For day #2 of our weekend adventure, we headed out to Guadalupe Forest. Near to where we were staying in southern New Mexico, this national park is technically in Texas, although it’s very close to the New Mexico border. The park was created from lands donated by several local ranchers and I think the main impetus was to keep the watershed for the caves at Carlsbad fairly pristine. There are similar limestone cliffs visible above the ground here, and the area was also covered by the same inland sea that formed the caves.
The area at the Visitor’s Center was close to the site of one of the last remaining ruins of a Butterfield stagecoach stop. Officially known as the Butterfield Overland Mail company, the service operated from 1858 to 1861, being dissolved during the Civil War. The company carried US Mail but was also a stagecoach service for paying passengers with a long route that began in Arkansas, and went through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and ended up in California, in San Francisco. You can walk through the ruins of two stone buildings just outside the Visitor’s Center.
Just up the road a bit from there are is the Smith ranch. (I’m not sure if this Smith family is related to the Jim Smith who “discovered” the Carlsbad Cave system, but it seems likely.) The ranch buildings are still standing and kept in good order. We didn’t spend much time at the ranch itself, but opted to take a 2.3-mile hike up into the mountains behind the ranch to Smith Spring. The hike offered some beautiful vistas of the valley below and you can imagine a placid sea shimmering off in the distance beyond the junipers and scrub oak. (OMG – all that yellow on the branches of the big tree framing this photo? Juniper pollen. It was coming off the trees in visible curtains. So bad this year for allergies.)
The spring is absolutely beautiful. You can hear the running water before you can see it as it comes out of the rocks. There are large boulders lining the path here and BIG Texas Mahogany trees, and it’s lovely and cool and green. We’ll know to bring our lunch up the trail with us next time.
On the way back down, I grabbed a few photos of the flora. There was one small shrub I couldn’t identify with waxy leaves and beautifully perfumed white blossoms on it, which had every local bee and fly buzzing around it.
We really enjoyed this hike. The park has many other trails, with a nice mix of lengths from half a mile to 8+ miles into the back country. Even though it was spring break here, it wasn’t super busy, which we enjoyed. We have plans to come back again in the fall to enjoy the leaf colors (there’s even a type of maple with it’s deep red leaves here) once the weather cools back off.