This was our second trip to Big Bend National Park.Our last visit was on Thanksgiving of the previous year and its success lead to this repeat trip. Something about the isolation and wide open spaces is very calming and inviting to us.
Our drive from Austin to the park was very enjoyable with the excellent playlist Jessica had made for us. The Chisos Mountains are unmistakable as you approach them. Especially after hours of driving with mostly nothing to see horizon to horizon.
Campsite reservations can only be made in person so we quickly checked in at the ranger station. Fortunately, we were able to get two of our three top camping sites for the holiday, success. It was almost two more hours of driving to our camp site in the southern end of the park, most of which was on unpaved roads. The sunset on the valley was a great way to start the trip. It really made the warm colors of the desert terrain come to life.
The campsite, Talley 2, was ours for two nights and we were lucky enough to not have any neighbors. Well, human neighbors. Only a few hours after dark the packs of coyote began howling to each other. We would hear a distant pack call and yelp, then a closer pack would answer in kind. We counted at least three distinct groups at three distinct distance and directions from our tent. Our campsite was on a knoll which gave our tent a view looking out over the dried riverbed and valley that leads to the Rio Grande a couple of miles away. The moon was so bright that headlamps were unnecessary to navigate the terrain and you could clearly see mountains, scrub brush, and rocks miles away. Late in the night, investigating what sounded like walking, revealed one of many jack rabbits. They are probably the most abundant animal that we saw in the park. They tended to follow the roads when hopping away which meant we would chase them for a few hundred feet before they would change course.
The next day we explored the area which revealed a little bit about the history of our campsite. Fossilized seashells were everywhere and the density was surprising. We expanded our exploration further south and ended at the US/Mexico border on the Rio Grande. The river was about a stones throw across at this point.
We backtracked on the dirt road into our campsite and visited some areas we had spotted the day before. One was Mariscal Mine, an abandoned mercury mining camp complete with stone buildings, stone furnace, and a rusted out straight-six, 1930's era something or another.
One of the highlights of this trip was our hike along the South Rim Trail. This trail starts in the Chisos Basin and ends on a ridge several thousand feet above the valley below with a spectacular view. A nicety of this trail is that it is a loop so you are always seeing something new. We camped at Colima 3, a campsite which is about half way to the rim. Camping there allowed us to conquer the majority of the elevation change the first evening and take our leisure the next day and get out shortly after lunch.
Hiking in the basin was really special. The cluster of mountains had an entirely different ecosystem than the surrounding desert. It was an oasis of trees, plants and animals. We must have seen a half dozen deer on our hike.
As our elevation increased we were gifted with spectacular views. Here is a view back down into the basin with the Chisos Lodge, our starting point, in the right-center of the picture.
Camping under the canopy was really enjoyable and gave us both a sense of comfort. Probably due the similarities of camping around Alabama which we are more used to.
The next morning we had a small family of deer visit us as we took down the tent. One buck, one doe, and one fawn. They didn't seem to mind us at all and were much more interested in the berries on the ground.
It was easy to forget that we were in the middle of the desert. The trail liked to dance between scenic views and intimate density.
Our ascent continued and we knew were were nearing the rim when the wind picked up and became a constant blowing force. The trail followed the rim and there were multiple vantage points to stop and enjoy the view. Looking out across the valley gave us a heavenly feel due to the clouds above and below us.
The hike back down was enjoyable. The descent was more of a gradual slope than switchbacks like the hike up to the rim.
After making it back to the car we enjoyed a leisurely drive to Alpine, TX where we enjoyed hot showers and a nice dinner before driving back to Austin the next day.