The Great Southwest Trip 2017


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Tuesday, September 19

We got out of Las Cruces around 8 am. We were planning on driving to Texas, over the top of El Paso (because who in their right mind would want to go there?) and northeast to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I had never heard of this place til Doug and I went to Carlsbad Caverns in 2014, and was surprised to find out that there was a national park in the Southwest that I'd never heard of...so it was on my list.

It was a couple of hours to the NP, but first we had to get to Texas...oh, I guess we're here! We crossed through Franklin Mountains State Park, which is just northwest of El Paso...here is the city itself on the other side. We're looking east, so Mexico is in a different direction.
It was a beautiful drive on a glorious sunny day, but...are we there yet? No, not yet. Are we there now? not yet.

Now we're there!

The flower is Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye and the tree with the red berries is Texas Madrone. These were outside the visitor's center, and the ranger told me what they were.

We also asked about camping; the ranger said, first come first served, but at noon (which it was by then) you shouldn't have any trouble finding a place. Two nice guys overheard this and said, we just left campsite #17 and it was awesome, if you go right over and get it you won't be sorry. And we did, and they were right! We also asked the rangers about hiking, and got some good information.

Then we settled into our campsite, had some lunch, chilled a bit and packed up to go hiking. We had decided to drive north on the road we had taken to the park, and there is a gate and a road across privately owned land. When you reenter the park, there is a parking lot, small visitor's center and the McKittrick Canyon trail leads to several things. But, the ranger said, they close and lock the gate at 6, so make sure you're out by then.

No problem, we thought. We got to the parking lot at 2. Let's hike til 3:30, I said, then turn around, wherever we are; that way we'll be sure of being back at the car by 5:30 and out the gate in time...

This is what most of the trail was like, wide and easy. And of course...Josie Looking Sexy on Table! Plus lots of Soaptree Yuccas.
Which, I have to say, have interesting leaf patterns.

I think this is Javelina bush

Crossing a stream

Dakota Mock Vervain

Wooly paperflower

Texas Madrone

Texas Madrone

I think this is a Dotted Gayfeather Some kind of goldeneye; there are a lot of them, and there was no ranger to tell me which this is! The plant is Gumhead, and this is some kind of damselfly sitting on it looking beautiful.
I was thrilled with these butterfly pictures...but then, five minutes later, we found the BUTTERFLY TREE. I can't figure out what the white flowers are, btw...
We crossed this stream, and on the left side of this picture is a tree that was FULL of butterflies flying around and lighting and taking off again...it was just astonishing. On the right is Kelly, taking some of the pictures that follow.

I think the purple flowers are New Mexico Tansyaster. The orange butterflies are Silvery Checkerspots and the yellow ones are Southern Dogfaces.

This is a Southern Dogface from the top...see the dog face on its wing?

We finally tore ourselves away from the butterflies and continued our hike.
The beautiful hike continues... A dead yucca, but kind of interesting looking Cousin It! Agave
Another Dotted Gayfeather and the second and third pics are Yellow Indian Mallow
You can see this dragonfly in the center of the left picture. It's an immature male Whitetail Skimmer. And these are two Silvery Checkerspot butterflies gettin' it on. They fell down by my boot and completely ignored me...
Rock walls! We're almost at the lodge.
This canyon and the lodge were donated to the NPS in 1960 by the family who owned it. The lodge is beautiful, all made of stone and wood, and there are rocking chairs on the porch!

The Texas Madrones around it were pretty too.

So with all the pictures, by the time we got to the Pratt Lodge it was about 3:15; we had said we would turn around at 3:30, so we rocked, looked around, had a snack and some water, and at 3:30 we picked up our stuff and started back.

And we sauntered, and took pictures...and about 3:50, I turned to Kelly and said, are you sure we're still on Mountain time? We went east from the main park, and we're right near the line...I didn't look at the time in the visitor's center.

And she pulled out her phone and it said 4:50. OMG! We had forty minutes to get back over the trail that took us an hour and a half to do, although slowly.

So we booked, and took very few pictures...

Another one that looks like a black swallowtail without the tails...still no idea what it really is...

And we got back to the truck by 5:30 and got down the several miles of road and got out the gate before it closed at 6. Here is Kelly, relaxing in our lovely campsite after a good dinner.

Oh, and the next day, she asked the rangers...they said, yes, the whole national park is on mountain time, but her cell phone was picking up a signal from the closest cell tower which is across the road in CENTRAL time...LOLOL!

Another goldeneye, a beautiful sunset, and a quiet evening.
And as I was reading my Kindle that night, a ladybug landed on it and set off its word definition function...LOL!