We got up at 6:30 and rolled out of camp by 7:15 this morning, we made quick work of that camp takedown! After stopping for coffee and gas in Study Butte, we were on the road heading north on State Highway 118. We saw lots of deer as we got north of Alpine. Driving through Fort Davis we spotted a place called Herbert’s Caboose Ice Cream Shop, where was this place when we needed it the last two days?
The drive was about to become even more thrilling. While going through the Davis Mountains, as we crested a hill a herd of big horn sheep ran right in front of us. Peyton slammed on the brakes immediately, but they were too close to avoid an impact and we hit four or five at once at a decent speed. Upon pulling over and assessing the damage it was not nearly as bad as we initially feared, with the damages appearing to be purely cosmetic in nature. I saw no evidence of blood on the car nor on the road at the point of contact, so it looks like the sheep were able to walk away from the encounter as well! Thank you God!
It was about another hour and a half to Van Horn where we made a pit stop for gas and a driver switch. From there it was another hour to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which began to loom on the horizon about 45 miles out. We arrived at the park at noon CST (fun fact: like El Paso, the park is in MST) and stopped at the main visitor center to get a map of the park. Though it’s not visible from the visitor center, this park is home to the highest point in Texas: the aptly named Guadalupe Peak at a height of 8,749 feet (or 2,667 m for other fans of the metric system). There are no roads running through the park, but there are miles and miles of hiking trails. We had contemplated hiking some of the McKittrick Trail (which according to my national parks edition US atlas is known as the most beautiful place in Texas), but due our big horn sheep delay and the distance required to actually get into the canyon we decided to leave this expedition for another trip.
We drove up to the Texas-New Mexico border, but instead of driving to Carlsbad and then east across New Mexico we decided to keep this trip all in state. As residents of Texas now, we are legally obligated to avoid contact with other states whenever possible and preferably throw in a few disparaging remarks about them as well. Your roads suck, New Mexico! Instead of crossing the state line, we drove southeast on Ranch Road 652 to Orla. It was a 42 mile drive with minimal signs of life the first few miles, but oil and gas activity steadily increased until it was clear we were back in the heart of the Permian Basin by the time we reached Orla. Judging from the other travelers we saw on this road I think it’s fair to say we were the first vehicle that was not a semi or pickup truck to traverse this road in a while. From Orla we took State Highway 285 to Pecos where we ran into a Texas stop sign.
After picking up our blizzards, we were back on I-20. Aside from one stop for gas, the rest of the drive back was pretty uneventful. We made good time and were rolling back into the parking lot of our apartment by 8:30. Exactly 777 miles later after waking up in a tent in Terlingua, we were back home in Dallas. This was a trip to part of the country I had never been to before, but it more than lived up to the hype. Looking forward to returning with four-wheel drive sometime soon.