Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Group shot at Guadalupe Peak summit! Suzanne, Maria, Bettina and Kelly

Destination: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Map: Park Map

Dates of hiking: October 30 – November 3 2019

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Suzanne, Maria

Wednesday, October 30 – we took off at 6:45 pm and got to Ozona at 10:30 (Holiday Express)

Thursday, October 31 – cold and sunny day, on to Fort Stockton and Pecos – a punctured tire that could not be patched and required a detour to Odessa. We go back on the road around 3 pm and drove via Van Horn to Pine Springs Campground. We miraculously got there before it got dark and claimed one of the last campsites. We were able to set up our three tents which barely fit.  The campground is well designed with beautiful views of the mountains and nice bathrooms. 

Friday, November 1 – Following a night with very heavy winds, the ranger predicted gusts up to 50 mph for the following night so we decided to spend the night indoors at White’s City Cavern Inn located at the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern. After making sleeping arrangements over the phone and breaking down camp, we left to hike to the top of Guadalupe Mountain – the highest peak in Texas at 8751 feet. It was a great hike, beautiful weather (but windy), amazing views. Then on to White’s City to check in. We had dinner and drinks at the brewery in Carlsbad. 

Saturday, November 2 – we got up early and arrived at Carlsbad Cavern NP around 8. Hardly anyone else there. We opted to hike down into the caverns rather than ride the elevator. It was an impressive experience! Unfortunately, we got to Pine Springs Campsite a little too late (at 11:30 am) and all sites were taken!! No other options except hiking in the backcountry for 4 hours and camp there. We decided against that because we had to get home the next day and it would take us a while to break down camp, hike out and then drive all the way back to Austin. We opted to hike up McKittrick Canyon with amazing fall foliage. We met a VIP (Volunteers in Parks) named Doug who really inspired us to go backpacking in the Guadalupe Mountains next time we make there. He claims there is water to be found in the backcountry which is a challenge in GMNP. We drove to Van Horn and stayed in the B.A.S.I.C. We had dinner and drinks at “El Capitan”.

Sunday, November 3 – pretty easy drive back with lunch stop in Fredericksburg for street tacos. Got back to Austin at 4.

Overview: 

Guadalupe MNP is beautiful and remote which is what makes it so magical. It is important to note that you cannot reserve a campsite (in the campground, nor primitive) in advance. It is first come-first serve and there are 20 sites in the campground. There is some public (BLM land) where you can camp if the park is full but that felt like a scene from a Breaking Bad episode.

We highly advise to NOT go through Pecos to get to Guadalupe Mountains NP. It is a much prettier drive to go through Van Horn, and safer as the traffic from fracking operations around Pecos is very disconcerting to drive through.

 

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Group shot taken after hiking down from Cascade Canyon with the Tetons in the background.

Destination: Grand Teton National Park

Distance: 26 miles, plus trek to Anderson Glacier

Dates of hiking: July 4rd – July 8th

Time on the Trail: 5 days, 4 nights

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Kelly, Judy, Suzanne, Maria

Grand Teton’s National Park  (July 6 – July 13)

Saturday, July 6 – left early, got to Jackson Hole around 10, lunch at the delicious Persephone Bakery  in Jackson Hole, bought stove fuel and bear canisters, went to the Ranger Station in Moose to sort out our backpacking permits, and then drove about an 1 hour to airbnb in Driggs (Idaho) 

Sunday, July 7 – day hike to Tabletop Mountain (Alta – Idaho side of the Tetons)

Monday, July 8 – day hike to Wind Cave, Darby Canyon trail

Tuesday, July 9 – started backpacking trip from Jenny Lake TH, left at 10:15, very crowded with day hikers, crowds thinned when we entered Cascade Canyon Trail, hardly any people when we turned left at fork on South Fork Cascade Canyon, Took first campsite. Set up camp and did a later afternoon hike further along the South Fork Canyon Trail. Had dinner on rocks across trail. 

Wednesday, July 10 – woke up to some marmot shenanigans – they chewed on Judy’s boots in her vestibule. We left campsite around 10 am and headed back to fork and then on to the North Fork Trail. We left Maria/Suzanne at first decent campsite while Judy, Kelly and Bettina scouted for a better campsite, While relaxing, Maria and Suzanne had a close encounter with a curious bear very unexpectedly.  After things calmed down, we set up camp at a large site on flat ground. We set out for an afternoon hike to Solitude Lake – a must see destination – that felt like a winter wonderland. 

Thursday, July 11 – hiked back down via Cascade Canyon Trail and on to Jenny Lake Trailhead. The hike down seemed to take forever, perhaps because we were really hungry. Got to car at 2:00 pm and took advantage of amenities – snack bar, bathroom, repacking. Drove to Death Canyon Trailhead – back on trail at 5:15 to head to Phelps Lake Campsite. Beautiful lake, good campsite with view. There was a very poised bald eagle hanging out, a Common Merganser with 5 ducklings jostling for a ride on her back and lots of bugs buzzing around at dusk. Kelly was brave enough to jump of “Jumping Rock” into Phelps Lake. 

Friday, July 12 – hiked around Phelps Lake to Granite Canyon. After much back and forth and extensive scouting, we settled on first campsite in Canyon with amazing kitchen rock and view. Lightning and thunderstorm added some flavor to our adventure for about an hour during which we huddled under some thick brush and made up songs.   

Saturday, July 13 – left camp at 8:15, hiked back to car, We were able to shower and organize for our flight home at the Grand Teton Climbers Ranch American Alpine Club. We paid a nominal use fee for hot water, soap and nice facilities. Amazing lodging option inside the park. Lunch was amazing at Dornan’s Chuckwagon in Moose. From there we headed clean and full to the airport. Back in Austin around midnight. 

Overview:

Grand Teton National Park had been on our radar given the mystique and grandeur that is Wyoming. There was some trepidation about bear encounters but we decided to not let that be a reason to deter us from going. The weather was amazing. The scenery was spectacular. If/when we go back, we will plan the trip for later in the summer. Our original plan was to hike the Teton Crest Trail but there was a huge amount of snowpack even in mid July so our “loop” route turned into two out and backs to bypass the most treacherous pass. Getting the permit was challenging as we, along with thousands of other eager adventurers, had to wait for the government to reopen. Once that happened, it was a floodgate of requests for permits and the gov site crashed. We were able to get a permit, but not what we wanted. Fortunately we were able to improve our trip plan at the Ranger Station once we arrived to Jackson Hole. All in all it was a great trip.

Lake Solitude at 9035ft elevation and frozen.

Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Geared up for the wetland exploration adventure.

Destination: Matagorda Bay Nature Park

Cabin: Matagorda Beach Rental – 21 Bahia de Matagorda

Date: November 2nd, 3rd 2018

HikeCampHikers: Bettina, Judy, Suzanne and Maria

Travel Time from Austin: 2 hours, 20 minutes – 145 miles

Pros: Interesting new landscape and activities including exploring along the beach and kayaking the wetland trail. We loved the little town of Matagorda with its colorful history, a charming selection of restaurants bustling with local diners serving a variety of fresh seafood. The birding was amazing, even Suzanne (our birder) was impressed.

Cons: The lodging, although spacious, was run down and didn’t seem worth the cost. There were A LOT of mosquitos, come prepared.

Sunset after a run on the beach.