Chihuahua, April 2003

El Capitan Peak on the southern end of the Guadalupe Mountains, stands majestically in evening light.
El Capitan Peak on the southern end of the Guadalupe Mountains, stands majestically in evening light.
Your host makes video of the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Your host makes video of the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

• Driving to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas, and Photographing the Gypsum Dunes

I left very early to make the nine-hour drive to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas. I arrived early enough to get the key to the gate that allowed me to photograph the gypsum dunes on the west end of the park. There are four keys to the gate, but I had the only one checked out, so I was entirely alone.

Mountains and a yucca are visible in this image at the gypsum dunes of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Mountains and a yucca are visible in this image at the gypsum dunes of Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Gypsum dunes at last light
Gypsum dunes at last light
The gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park take on evening light.
The gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park take on evening light.
A tuft of grass catches the light as it matures on the gypsum dunes.
A tuft of grass catches the light as it matures on the gypsum dunes.
The setting sun shines across the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
The setting sun shines across the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Light and shadow creep across the gypsum dunes as sunset approaches.
Light and shadow creep across the gypsum dunes as sunset approaches.
The last of the setting sun catches the gypsum dunes.
The last of the setting sun catches the gypsum dunes.
This is a fisheye view of the gypsum dunes and Guadalupe Mountains just after sunset.
This is a fisheye view of the gypsum dunes and Guadalupe Mountains just after sunset.
Grass and dunes take on deep colors as sunset approaches.
Grass and dunes take on deep colors as sunset approaches.
After the sun set on the gypsum dunes, it continued to shine on the much taller mountains, creating this deep blue and amber moment.
After the sun set on the gypsum dunes, it continued to shine on the much taller mountains, creating this deep blue and amber moment.
Yucca leans over as sunset approaches on the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Yucca leans over as sunset approaches on the gypsum dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
The author sits at his Pine Springs Campground site on the first night.
The author sits at his Pine Springs Campground site on the first night.

I set up camp in the Pine Springs Campground and discovered I had excellent cellular service, so I talked to my girlfriend Abby for over an hour.

With two deer right next to my tent watching, I made a two-hour star trace photo.

I made this image after sunset at Pine Springs campground.
I made this image after sunset at Pine Springs campground.
This two-hour star trace photo shot on film looks north (note the North Star in the center of the circular trace) from my site in the Pine Springs Campground.
This two-hour star trace photo shot on film looks north (note the North Star in the center of the circular trace) from my site in the Pine Springs Campground.
Your host smiles for a self portrait on the El Capitan trail.
Your host smiles for a self portrait on the El Capitan trail.

• El Capitan Trail and Smith Spring Trail

I hiked the El Capitan Trail, where I met a guy named John from San Antonio, who told me he was training for the Appalachian Trail. I hiked with him for a couple of hours.

Soap tree yucca lines the El Capitan trail.
Soap tree yucca lines the El Capitan trail.
As much as I enjoyed hiking in the sunshine and fresh air, I admit that the El Capitan trail was photographically uninspiring, at least during the middle of the day when I was on it.
As much as I enjoyed hiking in the sunshine and fresh air, I admit that the El Capitan trail was photographically uninspiring, at least during the middle of the day when I was on it.
El Capitan with Wildflowers
El Capitan with Wildflowers

I hiked the Smith Spring Trail in the afternoon, and made fair images on both.

Back in camp, I saw John again, who had noticeable sunburn on one side of his face. He told me, “The mountain won.”

Manzanita Spring and Nipple Hill are along the Smith Spring trail.
Manzanita Spring and Nipple Hill are along the Smith Spring trail.
Cactus line the Smith Spring trail, one of the shortest and easiest hikes at Guadalupe Mountains.
Cactus line the Smith Spring trail, one of the shortest and easiest hikes at Guadalupe Mountains.
Smith Spring is a lush, green spot in an otherwise mostly colorless desert.
Smith Spring is a lush, green spot in an otherwise mostly colorless desert.
After Smith Spring, I photographed Hunter Peak from the visitor center.
After Smith Spring, I photographed Hunter Peak from the visitor center.

I was warned of a forecast for 60mph winds for the night, so I broke camp and headed to Carlsbad.

I made this image of an abandoned filling station south of Whites City, New Mexico en route to Carlsbad Caverns.
I made this image of an abandoned filling station south of Whites City, New Mexico en route to Carlsbad Caverns.
The author takes the requisite hike through Carlsbad Caverns.
The author takes the requisite hike through Carlsbad Caverns.

• Carlsbad Caverns and Sitting Bull Falls

I took the Natural Entrance at Carlsbad Caverns National Park and made some decent pictures, since I had my tripod.

When I wrote this, I was 39. The last time I saw Carlsbad Caverns, my parents were 39.

Carlsbad Caverns natural entrance
Carlsbad Caverns natural entrance
Stalactities and stalagmites, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Stalactities and stalagmites, Carlsbad Caverns National Park
The formations of Carlsbad Caverns are easy to photograph, but can get a bit repetitive.
The formations of Carlsbad Caverns are easy to photograph, but can get a bit repetitive.
Carlsbad's famous "soda straws" formation
Carlsbad’s famous “soda straws” formation
I saw this lone, seemingly purposeless gazebo on the road to Sitting Bull Falls.
I saw this lone, seemingly purposeless gazebo on the road to Sitting Bull Falls.
The author poses at the top of a short hike up a cliff above Sitting Bull Falls.
The author poses at the top of a short hike up a cliff above Sitting Bull Falls.

I drove a long, lonely county road to Sitting Bull Falls in the Lincoln National Forest, New Mexico.

Sitting Bull Falls
Sitting Bull Falls
Sitting Bull Falls
Sitting Bull Falls
The author poses at the top of Guadalupe Peak.
The author poses at the top of Guadalupe Peak.

• Guadalupe Peak

I hiked to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. It was, as the Park Service claims, strenuous, ascending about 3000 feet from the trailhead to an elevation of 8749. It was hazy all day, but still very fun. I called Abby from the top.

Guadalupe Peak trail
Guadalupe Peak trail
This view from near the summit of Guadalupe Peak shows Hunter Peak on the left.
This view from near the summit of Guadalupe Peak shows Hunter Peak on the left.
El Capitan Peak is visible below Guadalupe Peak.
El Capitan Peak is visible below Guadalupe Peak.
Postal Marker and Cirrus Clouds, Guadalupe Peak
Postal Marker and Cirrus Clouds, Guadalupe Peak
What Is That Pyramid?
A stainless steel pyramid marks the summit. It was erected by American Airlines in 1958 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Butterfield Overland Mail, a stagecoach route that passed south of the mountain. One side of the pyramid has the American Airlines logo. The second side displays a U.S. Postal Service tribute to the Pony Express Riders of the Butterfield Stage. The third side displays a compass with the logo of the Boy Scouts of America. A summit register contained in a metal ammunition box is located at the base of the pyramid.
This view looks west from Guadalupe Peak.
This view looks west from Guadalupe Peak.
The gypsum dunes are visible from atop Guadalupe Peak, the high point of Texas.
The gypsum dunes are visible from atop Guadalupe Peak, the high point of Texas.

In the evening, I drove to a spot south of El Capitan Peak on U.S 180 to attempt to photograph the massif at sunset.

I was a bit early for the sunset, so while I waited, I made this looking south from Salt Flat, Texas.
I was a bit early for the sunset, so while I waited, I made this looking south from Salt Flat, Texas.
I also made this image looking north from near the same spot at Salt Flat, Texas.
I also made this image looking north from near the same spot at Salt Flat, Texas.
Despite handsome light on the mountains, the sky remained blank. Even so, I was pleased that I made time to shoot this at sunset.
Despite handsome light on the mountains, the sky remained blank. Even so, I was pleased that I made time to shoot this at sunset.
After my Guadalupe Mountains sunset, I turned my camera west to make this image of the sky.
After my Guadalupe Mountains sunset, I turned my camera west to make this image of the sky.
I made stills, video, and this self portrait as I watched the evening light mature over the Guadalupe Mountains.
I made stills, video, and this self portrait as I watched the evening light mature over the Guadalupe Mountains.

• Driving Home

In the morning, I broke camp and headed south to a turnout where I had seen some web image of the El Capitan Peak at sunrise. Though the light was flat, it was still a handsome scene.

From there I continued south then east toward home.

This view includes a lone yucca and El Capitan Peak viewed from the U. S. 180.
This view includes a lone yucca and El Capitan Peak viewed from the U. S. 180.
This is another view of El Capitan Peak in the morning, shot from the turnout in U.S. 180.
This is another view of El Capitan Peak in the morning, shot from the turnout in U.S. 180.

As my drive continued east, I was able to stop and made a number of decent images.

I shot this odd downtown image in Putnam, Texas.
I shot this odd downtown image in Putnam, Texas.
This is a closer view of an orange building in Putnam, Texas.
This is a closer view of an orange building in Putnam, Texas.
I stopped at the Air Power Museum in Midland, Texas to make a few images.
I stopped at the Air Power Museum in Midland, Texas to make a few images.
On the left is an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, and on the right is a World War II warbird, at Midland, Texas' Air Power Museum.
On the left is an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, and on the right is a World War II warbird, at Midland, Texas’ Air Power Museum.
El Capitan and Sky, Last Light
El Capitan and Sky, Last Light

 

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2 Comments

  1. Oh my God, these images are sumptuous. I want to quit my job and go to the Guadalupe Mountains right now. In fact ………

    Excellent presentation, also. You blog was inspirational as it was but this is something else.

    When I see your pictures of the dunes, I ask the same question someone once asked of “Lawrence of Arabia” …. how did they make the movie without leaving all their own tracks in the sand? Lol

  2. Actually, I was just observing this watching The Revenant. The snow is chopped to shreds by the crew. You can do it either way … be very careful not to mess up the sand/snow, or chop it to shreds and film it like it’s supposed to look that way.

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