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Solitude at the Dog (GuMo NP)

Saturday, 5 November 2022, Carlsbad, NM

Dog Canyon calls me!

The Carlsbad ranger had touted this far corner of Guadalupe Mountains, so I had to follow up. Instead of heading southwest to the heart of the park, I angled northwest, then turned south on a highway that ended at the Texas state line (and park boundary). Much of it ran through arid ranch country, no town to speak of. On the 50-mile, one-hour drive, I saw all of five cars (two of which were pickups who passed me for not going 20 mph over the speed limit). In the park, I saw only one vehicle in the parking lot. The ranger nailed it when he said I needn't worry about crowds!

As I geared up for the hike, I chatted with the woman in the other vehicle. Two trails struck off from this trailhead, and she recommended the Tejas Trail to Lost Peak. "There are oaks and maples spread out on the hillsides for a bit of color."

The hillsides here hosted fewer trees than McKittrick Canyon.

Still, when the trail dipped into the dry stream bed, color surrounded me.

I followed the path up-canyon for over an hour, until it branched from the canyon and climbed up the hillside. I had no desire to scramble off-trail to summit Lost Peak, so I then headed back

to sample the Bush Mountain Trail.

On the way down, I found a sunny rock to sit on for my picnic lunch. This time, I had bought a church key/can piercer to open my can of deviled ham. Not making that same mistake again! Not when I can make new mistakes. The can-piercer worked well for the first couple of openings, though the lid required quite a bit of force. Once I started opening it, though, the structural integrity of the can vanished. As I tried more cuts so I could access the spread, the rim buckled before the point pierced the top. I had to mangle the can to reach the meat inside.

The Bush Mountain Trail provided a contrast to Dog Canyon. It angled across the hillsides, aiming for a ridge, traveling across grasslands. No large bursts of color here!

Grasses waving in the breeze obscured the path at points, with little traffic to stamp out a well-worn trail. After a half hour, I lost the trail, following the slight trail to a rocky area. After 10 minutes looking for the continuation, I turned back - and quickly saw where the official path had made a sharp turn to double back on itself. I followed it for another half-hour before conceding that no magnificent vista would reward me at the end.

As I made the choice to turn back, I noticed two hikers on the ridge a half-mile ahead of me. That would make them the only two people seen during my four hours on the trail today. If you want solitude, I know where you can go!

My way 'home' found me again on the no-traffic, 50-mile road road through ranch country. It crossed several dry gulleys, dipping down to cross (rather than bridging over) them. I quickly learned to slow down before reaching them. Five miles from reaching the main highway, I had one more to cross, this one with a cattle guard in the center. When I touched that grate, it suddenly felt as if someone had stomped on my brakes. In the split-second that "WTF?" raced through my brain, I thought I saw a bright red alert flash on my dashboard.

With adrenaline flowing, I quickly steered to the shoulder of the road and stopped. The car was still running, and the dashboard now showed the default messages. I got out and walked around the car, looking for anything askew. Nothing visible, and I could see nothing in the gulley. Still shaken up, I looked around and saw a house just ahead. I drove up, knocked on the door, and had the man who answered come out to check whether I missed anything. He watched as I slowly drove up and down the driveway, then looked under the wheels for anything obvious. Prognosis: negative.

I thanked him, and left to drive (at a moderate speed) the remaining 20 miles to 'home'. No issues. Now I have one more day returning to GuMo park, then a long drive back to Midland's Spaceport. If anything happens, I hope Hertz's road support is worthy of #1!

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