The second leg of our journey ended at Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas, and when I say “west Texas” I mean 450 miles west of Austin, all driven in one sitting, with no air conditioner, in the summer. We gleefully hopped off the interstate at Van Horn, TX and skirted the foothills north towards the heart of the Guadalupe Mountains.
The lands which now lie within the boundaries of the Figure 2 Ranch were occupied in the 19th century by nomadic Native American tribes. One of the last battles between Texas Rangers and Apaches Indians occurred in the mountains west of this site in 1881.
James Monroe Daugherty (1850-1942), who came to Texas from Missouri as a small child in 1851, served as a Confederate express rider at age 14. Following the Civil War he returned home to Denton County and became interested in the cattle business. He participated in numerous cattle drives and by 1872 purchased his first ranch. He was a charter member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
As his empire grew, Daugherty acquired additional ranches in several states. In 1890 he purchased land here and founded the Figure 2 Ranch. Taking up residence here by 1905, he was active in local politics and served as one of Culberson County’s first commissioners upon its creation in 1911. Due to his failing health, Daugherty sold the Figure 2 Ranch in 1933 to legendary millionaire businessman James Marion West, Sr. (1871-1941) of Houston. Although West did not live at the ranch, he visited often and the property remained in his family until 1992.
Here we finally see the two goliaths of Guadaulpe Mountains National Park. The 8,085-foot El Capitan juts out and forms the most prominent feature in the range, while the slightly taller Guadalupe Peak (the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet) sits modestly in the background. My brother and I climbed Guadalupe in 2004 as part of a road trip through the Southwest. This visit would not include a trip to the summit but would involve some hiking and exploring.
Angela and I set up our Marmot 2 Earlylight tent for the first time (I’m not counting the time we tested it out on our living room floor). From my previous experiences here at Pine Springs Campground with my brother, I knew Guadalupe to be extremely windy. Guadalupe is known for its legendary strong winds that sweep across the open plains, gain strength like a downhill train, and then collide with everything in its path. Spring and winter winds can average 30+ MPH with gusts of 70+ MPH! We staked down the tent as securely as possible and hoped for the best.
Our evening at the Pine Springs campground in Guadalupe was thankfully not very windy, nothing like my time here in the Spring of 2004 when our tent spikes simply would not stay in the ground. We woke early the next morning, had our Jetboil coffee and Cliff bars, and pointed the car towards Carlsbad Caverns, just across the Texas/New Mexico border.