Linda and Grinnell said they would come check on me to make sure I had made it to my next campsite safely, and that’s just what they did. I wasn’t settled for long, before I saw their bad ass adventure mobile bumping down the road.
As I mentioned in my last post, most primitive campsites in Big Bend require high clearance and 4×4 to reach them. Linda and Grinnell’s van has both of those things, so in theory, they should have been able to go anywhere. When they arrived at my site, they had a different story to tell. It turns out, they had booked one of the primitive sites that had been deemed accessible to them, but they didn’t make it. They said they had to go so painfully slow that they wouldn’t have reached the site until after nightfall. They ended up turning around and just booking a spot in a pay campground.
After hearing their story and catching up, we said our goodbyes. We all had more exploring to do! I waved as they pulled away, knowing that this wouldn’t be the last time I saw them. I got on my scooter and set out to do a hike. The hike was down one of those infamous roads, but I figured I would be able to get to it no problem with my scooter. I was wrong. It was a different road than what Linda and Grinnell had driven, but it was the same outcome. I was going so painfully slow I was barely getting anywhere. The whole time I kept thinking, “This scooter is so important to me. I can’t afford to pop a tire!” and then I would think, “But I wanna do this hike so bad!” Eventually, at about the halfway point, preserving my scooter won and I turned around. I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to do that hike but I felt I had made the smart decision. Later, I was up at the visitor center and there was a woman on the phone consulting with a tow company. She had been driving a sedan on one of the unpaved park roads and had gotten THREE flat tires. I had made a smart decision indeed.
Let’s just get into some of the logistics involved in this park, shall we? If you’re planning a trip to Big Bend, you should really take into consideration your vehicle, its limits and prepare accordingly. If you think your vehicle isn’t cut out for the dirt roads in this park, you still have options. There are plenty of hikes, views and scenic drives off the main paved road. You could simply stick to those options and still have plenty to do to fill your time there. For staying in the park, you can book the pay campgrounds in advance online or you can get a backcountry permit, park on the paved road and pitch a tent at a hike-in spot.
While we’re talking about logistics, I would also like to mention that this is a HUGE park. If you want to see a good amount of it, you need to be prepared to do a lot of driving. There is one centrally located gas station inside the park. I could go about 60-70 miles before I ran out of gas and I still couldn’t make it to some of the spots I wanted to see (I have since bought a little gas can). If you are planning on heading into this park in an RV, either prepare to spend a lot of money on gas touring the park or have a secondary mode of transportation. I was SO GRATEFUL to have my scooter. Without it, I don’t think I would have seen a fraction of what I did.
Also, as mentioned in my last post, the hikes in Big Bend are difficult. Not impossible difficult, but gonna take you way longer than you thought, difficult. It’s like they use their own Big Bend hike difficulty scale because when I went to hikes that were labeled “easy” they most certainly were not.
Another thing worth noting is that when I was there in February, there were VERY strong winds. There were times that I knew if I wouldn’t of had my helmet strapped under my chin, the wind would have ripped it right off my noggin. I’m not sure if this wind is only present during certain times of year, but it’s something to look into if you plan on riding a bicycle or motorcycle in the park. The wind certainly didn’t make that a pleasant experience.
Maybe it sounds like I’m hatin’ on Big Bend, or that I’m trying to persuade you not to go. Not the case. From my experience there, coupled with talking to people about their experiences, I have gathered that this information can make or break your time there. The people that went into the park with limited time and little understanding, did not like it. The people that had more information, or just the time to learn, thoroughly enjoyed their time there. Big Bend isn’t the easiest park to get to, so if you are gonna go there, I want to do my part to make sure you love it!
I went into the park somewhat prepared but I certainly didn’t know as much as I know now. I had to learn the hard way, which luckily, is my preference. I had the time for trial and error but not everyone does. It was a rocky start, with some days being fun and successful but with more of them leaving me feeling a little beat up and defeated. I was starting to think that maybe I didn’t like Big Bend, that it was too hard to enjoy. On one of those particular days, I was licking my wounds from the previous day’s failure and I decided to just poke around the area outside my door. I walked away from Mander and took my time looking at all the different cacti. I picked up rocks and inspected them. I found an animal tooth and a fossil. I turned around to head back and I saw this.
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I ain't gonna lie. Big Bend hasn't really been doing it for me and I've been pretty stressed. Everything is really far away, a lot of the trails are down roads that pop tires (one lady had THREE!), there's often 25 mph winds which makes riding a scoot pretty scary and I'm constantly counting the miles so I don't get stuck somewhere out of gas. Today was particularly windy and rainy so I stayed home and read all day. This evening, I decided to take a little walk to stretch my body and I turned around and saw this. It stole my breath. I'm here now. I get it. I love you Big Bend. I'm sorry I ever doubted you. 😍💖
That was the moment it changed for me. I understood. I decided to just slow down and take it in. I hadn’t been beaten by any obstacles thrown in my way thus far, and I sure as hell wasn’t gonna let this glorious beast of a park be the first.
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