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Soil Scientists Backpack into Guadalupe Mountains National Park to Complet

Soil Scientists Backpack into Guadalupe Mountains National Park to Complete Soil Survey

Story by William Shoup, MLRA Soil Survey Office Leader � Abilene, TX

On August 3, 2009 a group of backpack laden soil scientists met with the National Park Service employees in the Far West Texas Outpost of Pine Springs. This first of three details to the world�s finest example of a fossilized reef and a unique assemblage of flora and fauna was about to begin. A two-week backpacking trip into West Texas� only legally designated wilderness was being planned, and an anxious, hopefully fit, soils team was ready to go.

�725-Victor, soils crew one about to begin ascent into Dog Canyon� could be heard over the Repeater stationed at Blue Ridge. An 8.5 mile hike into rocky terrain was underway. The plan was to hike to a tranquil base of operations camp, and summit by mid afternoon. The pack-mule operator had taken a cache of water (via 5-gallon �cubies�) to the Blue Ridge area earlier that day. Packs, sleeping gear, and bags were field tested by Alan Stahnke, James Gordon, B.J. Shoup, Jo Parsley, Jessica Lene-Jobe, and Clark Harshbarger (all soil scientists). Michael Margo (Range Scientist) joined us for the first week, and three archaeologists were assigned by the park to make certain cultural resources were not disturbed. By late afternoon, the last of the crew had made it up the Tejas Trail past Lost Peak (7,830 feet) and turned due west onto the Blue Ridge Trail, which later proved to be a nemesis. The hike was over, but now the true work was about to begin�

Transects were run to collect initial field data for the inventory of soils in the National Park. This data will be used for future planning and implementation of Park Service Management of this rugged outpost. Some transecting days were over 13 miles of backcountry hiking in one day, over rough and rugged off trail terrain. Guadalupe Mountains National Park houses vast contrasts between snow-capped mountains, with vast majestic vistas to muted desert hues and vivid white shifting dunes. The Park boasts 80 miles of hiking trails, most of which is only accessible by backcountry camping. The State of Texas� highest point is located here at an elevation of 8,751 feet. A truly craggy adventure.

The team completed a plethora of transects on this first backcountry detail, and in every respect enjoyed the work. However, they were very happy to see the hotel in Carlsbad, NM (with its warm, luxurious showers). Two more transecting details were planned and completed in January and February of 2010. This detail was both memorable and exhausting. As the soil crew that participated looks back, the most often quoted line when asked how it was, �It is what it is!�

Ascent up the Tejas Trail

El Capitan from the south
Ascent up the Tejas Trail El Capitan from the south
Guadalupe Peak from the North on The Blue Ridge Trail B.J. Shoup writing a pedon description
Guadalupe Peak from the North on The Blue Ridge Trail B.J. Shoup writing a pedon description
B.J. Shoup (Far left) and Clark Harshbarger (Far Right) Ready to Transect  
B.J. Shoup (Far left) and Clark Harshbarger (Far Right) Ready to Transect