#23 Guadalupe Peak, Texas (8,751 ft.)

Of the long road trip down from Albuquerque I remember a few pleasant hours recalling harrowing camping trips and a brief view of the border wall from the interstate near El Paso. Other than that, it was a blur of interstate cuisine and the dun-and-dunner landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert.

But then, all of a sudden, you might say, there's the mountain, white as heat, seemingly just around the next bend in the highway. And my is it spectacular: the rounded fortress wall of El Capitan hiding the summit behind its stunning escarpment.  

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Before you enter Guadalupe’s mighty gravitational influence you pass through a pan of salt flats to the west of the park. I considered stopping for a photo, but Karl was asleep, and I was concerned about securing a campsite for the evening: with good reason, it turned out. The campground was full, not a site to be had, but we sweet-talked the caretaker into letting us squat at one of the group sites that wouldn't be filled until the following evening.

After dinner we took a quick recon walk up the lower part of the trail to the summit and met our first local: a lively little tarantula who scuttled by Karl’s boot before stepping off lightly into the yucca.

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On summit day, to beat the heat, we got up before sunrise and headed up the trail. We made decent progress up the steep lower trail before the sun hit, turning the crumbling, creamy pink cliffs an astonishing rosy gold. Bubbles and indentations of fossilized ocean life could be seen on all sides of the trail: remnants from the Permian Period, when the Guadalupe Mountains were part of an enormous coral reef.

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The terrain and the colors of the trail changed once we hit the short bridge over the gorge. From there, you begin to sense the final switchbacks just ahead and the dramatic summit area up above: one of the most spectacular views of any highpoint I’d done to date, and unquestionably one of my favorite.

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The flora and fauna are also unlike any other state highpoint, most notably the clusters of ladybugs that I first thought were berries.

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And of course the summit markerthe great silver pyramid splitting the Texas sky—is uniquely odd among highpoints and grossly incongruous amid the dull earthtones and quiet greens of the scrub pine.

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The little movie of the trip is below. I left in a portion of the road trip footage because the drive to and from Guadalupe National Park and the splendid isolation of this spectular peak are all part of its charm.

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