Desert

The last 5 days we visited 2 national parks in Texas: Big Bend and Guadalupe. Big Bend was superbly dreamy with desert, valleys and high mountain forests. We went for a 13 mile hike on the Laguna Meadow trail which took us up into high pine-juniper forest and around Boot Canyon, named after a rock pinnacle shaped like an upside boot. Views were stunning and it was thrilling to know that we could encounter a mountain lion. Guadalupe Mountains were my favorite though. There was desert, canyons and montane forest and astounding views. Views so far that the only thing preventing you from seeing further is the curvature of the Earth! We hiked “the bowl” which took us up to a 15,000 year old relic coniferous forest above 8,000 ft. Douglas fir, ponderosa pine and southwestern pine loomed above us as we walked over the crunchy snow. This forest type survived the ice age because of the wet, cold climate high in the mountains. There were many adoring specialty birds up there including mountain chickadees and Williamson’s Sapsucker (which I found so stunning). Day time temperatures were comfortable especially in the sun (40s-50s), but after sunset it got frigidly cold (20s)! At night, I typically wore 3 pairs of wool socks, 2 pairs of pants, 3 sweaters plus a heavy winter jacket. Then, I had to maneuver my way into my mummy sleeping bag. I felt like a sausage in a casing and when nature called in the middle of the night it was a hassle to get out and then back in.
After tent camping in these disagreeable temperatures for 10 nights, we decided it was time to get a warm hotel room. We found a cool mountain village, 100 miles from anywhere, called Mayhill and stayed at the Mayhill Hotel (the only hotel in town). It was so comfy and charming. The room was southwestern themed and had an electric fireplace! Aawww!
Yesterday we went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The caves were massive with unbelievable features. We went 750 ft underground for a few hours and I was finding it difficult to get ample oxygen. I have to really admire early spelunkers! Today we got acquainted with the desert at White Sands National Monument, NM and hiked around on gypsum (not sand) dunes. This is home to remarkable creatures, like the kit fox and kangaroo mouse, which never need to drink water.
One amazing act of kindness happened to us when we went out to eat (which we rarely do, this was only our second time since we started our journey). We went to pay our bill and the waitress said it was already paid. A complete stranger bought our meal! Ryne asked “do we look that poor?” We were flabbergasted at this generous and random act of kindness!

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