I’ve always known juniper berries were used to flavor gin, but I never really thought of them as edible until my uncle came to visit us in Austin and we took him hiking around Mount Bonnell. It had been a rainy winter, and the juniper berries were exceptionally big and round and vibrant. My uncle got very excited and started eating them right off the trees. So I tried some. To my surprise they were sweet and tasty, although the pits were a bit piney. I am now a fan of the humble juniper!
We climbed Guadalupe Peak mostly in sunshine, and descended in deepening shadows.
Here is a better view of the bridge.
The shadows crept up the flanks of Hunter Peak across the canyon…
…and we knew that when the last rays of direct sunlight had left its summit, we would have about half an hour of twilight left before we were hiking in the dark.
But the scenery was even prettier in the “golden hour” light, so we couldn’t rush past it too quickly.
The splashes of crimson in the canyons are maple trees showing off their fall colors.
Coming down was a lot easier and faster than going up, at least until we hit that last 1.5 miles of steep switchbacks at the base. That is equally brutal in both directions.
We made it back to the trailhead before dark, but lost the last of the light on that extra mile back to the car. Not bad though, all things considered.
We drove the 27 miles back to the “primitive campground.” There were no new campers there, and one of the two other tents was gone now, leaving only our tent next to the probably-homeless-camp.
We had done what we came to do. Guadalupe Peak was vanquished. None of us felt that sticking around to hike Devil’s Hall was worth the hassle of finding a safe place to spend the night, especially since Luke had to be at work Monday morning. We decided to find the nearest gas station, fuel up and head home. We googled up a couple of places for gas in White’s City, but they looked super sketchy. The nearest legit-and-open station was in Carlsbad. We burned most of the last of our fuel getting to a gas station, filled the tank and turned the car for home.
Less than an hour into that drive, I realized that I had overestimated my stamina. I had put in a full work shift and climbed a mountain since my last real sleep, and now the road hypnosis was kicking in. I needed to stop and rest. We located a motel in the next town, Pecos. It was as good a place as any to spend the night.
Except that when we rolled up to the motel, it was permanently closed. We found another one not too far away, but no one answered the “Ring for Service” bell. All of the other motels in town cost at least $200 more than I wanted to spend on a few hours’ sleep. But by then I was dangerously drowsy, like, not at all safe to drive. So we found a truck stop just outside of town, parked out of the way and slept in the car. That was simultaneously the most uncomfortable and the most restorative night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time.
We woke up with sore muscles but otherwise refreshed, and resumed our journey home.
A couple hours later we saw a sign for the Caverns of Sonora. That looked like a good time, and it wasn’t out of the way, so we stopped to check it out.
We were greeted on the porch by this pretty fellow:
The Caverns of Sonora are pretty cool.
But the mountains were still singing in our souls, and on that day we had no particular passion for stalactites. I feel kind of bad for the tour guide and the guide-in-training. They were obviously very enthusiastic about their caverns and we totally lacked the proper sense of wonder and awe. Sorry guys, you were great tour guides anyway, and your caverns are lovely.
We left Sonora and continued homeward. After a while we decided we were tired of camp provisions and stopped in Fredericksburg for some really good German food at Der Lindenbaum.
So that was our weekend. Very much an exercise in the Rubber Ball Philosophy, but we enjoyed it a lot.
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Cooler temps and falling leaves have come to the Metroplex. The kids and I all had the same day free, so we decided to check out a new park and put a few miles on our hiking shoes.
This post technically falls into the “Plethora of Parks” category, but I’m not going to name the park this time. We wandered off the beaten path and discovered something sorta cool and eerie, and I’m not sure if it’s something that everyone knows about or if it’s meant to be a secret. I’d rather err on the side of caution. If you recognize the scenes in the photos, could you leave a comment letting me know what it was we found?
A narrow trail on the park’s edge lured us away from the main path and toward a steep hill that was almost a cliff. Of course we had to climb it.
A depression has been worn into this stone from so many people stepping on the same exact spot to climb up.
At the top, some of the rocks and trees are painted in bright colors and psychedelic-ish patterns. There are several circles like this one:
The Puerto Rican flag is the only one I feel comfortable posting, because the others have arcane-looking symbols that I didn’t recognize and I feel like maybe they aren’t intended for public view. No idea what they are.
The graffiti on this rock says, “Not all who wander are lost.”
Once the sun set we headed back to familiar ground, but that brief, strange detour was definitely the highlight of our hike.
In other news, Black Friday is almost upon us. Christmas used to be my favorite thing ever before I worked in retail; now I just try to survive it.