We awoke around 6:45 on Sunday morning to another windy day in the Guadalupe Mountains. Most of our neighbors had packed up camp or were in the process of packing up- I guess they were either tired of the wind or had to head home to go back to work on Monday. We had our usual leisurely breakfast. Meals are very important to a Frenchman and I would say that we spend about an hour per meal per day (that includes cooking, too.) After breakfast and packing up our own camp, we drove to the trailhead of McKittrick Canyon. The Canyon trail, a 6 mile return trip, followed a river, making the scenery more diverse and certainly greener. One of the sights on the trail was a country cottage that was built by a geologist in the early 1900s who was passionate about the mountains. The cottage looked cozy from the outside- it was donated to the National Park Service with land in McKittrick Canyon to establish the park. From the cottage, we continued to the grotto, with its impressive limestone formations. We finished the hike just before noon and started the drive to El Paso.
We were tired from the morning walk and the sun and the road to El Paso was monotonous desert. As we approached the city, we started to see the usual signs of commercial activity- fast food restaurants, chain hotels and Wal-Marts. I commented to Fabien that in fact, I hadn’t missed civilization as much as I thought. We found a motel with a swimming pool and kitchenette and decided to take the afternoon off from sightseeing. Fabien went for a swim in the pool- I was discouraged by the dirt and garbage floating in it- to the credit of the hotel- there were winds gusting at 45 mph so I imagine it was hard to keep it clean. Then we did our laundry only to find out that the dryer was broken, so we strung up clotheslines throughout our room. Next was the ritual trip to super Wal-Mart which was pretty exciting because it included an enormous Mexican food section. We were inspired and decided to have a Mexican themed night in our hotel room. So we made chicken soft tacos, drank Corona and listened to Mana while our clothes dried. Just what we needed to recharge our spirits…
El Paso is the largest U.S. border town on the U.S./Mexico border. It’s hard to comprehend that we were staying only a few miles away from Ciudad Juarez, a city that is now terrorized with drug gang violence and ranks as the second most dangerous city in the world. We spent a half day visiting the historic center, with lots of building from the early 20th century, the Mexican markets and one of the border crossings. Fabien commented that it’s the only place in the U.S. that he has seen a real outdoor market where people actually shop (except for flea markets that is.) Then we drove to Chamizal, a national historic site, that was built on an area of previously disputed territory between the U.S. and Mexico. Unfortunately, the site was closed on Mondays so we couldn’t visit the cultural center showcasing American and Mexican culture. Then we followed the border highway, where a large controversial and unattractive fence has recently been built to try to deter illegal crossing. Our last stop was one of the old Spanish missions- but not much left to see.