Hiking may be slower than running, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. And being married for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got it all figured out. After months of me waiting impatiently and then actually going ahead without him in March, my husband and I were finally going to attempt to climb the Guadalupe Peak trail together, something that we weren’t really sure was possible for my husband. With his Franken-leg and his minimal training efforts, reaching the summit was not guaranteed. His hamstring and knee were already bothering him. But here we were, nervous and excited , standing at the trail head, about to take on the mountain.
This hike had been in the planning stages since January. My goal for this year was to climb the peak before the weather got too hot and he said he wanted to do it , too. As I saw more and more people posting their peak photos on Facebook, I got impatient and worried that he might procrastinate and it would mean waiting until the fall months, so I decided to go with a friend in March. I blogged about that trip here. It was so much fun that I couldn’t wait to do it with my husband, but I was also very nervous about it. Why? Because as I posted here, he has a reconstructed leg and I was not sure if his body could physically handle the climb and the actual contortions required to make it up to the peak. I knew he would be very disappointed if he couldn’t make it to the top. Almost is just not enough when you are climbing a mountain! But he still wanted to go and our anniversary was coming up, so we picked a date when we could get a babysitter for Grace and the boys, and we hoped for good weather.
The drive to West Texas is nearly 600 miles, and that’s not even to the western border, so we went out a day early to rest up before the big climb. Listening to running podcasts and an audio book called Utopia made the miles pass quickly. Our first impressions of the town of Van Horn, Texas, population 2,000, included dusty, totally flat, generally brown in color, many truck stops and hotels, lots of closed down businesses and very old, dilapidated buildings. Our budget-priced hotel was easy to find on the long, straight road that parallels the interstate. This hotel was cheaper by about $50 a night because it was an older model, and it had no exercise room or swimming pool, at least not a pool with water in it. A very comfortable bed ,cold mini-fridge and lack of noisy neighbors made up for the lack of amenities. Watching TV, eating food that we brought from home, and driving a few miles out to a more scenic area to take some sunset photos of the mountains took up the rest of our day. I was very eager to get out to the park, but I knew it was better for us to be well-rested.
Despite being in the desert, there was a chance of rain that night, but I tried to ignore it. I heard it thunder during the wee hours and went back to sleep, hoping for the best, yet knowing we could not climb in a thunderstorm. My alarm went off at 5:30 and I popped out of bed. Hallelujah, it wasn’t raining! Quickly we got ready and started putting our stuff into the car and then the worst thing happened; the door locked and neither of us had the key! I was horrified because this hotel was so cheap, I was afraid that no one would be available until 7:00 to help us. But , thank the Lord, I rang the bell and woke up the manager and she gave me another key. Whew! Back to loading and then with great anticipation, we headed out on the 65 mile drive in the still-sleeping desert to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The sun was just lighting up the sky as we arrived.
The first third of the trail is very steep and rocky, so we took our time, trying not to use up all of our energy. The sun was rising and we stopped often to admire the beautiful views. After 50 minutes , we completed our first mile, gaining 821 feet of elevation.
The wind was threatening to remove our hats whenever we got into exposed , north-facing parts of the trail. I knew that sometimes it could be dangerously windy at the peak and that thought began to cause me anxiety. Along with my fears of us falling off the side of the mountain, my husband having a heart attack, and us not being able to get past certain scary points that I knew where waiting up ahead, I now began to worry about the wind blowing us off or making us lose our balance. Not wanting to scare my husband, I kept my thoughts to myself and prayed for God to help me not be afraid. I asked Him to make the wind die down and to protect us. I told myself that I was fine, that I had done this before, that the wind was not that bad, that we could do it. And as we got into the forested area, the wind died down and the trail got easier for a while. We were moving along well, chatting and enjoying the shade.
After a couple of hours we started getting hungry so we stopped on a flat scenic overlook and ate sandwiches (gluten free bread, lunch meat, cheese), orange slices, and gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Everything tasted delicious and the view was amazing! We were also drinking water with Nuun tablets in it. A few people passed by on the trail going up and down while we were eating. We spoke to everyone that we saw that day, feeling instant camaraderie with our fellow hikers. There were not many of us on a Tuesday morning in May, mostly retired people, and college kids.
I began to nervously anticipate the upcoming difficult sections, but my husband seemed unafraid. So far he had been doing great with only a couple of instances of feeling short of breath and happily handling the rocky terrain without too much pain in his legs. I was pleasantly surprised at how well running a few miles a week, along with his regular time on his feet at work and working outside on our property, had prepared him for the hike, much better than I expected. In fact , there were a couple of times that I had to tell him to slow down since I have much shorter legs than him! There were at least two spots that had me very worried. We got to the first one and I was relieved to discover that it was not as bad as I remembered and we got past it fairly quickly. The trail becomes steeper and less groomed as you near the top and in a couple of spots, there is really no trail, just rocks to climb across. I wish I had taken photos of those sections but my mind was fully occupied with not looking at the steep drop off! As we moved along I kept thinking we were almost there, but then there was another turn and another uphill.
Finally, we heard people talking and we knew we were almost at the summit. And then suddenly we were there! We had done it! And thankfully, the wind was not blowing like crazy. I was so happy and relieved and proud of my husband. Two friendly girls were there celebrating a birthday with beer. We took turns taking photos for each other with the summit marker. I was much less afraid this time on top of the mountain. On the first trip, with my friend, I could not even look out at the views without feeling panicky and I just wanted to stay sitting down. But this time I was able to walk around and take lots of photos. After signing the summit log, resting, eating a little snack, texting my friends our happy news, and taking lots of scenic photos, we were feeling triumphant, but not finished yet, so we decided to start the descent. We knew that it would not be easy.
Getting past the sketchy sections was still difficult, but somehow knowing that we were on the way down made it a little easier. We shared encouraging words with the hikers who we making their way to the top. We felt energized and excited at first, but going down the steep, slippery trail, began to take a toll on our legs and minds. We really should have stopped for another break for more calories and rest, but we didn’t and we began to feel overheated and tired with shaky legs. The rising temperature and the difficult last mile of the trail had both of us sweating and anxious to reach the end. Several people passed us going down, but we didn’t feel safe going any faster . I started to feel renewed worry for my husband’s well-being as he began to stumble and dropped his hiking stick a few times. At last we arrived at the bottom of the mountain and then the parking lot , where we high-fived each other and gladly climbed into our air-conditioned van to rest and briefly process our 7 hour journey to Texas’ highest point. Then we headed over to the park’s gift shop for a t-shirt and to check out their nice nature exhibits.
A slight sunburn, a few scratches from a fall when my foot slid in loose rocks, and exhausted legs were the only casualties of our hike , despite all of my fears. I think it’s time I stopped worrying so much and learn to trust God and our own abilities a little more. My husband showed me once again that he is capable of doing just about anything I suggest! He is not going to let his leg hold him back. Today, two days later, he is definitely feeling sore and says he is pretty stiff when he walks, but so am I. After 28 years of marriage, I am still in awe of and thankful for this man that was still walking with a cane when I met him , only a year after nearly losing his leg in a motorcycle accident, but already back riding his Harley.
I believed then and I believe now that God brought us together and I believe that He is keeping us together through life’s ups and downs, and for that, I am so glad. We have taken a few trips together in the past few years and we haven’t always seen eye to eye on the plans. In fact on a couple of trips, we had some serious disagreements over things like where to stop for gas or where to eat or what activities to do that made me wonder if we should even travel together. I think this was our best trip so far . We both tried hard to make it a good one by not being stubborn about getting our way. I say that to encourage those of who might wonder if your marriage can improve as you get older. I think the answer is yes.
Here are the numbers and gear info for this hike.
- Each of us carried one gallon of water in a backpack with a hydration bladder plus two bottles, plus a sandwich, snacks, headlamp, and a few other emergency items. Similar to this one.
- He used his favorite hiking stick and I used my trekking poles.
- Starting weather was clear,60 degrees and breezy. Finish 80 degrees and sunny.
- He wore Hoka Clifton 3s and I wore New Balance MT 910 trail shoes.
- We both worse shorts and tech shirts. No jackets needed. Hats.
- Distance of the trail 4.4 miles each way.
- Elevation gain to top approximately 2900 feet.
- Peak altitude 8751 feet, highest point in Texas.
- Trail surface, mostly rocks with lots of loose rocks, but some sections are more dirt than rocks.
- Mostly exposed , but there are much appreciated shaded areas, including the primitive camping area.
- Time elapsed including breaks for eating, taking photos, and resting, 6:57.