Travel Journal – Guadalupe Forest NPS

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.

8 thoughts on “Travel Journal – Guadalupe Forest NPS

  1. This looks like a really lovely spot! I haven’t done any hiking in ages, but your description of the spring brought back memories. (Then again, your description of the juniper pollen makes me hesitate. I haven’t gone hiking since my allergies developed, and that does not sound fun at all.) 😉

    1. It was beautiful. Got a little hot for me (I really don’t like temps over about 80 F) but the spring was nice and cool, and there were trees which is something missing from many hikes out here! The juniper has us all slayed this year – me, my DH, the dog. I don’t know if it’s really bad this year (might be since we had snow and moisture this winter) or if just having 2 spring seasons where we all wore masks (except the dog) outdoors, it’s just more noticeable. Big yellow clouds of the stuff everywhere right now…..

      1. Oh good point. I hadn’t really thought about the difference that wearing masks outdoors would make on allergies, since I haven’t really done much in the way of social outdoor activity since the pandemic started.

  2. I can’t see or hear the word stagecoach without suddenly singing in my head “oh whip crack away whip crack away whip crack away” (Calamity Jane). I think I’d be nervous there, looks like good snake territory.

    1. Everywhere here is good snake territory. It’s cold enough in the mornings still you don’t see them out much. And the poisonous ones here (mostly rattlesnakes) are predominantly nocturnal, although occasionally you’ll disturb them during the day if you’re off-trail (which we aren’t really ever). I can count on one hand the times we’ve had rattlesnakes out and about during the day – they like to avoid noisy humans if they can too.

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