In my last post, we covered the not always fun part of exploring new places, logistics. Now I’d like to talk about some of the must see and do’s that I discovered during my 2 weeks in Big Bend.
While I was still struggling with Big Bend, I went to the visitor center and watched the mini documentary. This is a must do! The park is so vast and diverse, the information I learned through that documentary really helped me appreciate where I was and what I was seeing. I found out, amongst other things, the temperature and terrain changes dramatically from one end of the park to the other and that Big Bend is the only National Park to contain an entire mountain range within its boundaries! I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the movie for ya but it’s well worth 20 minutes of your time.
Since the park is so diverse, the trails are too. I hiked trails that were like the Sahara desert. Blazing sun and no shade stretching as far as the eye could see. I hiked where trees dotted the landscape and streams trickled along the trail. I hike in between canyon walls, on the bed of what was once a river bottom, caused by a flash flood. I hiked to dikes. I hiked to a hot spring. I hiked to secret pictographs and petroglyphs. I did a lot of hiking and I think maybe I just scratched the surface of this bountiful park.
So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the hikes and things I saw that really made an impression on me.
- The sky in Big Bend is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I know it’s the same sky I’ve been looking at all my life, but it just looks bigger. The stars are insane. You can see the milky way clear as can be. The sunsets and sunrises are jaw dropping shows of exploding color.
- Upper Mesa Pour Off trail -Number 1 favorite hike I did!
- Soaking in the hot springs (at night if you can!) and dipping in the Rio Grande river-I may or may not have waded over and put my foot illegally into Mexico.
- Santa Elena Canyon-Just beautiful!
- The old buildings and history at Castolon
- Ross Maxwell scenic drive- Great to do on a day that you’re sore from hiking. Pull off at all the vistas and hobble your way to the overlooks!
- Sam Nail Ranch-I coulda listened to that old windmill all day.
- Lost Mine Trail-This is the trail I did not allow myself enough time to do so I was rushing the entire way. Damn near killed myself. I had to turn around maybe 1/4 mile from the top. I think if I would have approached it differently, I would have really enjoyed this hike.
- The Window Trail -Full unpaved 3.5 mile hike
- Lastly, I mentioned secret pictographs and petroglyphs. It just so happens the primitive campsite I was in, Croton Spring, has a hidden little gem. I was lucky enough to meet a man on the hunt for this special spot and once he found it, he pointed me in the general direction. When I found it, I was not only stoked about the drawings but also the rock formations! I immediately imagined living in it. It has everything you could need. A nest up off the ground for you to sleep in, cubby holes to store your foraged food, shade from the harsh mid-day sun and easy access to the roof for prime surveying of the landscape. Not to mention there was a bunch of natural lawn sculptures. Honestly, I spent half a day in this spot that was just a short walk from my campsite. My only regret was that I hadn’t discovered it sooner.
Two days after finding the secret pictograph/petroglyph spot, it was time to leave. I will wrap up my posts on Big Bend with these final words: Big Bend is not for the faint of heart. It has a true feeling of wildness that most overrun national parks just don’t have anymore. You need a certain level of grit to hang with the Double Big B. There’s a gold star sense of pride you get after tackling this park (how is there not an “I survived Big Bend” product line yet!?). Sure, you could go, play it safe and just stick your toe in, but that’s a long way to drive to not make it count. There is absolutely something very special about Big Bend that has people coming back year after year. I think the difficulty and vastness of it makes you feel like a true explorer, which is not a feeling easily acquired nowadays. I suppose the breathtaking beauty of the place might win some folks over too. Visually, there is something for everyone. I’d go back for the sky alone. Even with its lack of user friendliness, it’s getting busier and busier every year so if it’s on your list, I suggest you get to gettin’ before the cat is totally out of the bag. Just remember, bring more water and give yourself more time than you think you need and make sure your tires are in tip top shape!
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