Weekend after labor day, leaving the family at home (thanks and sorry family), I set out to Guadalupe Mountains National Park with a college buddy of mine, for 3 days of backpacking in the mountains.
The decision to go was mostly just spontaneous, we have never gone backpacking in the wilderness before, and wanted to try. We finally arrived at the park after 8 long hours of driving and set up camp in the dark.
You often forget how beautiful the night sky is, without all the light pollution of the city, the view was spectacular.
The next day we started our hike from the Pine Springs base camp, took the Tejas Trail, up to Pine Top camp. This was the most challenging part physically, since we were carrying around 40 pounds in our backpacks (most of it water) and climbing 2500 feet.
When we finally reached Pine Top camp, ate lunch (first time I tried an MRE, it was very cool, but not very tasty), my friend threw in the towel, he could not go on any longer. He ended up pitching tent there and going back down to the base camp the next day.
So I continued on alone, on Bush Mountain Trail, and arrived at Bush Mountain camp. It started to rain lightly as I finished setting up the tent. I quickly heated up and ate dinner, and hung up my food sack on a distant tree. Light rain turned into a thunderstorm, gusty winds, heavy downpour, and the temperature dropped. I hardly slept that night due to the cold, I put on every article of clothing that I had brought and cocooned inside the sleeping bag, yet still half froze to death.
I was so miserably cold and lonely at some point in the night, I had decided that if it continues to rain in the morning, I will wait out the rain in the tent and make my way back down to base camp. I felt very small and insignificant against the grand forces of nature, and realized that all our modern conveniences back home had simply given me an illusion of control.
The rain had stopped early in the morning, although it was still cold and windy, I ate breakfast, tore down camp, and started again on my way. Soon I was atop Bush Mountain the second highest mountain peak in Texas. Long day ahead, I continued on Bush Mountain Trail, as rocky desert mountain terrain turned into mossy alpine forest, to grassy meadows.
Walking alone in the mountains, with the inexperience of the wilderness, first came the paranoia of life threatening dangers — feeling stalked by a mountain lion and hallucinations of rattlesnakes on the trail (upon second inspection, just a twig or a root). I eventually hit a stride cadence, similar to runner’s high or cycling in the zone, that almost seemed like a spiritual experience — endorphin, fresh mountain air, and beautiful landscape ..
I finally arrived at Dog Canyon, the north-most part of the park. I checked in with the park ranger, to let him know that I made it out of the mountains alive. I cooked an instant pasta for dinner, which was heaven sent, the tastiest thing I’ve ever had in my life.
The next day I hitched a ride back to Pine Springs base camp and met back up with my friend. The day was still young, so I convinced him to climb Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas, with me. We got back well before dinner time, so we decided to pack up and head back home early.
It was an experience of a life time. It was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done. I utterly underestimated how strenuous trekking a mountainous terrain all day with a 40 pound backpack would be. Of course, it was rewarding, as I felt that I emerged from the mountains, back into civilization, as a new being. Close encounters with nature perhaps enthrals my ancestral DNA that once resonated harmoniously with the earth in its circle of life.