Destination: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Route: TX-118N, US-90W, TX-54N
New State: New Mexico
In terms of days, we have reached the halfway point of our travels! We have also continued making good progress in a westerly direction. We leave Big Bend and head north towards Alpine, TX. It is a very long, very desolate drive. We notice ranches all along our route and see a half dozen cows at best. The low number of cow sightings might be due to the complete lack of forage. Just south of Alpine we get to interact with other humans! Specifically, at a US border patrol station where they are conducting a citizenship check. A simple answer of ‘yes’ to the question are you citizens, and we are allowed to continue on our journey.
As we get closer to Alpine, we start to climb and the town seems more appropriately named. In Alpine, we are hoping to stop at the Big Bend Brewing Company for lunch, but a quick perusal of their website indicates no food, so we push on. As we continue on 90, we start to get pushed around by some big winds. It is a fight to keep Abby steady on the road, so we bleed off speed to make her easier to control. We decide to stop in Marfa for lunch. This little town is odd in the fact that there are some very nice ($$$) restaurants. We opt for the Dairy Queen. While Jess is inside ordering, Dave enjoys the return of data coverage and is reviewing the weather for Guadalupe Mountain National Park, our targeted camping location. It is supposed to get rather cold tonight.
Dave takes the wheel after lunch and gets to enjoy rain/snow showers in addition to the gusting wind. We continue on and driving conditions improve when we reach TX-54N. The sun comes out and the winds die down. The landscape appears rather inhospitable, and then the Guadalupe Mountains rise up out of the desert, appearing lush in comparison to their desert surroundings. These mountains were used by the Nde (Mescalero Apache) as hunting grounds; elk mule deer, wild turkeys, mountain lions, black bears, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons can be found at higher elevations. These animals live in a dense forest of ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, Douglas fir, and aspen that is reminiscent of the cooler and moisture climate of 15,000 years ago. For explorers and pioneers, the mountains served as a landmark with valuable water and shelter.
When we arrive at the Guadalupe Mountain National Park visitors center, there is snow on the ground. At the visitors center, we learn that the Guadalupe Mountains are an exposed fossil reef that formed 260 – 270 million years ago. A tropical ocean covered portions of Texas and New Mexico. The reef was composed of calcareous sponges, algae, and other lime-secreting marine organisms. They, along with the lime, form the horseshoe-shaped Capitan reef. Over time, the sea evaporated and the reef was buried in layers of sediments and mineral salts and remained entombed for millions of years. During a mountain-building uplift, part of the reef was exposed in the Guadalupe, Apache, and Glass Mountains. Carlsbad Caverns are also part of this exposed reef.
We recheck the weather forecast and the lows for the night are forecast in the 20s, winds steady at 30 – 40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph. We decide to check out the RV camping area and get some fresh water. While the water tank is slowly filling (extremely low pressure), Penny and Chewie romp in the snow. Penny is absolutely thrilled to roll in the snow and enjoys herself thoroughly.
The RV camping is a bit disappointing, just extra large spots in a parking lot at a trail head. There is very little shelter and the wind is really beginning to whip. After a brief discussion, we decide that we cannot spend the night here. We have no arctic package, the cold will tax our batteries, and the furnace will likely run all night (further taxing our batteries and reducing our propane). We look at the map and decide to push on to Brantley Lake State Park in New Mexico.
Destination: Brantley Lake State Park, NM
Route: US-180E, US-62E
New States: New Mexico
Brantley Lake is our scheduled overnight stop for Day 14. We know we will have an electric hook-up so we can run the space heater. This will save wear and tear on our batteries and our propane supply. We arrive after the welcome center has closed, so we fill out the self pay form and ensconce ourselves into site 24.
The campground is very nice. The sites are spacious and level with a very nice picnic pavilion. There is a playground for Alex to enjoy during daylight hours and the bath house is clean. We have one complaint about the toilets . . . according to Dave, a wee bit cold in the poorly heated bathrooms. This confirms the choice Jess made to use the RV bathroom.
We are sad that Guadalupe Mountain National Park did not work out for us due to the weather conditions. The hiking trails are extensive and we are putting this on the list to return to. Next trip we will check out Dog Canyon, which is at the northern boundary of the park and accessible from New Mexico.