Shivering under the Guale Sky

Fresh off of a bunkhouse slumber, we were ready to take on the Guale expedition. Squeezing in one last Top Chef episode in the commercial kitchen before Sheri packed her knives to go, we ate all of the eggs that cracked in the cooler, posted a blog on the world’s slowest but surprising-to-have-any-at-all Texas Park WiFi and stood way too long in a way too hot shower – just like cowboys.

Guale? You have been warned.

Maybe we are crazy, but we aren’t stupid, so we added the less distant Guale 1 to our Guale 2 reservation thinking if we couldn’t make it to the Colorado River ridge, we’d tuck into the box canyon site halfway in. Ranger Gabriel, a young Keanu Reeves lookalike, had described the trek past Guale 1 in harrowing terms. Super narrow roads, steep inclines and deep ruts. He pushed hard on our tire choices and what kind of valve stems did the tires use. Seriously, even engineer Eric did not know the answer to that? His bottom line, Guale 1 will be fine for us, but Guale 2 is for Broncos and Lexus 4x4s.

31 Flavors of Rocky Road.

Unfortunately, Ranger Reeves is more the bumbling Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan he plays in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure than his assassin/survivor role as John Wick. Pretty much every thing he said would turn out to be wrong. The important part was the clueless sincerity he exuded when he delivered his lines.

It just keeps getting narrower, right at the start.

The overnight temperatures fell so much so that the olive oil froze in the truck bed. The wind had died down and as charming as an empty bunkhouse is at 2 am, we felt that we were one and done. Time to Guale. We left the rough rock and dirt strip called Main Park road for what looked like a hiking path but was marked as the off-road trail to Guale. With Boss in 4-Lo, we crept onto the Guale mesa on a path suitable for hiking, but not if the two hikers are side- by-side. Someone really needs to inform the Texas Park system that off-road vehicles come in many sizes, but none narrower than 3 feet.

Hiding out in a box canyon.

The rugged encroaching cacti scraped along the sides of truck like fingernails on a chalkboard. Guess that will buff out. Five miles and more than an hour later, we had reached Guale 1. All we kept thinking was “that was the easy part?” On the good side, Guale 1 was a marvelously protected site in a box canyon providing nice relief from the elements. Opting for Guale plan B, we ditched the truck a headed off on the Comos for the last five miles to Guale 2. Maybe we wouldn’t overnight there, but we were sure as heck going to see it.

Try to remember, the Como is not a mountain bike.

The Comos lasted about a mile before the chains fell off, and then we fell off, and the bikes had to be abandoned on the side of the trail. The Como brakes were squealing like a stuck pig, which at least had the advantageous effect of chasing off a mountain lion that was crossing the trail about 1/4 mile in front of us.

Hiking the mesa to Guale 2, the road dramatically improves past Guale 1.

Not to be denied Guale 2, we transitioned to foot for the last four miles. Unbelievably, with every step the trail improved immensely. We debated a turnaround – we were still close enough to reclaim the bikes, walk them back to Guale 1, pick up Boss and finish the ride. But the sun was high and warm, the vistas vast and with clean and fresh air filling our lungs, we continued the climb.

Guale 2, Beautiful, but possibly misunderstood.

By the time we got to Guale 2, we were worn out but the trek was symbolic. Too many times we drive when we can walk, we choose known over unknown, or concoct reasons we can’t instead of what if we did. It’s 10 miles from a main road and it’s hard to get to. Perched on the ridge, we could see across the Colorado River canyon into Mexico. We ate the 6 almonds each that we had remembered to shove in our pockets. It was a light lunch and a little water would have been a nice thing to bring if we had a backpack, but now we sound like complainers.

Art projects pop up in the strangest of places.

Hiking back gave us a pleasant feeling of relief. Even though the road from Guale 1 to Guale 2 is much easier than the initial ride in to Guale 1, we were OK with not driving it. By the time we got to Guale 1 camp we had concluded that the protected box canyon was better than another night on a windy ridge especially with the temperatures dropping below freezing. As it would turn out, Guale 1 was plenty cold enough.

When warmth is the priority.

As soon as the sun set below the ridge line, the temperatures plummeted and we were darn glad to holed up in the Clam outfitted with our new vinyl panel walls on five sides and jerry-rigged table cloth over the entrance. As comfy as the new tent is, you simply cannot retreat inside at 6 pm and expect to not go crazy waiting for the sun to come up the next day. We lasted in the Clam until 8 pm, then froze in the tent until 3 am, at which time we were back in the Clam for an exceptionally early morning hot tea. 300 miles to any meaningful light source, it was the chance to stand under a night sky of unfathomable brightness and beauty to find the silver lining in a rough and tumble day.

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.

Checking back in on the rangers at Sauceda the next day, we inquired when the last time anyone had actually been out to Guale. It was in November, and that was in a John Deer Mule OTV (much smaller than a truck). They don’t like to go out there in their F150 because the trail is nearly impassible. Yep, kind of buried that headline the day prior. The road to Guale earned its reputation as the least passable trail in the park. We are glad we did it, but we wouldn’t do it again. We prefer our kidneys stay just where they are.

Safely where we abandoned them two hours ago.

Running low on food (according to Eric) or with just enough food (according to Sheri) and on water rations, we are headed deeper into the ranch for three consecutive nights. Word has it the trail is easier but someone has removed the navigational signs. Sounds like fun. Hey, if you want the National Park manicured experience, that’s 60 miles down the road to the east.

Baby, It’s 3 AM I must be frozen. (Matchbox 20 missed a good lyric).

Shivering under the Guale Sky