It’s 3019 feet up from trailhead to the highest point in Texas. For the first time on today’s summit hike, the Guadalupe Peak Trail levels a bit, which is to say, it becomes less steep. We turn a corner to the north-facing slope and step into a small forest of southwestern white pine, pinion pine, gray oak and Douglas fir. These trees prefer the north face because it gets less sun, so it’s cooler. After all our climbing so far today, we like the cooler air too.
We pass a group of twenty-somethings. A young woman encourages us, “You’re on the last leg, you’ll be there soon.”
I ask, “Last leg to what?”
“We’ll be where soon?” I ask. “The summit? The campground?”
She lowers her voice and says, “What campground?”
I give her an out. “Okay, thanks. Good talk.”
We hike on. In 40 steps, we come to the spur trail that leads to the campground, the spur trail that our encouraging hiker friend just walked past. At 7300 feet, this is the highest campground in Texas. The altitude must have affected her cognitive function. That’s the second free pass she gets.
Next, a young man is hiking downhill toward us. Sticking high out of the top of his backpack is a golf club. A driver, in fact. Very unusual hiking gear. I say, “You know I have to ask you what that’s about.”
He says, “Just practicing my game.”
I look at him. I think of sticking out my tongue. He says, “Oh yes. Just something I wanted to try.”
“How far?” I ask. The world distance record for a drive is held by Mike Austin who hit a golf ball, from a tee on a golf course, 515 yards. That’s significantly more than a quarter of a mile. There is a small cult of fun-loving morons who revel in seeing how far they can drive a golf ball when there are no restrictions on where you must tee up. Austin was on a golf course, our backpacker buddy here is on a very high mountain.
“How far?” I ask again.
“Oh, I guess about 600, 700 yards. We’ll do the calculations later.” What a geek. I love this guy. Although I think his estimate is way too conservative.
There are two components here. First, looking at his impressive size, I’m guessing he can drive a ball 280 yards. But we also need to add horizontal distance while the ball is falling. If he is driving balls off this mountain, I would be surprised if those little suckers didn’t soar a mile or more. They would fly like little, white, dimpled rockets.
It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.