Tag Archives: 3 days in big bend

Big Bend Road Trip….West of the Pecos, Texas

Two weeks before our 8 day West Texas camping adventure, Riki tells me that he’s only slept in a tent twice.  Not sure how that has never come up before in the 13 years I’ve known him, but it didn’t, and it made me slightly nervous.  But, so you don’t have to read to the end to find out if he made it – I’ll just tell you, he’s a pro.  Especially in the cooking category.  Who would think to make pad thai or coconut corn chowder on a little backpacking stove?  Riki did, and it was amazing.  It helped that we borrowed some very thick sleeping mats, too.  

Our route:

1219 miles (1962 km) in 8 days

We stayed in the Chisos Basin, in the geographic center of Big Bend National Park

Day 1: Drove from Austin to Marathon via Route 90 through many small towns and along the Mexican border. Stopped in Uvalde for Vietnamese lunch and some antiquing (which two weeks later resulted in a return trip to buy a massive Indonesian wardrobe that is now on display in our dining room).  Then short stops at the Amistad Reservoir and Langtry before hightailing it through pitch black roads to get to Marathon in time to set up our tent with the help of the car’s headlights and eat some BBQ at one of the only restaurants in town.

 

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Amistad Reservoir Railroad bridge
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Mexico, across from Langtry

Day 2: Marathon to Rio Grande Village area.  Stopped at Fossil Discovery Exhibit and Panther Junction.  Hiked from Daniel’s Ranch to top of canyon and return (1 hour up, 20 min down).  Brisk walk on Boquillos Canyon Trail (45 minutes round trip).  Checked in to Chisos Basin campground.

 

 

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Riki is a large as an Alamosaurus’ femur
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First look at the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park

 

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I have endless pictures of Riki taking pictures.
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Rio Grande from above Daniels Ranch
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Rio Grande looking downriver from above Daniels Ranch
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Mexico and the canoe that some entrepreneurs use to transport their little art pieces across the river to sell.
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Boquillas Canyon
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View from our campsite (#3) in Chisos Basin

 

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Sunset in the Chisos Basin and our lodging for the week

Day 3: South Rim hike. 8 hours round trip. Pretty steep on the Pinnacles trail until Emory Peak and then a more gradual incline. Came back via Laguna Meadow Trail.

The view from the South Rim is astounding, definitely worth the hike, though the last few hours down were tough.  We saw people coming down who had camped up in the mountains somewhere. I can’t imagine having to carry even just enough water up some of these trails.

 

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Mules going up to collect “humanure”
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The Pinnacles


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The South Rim, where we ate lunch.  Pretty good visibility apparently for this spot.
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From the south rim.
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South Rim – There’s a massive cliff just over my right shoulder.
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We must have a thousand pictures of cacti now.
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South Rim – Looking for bears.

 

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South Rim – Can you spot Riki?
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Headed back down from the South Rim
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These Mexican Jays were all over the place but very difficult to photograph.
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Chisos Basin – our tent is down there in the middle somewhere

 

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Riki made amazing pad thai and some sort of coconut corn chowder that I have requested again.


Day 4: Window Trail in the morning. Lost Mine Trail in the afternoon.
We wanted to go to the Lost Mine Trail first, but the parking area was already packed at 9 am, so we went back to our campsite and walked to the Window Trail instead.  We were quite lucky and had the place to ourselves for about 20 minutes before a rambunctious group of girl scouts showed up. 
 
The end of the Lost Mine Trail turned out to be a gorgeous ridge with nerve-wrackingly steep sides.


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Riki walking into the Window Trail. While most of the trail was pretty tame, the water was high and there were a few spots where crossing was difficult and slippery.
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The water drops off quite sharply at the end of the Window Trail

 

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Riki taking pictures at the end of the Window Trail
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We actually had a mother bear and her cub in our campground one night. We didn’t see them but we heard our next door neighbors yelling and clapping to scare them off.

 

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Tips for the wildlife at the start of the Lost Mine Trail
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Lost Mine Trail
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Lost Mine Trail
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Looking back towards the Chisos Basin on the Lost Mine Trail
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The end of the Lost Mine Trail

 

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Riki going down one of many switchbacks on the Lost Mine Trail
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This guy was scurrying away, but I think its a Big Bend Canyon Lizard, which only lives in and around the park, and can change colors.
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Our trusty transportation at our camp site during sunset.


Day 5: Drove to Castolon Visitor’s Center.  Hiked into Santa Elena Canyon.  Had to remove our shoes to get across a Rio Grande tributary to get into the canyon. Ate lunch in the canyon.  Part of Mule Ear’s Trail – found a very sun bleached $10.  Drove to see Burro Mesa Pouroff. Walked to Sam Nail Ranch. Nighttime walk near the Chisos Basin Visitor’s center with a ranger.

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We did actually see a number of roadrunners, but unsurprisingly didn’t even get close to catching them on camera. We also spotted a coyote along the road one morning.
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West side of Big Bend National Park

 

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Luckily there weren’t many cars.
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Castolon area with the Santa Elena Canyon in the background. Left side of the canyon is Mexico. Right is the US.  We could just put a wall right down the middle, no problem.
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Cerro Castellan mountain from the Castolon Visitor’s Center
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Entrance to Santa Elena Canyon. A ranger told us it has been like this for a few weeks, but it is often completely dry.  The water was only knee deep, but was pretty chilly.
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Santa Elena Canyon
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Tuff Canyon – we didn’t have time to go down, but it looks like a nice trail.
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Mule Ears Peaks behind cacti
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Massive mountain lion track on the Mule Ears trail
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Posing in front of the Chisos Mountain

 

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Posing with the (almost) full moon, which made star gazing tough.


Day 6 Thanksgiving: Left Chisos Basin and headed west out of park to Terlingua. Explored the cemetery, ghost town and some art galleries. Drove through Big Bend Ranch State Park and up to Marfa, which was mostly all closed up.  Continued to Alpine.  Dinner at the only restaurant open – the Panda Buffet.

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Leaving the Chisos Basin
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I must confess, I did not get out of the car to look at this tarantula.  Apparently, he/she was very friendly.  I took Riki’s word for it.
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Leaving Big Bend National Park
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Ocotillo plants
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Leaving Big Bend, headed west
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Cemetery in Terlingua
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Ghost town of Terlingua, which used to have 8,000 inhabitants due to mining of cinnabar (to get mercury) and now has something like 80.
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Rio Grande from Rte 170 which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in Texas (and probably is)
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Marfa – they did not sell gas, or art. And didn’t appear to be open.
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Railroad crossing in Marfa
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Riki got his flag fix.


Day 7: Explored Alpine, which has lots of interesting little shops.  Drove north and stopped at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute.  Continued to Fort Davis and the Davis Mountains State Park.  Early dinner in the old drug store and then up to MacDonald Observatory for the star party. 

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Alpine mural
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Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute – They had a great cacti greenhouse and some short trails.
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Some deer at our Davis Mountains State Park campsite
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You already know how he got this one. Luckily no cars.

 Day 8: Took I-10 back to Austin, poking around little towns along the way.

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More flags in Ft. Stockton

 

 

 

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Crockett County Courthouse in Ozona
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Llano River post flood in Junction

 

Overall, we had a great trip.  We probably could have stayed longer in Big Bend, but it was really nice to get somewhere that had showers.  And to eat something besides sandwiches for lunch.  We were lucky enough to have great weather the whole trip and it only really got cold at night.   Despite it being Thanksgiving week and the park being “full” we often found ourselves alone in the wilderness.  I can see how the summer must be unbearable, despite the amazing scenery.  I had no idea of what to expect before heading out there.  Texas just keeps on surprising me.

 

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