What a bittersweet week. The thought of leaving such a beautiful place made me break down a few times but that's a beautiful thing right?? That a place has so deeply affected me in such a positive way. That's what I kept telling myself at least... My goal for the week was to do all of the things that I couldn't do as just a visitor but could as a volunteer with ranger buddies who had the inside scoop! I KNOW I'll be back to this park, but WHO knows if I'll have the magic buildings and doors key ever again??
So first thing's first: I had to *officially* become a GUMO Jr Ranger. I got to fill out a fun handbook and answer questions about the history and ecology of the park! EVERYONE IS WELCOME TO PARTICIPATE! Even if you're not TECHNICALLY a kid! I was lucky enough to get Ranger Max to swear me in as I vowed to preserve and protect. I received a cool badge AND patch! It was the first National Park I had ever became a Jr Ranger at, actually! So basically it was a landmark accomplishment that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Next on the docket was finding the mysterious cabin deep in the woods- which I almost completely missed! But eventually I found it on the day I got to solo rove up bear canyon! What a cool and surreal site to see after hiking for hours and not seeing ANYONE.
Later that week Ranger Max and I attempted to find an old plane crash. We went into the day pretty confident that we would just happen upon the ruins without a GPS because we knew the general area of it on the topo map. But of course much of the foliage had grown in super thick so at a point we were just blindly bushwhacking. A few times I yelled in excitement believing a smooth fallen tree in the distance to be a piece of scrap metal from the crash. BUT NO. At one point when we were deep in the depths of uncharted wilderness and Max throws out the comment, "hopefully a mountain lion isn't stalking us right now or else one of us is dead for sure." SOS GR8 THANKS FOR THAT. I basically freaked out and was like, "MAX LET'S GTFO!!!" But hey, we tried!
Another day Ranger Max, Ranger Nick, Ranger Nick's friend, and I got to go out to William's Ranch, which is only accessible by a 4x4. One of the volunteers, Art, was kind enough to drive us in his truck out there. Its about 8 miles into the park on a ratchet dirt road and took about an hour! Part of the dirt road was a section of the actual Butterfield Stage Coach line, so that was cool. UGH THO! When we finally reached William's Ranch it made that rough road so freaking worth it! Such a neat structure. I loved how there were bright blue accents all around the trim of the house that kind of matched the color of the mountains and sky. LIKE LOOK HOW STUNNING THAT HOUSE IS! We were lucky because our key gave us access to the inside of the house so we got to peak inside and explore! There were all these old newspaper clippings pasted to the walls and broken furniture strewn about. Really creepy but interesting stuff. After locking up the house we roved for the rest of the day up and around El Cap which was a new and breathtaking perspective. Probably one of my most favorite hikes and most favorite days.
The rest of the week I frantically was finishing up some of my work and seeing all the most beautiful sights. Here, I went for a walk to the stage coach ruin where there's a parking lotish area. LOOK AT ALL THE CANS I FOUND. I could barely carry them all back to my appt.
On one of my final days I hiked up to the notch down at McKittrick for the first time! I had only gone as far as the Grotto before. On the way up, before Pratt Cabin, I passed up these three FULL water bottles and was so struck by the fact that they were full and seemed to be purposefully placed in front of a rock. Sometimes, it is hard for me to pick up trash that seems intentional? Maybe there were backpackers that placed those water bottles there for their return hike? IDK but I left them. Someone would surely use them, right?!?
Another beautiful moment happened when I was driving back from grocery shopping in Carlsbad and hit GUMO just as the sun was setting AND it started to rain. So there were these fuzzy magenta storm clouds over to one side, the most STUNNING rainbow to another, and then THIS ORANGE DREAM SKY (see below) over the mountains! Like how does this place exist!? I think I started crying (again) because I was so overcome with the amount of beauty.
I remember passing by this rectangular rock that looked like a lithography printmaking block of a mountain range! See it?!? ART IS EVERYWHERE! Then of course there was the gorilla face that is a part of the Tejas trail. Notice how the ridge of the mountain is all jagged and looks like the brow, nose, and lip of a gorilla profile! Again, ART IS EVERYWHERE AND THAT CANNOT BE DENIED!!!!
Sorry for this post being frantic and all over the place! But that's precisely how I was feeling this particular week so I'm leaving it because it's perfectly fitting albeit disorienting.