Friday, November 03, 2006

Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!!

It all started with a discussion of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. On the climb up Guadalupe Peak–the tallest peak in Texas at 8,749 feet – my friend Laurie and I huffed and puffed our way up the steep first part of the trail along a rocky footpath. The discussion rapidly spun off into all manner of very personal things - relationships, sex, kids, childhood traumas, date rape. We had been talking - loudly - for over an hour, climbing, panting, sweating up the strenuous steep first third of the hike, when I said, “I am glad we have the trail to ourselves.” Not two seconds later, we turned a bend, and atop a rock ledge, two guys had stopped to catch their breath. (photo above: prehike, self-portrait, Laurie and I laughing it up!)

I am not too much one to hide my personal issues, but this discussion was pretty graphic! As Laurie said, it was like therapy on the mountain. We got a good laugh out of it, softened our voices, and changed the subject.

We stopped for a minute to chat with the guys. One asked if I had any extra camera batteries because his died. I said no, different camera, but he could check out my blog photos or whatever, and they had asked us what we do for a living, etc., and I mentioned that I was writing an article for Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, which he thought was cool. One guy – who sat smoking a cigarette of all things - was silent, the other talkative.

We climbed and climbed, pausing to take photos and rest for corn nuts and peppermint patties. What an absolutely amazing, stunning, drop-dead gorgeous hike. The lower elevation had agave, faxon yucca (with huge spikes towering to the sky), and sotol (deep green, long serrated edge leaves that were used by the Apache-Mescalero Indians from the region), while upper elevation gave rise to ponderosa pines and other higher elevation species. The view just blew me away, over and again. It was 8.4 miles round trip and a 3,000 foot elevation gain. Toward the top you could see for miles, with wild land all around. The only human mark below us was the road in the distance, but at some points along the trail you could only see wilderness for miles around us – high desert mountains, and salt flats, valleys, canyons below. Carlsbad Caverns lies to the north in New Mexico, but many square miles of Guadalupe Mountains National Park Wilderness lie in between.

About 2/3 of the way to the peak, I told Laurie, “I need to use the ‘facilities.’” Mind you, at this elevation all the junipers were short and squatty and besides that there were just grasses and poky plants for cover. So I snuck behind a juniper, though I was truly exposed all around. I called out to Laurie, “don’t look!” and a few moments later I finished, Laurie turns around and her face shows shock, “Oh my God! Those guys are right there!”

I look around, “Where? I don’t see them!” But then I spotted them, perched on a rock ahead, staring right at us.

“It’s going to be headline news in the paper, ‘Writer Wendee Holtcamp EXPOSED!’” Laurie declares. “I hope your ass wasn’t facing them!” We got good laugh. The guy had a camera too, but thank God his battery had died. Or so he said.

We made it all the way to the top, took photos, and exchanged high fives. This was actually the first mountain I’ve ever climbed. Really a strenuous hike not a climb per se, but the trail is steep and the guys who hiked all through Big Bend said it was far tougher a hike than any they’ve ever done and it surprised them. I had a lot of energy all the way until the end on the way down, when my legs were literally shaking in their boots. It was exhilarating, truly. I need to do more of this. I loved it.

I can’t wait to upload my photos – some have turned out awesome! We got a before and after photo that cracks me up! We hiked McKittrick Canyon two days ago, which is a low canyon in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

The macro photos shown above I took on the hike - they are: agave, fir cones, Texas madrone berries, and sotol.

Left: View as you hike up Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Right: A bridge across a narrow cliff ledge which we crossed on the trek to the top.

Left: El Capitan, the cliff face just barely lower than the peak. Right: This was from the hike the previous day, a luminescent orange-colored maple in McKittrick Canyon - also in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Who said only the east has brilliant fall foliage?! When we went beyond the end of where most people stop walking, and at the beginning of the Wilderness area a mule deer stood right on the trail.

Laurie hiking along on the trek to the top of Texas!

Faxon yucca stalks rise over the mountain view.

This was a photo taken from the roadside on the drive up toward the trailhead, and this is El Capitan from afar, but I just like the juxtaposition of the yuccas.

Gorgeous fall color in the drive from Fort Davis toward McDonald Observatory. It blew me away!

A cholla cactus flower.

Autumn grass from a ground view. I love the pale colors and the natural beauty and artistry of the grass flowers.

Pronghorn antelope, roadside, on the way toward Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains.

Moon rise over the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at the McDonald Observatory, the 4th most powerful telescope in the world. After going to a "Star Party" at the Visitor's center we got to look inside the very cool 107-inch telescope where an astronomer postdoc was doing research.

This reminded me of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting - it is a thistle flower with a bee in it.


Anonymous said...

Ha! That's hilarious, Wendee!

Your description of the mountain and the area are great and make me want to go there myself.

(nature writing student)

Miranda said...

Orion magazine has a long essay on potty issues as they related to women and the environment!

Anonymous said...

Sus here:

you caught some gorgeous imagery here Wendee! I gotta admit I'm surprised that this is Texas, guess I don't know as much about the state as I thought. Maybe some day I can come down to visit since I think you're not that far from me.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wendee,

really fantatic photos!
enjoyed the story and more of
us could get the the mountains
for some 'therapy' ;)

Wendee said...

You crack me up! I loved getting to read it first, before the photos were posted, then getting to see the photos... I really love the cactus bloom and grass photos. What fun. Keep 'em coming!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Fabulous photos. Nature is constantly amazing. Your story is so funny. Would make a good cameo in a movie - the gals yacking on nd two guys silently listening behind or rock or something.