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This is a desert peak and one of my favorites so far. Driving from El Paso the desert was hot, barren and flat. I began to wonder where the mountains were. Finally the magnificent profile of El Capitan, a sister peak to Guadalupe, loomed on the horizon. As I approached Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the mountains became enshrowded in fog, cold temperatures and heavy downpours. I stopped at the visitor center where I picked up some information, but I decided to swap my trip agenda and visit nearby Carlsbad Caverns today in hopes that the weather would be better here tomorrow.

Driving toward Carlsbad I drove back out of the weather system as quickly as I had driven into it. After an interesting trip through the caverns, I was ready to hit the trail the next day.

I was greeted with bright blue skies and perfect temperatures. Unlike most highpoint hikes, this trail is steepest in its lower reaches. Not more than a half mile from the trailhead my heart was trying to pound its way out of my chest and I began to wonder if I had any business being here since I was still recovering from some kind of respiratory infection. I took it slow and easy though and eventually reached the horse section of the trail where it is more gradually graded. Actually, although the nicely graded section of the trail makes for easier hiking, it's rather unfortunate in a way because the blasting and grading they did to construct it make the trail itself a scar that can be seen for miles against the barren landscape.

Speaking of the barren landscape, one thing I found amusing, since this was one of my first desert hikes, was the tremendous visibility with no tree cover like I am used to in Virginia. I must have hiked two or three miles or more before I even got out of sight of my car! Actually there were a few trees in one section on what must have been a north facing slope. Other than that, lack of shade was a major factor. Even with a hat, the sun could be felt reflecting back up at you off the white rocks.

About 3/4 of the way through the hike is a brief respite in the form of a high meadow-like area. I saw a few tiny patches of snow here. There is also a primitive camping area on a side trail. Then it's back to the relentless uphill and the blistering sun reflecting back at you. Finally I was on top soaking up the tremendous views and thinking that wasn't so tough after all.

Even with an extra long lunch break at the summit, I was back to the car by 3 p.m. after about 6 hours on the trail. Shortly after I pulled away a massive, violent thunderstorm rolled in and engulfed the peaks which made for some great photo opportunities.

Whether you're a highpointer or not, I would heartily recommend this area and nearby McKittrick Canyon and "The Bowl", an "island in the sky", as some wonderful hiking and backpacking country. I know I plan to return.