Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Big Bend, continued

Continued from yesterday....
Monday afternoon, we drove Highway 170 to Terlingua. This road is known as the River Road because it skirts the Rio Grande River and may well be the most scenic road in Texas. Be sure to allow time to enjoy the drive and the scenery. We saw wild horses, mountain goats, and lots of beautiful scenery. There is also an old movie set along the road which was a lot of fun to explore. This picture was taken at a long abandoned homesite -Can you find me?

We had dinner at the Starlight Theater. Be sure to arrive in time to hang out with the locals - they are a friendly bunch! While we were eating, a storm blew in and afterward there was a stunning rainbow! Everyone was talking about how much water they must have collected in their cisterns. Oh, how valuable water is in the desert! We stayed at Chisos Mining Company Motel. Not exactly 5-star but it was available and clean. We really enjjoyed listening to the coyotes during the night.

On Tuesday, we made our way to Big Bend National Park. We got a nice grassy campsite at the Rio Grand Village Campground. The campground host tried to force us into a dirt site surrounded by some serious cactus. Obviously, they were catering to the winter RV crowd - hoping to keep the best sites for them. But for tent campers, grass sleeps a whole lot better! We stayed in that campground for access to showers and restroom facilities. Turns out we never made it back to the campground before the showers closed for the evening so we were pretty ripe after 3 days of hiking. It is hard to worry about getting very clean when you are trying to take a sponge bath in an unheated restroom using ice cold water from the sink!

After setting up camp, we drove to the park headquarters at Panther Junction and spent some time looking at the exhibits and looking over the literature for planning our hikes for the next few days. There is a short nature trail at the headquarters with different examples of the native plants. It is very informative. Then, we headed to our first trailhead - Grapevine Hills. The road to the trailhead was bumpy but could easitly be driven in a car, as long as the weather was dry. The hike (about 2 miles round trip) was up a sandy wash, which gave our calves a bit of a workout. The final section involved some scrambling over rocks to the window from by a balance rock. It afforded a great view from the top. It was very windy that day but still very enjoyable! The trail description says that children love this trail but care would need to be taken on the final leg. That night, we had a quick supper of Ravioli and then we took the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail. It is only 3/4 mile long but was a nice evening walk. You go across a boardwalk thru a marshy area and then climb a small hill. The views are great. The day had been cloudy but as we were walking, the sun peeked from behind the clouds and reflected beautifully on the Sierra Del Carmen.

On Wednesday, we started the day by taking the Hot Springs Historic Trail. The drive to the trailhead is a tight squeeze for larger vehicles. The trail is about 2 miles long and winds past the remains of an old hotel before ending at the hot springs on the Rio Grande river. The water would have felt wonderful at the end of a long day hiking. There were some Mexicans that had waded over and were selling their wares. I think the maximum depth of the river was 2-3 feet. Along the trail are some petroglyphs - most are pretty faint. We enjoyed watching the cliff swallows dart in and out of their nests. Next, we headed to Dugout Wells and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail. This was an old homestead and the windmill still pumps water. Thus, it is oasis in the desert. It would be a nice spot for a picnic lunch.

Next, we headed down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. There are many places to stop and explore along this drive. We stopped at the Sam Nail Ranch, which also has a windmill that still pumps water. Our next stop was Sotol Vista where we got our first glimpse of Santa Elena Canyon. Next, we hiked the Burro Mesa Pouroff Trail. The trail was about 1 mile roundtrip. It took you into a box canyon where there is a high dry waterfall. The curving rock walls gave evidence of the power of the water that does flow when it rains. Our next hike was to The Chimneys. It was on this hike that we decided that there are Tennessee miles and then there are Texas miles which, like everything else in Texas, are bigger. The hike was about 5 miles roundtrip but it felt much longer! We enjoyed it though. We had our first jackrabbit sighting. They don't make rabbits like that in Tennessee. We explored a little around The Chimneys. On the far side of the rock formation, there was a stone arch. It was a nice surprise. Upon returning to the car, we enjoyed lunch with our shoes and socks off! We continued our tour, stopping at the Mule Ears Overlook and Tuff Canyon Overlook. The volcanic tuff was something that we had never seen before. We stopped at Castolon for a pitstop and got a popsicle to cool off.

Our final stop on the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive was Santa Elena Canyon. I cannot do justice to the size and beauty of this canyon with words so I won't even try. The trail is about 2 miles long and is absolutely fantastic. Be sure to check weather conditions before taking this hike because you must cross Terlingua Creek to reach the canyon. The creek is prone to flash floods. I felt very insignificant in the canyon with the walls towering 1500 feet above. The stillness of the canyon, the stark beauty of the rock, the beautiful green of the river left me awe-struck.

We completed the circle back to the main park road via Old Maverick Road, stopping at Luna's Jacal. Mr. Luna was an impressive fellow. He manged to farm, to raise a large family, and to live in peace with the Americans, the Mexicans, and the Comanches which were at war with each other! We finished our day be heading to Terlingua for dinner at Tivo's Mexican Restaurant. The food was excellent! By the time we made it back to the campground, it was dark. We enjoyed seeing some javelinas nosing around near the camp store!

More tomorrow....

No comments: