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Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge

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Location: Bailey County, Texas
Date: December 8, 2012


Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge encompasses grasslands around a few intermittent saline lakes. The refuge is known for the sandhill cranes that spend the winter here. In a typical winter there are 75,000 cranes here, but the most observed was over 200,000. The refuge also has several miles of dirt roads and trails open for public use.


During my visit Upper Paul's Lake had some water in it, but all the other lakes were dry. I arrived just after sunrise, and the lake smelled of birds. Feathers and footprints were all around the lake, but all of the cranes had already left for the day to go foraging. There were two cranes at the far end of Upper Paul's Lake, but they hid as soon as I saw them. As I was walking back to my car a group of six cranes flew over the lake, but just circled around and flew off. I either need to get there at least a half hour before sunrise or around sunset next time to see more cranes.




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Carlsbad Caverns

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Location: Carlsbad, New Mexico
Date: November 21, 2012

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in southeastern New Mexico near Guadalupe Mountains National Park. See this post from November 2011 for more about the park.

During this visit I did not go down the natural entrance, but rather I took the elevator 750 feet down and walked around the Big Room. Here are some photos from that trip.









© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.



McKittrick Canyon

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Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) to the Grotto, 5.5 mi (8.6 km) to where I stopped
Elevation gain: ~200 feet (61 m) to the Grotto, 1750 ft (533 m) to where I stopped
Date: November 4, 2012


McKittrick Canyon has been referred to as the most beautiful spot in Texas. This canyon is located in the northeast part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park just south of the New Mexico border. The canyon is only accessible via the McKittrick Canyon Trail, most commonly via the trailhead at the end of McKittrick Canyon Road. The gate at the end of this road is unlocked only from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm during Daylight Standard Time and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm during Daylight Savings Time.


The trail starts at the McKittrick Canyon Contact Station and parallels the wash, crossing it several times. When you first enter the canyon, Wilderness Ridge towers over the north side of the trail, but as you approach Pratt Cabin you begin to see deeper into the canyon. Pratt…

Smith Spring Trail

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Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Distance: 2.3 miles (3.7 km) round trip
Elevation gain: 410 feet (125 m)
Date: November 3, 2012


After hiking to Hunter Peak on my second day in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, I went to Frijole Ranch, which is a house constructed in 1876 that is currently used as a museum. I did not go into the house but rather hiked the 2.3 mile loop trail to Smith Spring.


By hiking the trail counterclockwise, you begin on a 0.4 mile paved, flat, and handicapped accessible section to Manzanita Spring. Manzanita Spring is a small pond below the Guadalupe Mountain foothills in the Chihuahuan Desert that serves an oasis.


After continuing beyond the Manzanita Spring, the trail is a narrow and rocky dirt path to Smith Spring. Much of the trail is through desert, and it drops into a wash at one point, but then exits and moderately gains elevation.


The trail soon reaches a small wooded area at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains, and before you know it y…

Hunter Peak, TX

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Elevation: 8,368 feet (2550 m)
Elevation gain: 2,525 feet (769 m)
Distance: 8.7 miles (14 km) round trip
Class: 1
Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Date: November 3, 2012


Hunter Peak is the sixth highest peak in Texas but dominates much of the southern part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This is because it rises straight up above Pine Spring Canyon and is more visible in this area than the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak which is across the canyon to the southwest.


There are several trails in the area of the peak, but I hiked it as a loop trail ascending the Tejas Trail from the Pine Springs Trailhead and descending via the Bear Canyon Trail. The Bowl Trail is on the forested high elevation areas on the north side of the peak.


I began hiking the Tejas Trail at 9:00 am while it was still very cloudy. The Tejas Trail begins as a mostly flat trail in Pine Spring Canyon but then begins moderately gaining elevation as it ascends the north side of the canyon. …

Devil's Hall

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Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
Distance: 4.2 miles (6.8 km) round trip
Elevation gain: ~500 feet (150 m)
Date: November 2, 2012


The Devil's Hall Trail is the most accessible area of Guadalupe Mountains National Park for viewing fall foliage, which is typically at its peak around the first week of November. I also hiked the 2.1 mile long out and back trail last year, which you can view here.



I arrived in the park shortly after 2:00 pm on November 2 and began hiking from the Pine Springs trailhead at 3:00 after setting up my campsite in the Pine Springs Campground. The first mile of the trail through the lower section of Pine Springs Canyon is fairly easy and has great views of Hunter Peak, but it has few trees.


After the first mile the trail drops down into the Pine Springs wash, which the trail follows all the way to Devil's Hall. This second mile is the where most of the colorful deciduous trees are. Because the trail follows the wash it is very rocky and …

Independence Lake

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Distance: 2.5 mi (4 km) one-way
Elevation gain: 1300 ft (396 m) to pass
Location: east of Aspen, Colorado Date: August 19, 2012


The route to Independence Lake follows the Lost Man Trail and begins at the same trailhead west of Independence Pass as the route to Linkins Lake. The Lost Man Trail follows the Roaring Fork River, which begins at Independence Lake. This trail can actually be done as a much longer loop hike to a trailhead closer to Aspen if a car shuttle is used or you walk to road.


The trail begins at an elevation of 11,500 feet, and much of the trail follows the valley bottom or at least close to the bottom before passing Independence Lake. But soon after the trailhead the trail forks with a half mile cutoff going to Linkins Lake. There are some fairly steep sections, but none as long or as steep as many of the surrounding mountains. All of the trail is above the treeline and passes through either shrub-sized willows or alpine tundra.


After about two miles, the trail reache…

Linkins Lake

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Distance: 0.6 mi (1 km) on-trail one-way; 1.1 mi (1.8 km) overall one-way Elevation gain: 480 ft (146 m) to lake; 940 ft (287 m) to peak Location: east of Aspen, Colorado Date: August 18, 2012

West of the 12,095 foot high Independence Pass on Colorado Route 82 is a trailhead for two trails in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness of White River National Forest. Both trails follow the same path for about 0.2 miles until the Linkins Lake Trail turns up the side of the valley while the Lost Man Trail continues through the valley towards Independence Lake.

I began my hike at 11:00 am under clear skies, and the trail begins alongside the Roaring Fork River, but soon turns away. The trail is fairly steep for most of its length but becomes steeper after the trails split. The trail soon reaches the lake basin where it levels off before reaching the lake itself after a few hundred feet. Much of the trail is above tree line or out of the way of the sparse trees that are present.

Because the trail …

Mount Elbert

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Elevation: 14440 ft ( m) Elevation gain: ~4400 ft ( m) Distance: 4.5 mi ( km) one way Class: 1 Location: near Leadville, Colorado Date: August 17, 2012

After hiking Wheeler Peak, I drove up to Leadville, Colorado and arrived at the Elbert Creek Campground at 5:30 on August 16. At 6:00 the next morning I began hiking up Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado and the second highest in the United States outside of Alaska (Mount Whitney in California is slightly higher).

Although the sun was not yet up, there was enough light to hike without a headlamp, and right from the start I encountered seven other hikers in two groups. Once I past these people there were only a few other small groups that I ran into on the way up. The first mile of the hike follows the Colorado Trail/Continental Divide Trail. The first two-thirds of this is fairly steep and is a series of switchbacks, while the rest is quite flat to the junction with the North Mount Elbert Trail.

The North Mount Elbert Trail…