Bigger is Better

GeoBetty Tours was ready to go big.  Our team of six guides loaded 45 clients and their gear from the Detroit Hikers into five 15-passenger vans plus a luggage vehicle and prepared to leave El Paso for Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  It was the start of a five day whirlwind adventure that culminated six months of preparation.  Bert was in the front seat next to me and asked the question I knew would come sooner or later. “Do you get a lot of groups this size?”  I replied, “No, we’ve never had a group larger than six people for a day”.  Thankfully no one in the van freaked out.

For two years now GeoBetty Tours had been leading single day adventures, mostly in El Paso’s Franklin Mountains State Park.  We’d also organized small trips in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument and the Lincoln National Forest.  One of our dreams was to go bigger.

Several months ago we were contacted by the leader of the Detroit Hikers, Ricky Stoler, to see if we could lead them on a trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad Caverns. We jumped at the opportunity to learn how to make bigger into better.

Adrianna and Don check the map one last time before taking a group into Rattlesnake Canyon. Photo: Dennis McElveen.

Our team knew its way around our mountains, but thankfully we had several months to put together all the details for this five day trip with a greater number of clients than we’d seen before in any typical month.  We got to work learning even more about new trails to hike, where to stay and eat in the region, emergency procedures, the area’s natural and human history, etc.  One of the best things about all the time we spent on “research” for this group is that we now have an even bigger inventory of options to share with clients on future trips.

The Detroit Hikers ranged from 37 to 85 years of age.  Fitness levels varied as well.  Each day we split into three to four levels to try to give each client the experience they wanted.  Daily distances and terrain type were very different for the groups.  We spent two days in Guadalupe Mountains National Park plus one day each in Carlsbad Caverns National Park and New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest.

Our team preparing to enter Carlsbad Caverns via the iconic Natural Entrance. Photo: Dennis McElveen.

The Carlsbad Caverns natural entrance and Big Room tours were highlights of the trip.  Someone can read about the caverns and see a few photos, but they can’t really appreciate the scale and magnificence until they take the 3-mile stroll that drops over 800 feet below the surface.

The Detroit Hikers descending Carlsbad Caverns toward the Big Room. Photo: Dennis McElveen.

Those who still had enough energy on the last day climbed to the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak.  It’s one of the signature hikes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.  There’s nothing like standing at a peak that’s above everything around you. It makes you feel both larger and smaller at the same time, if that makes any sense.

Guadalupe Peak
The Detroit Hikers and guides with enough energy remaining on our last day bagged Guadalupe Peak.


After our fourth day of hiking we returned for a celebratory meal – Mexican food, of course.  The next day most of the hikers returned home, a little tired and sore, but happy with the experience.  A third of the group stayed one more day for a city tour of El Paso and another celebratory meal – at a steakhouse, of course.

GeoBetty Tours received lots of great feedback from the group. For example, Mike wrote: “I wanted to take a moment to thank both you, your wife and all the team who helped make such a wonderful experience last week that much better. I saw that you and each and every team member really cared about this trip and went above and beyond to help accommodate and help each of us enjoy the hiking experiences that much more. You and your team are true professionals that I would be happy to recommend to anyone”.

As a team, we went from hosting groups consisting of just a handful of clients to needing five vans and a team of seven guides to show the Detroit Hikers what we love about the great Southwest.  In this case it turned out to be true – bigger is better.

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