Saturday, April 29, 2017

Apex Predators and Their Lunches

There is a deer up there, on the left, I promise.
Meanwhile - back on the trail in Dog Canyon....

Less than five minutes after we watched the mule deer lay down under the only juniper tree on the mountainside across the canyon, a large brown shape moved in the bushes 50 feet above it. S.D. had been wanted to see a mountain lion ever since we arrived at Guadalupe Mountains.  I was not thrilled by the idea of running into one on the trail but seeing one on a far off mountain-side while we enjoyed our lunch, was an acceptable option.

The brown shape above the mule deer moved again. It lept out of the shrubs and onto a rocky ledge. We coud see clearly now that it was a mountain goat.  The mountain lion sighting would have to wait.
Turkeys (aka Mountain Lion Lunch)

We knew they were out there.  The Dog Canyon Ranger had a camera at the local (hidden) spring and he had lots of mountain lion photos.  Bears, deer, javalina and other animals came to the spring too, it was the only reliable water source for miles. But it was the abundance of mountain lions that was so impressive.

Apex predators are the top of their food chain. They're the animal upon which no other creatures prey. Man is the ultimate predator, provided he has a gun.  Without a gun, and they are illegall in most National Parks, man moves down the chain.  Here in Guadalupe Mountains National Park that puts mountain lions at the top, the apex predator.  It's also puts us humans, on the lunch menu.

For the last three weeks we've been working on the Tejas trail.  The trail passes within a quarter mile of that very popular spring and not wanting to be someone's lunch, I'd been hyper alert to mountain lion signs.  Working on that section I felt a little like the deer look.  Extremely nervous, always alert, skittish at every sound.  We saw deer, and turkeys, we saw a whole family of javilinas, and lots of ringtail prints, but we didn't see any lions. Not even a paw print. Feeling pretty safe, and also very curious, we decided to see if we could find the spring, and perhaps a mountain lion or two.

Still Watching (image from
Following a game trail, and then even an old wagon road, it only took 20 minutes or so to locate the spring. Considering it was the middle of the day, and we'd been crashing through brush to find it, there weren't any animals, let alone mountain lions.  We did even see prints. But there, at the bottom of the canyon, at the turn of a huge wash you could feel them watching us.

It's been a few weeks since we visited the spring, we still haven't see any mountain lions but something tells me they're still watching.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Next Step in the Adventure - The Trailer is For Sale!

Off to New Adventures
 After two years on the road, S.D. and I are ready for the next phase of the adventure.  Our original plan was to spend three years on the road, the last year of which we would spend focusing on the area(s) were we wanted to settle down again.  We've had a great time exploring but now it's time to start looking for a place where we can put all the cool things we've learned over the past years into practice.

Our first step - sell the trailer. The Outdoors RV Creekside 20 FG has benen perfect fortraveling. Well built, nicely layed out, and equiped with everything we need. What it didn't have, the solar panels, water pressure tank, etc. S.D. has added. It has been maintained to the highest standard and except for a few dings here and there is like new.  We're going to miss it but in order to really get to know an area well however, we feel it will be best to rent somewhere and get more of a feel for the town and area than we can do from a campsite and trailer situation.
We Cooked Up Alot in the 20FQ Kitchen

Which brings us to the second step. Picking the town/area. What we're looking for is a place where we can live sustainably, still have lots of outdoor adventures and be part of progressive community, and a local economy.

Specifically this is a place where we can garden, growing much of our foods, etc. One thing we've really missed on the road is gardening and our bees.  We'd love to get back to growing and eating our own food.  Maybe even add some hunting and fishing.

We'd also like to stay off the grid (if possible).  Living in the RV, especially after S.D. installed the solar panels has given us a taste for keeping a small footprint and we'd like to continue with that.

We're also looking for a place that's quiet and dark at night.  Where we can have either a lot of land or at least five acres and be out of town near state or federal land. We'd like to continue hiking, and get back to bicycling so this area shoud have those opportunities. 

Mountains, Lakes and Land!
At the same time this place should be within an hour or two of a nice town. Ideally this town would offer some cultural benefits, perhaps some employment opportunities and have a local economy.  Other folks that are making or growing stuff and supporting each other's efforts.

We'd also like it to be close to family.

Put all that together and right after we finish our gig here at Guadalupe in Mid May,  we'll be headed to Central, Southern Oregon in early June!

Friday, April 07, 2017

The Art of the Trail - 4.2 Miles to Guadalupe Peak

View From the Top - Texas and Mexico
The highest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak.  Located on the far end of an ancient coral reef that became a mountain range.  Rising 3000 ft above the permian basin, Guadelupe Peak tops out at 8752 ft.

The hike to the peak is 8.4 miles round trip.  Climbers ascend the 3000 ft in 4 miles, making it a strenous hike that hundreds of people walk each year.  To some it's an easy day hike, to others it's the opportunity to hike the highest peak in their state, to some it's a religious pilgrimage. To S. D. and I, it was just one of the many trails we had to hike while volunteering at Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  What it unexpectedly turned out to be also was a day of trail building appreciation.  I have never hiked a more artfully constructed trail. It is beautiful!

First off there is the design/route of the actual trail. This trail isn't used only by avid hikers. 
There's even a bridge - 3 miles up
Many of the folks we saw didn't look like they had ever walked 8.4 miles, let alone up a mountain. We assumed some were climbing for the bragging rights.  Then there was a very frail woman and her family that we met near the summit.  They, like others, climbed (or rather inched their way up ) Guadalupe as a religous pilgramage. The mountain is named after our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image can be seen in the mountain's profile. Climbing the mountain, it is believed, bestows blessings on the pilgrims. The shear numbes of hikers provides a challenge for the trail designers; how to construct a trail up and around the sides of a very steep mountain that is walkable, sustainable and able to stand up to the impacts of all those hikers. The answer - a two person-wide width trail with well constructed steps (when necessary), and lots of gentle switchbacks.

Trail Through the Forest
The second amazing thing about the trail are the views. This is one of those trails where every foot up (or down) is breathtaking, and every 1/2 mile or so, completely different. The trail seems designed to highlight each and every one of those views and ecosystems. On the way up you first rise up through Pine Canyon with ever expanding views to the East and over the Chihusha desert. By the beginning of the second mile the trail switchbacks through a wonderfully cool Pine Forest then through a small pass and meadow. Then it's up over a short rise and the views for the last mile are now to the West, out over El Capitan.  The Peak view is 360 degrees out over New Mexico, Mexico and Texas.

As S.D. likes to say "hiking up the mountain is hard on your lung, hiking down is hard on your knees." Not so much on this trail. Going down is just as gentle as a 3000 ft descent can possible be, and since we're weren't sucking wind, we had even more time to appreciate the views and the trail.