“On the High Edge of Texas”

You are looking at the Guadalupe Mountains of west Texas. The title for this post comes from Edward Abbey, who described his experiences in these mountains in the book Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside. In October of 2015, I logged my fifth visit to the area, and my first visit to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas at 8,751′. The 4.2 mile trail to the summit ascends 3,000′ above the desert floor.

The photo above was taken at sunrise on the day before my hike, during a morning joyride on my favorite highway, which, I’m happy to say, I drove from one end to the other five full times during the week.

The following morning, I arrived at the trailhead by dawn, hoping to conquer as much of the trail as possible before the sun reached the broiling point.

About twenty minutes into the hike, the sun joined the party…

One of the “exposed” sections of the trail; probably a little more harrowing when the rock is wet, or when gale-force winds batter the mountain, which they often do…

Looking north toward Hunter Peak…

The sun climbs higher…

Dead sea creatures: The Guadalupe Mountains are the exposed portion of the Capitan Reef which “loomed over the floor of the Delaware Sea 260 to 265 million years ago…”

The American Airlines monument at the summit, erected in 1958…

Looking down on El Capitan
(Follow this link to a 43-second video showing a panoramic view of the desert from this spot.)

Greetings from Texas…

At the summit: The highest caterpillar in Texas…

Ladybug convention…

Trail buddy…

Have you been living under a rock?

Assorted flora found on the trail…

The Guadalupe Mountains are a hiker’s paradise. Be sure to pay them a visit if you have the chance.

Raptor’s Delight

As Thursday was going to be another beautiful (and rather warm) October day in the Davis Mountains of west Texas, I made a point to be up and out the door at first light to enjoy a few hours of leisurely motoring before breakfast. As I rolled out of Fort Davis, I watched a glorious sunrise paint the sky and the desert floor. I then turned west, into the hills.

After several miles of peaceful riding, I was presented with the option to turn left on Ranch Road 505. This narrow strip of asphalt is just 8.8 miles long, connecting Texas 166 with U.S. 90. It has no shoulder and, happily, little to no traffic…

I took the turn and drove on, enjoying the fact that I was the only driver on the road that morning. But I wasn’t truly alone; a crowd had gathered, and that crowd made the scenery even more compelling. Once I reached U.S. 90, I made a U-turn and parked the car so I could attach my 80-200mm zoom. As I began to retrace my route, I knew that I was about to fire off a few hundred shots with the Nikon…

Birds. Big birds. And lots of them. Hawks of many different shapes, sizes and colors, lining the 505. It looked like a raptor convention. Most of them were perched on fence posts; some on metal posts…

Some on old wooden posts…

We fell into a groove; each bird I stopped beside would pose for about five seconds after my arrival, giving me the stink eye while I grabbed a few frames…

And then leap into to air, having seen enough of me…

I would then roll forward a hundred yards or so to greet the next contestant, and the pattern would repeat…

A few of the hawks had found a vantage point superior to that of a fence post; the tall mast of the Yucca elata makes an excellent perch…

And a hawk leaping into the air does a nice job of dispersing the yucca seeds…

Incidentally, that gray blob you see in two of the above images…it’s not a speck of dust on the camera’s sensor. It is a tethered blimp, near the city of Marfa; part of the Tethered Aerostat Radar System, which scans the border for low-flying aircraft…

But enough about the blimp; I was much more interested in the things flying closer to the ground…

Aside from the raptors, there were other creatures out and about that morning, such as this fine fat vulture…

And these bold little sparrows, basking in the sun. (Bold? Maybe just oblivious, or, perhaps, unappetizing…)

Even some four-legged Pontiac fans came down to the fence to say hello…

So, if you ever find yourself about to turn onto Ranch Road 505, be sure to have your camera at the ready. The fish are waiting in the barrel.