Sunday, March 14
After the rude awakening of the combined effect of crossing into Central time the same night that Daylight Savings robs another hour, we rolled into the north entrance of Big Bend national park late in the morning on Sunday. We stopped by the Fossil Discovery exhibit for a quick picnic lunch and some sights of the north side of the park before embarking on a bit of a driving tour.
In the afternoon, we hiked along the Rio Grande river up the Santa Elena canyon. It’s a nice, short hike to a very narrow part of the canyon where you can wade into the river. The canyon is well shaded, and made for a pleasant spot to get out of the sun for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
On the way out, we met up we met up with Alana, Dave and Will, and found a few more places to explore along the west side of the park before calling it a day.
Monday, March 15
This morning started out simply enough. Dave dropped Will off at our hotel so he could spend the day in the park with us. We made the drive back down to Big Bend. Just before the ranger station, we came to a standstill. After sitting for about 30 minutes, we figured out that there was a construction delay just in front of the park entrance. It took us another 30 minutes to finally get in the park. Then, as we approached our destination at Chisos Basin, we ran into yet another 30 minute construction delay. Add this to the 90 minute nominal drive time, and it was already 1:00 by the time we made it to the parking lot!
Undeterred, we had our picnic and made our way to the first hike of the day. We made the 4 mile loop to “The Window”, a deep rock cut overlooking the western portion of the park. It was a very pretty hike, filled with interesting landscapes, flora, and some active bluebirds.
After a quick stop at the store for some ice cream, we made the adventurous drive out to the trailhead for Balanced Rock. This led to a 2 mile roundtrip to see a large boulder precariously perched on some other rocks. The hike itself was mostly flat, until the last quarter mile that has you scrambling up rocks like mountain goats. Quite fun!
All in all, it ended up another late day. We tried to find dinner in Terlingua, just outside the park entrance, only to find all options either packed or closed. So, back to town for another 9:30 fast food dinner. Physically exhausted, but really enjoyed another beautiful day in the park.
Tuesday, March 16
For our last day in Big Bend, we drove to the far eastern point, to a location called Boquillas Canyon. This is another narrow canyon along the Rio Grande. Along the hike, a number of Mexican entrepreneurs have placed small arts and crafts for sale. Most of them watch safely from the other side of the river during the day. A few actually cross the river and offer up tamales for sale to the passing throngs of tourists.
We waded out into the river to cool down. Evan decided to go all the way across for his second international venture of the week. The river bed is very rocky, and was uncomfortable for most of us to go more than a few feed out. Still, it made for a nice break from the afternoon heat.
Afterword, we drove around the far side looking for one more hike. We chose the Blue Creek trail, somewhat randomly, but partially because it ran past the abandoned Homer Wilson ranch house, and Alex is fascinated by old “homesteads”. The trail was pretty, if not all that distinctive. After a couple of miles it was time to turn back and make our way out of the park.
That was it for our Big Bend visit. It was very different than our other national park visits to date. It may not be as grand or as inviting of a wilderness as some of the mountain parks but we were all happy for the chance to experience it. Now, it’s on to Carlsbad to hopefully tour the canyon and hike through the Guadalupe Mountains.