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Guadalupe Mountains & Carlsbad Caverns NP trip report, November 2 to 5, 2017

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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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After my short visit to the White Mountains in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, I headed to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  Originally, I had planned to camp at Dog Canyon Campground, on the park's northern edge, but the New Mexico Department of Transportation decided that this would be the time to close the highway to the campground for repairs.  Because it's the only road into the park from the north, this meant the campground was essentially inaccessible to automobiles.  So I had to camp at the Pine Springs Campground for a night instead.  The presence of a nearly-full Moon the night of November 2 meant that night photography would have to be attempted.  You can see the effects of moonlight by comparing this image taken at relatively low ISO, which give an approximation to how Hunter Peak appears to the naked eye in this situation...


17B02001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... to how it appears shot with high ISO (with a bit of camera shake):


17B02002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The oil and gas business is alive and well around Carlsbad, as this shot to the east shows:


17B02004 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

In the pre-dawn hours of the next day, I noticed something fascinating in the sky to the south and photographed it:


17B03001 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The relatively bright star that I've circled near the horizon is Canopus, the second-brightest star in the nighttime sky.  Because of its southerly declination, it's only visible in the northern hemisphere at low latitudes, such as where GUMO is located.  I was able to do a little bit of wildlife photography later in the morning, such as this Canyon Towhee:


17B03003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

My goal for the day was a trek in McKittrick Canyon to observe the fall foliage.  There wasn't much along the first part of the trail, but as I approached Pratt Lodge, things began to pick up:


17B03009 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

One of the fascinating things about hikes in areas like this is the mixture of plant communities one finds.  Here among the oaks, junipers, and occasional pines of the canyon, some agaves and prickly pears are trying to hang on...


17B03013 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and next to the cabin sotols and maples mingle:


17B03014 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

It's beyond the cabin towards the Grotto that the best color could be seen:


17B03018 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

My ultimate goal was The Notch, the entry westward into the inner canyon, located in the upper center of this image:


17B03021 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I made it there with just enough time to stay a few minutes to take pictures before heading back to the trailhead to get there before the access road to it closed.  At least I could get a shot of the inner canyon:


17B03024 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Just below The Notch, I also got a shot of the canyon leading eastward to its mouth:


17B03027 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Most of the rocks in the canyon are remnants of the giant Permian reef present in the area about 250 million years ago, and fossils are apparent in the rocks along the trail, such as this crinoid stem:


17B03029 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

As the sun dropped lower, I hiked back to the trailhead through scenes like these:


17B03031 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

The sun set as I drove to Carlsbad to spend the evening, and because the Moon was full it rose shortly thereafter, fortuitously along my line of sight as I was driving:


17B03032 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I spent November 4 touring Carlsbad Caverns, which I hadn't done in about 15 years.  It's impossible to take a bad photo in there, so instead of posting all the great shots I took, I'll just post one to give you an idea of the place:


17B04023 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

November 5 would be my last day of hiking.  I stopped by the Rattlesnake Springs Picnic Area unit of CAVE to eat lunch and spotted a Pied-bill Grebe on the pond there...


17B05002 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

... and some of the wild Turkeys that frequent the place:


17B05003 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Somehow, I'd never hiked the nature trail at the McKittrick Canyon trailhead, so I took the opportunity to do so.  There are plaques along the trail explaining various natural features, and nice views of the entrance to McKittrick Canyon can be obtained:


17B05004 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I also hiked the trail to Smith Spring to check out the fall colors there.  Near Frijole Ranch is a pond that sometimes holds interesting wildlife, but there wasn't anything there when I checked:


17B05008 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Hiking to the spring, I did encounter a Desert Cottontail trying not to be seen:


17B05010 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Farther up the trail, I began to see some color:


17B05012 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

Around the spring, the colors were as nice as they were in McKittrick Canyon:


17B05016 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

On the way back to the trailhead I spotted three Mule Deer, the closest of which was good enough to pose for a photo:


17B05018 by Jonathan Sadow, on Flickr

I returned home bringing back pleasant memories and leaving behind my hiking boots at the visitor center when I changed shoes for the drive.  I had to spend over $30 in postage to get them back.

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Offline mule ears

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  • "He had to leave Texas but won't say why" McMurtry
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Great stuff Jonathan, been a long time since I have been in GUMO. Thanks!
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline Hang10er

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  • "Do what you want before it's too late"
Really nice pictures, I love the turkey shot.

Quote
Because of its southerly declination, it's only visible in the northern hemisphere at low latitudes, such as where GUMO is located.
Low?? Hey, that's up North to some of us!  :icon_biggrin:

Thanks for the report!. Been about thirty years since i stopped by the Rattlesnake Springs site.

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Offline elhombre

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Great pics!    Sure miss those colors.  Gotta love Mckittrick.

Just looked at the weather station at Guadalupe Pass for grins.  28 degrees with a 44 MPH wind.   8)
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

 


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