February 9 – 14
All good things must come to an end and that’s the case with our month-long stay in the Big Bend area. Honestly we were more than ready to depart since we get antsy staying in one place this long. Three weeks would have been plenty, but then we’re wintering after all. We forget it’s winter everywhere else with snow and freezing temps, even just a little farther north in Texas. Fortunately none of that in the desert.
The State Park
For a change, one of us actually got in the picture with the sign. This is at the start of the drive through Big Bend Ranch State Park. All the hikes and views we enjoyed were after this spot.
The Hoodoos Trail wasn’t on our must-do list for the state park, but it was our back-up plan for the day. To hike any of the trails in the park, you need to get a pass and let the rangers know where you plan to be and provide a description of your vehicle. When we stopped by for our pass, they let us know that our first choice destination, Closed Canyon, might really be closed due to a missing hiker. They weren’t sure if he’d been found yet. Sure enough, that trailhead was covered with ranger and police vehicles and a helicopter was searching overhead. So, we continue on down the road.
At the Hoodoos trailhead you get this view of a hoodoo that looks like a balancing rock. Honestly we’ve seen more impressive examples, but none of those were on the bank of the Rio Grande. It was a fairly short hike, but a good first one to show how easy it is to lose the trail around here. A lot of the trails are just rock surfaces, so you can’t rely on paths in the dirt or vegetation. We got off track more than once. Also, a lot of the trails are like marbles on the kitchen floor. Extremely treacherous if you aren’t watching your footfalls carefully. Pat actually took a tumble on this trail, but fortunately was in jeans and a jacket, so not much harm done.
Our stop on the state park scouting drive was at the Fresno Divide trailhead. Great views here of the Chihuahuan Desert and surrounding mountains.
The sign to the overlook and the vast desert landscape.
I shared this picture in a previous post, but it belongs with this set at Fresno Creek. Still one of my favorites with the peaks in shades of blue.
Shorty Cholla cactus at the overlook and more red spines in the afternoon sun.
We liked this spot so much that we returned to hike in the canyon formed by Fresno Creek.
Fresno Creek and a close up of those walls. They were so interesting that we just had to hike down and get a closer look. Obviously not a lot of water anyplace this time of year. But when it does rain, it races through these canyons. Hiking is dangerous when rains are imminent, but we were hot, dry and safe during our visit.
The rocks continue to amaze. You have the layers and layers of rocks and right up next to it, the abrupt change with jutting rocks at an angle. You can’t help but wonder about the force required for that kind of geologic formation. Here’s Pat pondering just that.
Me and the muscle man with another shadow shot and the Fresno Canyon walls in front of us.
That’s me by the cliff walls and under a pretty substantial overhang. Pat took the picture and quickly told me to move away from the wall. That overhang made him nervous.
Little bird nests under the overhang. They look like some kind of mud dauber houses.
We made it this far and turned around. The sun is setting and we’d like to get back out of the canyon in full daylight.
The Camino del Rio
Truly the best part of the state park and easiest to enjoy is the the Camino del Rio, better known as the River Road/FM 170. This is THE drive I mentioned before and is just short of 50 miles from Lajitas to Presidio. The park newspaper describes it this way, “…labeled one of the most scenic drives in all of the United States…a roller coaster of 20-mile-per-hour turns, steep grades, and numerous ups and downs”. We drove it six times and marveled at the views every time.
There’s that road snaking along below. And what they don’t tell you about in the park newspaper are the rock slides. Every time we drove the road, I had to be alert to chunks of rock in my lane, right around that next curve.
We were here long enough to get our fill of Amazon packages. One of those contained Jackson’s boots. So far we’ve only worked up to wearing the front two boots, but they do seem to help with the sharp rocks and “goat heads” that get stuck in his pads. He doesn’t particularly like them and resembles a Tennessee walking horse when he high steps, but he gets special jerky treats for wearing them.
Our favorite place to eat was in Terlingua and was advertised as “semi-subterranean”. La Kiva was indeed a mostly underground restaurant with quite a funky vibe. Believe it or not, I had some of the the best fish and chips I’ve ever had there, as well as a delicious steak on our second visit.
And that second visit? Well that one was with new friends Steven and Linda. We’ve been following their travel blog for quite some time and were amazed when their motorhome showed up in a site within view of our own. Thanks to the RVillage social media site, we were able to say ‘hi’ and make dinner plans. Our first time to meet famous RV bloggers! Fortunately our rave reviews of La Kiva didn’t disappoint.
Last of Lajitas
A few parting comments from our Lajitas spot. Everytime we left Lajitas on the way to Presidio, I gawked at my favorite rock formation.
To me, this resembles a Roman coliseum. A little shadowing and you have your great limestone columns.
Our routine every morning quickly evolved into a walk with Jackson in his front boots to see Clay Henry, the goat mayor of Lajitas. I talked to him and his Mrs. Sometimes they would come over so I could reach through the bars to scratch their heads, and sometimes not. They regarded me with a detached gaze, since I’m guessing they’ve seen my kind before. We come, we go. Mrs. Henry was funny when she would rare up on her hind legs and come down to bash heads with Clay. She rules that roost.
One of these things is not like the other….
When Jackson wasn’t up for a walk to see the goats, we drove over to the resort to access different trails. No less than 15 Porches were in the parking lot one day. And yes, I just couldn’t resist parking right between two of them.
I found a good new book series here, too. “Borderline” by Nevada Barr featured Anna Pigeon, national park ranger, as the main character. It’s set in Big Bend National Park, and I enjoyed reading some fiction with the sights we were visiting described in the book. I’ve moved on to read two more Anna Pigeon novels since then that included a mystery at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. We’re headed there on our way to New Mexico.
And that missing hiker? They found his body after eight days. Such a sad ending and we never did hike the Closed Canyon trail.
Finally, there’s the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest. Turns out we’re set to leave just as the place is being descended upon by all manner of campers bringing their high dollar mountain bikes for three days of epic trail rides. Or so they say. They also say there’ll be multiple kegs going every night.
We’re not exactly keg material, so we’re off! That first picture is the vista we’d see every time we drove in to Terlingua. This time we’re following another motorhome towing a small car. Probably a lot what we look like from behind. And that second shot is the winding road heading out. See ya Big Bend!
Next up – Davis Mountains State Park and a little stargazing. See you on the way!