We ended up spending 2 nights at Dog Canyon, which is a campground around the back of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The first night there, we were the only ones there (save park rangers). We saw other people people that second day, but there was only one other camper that second night (and a trailer with 3 folks).
Near the campgrounds is a short hiking trail called Indian Meadow Nature Trail. At the start there was a brochure that had ‘stops’ described that pointed out flora and fauna and explained various things about that part of the country.
On this side of the mountains, they get a bit more rain, and so there are more trees and grass, and less prickly pears and other ‘pokies’ as Little Man learned to call them. We ended up walking the trail twice that day, since Little Man asked for it by name in the afternoon. It is about 1.5 miles all the way around and he walked it both times. Sorry, he *hiked* it both times. That was another word he learned and used a lot on this trip.
There was a wash just behind the campground and there were Maple trees back there. The area had lots of Juniper (otherwise known as Cedar in central Texas according to the ranger), some Ponderosa Pine and Maples. A few Oaks were also present in the meadow. They had a fire blow through several years ago and we learned how the grass burns quick, but the trees create a real hot spot and sometime the fire is hot enough to sterilize the ground underneath.
We also learned that the area was named “Dog Canyon” because there used to be lots of prairie dogs there, but the ranchers got rid of them. The ranger explained how the prairie dogs would selectively harvest around their burrow so that the grass in that area was different than in places further away from their burrow. And the bison liked the grass right around prairie dog burrows quite a bit.
It was drastically interesting to learn how fire and prairie dogs effect the types of grasses that are growing. There were other things to learn, but this is what’s still in my head 2 weeks later.