All posts by Jude

Guadalupe Peak trail

You might be thinking, “What, there are no mountain peaks in Texas!” Well, think again!

The Guadalupe National Peak Trail in Guadalupe National Park is waiting to meet your challenge! The logistical tips and practical info you need to hike this trail are included just a little further down in this post. If you would rather dispose quickly of the philosophical rendering, that’s your prerogative, so just scroll on down. For the rest of you eager to read more about how physical stress brings out the best in us… on from here.

It’s really hard for me to do such physical things like hike the Guadalupe Peak Trail and not find a situation in my life analogous to this adventure.

You know it’s true.

How often have you went through something hard in life, i.e. divorce, job loss, loss of a loved one, infertility, or something else equally difficult and discovered your coping ability and your comeback was partly facilitated by the accomplishment of something physical? That first half marathon or 10k. The establishment of an exercise routine that included 1 mile a day walking around your neighborhood, or a 50 mile trail run? I don’t know. Maybe it was just a change in your diet.

Determination. Grit. Teeth Clenched.

For as long as people of letters have been recording the written word, physical feats have been compared to life’s trials. Paul said it well in the first century in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27:

"All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxingI discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified."

The same pain that we endure in physical feats can be akin to the pain we endure in our personal relationships, only better. The former reminds us of what we are made of. Not fainting hearts or shrinking violets. But rather -strong, capable, focused-and profoundly self aware. Which is the opposite of profoundly self-absorbed.

When we dig deep, we find out that we can accomplish so much more than what defeat wants to hand us.

We discover that we are not easily taken down by the devastating trials of our lives, when we hike 4 miles up a mountain side that taxes us to the limits of our physical capabilities. Suddenly, we can take on the world. Or in the very least, we figure out that the mountain in front of us is not so tall, or the river so deep, l that we can’t find a way around it or through it.

I know! In a travel blog, who in the world wants the author to wax philosophical?

On the other hand, there is every comparison to be made between our heart and our heart. Meaning the heart that can break and the heart that pumps your blood through your body.

The two are one in the same after all.

Such was the case for me in the year 2020 when my husband, Paul, and I hiked the Guadalupe Peak Trail in October with our fellow adventuring friends, Rebecca and Ken.

Covid; Selling our house and moving; Paul’s 95% blockage in one artery resulting in a stent; The subsequent arduous process to regain his flying status with the FAA (He makes his living flying); Our girls spread out all over the world, including one in Paris, France; The stress on our marriage; Civil unrest; Me returning to work full time; The loss of loved ones; Close friends stricken with cancer; Political and social unrest.

So we hiked Guadalupe Peak Trail.


  • If only hiking Guadalupe Peak Trail in a day trip, such as we did, consider staying in Van Horn, Texas the night prior to the hike. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. Early the next morning, we had breakfast, filled our camel packs with water, packed up the car, and drove the one quick hour North to Guadalupe National Park. And all you have to do is put Pine Springs Visitor Center into your GPS. Easy.
  • In any case, arrive at sunrise in order to be able to park easily in the parking lot adjacent to the trail head. Plus you don’t want to miss sunrise at this place. It’s definitely part of the experience. AND also, the trail generally takes on average 6 to 8 hours to get up and down. So it’s best to get an early start.
  • Hike in the fall. Why? Because this is Texas and it’s stinkin’ hot here in the summer.
  • Every person in the hiking party needs about 3 liters of water each. We used camel packs. Water bottles on this trail would be quite cumbersome.
  • Snacks snacks snacks. Lunches of sandwiches and chips or whatever you prefer that is lightweight. Remember you are going up 4 miles. You want to keep your backpack as light as possible. You’re already carrying 3 liters of water after all. I packed peanut butter and jelly. Also be sure to carry a simple first aid kit.
  • Good solid hiking shoes, expensive or inexpensive, are a must.
  • Hiking poles are very helpful. Mine was invaluable. Especially on the way down!
  • Sunscreen and hats.
  • In October, we had a light jacket. And I tied that around my waist. Shorts are fine. We wore lightweight hiking pants. Pockets are always helpful.
  • About 3/4 of the way up there is a camping site. (Tents, sleeping bags, under the stars kind of camping site.) Some people camp overnight here and do the last 1/4 of the trail up to the top the next day. I think one clear advantage of this would be the ability to be at the peak at sunrise.
  • Pace yourself. The uphill part is pretty much uphill the whole way. And the trail is difficult. It is rocky terrain, and the trail itself can involve lots of high stepping in places.
  • Take breaks as needed, not just for the physical rest but also for the sweeping views of the beautiful Chihuahua Desert.
  • Don’t underestimate this hike. On the other hand, just be prepared for it. THEN be prepared for the outstanding landscapes nature will bestow upon you.
  • Bring some cash to put in the box and register your hiking party’s name on the form provided at the trailhead. The entrance fee is $10.00 per person for visitors 16 years of age and older. Green fee envelopes are available at the trailhead.
Source; Guadalupe National Park Visitor Center

Maybe you’re in a slump right now. I don’t know….maybe it has to do with the year 2020? Whatever the reason for your slump, you don’t have to take it sitting on your rump. Get up and get out! Maybe it really will be a jog around your neighborhood. Wonderful. Or maybe it will be something taller and more daring. Wherever you may be seeking restoration or reconciliation in your life, try challenging yourself physically. And see if you don’t get there faster.

Certainly consult your physician if neccesary before starting any new exercise routine. But don’t miss the moral of this story.

“Sometimes the distance between what you demand of yourself physically and what you demand of yourself emotionally is shorter than what you think.”

We spend plenty of our born days mulling over what we can’t do. Often we do this to a fault. Especially in times of crisis or hardship. This kind of ruthless self-examination often renders helplessness. One way to counteract that is reminding ourselves of what we CAN do. The can-nots of our life often seem to overwhelm our present and our future. How about focusing on the cans! Physical challenges remind us that we can do anything we put our minds to -as we put our hearts to the test both figuratively and literally. Then we discover something new about ourselves. We discover we were made for this.

The beginning of Guadalupe Peak Trail at sunrise in October.
The peak.

Shawnee National Forest Illinois

A day trip into the Southern Illinois forest just left me wanting a few more days in this gorgeous area of the Midwest. Set against a beautiful blue sky in crisp and cool October weather, this place can calm the soul.

River to River Trail Above and Directly Below

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: We came from the north, from I64, we headed south at IL142 (Exit 89 off of I64). From there it was about 1 hour and 14 minutes to Garden of the Gods parking and trail head. One good thing to remember, is that in the fall, the parking lots fill up quickly since fall colors are a huge motivator for visiting national parks.

We hiked two trails at this park. First we did the River to River Trail. From end to end this is a 5.4 mile long trail. From Garden of the Gods parking area/trailhead to The Hitchin Post Trailhead at the other end. (which means if you loop back to your vehicle, it’s over 10 miles) We just went out about 2 miles and returned. Along the way were the most beautiful rocky bluffs that we cautiously walked out onto. We also planted ourselves here for lunch. The trail leads to a creek and the path features some great caves and beautiful foliage. It was an easy to moderate terrain, (the two miles out and back that we did.) After a couple of miles in, we returned to the parking lot. Next we took the shorter Observation Trail. This trail “features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of Gods Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.” Source: Shawnee National Forest Garden of the Gods

Eating lunch on one of the many bluffs affording gorgeous views along the River to River Trail

Our last stop of the day in the Shawnee National Forest was at the Pomona Natural Bridge. It took us a little out of our way on our return to Scott AFB, but it was WELL worth it. It is, after all, a stinking natural bridge for goodness sake.

Pomona Natural Bridge