my way back down.
I can’t describe the feeling of accomplishment that swelled within me as I continued along my descent. Despite having done longer hikes, as well as those in higher elevations, the feeling is all the same. The effort and time that I put into each and every hike manifest the same feelings of gratefulness for where I am, reflections of my past, and hopefulness for my future. No matter the type of mountains or the location, the feelings they instill in me do not go unnoticed and I will continue to chase them for as long as my body allows.
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