We left Carlsbad Caverns in southeast New Mexico on 4/28/2017 headed for the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas, only about 55 miles away. While this sounded like an easy day behind the wheel, we were apprehensive. We use an app called “ping4alerts!” for micro-specific weather reports and had received high wind alerts for our area that morning. The reports suggested sustained winds of 30 – 40 mph with gusts over 50 mph possible. Pretty tough to keep our RV on the road with that type of wind speed so we paid close attention to the hourly forecast.
Since the wind speeds were forecast to rise steadily throughout the day, we got an early start that morning. Being only an hour away, we felt it would be worth trying to get to our next destination. However, we had also learned from some of the locals we’d met that this area of the country was noted for frequent high winds this time of year, especially through the Guadalupe Pass and Pine Springs Canyon, the only campground in the Park suitable for our RV. In fact, the RV Parks reviews we read indicated significant high winds that made other RVers quite nervous.
We arrived at the Pine Springs Visitor Center in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park just over an hour after we departed. A fairly uneventful drive. We spoke with the Park Ranger about the upcoming weather conditions and asked their opinion on our safety camping in the Pine Springs Campground for the night vs “making a run for it” by heading straight back on the road to get through the Pass before the winds got too strong. The ranger felt we would be much safer staying overnight at the Pine Springs Campground and checking for a break in the winds the next day.
We took his advice, set up camp in the parking lot style dry-camping facility and took off in the Jeep for a recommended hike in McKittrick Canyon, a less travelled part of the Park about 30 minutes away. This canyon is relatively protected from the strong winds, it was a beautiful day that provided spectacular scenery. We did see a few other hikers during our 4.7 mile trek, however, we did feel pretty much on our own out there!
Did I mention that the Ranger warned us about the mountain lions and rattlesnakes that called this canyon home? For example, check out the sample that Siobhan posed with at the Ranger Station.
Yup, taken right out of McKittrick Canyon. Did I tell you that these guys like to attack their prey in a super-stealthy manner from behind? That they bite their prey in the back of the neck while taking them down? Well, perhaps too much detail…but…certainly on our minds as we hiked through the canyon that late afternoon. Beautiful place and great hike, just a bit apprehensive. The Ranger suggested the best deterrent for Mountain Lions is to “look big” by walking side-by-side rather than one in front of the other. Whenever possible, we did just that. They also suggested that if confronted, keep your eyes on the cat and back away slowly while looking as big as possible. There is no way to outrun them! The fun things we are learning, right?
We enjoyed the hike and slept in the RV that night with the slides closed to minimize our wind exposure. Makes Our Way feel a bit confining but it wasn’t bad. Boy, the wind was rippin’ down though that canyon all night and the RV was swaying back and forth even though we had all four levelers deployed (large hydraulic jack stands that are capable of lifting the RV off the ground). All good though. We made it till dawn when the wind subsided for a while and we took that opportunity to drive through the Pass.
Between this experience and the drive from Marathon, Texas we learned that we have more weather related travel limitations with the RV than we expected and that we need to pay close attention to developing situations on our route ahead to alter our plans accordingly. Although we had loosely planned for two or three nights in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Mother Nature had other plans.