Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monehans Sandhills to Hueco Tanks State Park

Monday May 14, 2012

After a night of heavy rain we woke to sunshine but still some ominous clouds. The rain was very heavy for 2-3 hours and then continued to rain some most of the night.  Sure glad I was not sleeping in a tent. Guess the young men who left late yesterday because they thought it might rain were smart as they were camping in two small tents. They would have been wet – we were nice and dry! The campground looked deserted – 3 campers we could see. One left right before we did and one was the oil pipe rigger we had spoken with a few times- he was long gone to work.  The road out of the campground was nearly underwater in one location. 
Ominous Skies over campground

Road leaving camp
We headed east on I 20 as far as Pecos and finally finished our Baldacci book!  In Pecos we went into a Walmart and Ben found the cable he needed for the TV to play his TV shows and movies he brought on a hard drive. We found the West of the Pecos Museum which was supposed to be really good – closed Sunday and Monday…oh well. We headed north out of Pecos on 285 following as closely as possible the route of the Butterfield. This was a 2 lane paved road but with very little traffic.  An occasional truck both the pick-up and larger oil related truck was all we saw for over 80 miles from Pecos to Orla (they needed a name for a crossroads in my opinion). We passed through Loving County – the least populated county in .it!  Really doubt this area is much different than when the Butterfield ran – except for the better road! Rain started soon after we left Pecos and began coming down fairly hard off and on – there was lightening in the distance but never close to us. We crossed the Pecos River and then the Delaware River – most were running muddy after all the rain.  
Oil Drilling Rig near Highway
 Finally we could see the Guadalupe Mountain range in the distance.  Distance when you can see so far is deceiving!   We finally reached the main road 180 and followed it to the stop for the Pinery (the Butterfield Station remains) inside Guadalupe National Park.   
Guadalupe Mountain in Distance - at least 30-40 miles away

The Pinery - Remains of  Butterfield Stop at Guadalupe

 We had been here two years ago on our Texas Trip when we visited Carlsbad Caverns.  We got out of the van – wow it was COLD!  Thermometer said 49!  We quickly got out the fleece jackets and hunted caps and walked rapidly out to the ruins since it looked like it would begin raining again at any moment. We got a few photos and hurried back to the Sprinter and drove over to the Visitor Center.  Again we hurried inside along with about 10 other people – just as everyone got inside it started a downpour and even some hail.  Brrrr… we stayed a while – watched the video, looked at exhibits, got the passport book stamped, bought a book for Dan and finally headed back to the Sprinter.  It was still 49 outside but 67 inside so we ate a picnic lunch before continuing on down the road.

Coming from the north you do not realize you have been climbing for miles on a gentle incline. Guadalupe Pass south of the park is 5,500 ft and Guadalupe Peak is 8,749 so that was part of the reason for the cold temperatures. As you leave the park and head south you drop rapidly. This would have been a real challenge for the stage coaches! 

El Capitan at Guadalupe - COLD!
 At the foot f the mountains is a huge salt flat – what a difference in terrain.  Trying to follow the Butterfield through this last part of Texas we were hoping a road north out of Dell City (the name is a real stretch – less than 100 residents) would be like the one from Pecos and we could follow it. When we got to Dell City it was a graded dirt road for about 5 miles but when we reached the New Mexico state line it became narrow and less graded – due to the weather we were afraid to chance it. So we headed back south from Dell City to 180 and continued on to El Paso.  We could see to our north the mountains that the Butterfield had skirted.  About 20 miles east of El Paso we stopped for the night at Hueco Tanks State Historic Site. This state park is historic for several reasons. First the unusual rock formations where the limestone washed away over centuries leaving granite formations with lots of holes or “tanks” where rain water collects.  Indians had come here for centuries and there are petroglyphs on some rocks.  This location was also favored by early travelers including those on the Butterfield Trail.  The location of our campground is probably where the trail would have come into the area.  

Our Campsite at Hueco Tanks
We hiked around a little after watching the video and discovered some of the rock art - much defaced and a part of the old Butterfield Trail. 

The Butterfield Trail at Hueco Tanks
Jane with Octillio Cactus at Hueco Tanks..

Rock Art with defacement from 1800's
 Our campsite is at the base of the rocks, has a neat rock and wood table shelter, electric, water, is s short walk from the bathhouse and very quiet. In fact the only other campers here are the hosts. This has been a very popular location for climbers – they have so many rules now to protect the area and have set the entrance fee so high that I think they are probably discouraging people from coming here.  The campsites are only $14 but there is an additional $7 per person entry fee.  The entry fee is high – most places are about $2 or $3.  

They have another unusual rule here – you have to be in the camping area at 6 PM and can’t leave unless you have an emergency.  That is unusual too.  We did not mind as I was planning to cook tonight, write the blog and read but it might not suit everyone. Only downside is all these rocks we have no cell service and no TV reception except 2 stations broadcasting on analog from Mexico!

Signing off – it is 8 PM – I am typing this with just the natural light.  We entered the Mountain Time Zone today somewhere…guess on those small roads they don’t put up signs!

My try at a sunset

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