Day 89: (2016-11-23): Balmoreha, Gualalupe Mountains National Park, and the El Paso Outlets.
This morning I pack up and leave pretty quickly, heading to Bread and Breakfast for a “Cowboy Breakfast” of two poached eggs atop biscuits and gravy, with bacon. Things you can eat when you tour…even driving these last few days I burn it off with the high metabolism and all the hiking. Afterwards I continue north out of Alpine, taking in the beautiful Texas countryside. Between Alpine and I-10 the landscape is rolling hills awash in fall, yellows and browns of the grass joined by the oranges and reds of falling leaves, some green still holding on. I pass orchards and farms, cows and dry stream beds. Fort Davis looks to be a cute little town but I continue on, having little time to dawdle today.
Just before reaching I-10 the terrain begins to meld back into desert and I stop at Balmorhea State Park for a wonderful swim in a unique, spring-fed pool. Fresh water, small fish, even turtles, though unfortunately I do not see them. The water is a warm 70 degrees or so, and I am warmer in the water than out. Swimming in November! I spend a few hours here, swimming and leaping from the high-dive. I eat a picnic lunch of leftovers and veggies, and chat with Graham, a teenager on vacation with his family. He’s training to be a pilot and hopes to travel a lot when he is older. Good kid.
After getting my fill of swimming I return to the road and take I-10 back west to Van Horn before cutting north on highway 54 to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. My goal is to hike the McKittrick Canyon trail to see the fall colors, but unfortunately the gate will close about two hours after I arrive so I hike a short nature loop instead. I try to camp at the park’s campground but it is full, so I drive all the way back to El Paso and visit the Outlet shops – North Face and Columbia have massive sales for the upcoming Black Friday. I buy a new shirt and a sweet fanny pack for just $30. I’ve been looking for a quality bag like this – it is perfect to store all my small items both while biking, if I chose, and while walking around. Phone, charger cords, snack, sunglasses, notebook and pen – perfect. Bringing back the fanny pack!
I plan to camp on BLM across the nearby border in New Mexico, but instead pitch a tent in a very nice rest stop. New Mexico is not perfect, but they definitely have a good mix of places to pitch a tent for the weary cyclist 🙂 I spend an hour or two going through my stuff and re-packing after having my shit all over the car, all the while working on my still quite full bag of wine. Classy.