Sunday, December 9, 2007

West of the Pecos

West of the Pecos River is my favorite part of Texas. The land changes. After miles of plains, hills, mesas, basins, and prairies the land starts to climb. Mountain peaks start to appear out of the distant haze. There are something like 29 different mountain ranges in west Texas. These are main desert mountains but a few peaks reach into a high mountain environment. The tallest of these peaks are in the Guadalupe Mountains.

The peaks of the Guadalupes push into the sky and some approach 9,000 ft. They contain Ponderosa pines, aspens, and hidden in sheltered canyons-maple trees.

I made a get away to the Guadalupes in late August. I know people are thinking that camping in Texas, and in the desert at that, is insane. However, because of the higher elevation of the range it was actually quite tolerable as the days were warm with nights that dipped into the 50’s.

The late summer even brings a fifth season here and I was there at it’s peak. All the tropical hurricane activity pushes rain into the southwest and it is actually the wettest season in the desert. As such it is sometimes referred to as the “monsoon season”. It is basically a second spring and 2007 was a very wet year. The Guadalupes normally receive about 2” of rain in July and 3” in August but in 2007 they received 15” of rain between Independence Day and Labor Day. As such, the flowers, grasses, and trees were in great shape.

On the eastern edge of the range are some nice high grasslands at about a 5700’ elevation. They are a welcome sight as the elevation rises after crossing the Pecos in the Permian Basin.

On fine morning I waited in the grasslands for the sunrise and watch the stars over the distant peak. Slowly the night gave way to morning and the grass began to take on a yellow glow. Light began to fill the sky. The clouds picked up a pinkish hue. I had two tripods set up that morning. I had both the view camera and my little digital SLR set up to wait for the light. I started in the dark, trying to capture star trails across the blackness of the peaks. I photographed the distant orange glow of the earliest light. I turned my camera on the pink clouds above the mountains. I got the first light striking the mountains as the sun appear in the sky.

And then the sun rose and another day broke across the land west of the Pecos.

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