“Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” - Jack Kerouac.
Jack Kerouac was a slippery character, but damn he was good at writing one-liners.
I would be lying if I told you this trip was entirely spontaneous.
2020 was the year that apparently everyone went to West Texas. On my Instagram feed alone, four of my close friends posted photos from Prada Marfa the same week - a week before I left for this trip.
Be that as it may, I've been wanting a West Texas excursion for a long time.
Reason being, Guadalupe Peak, at 8,751 feet, is the highest natural point in Texas. It's Texas' tallest mountain and there's a trail to the top if you want to climb it.
I've wanted this so bad for years.
I packed up my things from The Lincoln and grabbed coffee and breakfast at The Sentinel, a joint coffee shop and newspaper venture.
And yes, I, too, took an obligatory photo with Prada Marfa. The permanent art installation is located about a half hour outside of Marfa near the town of Valentine.
I was giddy the whole rest of the way to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
I'm going to climb a mountain. How many others will be there? What if I fall off a cliff and die? That would have been poetic, I think.
Spoiler alert, I'm here writing this, so no, I did not get frightened by a rogue bee and fall off a cliff into the rocky underbrush below (though I admit that I did get scared by a bee and almost died).
The mountain trail began right at the car park and took a swift left turn up toward one of two very large mountains at either side of me. The one to the right looked much taller, however. If I'm to be climbing the tallest peak in Texas, how does this trail work? Am I going left just to go right toward the seemingly higher peak later?
I started gingerly up the trails. It was like trying to master a winding staircase made of mismatched stones - a staircase that winded upward for four miles.
I could not keep that ginger pace for long. I looked back to find the car park below me. Far, far below me. Up ahead, I noticed the peak, or so I thought. It still appeared much lower than the peak of the mountain across from me.
Nevertheless, I moved onward and upward. I began to see folks coming down from the summit. I wondered how long ago they began their ascent if they were already heading back. I resisted the urge to ask any of them how much farther ahead the peak would be.
It must have been after the first hour and a half of uphill rocky stairmastering on the mountianside that the trail rounded the corner.
No, the peak across the valley from me was not, in fact, taller. I had simply been on the smaller of two portions of Guadalupe, and she'd only now revealed her true summit to me.
Far, far above me.
For a moment, I rested under a large rock formation and took in the much-needed shade. I thanked Guadalupe Peak, and Texas, for being here and allowing us all to explore her. In the distance, mountains, valleys, cliffs, and mesas rounded deep into the cavernous Texas landscape.
Under the 97-degree sun, a shiver ran through me as I thanked the mountain. I took that for what it was - an acknowledgment from the land or heat exhaustion - and moved on.
Toward the top, the trail disappears and one must navigate the white rock by best judgement only. I scanned what was ahead of me to discover any other hikers whose positions might inform my next move.
It took two hours from car park to the tip, but I reached the summit at nearly 2:00PM.
The air was crisp, the other hikers all equally excited to be there. Among my fellow climbers were a couple of families, a few other loners, and an elderly couple who I hope to be as intrepid as in my golden years.
As I do, I took in the view. The other mountain across the valley was now dwarfed by my current position on Guadalupe Peak. On the inside, I giggled at my earlier miscalculation. In all directions, the red land of Texas beamed under the blistering sun. The car park, around the other side of the mountain, was not visible.
I was also quite hungry.
I began the descent. As with my upward climb, the white rocks near the summit provided no visible trail, but I did make it down to said trail without falling to my death (a reoccurring thought as I traversed the cliffside walkways, and one small bridge over an overhang).
Once I could see the car park again, I knew it was only a matter of time. What took two hours to climb took roughly an hour to descend. When I made it back to the car, I switched on the air conditioning and laid a towel on my seat back to prevent myself from slathering it with sweat and sunblock.
It's not good to be prideful. But I've wanted to do that for a long, long time.
I must have smiled all the way across the Texas-New Mexico border and into Las Cruces.
A luxury apartment awaited me. I checked myself in, showered off approximately five pounds of that aforementioned sweat and sunblock, and hit. the. hay.
- NOTICE -
COVID-19 TRAVEL PRECAUTIONS I IMPLEMENTED
Though this blog is written with a carefree, fun, and exploratory nature, please know that I took every precaution behind the scenes.
I tested negative for COVID-19 prior to taking this trip.
I avoided other people at all times.
If person-to-person contact was unavoidable (such as my accommodations in Part Six of this series), I was wearing a mask. That being said, person-to-person contact was a very rare occurrence.
I only booked accommodations where I could have the whole place to myself with no spaces shared with other people (except for Part Six).
I only booked accommodations where I could check myself in. Again: No person-to-person contact (except for Part Six).
I took sanitizing wipes with me and gave every accommodation a good wipe-down.
Though I talk about food and coffee here, I also brought a lot of non-perishable food with me which I ate in the car while driving. Any and all food that I did purchase was done so over the phone and picked up to-go.
Photos posted to this blog and my Instagram featuring me without a mask were only possible outdoors, distanced from other people - and the mask only came off for the photo.
If you are choosing to travel during this time, please be aware of all of the precautionary work that you must put into your trip to ensure that you do not contract the virus and do not spread it to other people.
If you cannot guarantee that, do not travel.