It was the first trailhead of our two week venture, and our first day that was enjoyed without worrying about gas, speed limits, or getting caught sleeping in hotel banquet rooms. We had our tent and shared the park with only a scattering of other humans; the park is usually visited sparsely, and with the scorching month of July in swing, it was even more desolated. Envisioning the walk through the escarpment walls of McKittrick Canyon, we sought the botanical variations and spectacular colors of our surroundings. Ocotillo, prickly pear, Indian paintbrush, and Texas madrone line the trail amongst desert shrub; a blue canvas fixed aloft us, allowing the sun to shine upon our bare shoulders. Protected by a straw hat and comforted with a small pack of necessities, I embarked the trail with my road trip companion.
The first mile was refreshing; the terrain was relatively even, except for a ridge that lifted eyes above the canyon walls and across the Guadalupe Mountains. Ascending into the canyon, the walls became steeper, and vegetation became more abundant and deciduous. Upon approaching the stream, the riparian surroundings erupted the canyon with life; green moss, grey canyon walls, golden rods of yucca, and red peel of the madrone invaded my vision. Here, we met Tom, our minuscule reptile of spotted reddish-yellow rind. A traveling cloud left a shadow on Tom’s body, yet we were ignorant to the mass overcast that was approaching. In fact, the obscured rays left us with a dissimilar perspective that too marveled the canyon. Within moments, the clouds burst, and drizzling rain quickly covered our shoes and bare skin. Torn between directions, we chose to run to Pratt Cabin, a location we hoped would have cover. The exact distance was unknown, but while we assumed it was closer than the trailhead, we also were not yet satisfied with the hike. The drizzles became drops, and drops became slush. Ten degrees cooler and 400 meters farther, blueberry sized hail strikes my hat and falls rapidly before my feet. Our jog became a sprint, and then a steeple course. We dodged the tree branches and forged the expanding stream while the cumulonimbus continued to release fury. Arrival brought ease both physically and to the mind, for the summer offseason left me out of running shape, and my thoughts had been pressed for safety. We sat on a misplaced tarp, admiring the phenomena nature offers and the Dionysian encounter we were unexpectedly offered. The camera had thankfully remained secure in the empty camelback pouch, and the pass time of shutter and lens began.
Following the storm, the colors were no longer spectacular, but nonpareil. Viridescent leaves became emerald, and the red enamel from the madrone turned ruby. Capturing the spectacle was not possible, yet we persisted to take unlimited photographs. Our clothes lay on the rocks to dry, and our moist skin reflected the luxuriance of our surroundings. Here, we experienced the closest we had naturally been to madness, a divine appreciation of being, and captured the feeling of being exalted. Not only has my memory grasped the unexpected piquancy, but also the photos that only we can observe with essence.
This area of divinity makes up a small portion of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Situated on the western border of New Mexico and Texas, the park comprises 76,293 acres of mountain and desert land. As a fairly new addition to the National Park system, Guadalupe is among the least visited national parks in the United States. In 1972, congress established the park primarily for its scientific and scenic values; the dramatic geological sequences of a desert, salt basin, grassland, forestry, and canyon added to the value of the land. Supplementary, the Guadalupe Mountains include Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,751 feet.
McKittrick Canyon is named after European settler Felix McKittrick, and is one of the few main trailheads in the park and remains one of the most popular. Geologically, the canyon reveals the formation of the Capitan Reef and the Permian Basin, and includes deep-water basin deposits and shallow water shelf sediments. It earned its reputable fascination due to the array of botanical features; McKittrick Canyon demonstrates the mergence of the desert and deciduous uplands in the park.
Although my experience in McKittrick Canyon cannot be duplicated, the possibility of encountering one of nature’s marvels is probable. I stayed at the park for no more than thirty hours; though looking back on the location, I treasure its natural offerings and admire its existence. I hardly can say that I experienced the park; however, embracing the meager land that I connected to suffices. Precisely due to the southwestern location, I hadn’t imagined the park to be as diverse as it is, nor was the destination one that was anticipated to reign with expected high points of the road trip. Following the Guadalupe Mountains, we traveled the towering saguaro in Tucson, the sacred falls of Havasupai Indian Reservation, and the dazzled Navajo sandstone of Zion. Yet, the unexpected relish of this Texan land weighs in the aspect of admiration and personal connection. It is widely said that the strangest regards develop when least expected, and I applaud the statement with confidence. We stumbled upon the park only because it was located in the direction of our westward drive, and this I credit to my natural human spontaneity. Therefore, prior to traveling, I suggest to embrace the yin and leave the yang, for reason and rationality tend to hinder. Nature’s offerings have much more to offer to those who embrace body and soul, nature and rapture.
As for the location and logicality of visiting Guadalupe Mountains and McKittrick Canyon, the park remains at a desirable temperature annually, and the sparse population allows for a more personal experience. Whereas other parts of the United States are well known and frequently congested with tourists, Guadalupe’s air is not shared by many, and seclusion is not difficult to find. Not only is the park a memorable encounter, but also the surrounding land and culture. The beauty of the unrefined land for miles across the horizon is indelible.
For the individual looking to appreciate, McKittrick Trail is an alluring sight and easily accessible. For the lustful historian, Pratt Cabin poses an exquisite landmark reflected with kindness and natural preservation. For those consumed in wandern, the canyon provides an ornate path unfurled with distinction. Under appreciation for the arrangement of Guadalupe Mountains National Park should be scorned, for penetration into its deity is simple if the individual remains open with desire. With a genesis of uncommon geological joining, an adolescence of aesthetic appreciation, and a maturation of elegance and reverence, McKittrick Canyon and its components should not be overlooked.
(This was created as a portfolio piece and has not been published.)