“Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” Steven Wright
From the top of the Bush Mountain Trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, you can still see the trace of the mid-1800’s Butterfield Overland Stage route off to the southwest and just your side of the Gypsum Sand Dunes and Alkali Lake. Four hundred fifty-eight miles in 126 hours, for just that segment between present day Cook County, Texas and El Paso.
I made the 510 mile trip from Austin in my new Mazda in eight hours. Eight hours seemed like an incredible undertaking just to find some altitude when I first started these trips, but I enjoyed them and it’s actually quite an easy drive. First time in the Mazda, so I was pretty amazed to hit my normal first gas stop at Harper with the gas gauge still almost on full. You even gain an hour crossing into the Mountain Time Zone just before arriving at GNMP, so I still have the best part of a day ahead of me once I arrive.
I felt a lot less awesome about myself when I looked down and saw that stagecoach route and thought “that must have been one really horrible trip.” As my friend Rob Graham says, “every time you think you’re out doing something badass, somebody else comes along doing something even more badass.” The people on those stages came through 250 years ago, but somehow out there you feel like it wasn’t so long ago.
A day later, I found this piece of fossilized coral up on top of the Tejas Trail, 8,000 feet above sea level and now about 250 million years away from the ocean it was once under. We live in an amazing world. I can stand on a desert mountain trail that was once the Capitan Reef on the Delaware Sea. From there, I can look down and see the distinct imprint of pioneers passing through two centuries ago in stagecoaches. Amazing.