Big Bend National Park

Big Bend was THE reason we made this road trip. It was well worth the drive.

Day 1: Canyon to Terlingua

Another day of driving through a lot of nothing, and a couple of sprawled-out Texas towns. There is lots of trash here. We saw unidentifed large mammals in a ditch near Alpine. We think they might have been burros. And a roadrunner crossing the road. Texas has a lot of FM and RM roads, which we discovered stands for “Farm to Market” and “Ranch to Market” road. We switched drivers more often today because boring driving is hard. We arrived in Terlingua to find a large millipede curled up next to the cabin. We didn’t know if it was dead or sleeping. After a couple of days we decided to move it into the sun and it broke in half. Dead.

Our Airbnb cabin is on the paved part of Terlingua Ranch Road in a dark sky area. That’s one of the reasons we chose it. We plan to do stargazing and even bought a spotting scope for that and birdwatching. (And for watching the Jupiter-Saturn convergence, which happened before we left home. That was cool! Here’s a bonus photo of that, taken with a cell phone through our spotting scope.) Looking through the scope you could see Saturn’s rings. They just don’t show up in the photo.

jupiter saturn convergence

It’s quiet and peaceful and we hope to see wild burros. (Spoiler: We didn’t.) The stars were good tonight though it was partially cloudy. We had a dramatic sunset. The photo below was taken later than the feature photo. We like how we captured the moon and the sunset.

sunset with moon

To keep things simple on our first night we ate Subway that we picked up in Alpine. We also bought a lighter because the one in my emergency car kit no longer works. It got down around 30º but we had lots of layers to put on.

Day 2: Window Trail

We slept in this morning and had Keurig coffee and chocolate muffins for breakfast. Then we’re off to Big Bend National Park to hike. We headed for the Lost Mine trail but there was no parking available at the trailhead so we drove onto Chisos Basin to do the Window Trail.

Chisos Basin Road

Driving back from our hike around 5:30 we saw a coyote RIGHT next to the road. We could barely see with the sun in our eyes. And we were really tired and stiff. This was our first hike in months. We set up the Pentax and tripod and tried some star photos. We’re getting good at spotting Orion and the planets. (You’ll need to zoom to see anything.)

Day 3: Santa Elena Canyon

Today started like yesterday: sleeping in, coffee and muffins. Our hiking destination today is Santa Elena Canyon. It’s at the end of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive so we stopped at the scenic overlooks along the way. We saw a roadrunner, grazing cows, and an unidentified bird with a hidden red crest that we later discovered is a ruby-crowned kinglet. And there was a large and colorful wasp by the river.

There is no potable water where we’re staying so we brought a lot with us from home and plan to refill in the park. The park has a limit on how much water people can get. Water is critical here! We refilled our water bottles at the Cottonwood campground. Two other Michigan parties (Gaylord and Ann Arbor) recognized us. (By my Spartan mask and license plate.) We saw a couple today that we saw yesterday. Some people here have been good at mask-wearing, others not so much.

We charcoal-grilled brat burgers on the grill at the cabin. They took a while but tasted good. It’s nice to be outdoors.

outdoors at the cabin

Day 4: Mule Ears Spring Trail

We’re out of muffins so we had breakfast bars today. We tried for the Lost Mine trail again but the road was closed for construction until 11:00, not 10:00 like we thought.

Chisos Mountains and clouds

So we did the Mule Ears Spring trail, then stopped at the Nail ranch. We learned that cottonwood trees are good sign there’s water nearby.

We saw some birds at the ranch, two deer while driving, and a hawk diving to check something out. We also saw a crow while hiking. We got gas at $2.86/gal. You put on lots of miles out here. Snacky food for dinner.

Day 5: The River Road

It was kinda cold and rainy today so we drove over toward Presidio on the River Road, as recommended by our host.

Brat burgers for dinner again.

Below is some of the scenery we passed daily going to and from the national park. Including a longhorn we called “The Big Guy.”

Day 6: Rio Grande Village and Boquillas Canyon

It’s still rainy today though warmer. We drove to the other side of the park to Rio Grande Village and Boquillas Canyon. We were able to refill water bottles again at the trailer dump station.

Tonight was our one night out here. We went to the Starlight Theatre for dinner. It’s THE place to eat in the area. We were there before they opened at 5:00 PM and there was already a line. It’s raining again.

Day 7: Grapevine Hills Trail (Balanced Rock)

The day began with dramatic clouds in front of the mountains. The ones on the left are called Camel Hump. 

Today we did the Grapevine Hills Trail, also known as Balanced Rock for the rock feature a the end of the trail. And you do need to hike all the way to the end of the trail to see it. We had a fire at night in the chiminea. And we met our host Georgeanne when she dropped off a chair. It was nice meeting her.

chimenea fire

Day 8: Chisos Basin Loop Trail

We made one last try for the Lost Mine trail and once again there wasn’t any parking available so we went on up to the visitor center and did the Chisos Basin Loop trail.

Back in town we bought booze from the only liquor store, which has a walk-up window where you make your purchase. Tomorrow we’re off to Austin.

Here’s another sunset and a moon shot to round things up. 

Essentials​

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Lodging

It was nice to have a full-size fridge and freezer. There aren’t a lot of places to eat out in the area and thanks to COVID-19, we didn’t want to anyway. The heaters worked well. Which was great, since it got down around 30° at night. The party lights inside were functional and festive!

party lights inside

Dining

There are a few places to eat out in Terlingua, the stand-out being the Starlight Theatre. Don’t let the outside fool you. 

Starlight Theatre
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Antelope burger and chicken fried antelope. Tasty! Also a local IPA, El Chingon. They had us at IPA.

Transportation

We drove our own car. You’ll want one. Everything out here is far apart and there’s no public transportation.

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