Monday, September 9, 2013

AN UNEXPECTED NIGHT AT THE GUADALUPE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Our 7 week Westward trip this year was to be the last big trip we would make towing our Airstream trailer. Oh, no! We had only just found the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and I want to go back there again.
If we don't have the trailer then it will be a tent because there is no accommodation for miles. .



My concerns that the trailer parking would be filled were unfounded. We were the only ones there!  Probably a good thing because it was the most basic of overnight parking; white stripes and a number on the tarmac indicate each spot, and they were tight. It would be very crowded if there were huge trailers in each of the spots. There were no hookups although there were flush toilets. That is a bonus I can tell you. There was a tenting area close by but I saw only 3 tents. It was a bargain for $4 for the night (one of those bonuses of aging, and there are few) All around us Apache plume, Fallugia paradoxa, was doing its thing.


A few months ago we watched a program on TV about the geology of the park. It was formed over 260 million years ago when a tropical ocean covered most of what today is Texas and New Mexico. The build up of calcium from dead sea life and precipitation of calcium in salt water created a reef which, after the sea dried up, was buried for millions of years only to rise to the surface during mountain building times.

Entrance to visitor center


We visited the visitor center with wildlife and geological exhibits, bookstore and theater where we watched a movie about the park. Then we took off onto one of the trails which runs from the campground parking lot. We had to make the most of our late afternoon as the following day we were planning a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. Then home.


We began to see lots of familiar plants; sotols and prickly pear cactus.


I had no expectation to see flowers in bloom this late in the year so was pleasantly surprised by these yellow blooming unknown members of the aster family.


Indian paintbrush.


My favorite Plains zinnia, Zinnia grandiflora.


Mallow


Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum.


Blue gramma, Bouteloua gracilis
Grasses were beginning to bloom, their silver seed heads gleaming in the late afternoon sun. But by far the biggest surprise of all was the number of Texas madrone trees, Arbutus xalapenis, dotted around the hillsides and so easily spotted by their flaky, orange, peeling bark.



I know a few gardeners in Austin who would give anything to have one of these in their garden but this is a very finicky tree to transplant as well as hard to find.
I would love to have spent more time there but evening was drawing on. It was to be a really noisy one with the calls of the wild out there. At one time I thought the crying coyotes were encircling our trailer! I do hope I get to go back to do some of the other hikes. This is a National Park that is a must to visit if you like to hike, camp, love Texas native plants and scenery and the bonus is you can visit Carlsbad Cavern National Park at the same time. I'll leave you with this shot of the natural entrance to the caves; the ones out of which the Mexican Freetail bats leave at dusk.



There is an easier way in. The elevator will take you down over 800' into the cave or you can hike in the smelly way!



26 comments:

  1. Beautiful place and the blooms you found are wonderful. Love your description of the adventure of it all.

    The madrone bark amazed me. The ones I have seen have the bark peeled back to reveal the mostly smooth pinker trunk and the deeper red only on the smaller branches. It is such a gorgeous tree with its gracefully curving branches and twigs. Worth the trip to see that tree in the wild.

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    1. It was certainly a lovely surprise and to see so many. I had no idea.

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  2. Such gorgeous blooms...and so unexpected in what looks like such a harsh environment.

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    1. Yes, little soil but it was a lot cooler up in the mountains than down on the plain. I m sure that helps out the plants and in Texas fall is a great season for blooms.

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  3. Wonderful and so amazing! Thanks for sharing.
    Marian

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  4. Sure enough add me to the list of Central Texans who would love to host a Madrone. Interesting how the flowers you enjoyed in the wild are being pressed into use more and more in our urban/suburban settings. Took us long enough (or at least took me long enough!) but it looks like we are finally learning how crucial it is to observe what does well naturally in an area and use those plants to advantage. Thanks for sharing your visit!

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    1. Yes, maybe Lady Bird Johnson's message is finally getting through.

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  5. Looks peaceful, beautiful, and a wonderful place to spend a night or two!

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    1. I would like to spend a week there. Lots of trails to hike and cool mountain air at night.

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  6. Nice! Now that I'm within a couple hours, I must go. Always into dramatic mountains and plants...reading this from the mountains west of Denver, I felt like I was suddenly swooped back to my old or new home! You captured it well...dramatic scenery, bold plants, and endless beauty. The Apache Plume is exquisite there.

    "yellow blooming unknown members of the aster family" - Damianita is my 1st guess since they are so woody and their size, but they could be Shrubby Dogweed, Thymophylla acerosa, if my eyes are playing tricks.

    Madrone - I could be very happy with a grove of them by my house, maybe a few gray oaks, sotols, and manzanitas:-)

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    1. Still not sure where you ended up. Las Cruces? El Paso? Gosh, I love this scenery. Not damianita but possibly shrubby dogweed which is not in either of my books.

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  7. How lovely to have the park practically to yourselves. That's an added bonus of retirement travel that I am much looking forward to. We used to do a lot of tent camping in my son's old scout days. Perhaps we will again someday, though, your airstream looks sooo much more comfortable.

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    1. I do like a comfy bed these days. Not sure I could go back to tent camping but maybe another VW camper as long as there was memory foam on the bed.

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  8. We've been through there many times. But, we never actually went into the park, or camped there. It's a pretty drive, though.

    Carlsbad Caverns have been a family favorite, since we were kids. We have camped there, several times, with kids and grandkids.





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    1. Next time you must go into the park although there is not much to see other than the visitor center unless you hike the trails.

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  9. I'll have to put this on my list of places to visit. I have been to Carlsbad before. We hiked in from the natural entrance and found it to be quite lovely. It was not a difficult walk at all. We didn't stay to see the bats leave the cave in the evening, although I have heard that it is quite amazing to view.

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    1. Amazing caverns. We were there last in 1968 and it hasn't changed a bit- not that we can remember that far back!

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  10. We stayed overnight at Guadalupe Mountains National Park on our way to Santa Fe a few years ago - we made the mistake of backpacking 5 or 6 miles in during June. That...was hot. But it was very nice. And I love the Apache Plume.

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    1. So June was hot. We found the temperature pleasant and good sleeping apart from the wildlife noises.

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  11. Gorgeous photos, as usual. After we went to the area, I bought a couple of Apache Plume at a Lady Bird Wildflower sale. Wish I could say they like our place as much as I liked them out west.

    You're right about the madrones. Madrone Nursery in San Marcos doesn't carry them because he says he can't keep them alive more than a couple of years...

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    1. I was wondering about apache plume. Have never seen it here. Maybe it likes elevation and cooler nights. I will look this fall at the plant sale.

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  12. PS You could always change your mind about the Airstream...make the next trip the last...

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  13. I'm afraid it is someone else who will have to change their mind!

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  14. I love that part of Texas. I've hunted near there several times and scare all the deer off because I'm looking at plants. Another destination near there is Dog Canyon National Park. Beautiful camp ground a little higher up with bigger trees and a whole different flora.

    If you want one of the little orange blooming mallows, I will pot you one up. I started one here several years ago and now have several. Hope to see you soon.

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  15. We've been to Carlsbad but not spent time in the Guadalupe Mountains. We'll have to remedy that one day. It looks spectacular!

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  16. We did a backpacking trip there two Thanksgivings ago. Great place! And I wanted a madrone too. :( I don't think they would like SE Texas though.

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