Sunday, April 12, 2015

Winter Camping in the Guadalupes

I had some time between the holidays this year and had looked at getting out of town for a few days with the idea of camping and a little photography.  I had kicked around flying out to Vegas and going to Zion but since you never know what the weather will do decided to look at driving destinations.  

I considered going to Bosque del Apache for a couple of days and then driving home via Guadalupe Mountains.  I have never been to Bosque del Apache and thought it would be neat to see the cranes and geese that winter over there.  However, since I am not a wildlife photographer, that then evolved to going to Muleshoe NWR to see birds and then the Guadalupes.  Muleshoe, which is close to Lubbock, Texas would cut about 400 miles of driving and still let me see birds.

The plan was to leave on December 27th and return home on the 31st.  I packed up and watched the weather.  It had been calling for a front to move through west Texas with the possibility of rain and maybe a dusting of snow.

On the morning of the 27th, I got up and checked to see what conditions were like and saw it was snowing in the Guadalupes.  

That changed everything.  Snow in the Guads!!  I instantly knew I had to get there ASAP.

I hit the road and drove west.  It was snowing by Big Spring.  Big flakes swirling in.  The roads were good but it was starting to stick on the shrubs and cacti.

As I drove west it got thicker.

By the time I made it to the park there was a lot of snow, a good 6" was on the ground.

It was very white and very still.  I was almost like a fog.

I found the park all but empty, only one other camper there.  The cold and snow had chased what few other people away.  

I set up my tent and then finally paused for a moment to take it all in.  Here I was in this incredible fresh snowfall in a national park that I all but had to myself!

Snow happens here but it is always a fleeting event, usually gone within a few hours of falling.  I have been here before in the snow but this was more than I had seen in the past.  I had made the right call coming here.   I secured my tent know it would be ready to take the winds that would surely happen.  I use a mountaineering tent designed for high altitude.  Some might scoff for that kind of tent in Texas but they have probably not camped in the Guadalupes.  50+ MPH winds are very common.  Several times I have camped here in 80 MPH+ winds (hurricane force is 75MPH) and they have recorded winds well in excess of 100 MPH.  So, yes, a mountaineering tent is a useful thing.
 

Then I grabbed the camera and took off to chase images for the remainder of the afternoon.  I returned to camp after dark and found it still in a foggy white but now the few lights from some of the park buildings were casting an eerie glow to the place.  I grabbed a few more images.  Then ate a few snacks and was off to the tent to get some sleep.

I woke up about 1AM and decided to take a peek and see what it was like.  It was still and it was completely clear.  The front was gone and the stars shown brightly in the sky.  

Clear sky, snow, stars!  I was instantly awake and quickly got ready.  Soon I was out taking night images of the Milky Way, the snow, the mountains, and yes even my tent. 

For the reset of the night I was driving to several different view points and would then spend 30-60 minutes photographing the spiral arm of the Milky Way hanging over this winter wonderland.



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