Big Bend National Park

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Jun 30, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Saturday, March 23, 2013

1.      Saturday/Sunday – March 23 & 24 -  I think I found out why I am having some trouble with my blog.  I noticed on my last upload that I was missing some letters at the end of words.  I double checked my copy and everything is fine so I have now discovered that after I upload the site asks me if they can format it and when they do some of the letters near the margins disappear.

      We left around 8 this morning from Marathon heading for Big Bend National Park the entrance about 70 miles down the road.  It was 41 when we left and within 30 miles of driving the temperature rose to the high 70's, what a difference.

  What can I say about Big Ben National Park but wow, wow,wow and wow.  George and I have never been here and the views are just amazing.    The park is part desert, part river valley and part mountains.  It is the boundary between the USA and Mexico in Texas and Coahuila and Chihuahua in Mexico.  Some of the canyons are split right down the middle and the Rio Grande is controlled by both sides and in some sections it is dry as a bone.  Mexico has mountains on most of its side and the two towns that are there are so far away from the rest of the country.  Big Bend is also the northernmost range of many plants and animals like the long-nosed bat.  Some of the birds from the tropics will come to Big Bend and others migrating from the north of the US stop here for the winter.  Close to 500 species of birds nest here since it’s a bird migration route from the South, Central, and North America.  Those passing through the desert use the Rio Grande as their migration route.

  The wildflowers were just starting to bloom and you will see marigolds, claret cup cactus, prickly pear cactus, desert willow, ocotillo, rock nettle, pitaya cactus, torrey yucca and lechuguilla stalk.  There are black bears, coyotes, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, roadrunners, golden eagle, coyote, deer and a lot of wild pigs.

  We stopped at the first Visitor Center at the entrance of the park Persimmon Gap (our golden age pass gets us in free).  Picked up some great maps and ideas for seeing the park.  The park is huge.  It was a beautiful day but high winds were expected for late afternoon so we decided to travel along some of the scenic roads first before we headed to the campground.

      Sam Nail Ranch, Homer Wilson Ranch (both historic ranches from the past) and Sotol Vista (a beautiful view), Santa Elena Canyon Overlook and then Castolon Visitor Center (used to be an old fort).  Mexico was always in view with its huge cliffs and the Rio Grande was mostly dried up thanks to our federal government and their practices.  There was one switchback so we changed drivers.  What was great about this park is that there is hardly any traffic so if you are driving these curvy roads and switchbacks you don’t normally run into anyone else or have anyone behind you.   You are traveling looking at a desert, mountains and a river and it is getting hotter and hotter (high 90’s by noontime). 

  We then drove to the main Visitor Center at Panther Junction before we headed southeast to the Rio Grande Village sections of the Park where one can find Hot Springs, Visitor Center, Campground NPS, private campground with hookups, gas and a store.  The price for diesel is high almost $4.50 so we will wait until Monday when we are driving out to the west of the park.

We had to go through a tunnel before we went to our campground which was nice and we were able to bike around, hike around etc.  A couple from RI that we met at Seminole Canyon State Park showed up Sat night so we got together with them on Sunday.

   There was an 8 mile drive round trip near the campground that went to the Boquillas Canyon overlook and to a number of hiking trails and dirt biking trails.  Tons of people with dirt bikes here.  Boquillas village is across the Rio Grande from here and it used to be a border crossing.  They will be opening up again and I agree with them.  It seems there are two villages where Americans crossed over to buy goods and both these villages are so separate from the rest of Mexico there hasn’t ever been a problem.  With 9-11 that changed and these Mexicans who used to come over with a row boat and take tourists back to their village (about ten strokes by the oar- you could almost jump across) have lost so much because they can’t sell their goods now.  When you go to Boquillas Canyon Overlook and hike the Nature Trail at the campground you see tables set out with crafts on them – trinkets, walking canes etc – they leave a list of prices and an envelope for people to put cash in them.  Americans are not always honest and some of them don’t leave the money or steal the money.  Therefore, the Mexican government and the US are trying to get it back to what it was with the border crossing and hopefully within a year Americans can go across to purchase goods.  We met a couple from Washington State that said it was really part of the charm of staying at Rio Grande Village visiting the Mexican Village and they can’t wait until they can do that again.

  Border patrol is all over this park and they work very hard.  You can’t take a picture of them at all and many live over 60 miles away in towns like Marathon or Marfa

  On Sunday we didn’t drive anywhere since we drove over 200 miles yesterday and most  of the driving was within the park.  We are in the section of the country where we are doing a lot of driving lately.  George and I visited the Visitor Center here and then hiked on the Nature Trail in the campground.  The views from the trail were amazing.

   There is a section of this park that we are not going to drive the Chisos Basin and I knew this before we came.  Our RV is one foot too long but if we wanted to drive it, we could have.  It is a curvy road with many switchbacks and the campground at the top is not that level but the views are amazing.  At the top is the only lodging that this park has with a lodge, motel and cabins.  There is a restaurant with glass windows to eat at, hiking and a lot of great views.  Friends of ours went up this mountain last year and loved it but did say they were praying a lot around some of the switchbacks with their 26 foot RV.

   We will leave early tomorrow because we are headed out of the park and have a number of stops to make before we get to Alpine, TX.  Planning to take the most scenic and beautiful drive in the nation with one hill at a 16 % grade.  So we have our fingers crossed.

  Saturday & Sunday, March 23 & 24 – Rio Grande Village Campground, Big Bend National Park, TX.   This was the no hookup section run by the NPS.  There are over 100 sites some with shade and others like ours # 6 without.  It was so hot the first day (high 90’s) that we were thinking of moving but it was a Saturday night and there were not too many options since the campground was almost full.  Around 2 am winds came over 57 miles per hour and finally stopped in early morning and the temperature dropped down to 73 so we didn’t move. The bath houses (no showers) were clean and the hosts work so hard meeting everyone that comes in and helping them get settled.  You can see the Boquillas Canyon in the distance and walking the nature trail the Rio Grande and Mexico.  There is a store and visitor center just down the road where there is also a campground with hookups but that is a private park.  Big Bend National Park has so much to do and a huge area to cover.  There are other campgrounds in the park so if you are planning to come here make sure you visit the NPS website to get all the information that you need.  We used our America the Beautiful Pass so it costs us $7.00 per night.


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