Big Bend National Park, Texas

Trip Start Dec 28, 2007
Trip End Jan 01, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Friday, January 4, 2008

This New Year's, Kelly and I decided to try out all the new gear we gave each other for Christmas.  So, we loaded the car with everything we could possibly want or need and set out Friday afternoon after work, headed for Big Bend National Park in far west Texas on the Mexico border.

We drove 6 hours to Fort Stockton, Texas, where we spent the night at a Best Western.  On the way, we stopped for dinner in Junction, Texas, at an absolute gem of a restaurant-- Isaacks.  As we entered, I counted nine deer heads, two mountain goats, and a javelina mounted on the walls.  Nice.  The restaurant was hoppin', and we were clearly the only out-of-towners in the joint.  Every single person in the place from babies to grandma was dressed in camo.  Most of the women were wearing high-fashion camo, but the men and children had clearly come straight from the field and were decked out head to toe

For dinner, I ordered chicken fried steak with fries and slaw.  My dinner came with a trip to the salad bar and dessert as well.  Kelly ordered catfish, fries, and pinto beans, along with the salad and dessert.  Everything on our plates was made from scratch, hot, fresh, and tasty.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies rounded out our feast, and the bill, with tip, was less than 15 bucks.

Next morning, we set out early, headed south to the park entrance.  We paid the 20 dollar entrance fee and continued about half an hour to the visitor's center.  Here, we sat down with a very nice ranger who told us our options for camping in the High Chisos Mountains and helped us pick sites where we would spend the next three nights. 

We spent the next hour or so packing our backpacks, choosing our meals, and deciding what gear to take and what to leave behind.  Because New Year's is the busiest time at the park, we did not know beforehand whether we would be car camping, primitive camping, or backpacking, and we had brought along options for everything.  Therefore, actually packing up our stuff took much longer than it otherwise would have

Anyway, after lunch, we set off up the trail. PHOTO_ID_R=setting-off--heading-towards-emory-peak.jpg  That first day, we only had to hike 3.7 miles.  However, it was an unrelenting uphill climb, and each of us were carrying 12 liters of water on top of all our other gear.  Kelly claimed it as one of the harder hikes he's ever done, although maybe he said that just to make me feel better. 

I did not fare so well on that hike.  PHOTO_ID_R=ready-to-quit.jpg  We left the trailhead at 2:00 and arrived at our campsite at 5:15--just over 3 hours to go less than 4 miles.  YEOOW.  3 miles into that hike, I was halfway between tossing my pack over the side of the canyon or simply throwing a temper tantrum worthy of a two-year old.  Kelly kept up a constant stream of encouragement to get me to our campsite.  We arrived blistered, exhausted, and proud of ourselves.

After a quick dinner of couscous and salmon from the pouch, we turned in.  I was planning to read for awhile, but holding a paperback was more than I could handle at that point.  I turned off the light at 7:35 pm.  By 7:38, Kelly was snoring deeply.  PHOTO_ID_L=babyx-itxs-cold-outsidex.jpg&a mp;n bsp; We slept until 8:30 the next morning, giving the sun plenty of time to rise over the canyon wall and warm up our meadow to the low 30's

We emerged from the tent to find ourselves surrounded by birds and deer.   PHOTO_ID_R=mama-and-baby-in-our-campsite.jpgA doe and fawn stayed in our campsite all morning, watched over by a 6 point buck who made his presence known but didn't come so close as mama and baby.  After we ate our own breakfast of grits, scrambled eggs, prosciutto, and cheese, we set off on a dayhike.  Thank the good Lord, we did not have to carry our packs that day since we had chosen to spend two nights in Laguna Meadow.       

We hiked up to the Southwest Rim to amazing views of the Sierra del Carmens in Mexico.  We could barely see the Rio Grande snaking its way through the canyons below, and the blue, blue sky and warm sun made this a wonderful, thrilling hike.  We stopped for lunch (salami, cheese, crackers, apples, Snickers) and continued our hike.  That day, we covered 8.8 miles, following the rim of the canyon with desert views, mountain views, and deep views into the canyons.  We arrived back in our campsite in time for some reading in the meadow until the sun went down. 

For dinner that night, we did red beans and rice.  Once the sun set, the temperature dropped rapidly, and again, we hit the hay by 6:45.  Next day, we broke camp, packed up the backpacks, and headed for the next site.  We had used our water heavily, and carrying it this time was not nearly so painful (especially for me, since we had used ALL my water first before breaking into Kelly's stash). 

The third day's hike was 2 miles uphill, and then 4-5 downhill through Boot Canyon.  It was an even prettier hike than the day before, although the views were not so sweeping.  We took our time, stopping to take pictures, watch deer and birds, eat lunch, etc.  We arrived at the 3rd night's campsite at 2 in the afternoon. 

After pitching the tent, I suggested we hike back down to the trailhead to enjoy a nice New Year's Eve dinner in the lodge restaurant.  We guessed that the trailhead was only a half mile or so downhill, so it would be relatively easy to walk down there and then back up again at night using our headlamps. 

Stupid, stupid me.  45 minutes into a very steep, downhill walk, we arrived at the trailhead only to learn that a mountain lion had been spotted on that trail a bit earlier, and they advised hikers not to hike in late evening.  We stayed long enough for Kelly to buy a New Year's beer and then turned around to hike back up the very steep, now uphill trail.  It was getting dark and cold, Kelly was worried about the cat, and we were both hungry.  We made very good time. 

Our New Year's Eve celebration was limited to ramen noodles for me, instant potatoes for Kelly, a toast with the Shiner Kelly had bought at the trailhead, and a New Year's kiss at 8:00 before we both fell asleep.   

We hiked out the next morning in the coldest temperatures yet, made a beeline for the restaurant for celebratory cheeseburgers and an ice cream sundae, and then hit the road back to Austin.  We drove through Sanderson, Texas, where No Country for Old Men was filmed, and stopped for dinner at a fantastic Mexican restaurant in San Antonio. 

Overall, it was an exhausting, amazing trip, and we had a wonderful time.  I had no idea Big Bend was so spectacular.  I really enjoyed seeing Kelly the Outdoorsman in full swing.  He's very accomplished and competent, and I felt I was in very good hands.  We're already talking about how soon we can get out there again.  Anyone wanna go?
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bearmeat on

Nice write-up...and photos. Thank you for sharing. I have made that climb with a load of water and I can relate to your pain.. And yes it is a beautiful place; stunningly beautiful.

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