El Capitan, projecting from Texas’s highest mountain range, watches over me as I wander the barren salt flat at its base. A pulsating wind whips down from the Guadalupe Mountain range as I survey the area for the ideal spot to set up my camera gear. Each of my steps disrupts the slightly soft, cracked surface, leaving an unmistakable trail behind. I stop, making sure my footprints are out of the image frame, when all of a sudden a blast of wind rips off my hat, sending it in a rapid tumble across the dry lake bed. I lurch for it, my hand grabbed empty air, then I stood still and watched the hat whirl into the dusty West Texas sky and tumble only to disappear into the desert brush half a mile away.
Strangely, there was an odd delight for me watching this, and I must wonder if El Capitan let out a slight chuckle at nature’s power over me. Perhaps one day I will venture back in search of the lost hat, though I would be more inclined to search for new ways to capture these scenes in my lens.
The Guadalupe Mountains encompass parts of the most extensive Permian lime- stone fossil reef in the world. Over two hundred fifty million years ago, a four- hundred-mile-long limestone reef formed along a shelf in the Permian Sea. These mountains are part of the reef’s remains, shaped by thousands of years of continuous weathering.
Guadalupe Peak is the highest peak and highest point in Texas, standing at 8,749 feet. In 1972 the Guadalupe Mountains were designated a national park.
The meandering Salt Flat seen today at the base of the range is what remains of a series of shallow seas that covered much of the area two million years ago. Sediments washed into the seas from the mountain slopes. The water evaporated, leaving behind a thick layer of minerals, primarily table salt or gypsum.
I often find myself exploring Salt Flat as I find the landscape fascinating. The stark white gypsum juxtaposed against the brown Chihuahua Desert is remarkable. It almost reminds of the person who likes to stand out from the crowd, which by the way, I’m in complete agreement with. The imposing Guadalupe Mountain range in the background simply epitomizes the popular saying – “Everything is bigger in Texas”.
Throughout West Texas and southern New Mexico, two-lane desert highways stretch to vanishing points on horizons that seem to reach infinity under a limitless dome of sky. West Texas driving is like this. It’s this wide open space that gives me a true sense of a spirit of freedom.
Four wheels rotating on the steamy blacktop, moving me forward to what looks like the edge of the earth. Mile after mile, the landscape steadily zooms by, yet the destination ahead remains motionless, in full view. Other than a stray tumbleweed rolling across the pavement on a windy day, or a few passing cars racing by, there is only wide-open space feeding the spirit of freedom I so very much adore. Only in the western United States have I found this, and it is something I look forward to after being confined within urban boundaries and tall buildings of London or Hong Kong. Often, it is the journey that opens my mind to any possibility, permitting me to truly appreciate the destination. The drive also allows me nothing but time, which in every day life, is limited.