Big Bend Part 2

The second full day was a kayak trip on the Rio Grande.  I thought it was going to be in Santa Elena canyon, but it was out by Lajitas in the Big Bend State park.  One bonus was the fact that we would have the opportunity to stop by the ghost town of Terlingua.  Santa Elena canyon was muddy so the group didn’t plan a hike there.  There are a couple of options to kayak Santa Elena, one is to paddle upstream 3 miles and then float back.  The other is to do an overnight camp on the river.  Our 3 hour kayak trip in a two man inflatable kayak was perfect.  We did experience rapids and they were exhilerating!  We started the trip on a somewhat swift moving river and immediately crossed over onto the first bank and stopped on the Mexican side…legally?  We ate lunch on the Texas side.  It was so much fun watching everyone enter the rapids.  Everyone was hoping to make it through without flipping.  We all did!  You definitlely get wet!  The kayak guides had dry bags to throw your stuff in and those things stayed dry.  The weather was beautiful and the water was probably 75 degress.

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This was a great opportunity to get to know your new friends.  One of the most facinating things was our female kayak guide and her life off the grid.  She came from a family of park rangers and is married to the park ranger that runs the Big Bend State park.  They live on solar energy in the desert environment.  Solar energy does not provide enough electricity for things like air conditioners.  So how do they stay cool, especially at night when sleeping?  They spray themselves down with water, including the sheets and sleep wet!  WOW!  They bring in their water, which must be a task because the closest town is 100 miles away.   And here is the best part…no complaints.

Afterwards, we headed to the town of Terlingua.  This town was the place I originally thought would be great for my family to say in a hotel…on second thought, no.  I was reminded of my plans to stay in a boutique hotel in Venice beach, CA.  This was exactly the same idea.  Not a good fit for the fam.  Camping is MUCH better!

The town is really unique.  First of all, the big draw is the general store that has all kinds of interesting things.  Some of the group got great T-shirts.  (Day of the Dead themed…it is that time of the year) There were people on the porch playing guitars and hanging out.  I would describe the scene as straight up hippy….old school style with young people.

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We visited a local restaurant/bar and had wine margaritas and pork nachos.  Fun day!  Bill and I opted for dinner at the lodge instead of cold spaghetti and we both enjoyed a great trout meal and showers at the lodge.  We tried to watch the media shower that was obstructed by the massive full  moon.

Day 3’s plan was a hike in Boquillas canyon, crossing the border into the Mexican town of Boquillas and a dip in the hot springs.  I rode with some really cool people that were so much fun!  As we hiked into the canyon, we heard singing.  As we made our way to the bottom, we found Jesus…that’s right, Jesus singing.  Now who is going to tell Jesus that he can’t come to America illegally and sing to us 🙂

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I chatted with our leader Regina about the issues we have with Mexico and the border, namely the dangers of drugs on the border.  She thought it was safe and spoke with some of the people in Boquillas who said here wasn’t an issue.  Truth?  I don’t know.  I have heard stories from my own neighbors that cautioned not to go off the trail that there are drug mules in the area and it was dangerous.  I can’t imagine, this is a really rough terrain area.  For MILES there is nothing but desert.  I guess if you are really motivated, you would find a way to do whatever it is that you plan to do.  I felt safe, even with very limited ranger support.

 

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Big Bend Part 2

Big Bend Part 1

FINALLY!!!!!  It pays to persevere.  The stars were in alignment and I finally got to go!  I rented a jeep and took off for the 9 hour drive to Big Bend National park.  The alone time was very enjoyable and then turned a little scary as I went through the town of Marathon.  From Marathon it was 90 miles until the park and there is absolutely nothing around and no cell service.  No gas stations, hardly any cars, just vast open spaces.  Desert with mountains.  The desert has it’s own beauty.  There is alone and then there is really being alone.  I haven’t quite felt the sense of that until that particular stretch of drive.  It reminded me of how much we really need each other to survive.

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I made it to the park and paid my $25 entry fee at the Panther crossing stop in the park.  I got my map and headed to the group campsite.  The group is Hill Country Outdoors and most people were arriving around the same time to setup camp.  I’m sure everyone had in mind to get their tents setup before dark.   I met up with some ladies who wanted to check out the lodge where there is a store and wifi.  It’s a .6 mile hike, you can drive, but who wants to use any more gas!  Our campsite had a fantastic view of “the Window” which is amazing at sunset and behind my tent was “Casa Grande”.

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We had bathrooms with flushable toilets and actually there was an electric outlet in the restroom.  They even had a spigot for water at the campsite, even though I brought my own water.  There were no showers but we had rented two rooms at the lodge for showers during our stay.  It didn’t get too cold either.  It was in the 50s at the lowest.  Dinner was at 6PM, frito pie.  The moon was full, so the dark skies were well lit and hid the many stars that you would normally see.

On day one the plan was to hike the Lost Mine trail.  We carpooled to the trail head and began our 5 mile hike.  We were given lunches to bring which consisted of protein bars, trail mix, crackers and fruit.  Hiking up the trail we were able to meet and find out more about the people in the group which was really enjoyable to find out a little bit about everyone.  I was so happy to find there are people around my age that enjoy this kind of adventure.  Once we climbed for a ways we had an amazing view of the valley.

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and then we lunched at the top.  Joe had binoculars and shared them so we could try and spot bears, but we didn’t see any.  It was fun looking.

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After heading back to the campsite we decided to rest then hike to the edge of the window to see the sunset.  It is a 2 mile hike.  A small group of us went and it was not a disappointment.   On the hike we saw deer and traversed the pretty trail.  At the end it was challenging to navigate the rocks and the water, lots of climbing.  And then the reward!  There is a pool of water that is low right now and falls off the edge I’m guessing into the abyss because you can’t see where it goes.

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The hike back in the dark was fun.  We got lost and we spotted eyes…everyone believes it was a fox, we made it!

Big Bend Part 1

Roam if you want to

It’s getting closer!  The culmination of selling a home we have lived in for 17 years, moving into an apartment and going on one of my dream adventures all within a couple of weeks.   I will never understand the timing.  Even though I didn’t get to plan the dream adventure entirely my way (to go with family), I’m happy to be going with other adventure enthusiasts.  My big bend trip moved to the second week because of the closing.  I am now in full on prep mode.  This with a move going on too!

The first thing I decided was that I am going to drive alone for 9 hours to Big Bend in a rented jeep Renegade.   Back in my college days it was not that big of a deal to make the trip from south Florida to Tallahassee which was at least 8 hours, so I figure this will be the same.  I found out that we will be in the Chisos basin group camp sites with no electrical hookup.  Rented rooms at the lodge on day two for showers.  This weekend I plan to get a new tent and a propane heater (Mr. Heater).  I searched all over for a battery powered heater fan and they just don’t exist.  I don’t mind camping, I just don’t like to be cold.  I’m so looking forward to the simplicity…hopefully.  No cell service in big bend so no checking my phone.    My previous plan included a hike to the Window, staying in the town of Terlingua, a trip to Balanced Rock and the Santa Elena Canyon.  Plans are now slightly modified.

Day One: travel

Day Two: I have signed up for the Lost Mine Trail hike.  I would have done this with the family but didn’t plan on it because they aren’t hikers.  It’s 5 miles and 1000 feet climb, considered moderate.

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Day Three: float the Rio Grande.  I don’t know that I have ever navigated class two rapids.  We will be in inflatable kayaks with a guide.  This ought to be interesting.

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Day Four: Hike to South Rim, 12-14.5 miles, strenous.  Pretty much all day.  My kind of activity.

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When I leave, I plan to go visit the town of Terlingua.  I hope the weather will be as beautiful as it looks in these pictures.  I do plan to bring my moutain bike, although I’m not sure how much I will use it.  Somewhere I will fit in the Window which is best viewed around dusk and it is .25 mile from the Chisos basin, I should be able to see it.  And I can’t wait to see the stars at night.  I’m grateful I’m able to do what I love and find people to go with…even if they are complete strangers, we share the same goal.  Adventure awaits!!

Roam if you want to

A Walk in the Woods – Bayou City Outdoors

My daughter found a free activity this weekend!  Hiking in Memorial Park led by a group called Bayou City Outdoors.  We met up at the parking lot at 8AM and proceeded with a 2 hour hike on the trails.  Memorial Park is huge (5.9km^2)!  I’ve played tennis there many times, however, there is running, baseball, soccer, rugby, biking and golf! (to name a few)

It rained pretty hard yesterday, but the trails are groomed with thick mulch which keeps them dry.

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There were about 30-40 people that attended.  These get togethers are designed for people to meet new people, it’s great for people new to the area or for someone looking for something to do with no one available to go with!  As a result, people are friendly and approachable.  And you are meeting people that like the outdoors and are pretty sociable.   I was absolutely thrilled to find out that a sister group is going to Big Bend this October.  I’ve already emailed the coordinator to find out how I can sign up!  This is one of the first things I learned from talking with Vivian.

Some of the trails were closed so we ended up back tracking, but some of the highlights were seeing different plant life, water lillies, my daughter saw a small snake that quickly moved out of our way!  There was a cat lounging on a trail and plenty of others walking their dogs.  We did see a pond with turtles on a log.  A sign read, “do not feed the turtles”…interesting.

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At times the trails were narrow, other times you could walk side by side.  We continued chatting with new people talking about what we do for a living to natural supplements. Even with the hot humid weather, there is quite a bit of greenery keeping the sun away. It was actually dark enough in some areas to remove your sun glasses.  Everyone carried water and we walked from 8AM – 10AM which was about 4 miles.  Afterwards, everyone was invited to brunch at a local restaurant.  My daughter had other plans!  Cabo baja tacos & burritos where they make fresh corn tortillas and the food is delicious!  A great Sunday morning!  It’s worth it to get up early!

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A Walk in the Woods – Bayou City Outdoors

Texas Adventure Awaits

I want to go to Big Bend so bad!  This is my west Texas dream, to explore the Chisos mountains and the Rio Grande. My problem, I can’t find anyone who will go!  Why?  It’s such an amazing place!   Last Sunday it was cold, in an effort to pass the time I decided to plan an adventure.   It would be great if the family would go, and just the mention of this trip doesn’t spark interest to any of them.  To sell the idea, I thought I would put together a Power Point presentation complete with pictures of where we would stay, what we would do, eating options and a sample itinerary.  Considering my company, I picked easy options at the park.  You can hike, swim, ride horses, raft, etc.  Big Bend is 9 hours from Houston (640 miles), this is my first hurdle.  No one wants to be in the car for that long.  To me driving is a mind vacation in itself.  You can listen to music and not have to do any critical thinking.  You can fly 1/2 way there, but you still need to drive 4 more hours.  (and the plane ride is 1 and 1/2 hours).  Adding in driving and waiting at the airport, you might as well drive. Never mind the expense of flying!!bigbend

My plan is to go for 4 days.  In spending the time to actually plan this out, I learned a lot! First, where to stay.  If you are a real adventurist, camping is ideal.  When the kids were young, I could get a way with camping and they would think that is fun!  Now not so much. Terlingua is a ghost town that is 8 miles from the park entrance.

It’s noterlinguat like you are going to find your chain hotels there, so I would call places to stay there boutique hotels.  On our California adventure, I learned that unique hotel options can be a hit or miss.  Fortunately with the internet, you can read the reviews, good and bad and at least have some decision making criteria.  There is a lodge inside the park, but I really wasn’t interested in staying there.  The ghost town has some restaurants and shops.  And I mean, it’s ghost town…how cool is that?!

 

Next, what to do.  Big Bend is 1,252 square miles.  The Rio Grande is in the park and separates Texas from Mexico.   I actually found more information about distances on Google maps than the park website so that I can plan a day.  I read that there is a waterfall in the park, hot springs and found some information on trails, their distances and degree of difficulty.

Noting the options, their locations and the distance between them, I think the Window is a must see.  It’s located near the lodge which is a great starting point.  They also have a trail to the balanced rock that looked pretty cool too.  It does say it’s a 6 mile rough road driving to get to the trail head.the window

To get to the waterfall and the spring is a little more time consuming, something I would definitely do if my party was up for it.  I picked trails that were easy to do and less than 1 mile round trip!  They say to go when the weather is cool, in Texas ? Really?  That can be hard to hit, because it can be hot and cold in one day!  Summers are very hot, so I understand that planning a trip in the desert during the hottest months is probably not a good idea.  You really have to be acclimated and be diligent about hydration and if you are not used to that you can get really sick.  Another must see is the Rio Grande.  Santa Elena Canyon is the trail for that.riogrande

I think two days at the park would be good.  Then we could make our way back to a couple of towns that I’ve heard are interesting.  We could stay in Alpine and then go to Marfa. These towns are really in the middle of no where.  I love the history of these little towns, established by railroad workers, cattle drivers and past home to some miners.  It is a cool reminder of different times with different challenges.  Love the history!    Being that these places are in the middle of nowhere, the skies are really dark!  And there are these Marfa ghost lights that I want to check out.  So my goal is to make this happen!

 

 

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Texas Adventure Awaits