July 4, 1999
I had been warned about the heat associated with hiking Guadalupe Peak as it's located in basically a desert climate. Therefore, I figured that my best chance of making it successfully with minimal discomfort would be to begin my hike right at dawn. I spent the night before at the only hotel in the area, the Best Western Motel in Whites City, about 35 miles north. The hotel is over-priced ($60/night) and under-quality (air-conditioning broken, forgot my wake-up call). As the hotel forgot to give me the requested 4 AM wake-up call, I was late at checking out of the hotel. Around 5 AM I woke up, quickly got dressed, threw my stuff in the rented car, and checked out. Fortunately I learned it doesn't start getting light until around 5:30 AM. I could still get on the mountain at sunrise.
After getting my water and food together in my daypack, I started on the trail at 6 AM. There was no guessing what the weather would be like, as the parking area was socked in deep fog. For brief moments there would be a hole in the fog so that you could get a brief view of the mountains. After about 30 minutes up the trail, I came upon about a dozen deer grazing across the trail. I watched them for several minutes and then walked forward trying to get them off the trail so I could pass. These deer were definitely not scared of me. They walked about 10 feet to the side of the trail and just watched me as I passed. Further up the trail I came upon several more deer and a cottontail rabbit.
Also, about 30 minutes up the trail, I got above the fog. I could see the mountains around me and they looked large. I couldn't believe I'd have to get up above them because Guadalupe Peak was behind them and higher.
Just past the junction between the foottrail and the horsetrail, I was passed by another hiker (Rick from Odessa, Texas). At this point the fog had broken enough so that I could see the parking lot. I couldn't believe how high I had hiked. Soon, I got to the turn where I went on the backside of the ridge and the parking lot was no longer in view. For the next portion of the hike (until the bridge), the hike was much easier. The slope of the trail leveled out a lot and there were many trees and wildflowers lining the trail. Whereas I stopped often for water and resting on the first third, this third of the hike I found a rhythm and was able to go at a continuous pace without any significant rests.
I was continuously looking above trying to figure out which peak is Guadalupe Peak or if it's even visible. I passed some hikers who had camped on the mountain and they pointed the peak out to me. Dummy me... I was looking for the metal pyramid to identify the peak. They said the pyramid marker isn't large enough to see until you actually get very near the top. At this point, I was just approaching the foot-bridge and the peak didn't look too far away.
At the foot-bridge I was starting to feel a little tired. I estimated that I only had at most a mile left to hike and I could see the peak. The trail was now totally exposed, but fortunately there was a nice, comfortable breeze. The trail switchbacks up the south side of the peak. Soon I could see the pyramid marker at the peak and Rick sitting on a rock eating his peanut butter sandwich.
At 9:20 AM, I arrived at the peak. It took me 3 hours and 20 minutes. Rick pointed out the book to sign and I wrote a page in it. I ate my package of pepperoni, some breakfast bars, and some dried fruit. I looked around for the benchmark, but couldn't find it. I also took a bunch of pictures. It's funny because the mountains to the north look about the same height if not higher.
At 10 AM I began my hike down. Between the summit and the foot-bridge, I passed probably 25 people making the hike to the summit. I was glad to have made my hike early because the summit would likely be crowded in about 20 minutes. Also, the day was beginning to heat up and I was glad to be getting off the mountain.
By the time I got to the point on the ridge where I could see the parking lot for the first time, it was starting to get really hot. There were still a few people I was coming upon who were going up and I'm sure they were suffering from the heat. My feat were really starting to hurt and my pace really slowed. At 12:30 PM, I made it back to the car, dead tired. I drank a total of 3 liters of water on the hike.