Atop Bush Mountain and Bartlett Peak

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located where the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert meets the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains. The park is home to six of the seven named peaks in the Lone Star State that rise above 8,000 feet - including Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.

I solo-hiked to the top of Texas for the first time on December 2, 2014. The day was cold, the hike was strenuous, and the views were amazing. I spent half an hour in silence at the summit before heading back down to the Pine Springs Campground. In the years that followed, I returned three more times to the top of Texas.

After summiting Guadalupe Peak I knew I had to at least try to summit the remaining six named peaks higher than 8,000 feet. My buddy Doyle Lowry agreed to join me in pursuing this bucket list. Thus began our adventure to stand atop the highest peaks in Texas.

Earlier this month, Doyle and I returned to the Guadalupe Mountains to check two more peaks off the list — Bush Mountain and Bartlett Peak. In addition to Guadalupe Peak, we have summited El Capitan, the signature peak at the park, and Hunter Peak, our favorite overlook.
We secured our backcountry camping permit at the park headquarters and hiked up the Tejas Trail toward Bush Mountain. The Tejas Trail is a strenuous trail that starts at the Pine Springs Campground and leads to the Pine Top primitive camping area. The trail gains lots of elevation over this five mile section.

The Tejas Trail intersects with the trail that leads to the Bush Mountain primitive campsite located about two miles to the west of Pine Top primitive campground. This section is also strenuous with lots of ups and downs. Having to carry our water for three days on the mountain made the hike up even more challenging.

The primitive campsite on Bush Mountain is perfectly situated for a day hike to the top of Bush and a bushwhacking trek to neighboring Bartlett Peak. Once we set up camp we settled in for the night and rested for an early morning departure to Bartlett. We started with Bartlett because we knew it would take the most time.

At daybreak, we made our way to the southern edge of Bush to scout out the best bushwhacking route to the top of Bartlett. Once we agreed on our route, we started our descent into a valley that would then lead us to the ridge line we had chosen to take us to the summit. Make no mistake about it, bushwhacking is hard, especially on steep slopes with loose rock and some boulder scrambling mixed in.

The reward was worth the effort. As Doyle reached the top he discovered that our line had taken us directly to the ammo box containing the summit register. The views from Bartlett Peak are amazing. The summit overlooks Salt Flat to the West, New Mexico to the North, and Shumard and Guadalupe Peaks to the South.

We spent a little time at the top and then selected our route back to Bush Mountain. We decided on a different route back, one that took us down into to a beautiful ravine between the peaks. And then, we started the trek back up to Bush and our campsite. Once at our campsite we rested for twenty-minutes and then started up the trail that leads to the top of Bush Mountain.

This hike was a bit easier because we were on a trail and there was not a lot of elevation gain from our campsite the summit. The summit is carpeted in flowing grasses with stands of Ponderosa and Douglas Fir. Bush offers its own distinctive vistas from the summit — absolutely beautiful views of Pine Spring Canyon to the East and rugged formations to the North, looking toward New Mexico.

We were happy that we ticked off two more summits on our bucket list of seven. We only have Shumard remaining in this park and Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains. We will have to bushwhack our way up these two remaining peaks on our list.

The following morning we were up early and started our trek down the mountain using our headlamps. The sunrise was breathtaking. It took us about five hours to descend the 8-plus miles from our primitive campsite to the Pine Springs Campground. We wasted no time in stowing our gear and getting a sponge bath. Even a humble sponge bath was amazing after three days in the same clothes. We felt like new men!

We drove to Van Horn for Mexican Food at Chuy’s and then decided to drive the ten hours back to Katy instead of stopping at a motel along the way for a proper shower. We are happy to have shared this adventure and look forward to the next summit on our list of seven Lone Star summits.

✓ Guadalupe Peak | 8,749 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ Bush Mountain | 8,631 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Shumard Peak | 8,615 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ Bartlett Peak | 8,508 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
• Mount Livermore | 8,378 feet | Davis Mountains
✓ Hunter Peak | 8,368 feet | Guadalupe Mountains
✓ El Capitan | 8,085 feet | Guadalupe Mountains

Death in Big Bend

I love adventure.

Over the years, I have participated in amazing adventures from the Lone Star State to dozens of locations around the planet. I not only enjoy participating in adventures that make my heart race, I like everything about researching, planning, making lists, packing gear, and every little thing associated with preparing for a grand adventure.

I have made an agreement with myself to always make wise decisions when adventuring. In many cases, this means not venturing out alone because alone is dangerous. On a few occasions I have had to make the tough decision to turn around and head back in order to live to adventure another day.

More than once I have thought about Sir Ernest Shackelton, one of my adventure heroes. In 1908, he made the hard call to turn back when he was within reach of the South Pole. After assessing his situation, he determined that if he pressed on he would run out of food and die on the way back. He later wrote to his wife, “I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”
I recently purchased a copy of “Death in Big Bend” by Laurence Parent. I spotted the book at a gift shop in Terlingua. I was immediately intrigued because, now that we have an off-grid cabin outside of Big Bend National Park, I am doing a bit more hiking at the park. The book is a collection of 17 stories of death and rescue in Big Bend National Park.

While most visitors to the park enjoy an incident-free vacation that becomes a memorable part of their adventure narrative, a few have not been so lucky. The stories in this book are well written and illustrate what can happen when only one small things goes wrong on an adventure. Once one thing gets misaligned, then it often triggers a series of other missteps that often lead to tragedy.
I recommend this as a must-read for any adventurer or anyone thinking about hiking at Big Bend National Park or Big Bend Ranch State Park. Too many times I have come across people on the trail who appeared ill-prepared, hiking miles from the trailhead with, at most, a 16-ounce bottle of water.

Once while hiking in McKittrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains on the Texas / New Mexico border, I came across a couple in serious need of water and nutrition. I had it and offered it freely. I recently wrote about what I carry in my day-hike backpack. I carry this little extra weight even on short day hikes just in case. I was able to help this couple on one of those just in case days.

The stories in the book are captivating. I could not put the book down once I started reading. Spoiler alert — most of these stories are heartbreaking but instructive. Some of those who got in trouble overestimated their abilities and underestimated the hostility of the Chihuahuan Desert, resulting in tragedy. In each case, just one small thing could have changed the equation to equal life instead of death.

Whether your adventures take you to Big Bend or other locations, I recommend reading this book. If nothing else, the stories will cause you to reevaluate your planning and to take a second look at your gear, your route, and your preparedness. I remain committed to careful planning lest I become the next story of death or rescue in Big Bend.

A Little More Progress at the Cabin

We are now a little more than two years into our off-grid adventure. If there is one thing that Cheryl and I have learned along the way it is that progress is made in small but intentional steps. This past week we took a few more small steps by working on projects both inside and outside the cabin.

My friend Doyle and I had scheduled an adventure to complete two more of the 8,000+ foot peaks in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. However, because of camping restrictions due to the pandemic we decided to reschedule that trip. Instead, Doyle agreed to help me get some work done at the cabin and also do day hikes at Big Bend Ranch State Park.

We started by installing the base cabinets on the kitchen end of the cabin. Cheryl and I purchased the cabinets and countertop at Lowe’s. A friend gave us the sink. The process was fairly easy. We had to add only a couple of shims to get the cabinets both level and plumb. We secured the cabinets and countertop in place and then cut the opening for the sink and dropped it in place.

I will add Lone Star themed drawer pulls after we paint the cabinets. We debated whether to stain or to paint the cabinets and have agreed to paint them — a bold Southwest color to be revealed soon. I will also add a faucet powered by an electric pump and plumb the sink to drain into a gray water jug. We will use the gray water to irrigate our trees.
Doyle also helped me to dig out rain catchment basins under fifteen of forty-something mesquite trees on the property. My hope is that by digging water catchment basins under the trees, extending from the trunk to the drip line, we can give them a little more advantage when the monsoon season returns in June.

Cheryl and I are in the process of photographing and identifying all of the trees, shrubs, and plants on the property. We are also nurturing the native grass in hope of seeing it thrive. And, we are doing some research on the birds in the area and what we can do to attract more birds. There are some pretty little birds in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Doyle and I set aside time to do some day hikes at Big Bend Ranch State Park. The park road just outside of Lajitas follows the Rio Grande River and is one of the most scenic drives in Texas. We followed this road from Lajitas to Presidio where we found a Mexican food place that was open and allowed us to eat on the porch.

We explored the Hoodoos, a cool place with a name that sounds like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. The Hoodoos features some amazing natural formations and easy access to the river. The vistas from the Hoodoos are absolutely breathtaking.

We also hiked Closed Canyon. This hike reminded me of Petra in Jordan. The narrow canyon walls provide shade and cool breezes. The most important thing to keep in mind is when to turn around. As the canyon descends know your limits. Keep in mind that it is easier to scramble over a boulder and go down than its is to scramble up a boulder and go up.

I will write about the Hoodoos, Closed Canyon, Rancherias Canyon, and the Redford Cemetery in future posts and include plenty of pics. As I explore other hiking trails at Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park I will write about these adventures as well. Since our cabin sits between these two parks, this is now our big backyard. I have to explore!
And, of course, I have to say something about the Big Bend skies. We were privileged to see some amazing sunsets as well as one of the coolest moonsets ever — a little after six in the morning. We always look forward to the vast skies in the Chihuahuan Desert. They never disappoint.

Thanks for following our off-grid adventure.

Balanced Rock at Big Bend National Park

Balanced Rock is one of the most popular hiking destinations at Big Bend National Park. This geological feature is very cool and frames some of the most spectacular views in the park.

Balanced Rock is accessed by way of the Grapevine Hills Trail, an easy 2.2 mile out and back hike with an elevation gain of 80 feet. The trailhead is located approximately 6 miles off of Highway 118 down the Grapevine Hills road. Although this is a well-maintained dirt road, make sure that your vehicle has reasonable clearance.

This is a pleasant hike, especially in the morning or late afternoon. The trail winds its way through a little valley in the Grapevine Hills, featuring some of the most spectacular rock formations in the park. Take the time to enjoy the views and the varieties of desert flora along the way.

The final quarter mile leads up some boulders, so you will have to do a little scrambling — nothing too difficult. The trail ends at the Balanced Rock. From this point you will enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding area with the distinctive Nugent Peak off in the distance.

As with all hiking in Big Bend, be sure to take plenty of water and a trail snack. It’s always good to be prepared in case something unexpected happens along the way and you have to wait for help. And remember my hiking mantra: pace and place. Hike your pace and watch where you place your feet and you will have an enjoyable hike.

Mule Ears Peaks at Big Bend

The picturesque Mule Ears Peaks is one of the most recognizable landmarks along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive at Big Bend National Park. The twin pillars of black igneous rock that jut up from the desert floor are hard to miss.

The Mule Ears Spring trailhead is located at the end of a short spur off the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The sign at the trailhead advises hikers to carry plenty of water — advice that should be heeded, especially in hotter months when temperatures can easily soar past the hundred-degree mark.

The Mule Ears Spring Trail is a moderate 3.8 mile roundtrip trek that winds through the foothills of the Chisos Mountains. The mostly rocky trail that leads to Mule Ears Spring skirts Trap Mountain and crosses several arroyos. The spring has created a desert oasis that nourishes thick stands of cottonwood trees, ferns, cattails, and a variety of desert shrubs.

Before arriving at the spring is a rock corral, a reminder of the resourcefulness of early sheep and cattle herders in the area. The corral is constructed of rock that was dry stacked and fitted together without the benefit of mortar. The fact that it still stands is amazing. If those stones could speak what wonderful stories they would tell about the challenges faced by early settlers to the area.

Mule Ears Spring is a turnaround point on the trail. However, you can hike through the vegetation and continue on a well-defined trail that leads ever closer to the peaks. The trail eventually leads to a bluff that offers absolutely spectacular views of the Chihuahuan Desert and the peaks.

The desert is rich with life and with beauty. You will enjoy the bigger views along the trail but don’t overlook the desert flora along the way — sotol, lechuguilla, yuca, ocotillo, and several species of cacti. The trail to Mule Ears Peaks is definitely worth adding to your day hiking itinerary on your next visit to Big Bend National Park.

The Window Trail at Big Bend

Beyond the Pecos River lies the vast expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert, that wide part of the state that boasts some of the most magnificent vistas in the Lone Star State. This is where the Rio Grande River makes a dramatic turn, giving Texas its distinctive and recognizable shape.

In the southernmost part of the trans-Pecos is Big Bend National Park, a place Lady Bird Johnson once described as “the very edge of the world.” Big Bend was established as a national park in June 1935. Encompassing 1,252 square miles of land, this national park is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

From the riparian region of the Rio Grande River to the rugged peaks of the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend offers outdoor enthusiasts more than 150 miles of hiking trails. These avenues offer access to the amazing geography and geology of this region that is home to more than 1,200 species of plants and more than 600 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

The Window Trail is one of the most popular treks in the park. This 5.2 mile roundtrip trail is an easy hike for anyone in reasonable shape. The trail begins near the Chisos Mountain Lodge and descends 800-feet over a 2 mile stretch to a magnificent overlook of the Chihuahuan Desert. There are places along the way to stop and rest or to just sit in silence and listen to the sounds of the breeze and the birds.

At one point the trail descends slightly into a streambed where the rocks have been polished smooth by the flow of water. Steps carved into the rocks make it easy to navigate this section of the trail that leads to the breathtaking overlook flanked by rugged cliffs.
I should note that the overlook drops 220 vertical feet to the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert. The rock at the overlook is slick, so you should exercise lots of caution and not get too close to the edge. If you happen to be there in the evening, this notch is a great place from which to watch the sunset.
There is a junction a quarter mile from the end of the Window Trail that leads to the Oak Springs Trail. It is worth hiking the section of this trail that ascends to a ridge that offers unobstructed views of the Chihuahuan Desert. The views from this ridge are truly breathtaking.

The Window Trail and Oak Springs Trail will not disappoint. It’s worth taking the time to add these short day hikes to any visit to the park. The views at the end of the Window Trail and from the ridge on the Oak Springs Trail make it worth every step.

A final word to anyone planning on hiking in Big Bend — please make sure that you read the signs at the respective trailheads. These signs will help you to get oriented, understand the time commitment required, and remind you to always take water with you (at the least).

I have seen far too many hikers on trails at the park who ventured out without water. It is important to stay hydrated and to be prepared in case of any unexpected injury or delay that might occur along the trail. That is just hiking smart.

If you have not visited Big Bend I encourage you to do so. It is well worth the drive from any place in the state or the nation.

Guadalupe Peak 4.0

I stood at the top of Texas for the very first time four years ago. In search of my next adventure, I had researched Guadalupe Peak and then set off to solo hike to the summit on a cold December morning. And what an amazing adventure it was!

I summited Guadalupe Peak a second time and then a third time after bushwhacking to the summit of El Capitan. Since I was in the neighborhood and so close to the peak, a buddy and I decided to go for the peak, a third summit for both of us.

This month, I led a group of men and boys from my church to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to do something hard. We drove six-hundred and fifty miles for the opportunity to stand at the top of Texas.

In preparation, I had told the group that hiking Guadalupe Peak is hard. The hike along the steep and winding trail to the top is rated as strenuous. I knew for a fact that it would not be any less strenuous for me on my fourth bid.
We met at the trailhead at 6:30 in the morning while temperatures were still tolerable. Huge amounts of excitement swirled in the morning breeze and mixed with bits of anxiety as we waited like race cars with engines revved high.

We took a moment to share final thoughts about our adventure, we prayed, and then we hit the trail. Every guy knew that the first mile and a half would be the hardest because of the steep elevation gain.
Like a brick wall, the first mile and a half stop those who are either unprepared or don’t want to summit badly enough. This is where we have to decide whether we are willing to push past the pain.

The heat only added to the difficulty. As the morning wore on the temperatures continued to creep higher until they inched past the hundred degree mark. Our bodies craved hydration and electrolytes and power bars.
Every man and boy quickly settled into his respective rhythm as they trudged up the trail, slowly eating away at the elevation. My hiking mantra on this particular trail is pace and place — maintain a steady pace and watch where I place my feet.

Every one of the guys hiked his own hike and just past mid-morning, we began to populate the summit and feast on the amazing views. I felt just as excited as the day on which I first solo hiked to the top of Texas.
Standing at the summit of Guadalupe Peak with an amazing band of brothers was worth every hard step along the way. This is something we did together — a shared adventure, a reminder that we must do life in community with other men because alone is dangerous.
One thing is certain, the guys on this adventure will always share a special bond. We made it to the top of Texas on one of the hottest days of the year. We watched out for and encouraged one another. We enjoyed great fellowship. And we did it as a band of brothers.

If you are in search of adventure and in good physical condition, consider a trek to the top of Texas. This is one of the coolest bucket-list adventures in the Lone Star State. Although the hike is hard, the reward is worth it. Do your research. Hike prepared. Push past the pain. Enjoy the view.

Salt Basin Dunes

Immediately west of the towering escarpment of the Guadalupe Mountains lies an other-worldly landscape. The Salt Basin Dunes rise modestly above the surrounding salt flats, the remnants of an ancient sea. These dunes of snow-white gypsum are formed by the collaborative artistry of the winds and the white sands of the salt flats.

The process is not entirely complicated. When the winds whip across the salt flats they pick up tiny crystals of gypsum. When these airborne grains slam against the western wall of the Guadalupe Mountains they are deflected upward and then fall back to earth to form the undulating landscape of the Salt Basin Dunes.
From the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, the salt flats seem strangely out-of-place in the otherwise desert-looking landscape. They have the appearance of snow blanketing the floor of the Chihuahuan Desert. The sight of the salt flats from Guadalupe Peak is quite spectacular and beckons exploring.
The Salt Basin Dunes are a part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park and are accessible by ranch roads not far from Dell City. This day use area offers access to the salt dunes by way of a two-plus mile hike. Because this is a delicate ecosystem, visitors should stay on the trail and not break the fragile cryptobiotic crust beyond the trail. This thin crusty topsoil is essential for preventing erosion, producing soil nitrogen, and stabilizing the soil for vegetation to take hold. So, don’t bust the crust!
The dunes themselves are pretty spectacular. Although this seems to be the most inhospitable of environments, animal tracks in the sand indicate the presence of nocturnal animal activity.  Various desert plants also accentuate the stark white dunes. Yucca, cholla, cactus, and various grasses have staked their claim to life on these shifting dunes.

While the view of the dunes is beautiful from atop Guadalupe Peak, the view of Guadalupe Peak is awe-inspiring from the dunes. You can, in fact, see five of the seven named peaks in Texas that rise over 8,000 feet. From north to south you can see Bush Mountain, Bartlett Peak, Shumard Mountain, Guadalupe Peak, and El Capitan keeping vigil over the dunes.

Regardless of when you visit the Salt Basin Dunes be sure to carry more water than you think you’ll need, a snack or two, and sunscreen in your day-hike bag. Stay on the trail. Have fun exploring the dunes. Take lots of pics. Take a moment to stop and enjoy the silence of the desert. Look toward the east and breathe in the beauty of the Guadalupe Mountains. And, leave no trace but your footprints in the sand.

The Devil’s Hall

John Muir is regarded as one of our nation’s most influential naturalist and conservationist. He inspired the people of his generation to experience and to protect what would later become some of our country’s largest national parks. Muir was no stranger to hiking. His countless miles of meanderings inspired him to write what has become a favorite quote: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” That’s really good advice!
Sadly, lots of folks will live a lifetime without ever walking down a dirt path. For those of us who live in the Lone Star State, there is no excuse to not get outdoors to venture down a dirt or rocky path. With over ninety state parks, every Texan is within driving distance of a dirt path. It just takes a little planning and being intentional about venturing out.
Among my favorite day-hike trails is the Devil’s Hall Trail at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This trail leads hikers to a magnificent narrow canyon called the Devil’s Hall. This four-mile out and back hike is rated moderately difficult because it requires a bit of boulder scrambling. But, don’t let that scare you off. That’s what makes this such a fun trail to hike.

The trail begins at the Pine Springs campground and is well-defined for the first couple of miles. The trail eventually leads to a canyon wash that is filled with scree and boulders. No danger of getting lost, however, as long as you stay in the stream-bed. This wash leads to a stair step series of ledges called the Hiker’s Staircase.

It’s an easy climb up the staircase and past a natural bathtub at the top of this formation. The trail continues a short distance to the Devil’s Hall, a canyon whose walls are lined with horizontal stones that look like they were laid down by a stone mason. This is the turn-around point for this hike.

The Devil’s Hall is especially beautiful in the fall of the year — almost as colorful as nearby McKittrick Canyon, one of the most beautiful places in Texas. The canyon wash is lined with a variety of trees, including big tooth maple, Texas madrone, and ponderosa pine. The trek offers spectacular views of geologic formations and distant mountaintops. In short, this is a really beautiful place waiting to be enjoyed by those willing to take a dirt path.

The Devil’s Hall Trail is a great day hike. Even so, always be sure to take a day pack with snacks and plenty of water. Walk carefully. Enjoy the views. Stop often to breathe and to breathe in the beauty. And be sure to take lots of photos. The Devil’s Hall, and places like it, is a paradise for those who choose to take a dirt path.

Summiting El Capitan

El Capitan, the signature peak of Guadalupe Mountains National Park, rises a modest 8,085 feet above sea level — just enough to make it part of an elite group of Lone Star peaks that are higher than 8,000 feet. I first became acquainted with El Capitan when I traveled to the park in 2014 to solo hike to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas.
El Capitan is a ruggedly handsome peak from all angles. And, because of its prominent place, it is likely the most photographed peak in the Guadalupe Mountains. But after seeing this limestone bulwark from the summit of Guadalupe Peak, I was both intimidated and motivated. I knew then that I had to one day bushwhack my way to the top of this mountain.

This past week Doyle Lowry, my hiking buddy, and I met at the national park for a week of cold weather camping and to hike to the summit of El Capitan. Doyle and I had previously made a pact to summit all of the 8,000-foot peaks at the national park. El Capitan would be our fourth peak but far from the easiest since there is no trail to the summit.

We departed our campsite at a little after 7:00 AM and made our way up the Guadalupe Peak Trail. The National Park Service has rated this hike as strenuous because the trail steadily rises 3,000 vertical feet along the way. They are not kidding when they say strenuous. Be prepared to feel the burn in your legs.
Just shy of making the final switchbacks to the top of Guadalupe Peak, we left the trail and started toward El Capitan. Since there is no trail to El Capitan, we selected a prominent landmark and bushwhacked our way to the western edge of the bulwark. This made the hike up Guadalupe Peak Trail seem like a walk in the park (no pun intended). They call it bushwhacking for a reason.

Once we reached the western edge, we picked new landmarks and slowly pushed our way through the brush and scrambled around and over boulders toward the summit. The views from this side of the mountain are beyond spectacular and looking down the sheer cliffs is stomach-churning. Even though our progress was slowed by all of the brush, scree, and boulders, we could tell we were making progress.

We lost and gained elevation several times along the undulated way to the summit. As we neared the summit we also contended with snow on the ground and high winds. Finally, after more than two hours of bushwhacking, the summit came into view — and it was indeed beyond spectacular. We stood at the pinnacle of this intimidating peak and breathed in the most amazing views.
Before making our way back down, Doyle located the ammo box containing the summit log and we both signed our names in the book. There were very few names in the book, and understandably so. If you want to stand on the peak of El Capitan you have to be a little crazy and a whole lot determined. As Doyle pointed out, what we both lacked in youth and endurance we made up for in grit and determination.

After enjoying a few minutes on the summit, we started bushwhacking our way back toward the Guadalupe Peak Trail. This time we opted to do the final push along a dry ravine filled with boulders and scree — either that or battle the thick brush again. But, hard as it was, we finally reconnected with the Guadalupe Peak Trail.
Once we reached the trail, we decided to make our way to the summit of Guadalupe Peak — a third summit for each of us. From there we looked northward toward Shumard Peak and Bartlett Peak, two more of the 8,000+ foot peaks that we hope to summit next year. We started our descent by 4:30 PM. What had previously taken us far less than two hours to hike took us two and a half hours because we had to hike in the dark and had to hike slow because of the snow and ice on the trail.
Finally, after 11 hours and 43 minutes on the trail, we reached the Pine Springs campground and entered our time into the hiker’s registry. We are beyond elated at our accomplishment. Not a bad day for two old guys who hear the clock ticking and want to get in as many adventures as possible while it is still possible. For me, bushwhacking to El Capitan is officially the hardest day hike I have ever done — and the most rewarding. And hiking with a good friend who loves the outdoors is always a bonus! Already looking forward to our next adventure at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.