Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trip To Big Bend

December 22 – We got the Jeep loaded, then I took the dogs to the kennel for their vacation. We had to wait on one package to be delivered so that it didn’t sit on the front porch for a week. And then we were off! We made it as far as Junction before stopping for the night.

December 23 – The Jeep barely made it from Junction into Ft. Stockton on one tank of gas – ok, the Jeep is not aerodynamic. We stopped in Marathon for lunch and to get some supplies, mainly a gas can just in case.

(Mark in Marathon)

We got to the park about 3:00. On the way south, we decided to check out Dagger Flats Auto Trail to see how the road conditions matched the descriptions in the guide book. We went in about half way then decided there wasn’t going to be much to see this time of year. And Dagger Flats was rougher than I thought it would be, but ended up being the only one that was worse than the descriptions. We then stopped at Panther Junction to check out road conditions for the rest of the unpaved roads. The ranger saw the Jeep and said the only one we might have trouble with is Black Gap Road. We then headed for Sotol Vista Overlook to see if we could catch the sunset. While up at the Overlook, the wind picked up and there were enough clouds that there wasn’t a decent sunset. A cold front was moving through. Brrrr.

(The view from Sotol Vista Overlook)

December 24 – I had this view right outside my door at the motel (Chisos Mining Company Motel). I just set up my tripod in the parking lot and started shooting.

(Sunrise as seen from the motel)

After starting the day at Kathy’s Kafe, we decided to start our day in the park on Old Maverick Road. We stopped at Luna’s Jacal,

and then on to Terlingua Abaja

Everywhere I saw Santa Elena Canyon, and I have really developed a fascination with this particular formation, so we headed there next.

After Santa Elena Canyon, we stopped at the Desert Mountain Overlook,

(There’s the canyon again!!!)

then on over to Castalon.

Lunch was a sandwich on the road. We headed up the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, stopping at almost all the major overlooks to see what we could see. First up was Tuff Canyon where we checked out the west overlooks.

My second favorite formation after Santa Elena had to be the Mule’s Ears.

At the Burro Mesa Pouroff (lower trail), I got out and hiked the trail up into the wash to check out the views.

And then another stop at Sotol Vista.

(Check it out – Santa Elena is in there yet again)

From there we headed up to the Basin. I was totally amazed at the difference from outside the Chisos to inside the Basin – how much the plant life changed.

We stopped at the Basin store so that I could get a hat and gloves – I had left mine at home and it was pretty cold in the mornings. Then I got Mark to join me on the Windows Overlook trail.

We saw a buck and doe near the weather station on the trail.

It was too early to check out possible sunset shots, so we headed on the road toward the Rio Grande Village. We took the Boquillos Canyon road all the way to the canyon. I hiked the trail down to the river but not all the way into the canyon – some dummy left her hiking pole in the Jeep and I didn’t want to be on the trail after sunset without it.

I did ok on the trail but would have been more comfortable on some of the steps down with my pole. (I hate bum knees!!!) I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Sierra del Carmens were with the late afternoon sun hitting them. We finished the day with Mexican Food at Chili Pepper’s

December 25 – Merry Christmas!!! We started with breakfast at the Gas Station CafĂ©. From there we took the Indian Head Road out and hiked out to find the petroglyphs.

There was another couple also checking the area out so we were helping each other find the carvings. We took FM 170 west through Lajitas and over to Presidio, again stopping all along the way to see what we could see.

(River pulloff at Lajitas)

(Contrabando Movie Set)

(HooDoo or Little Penguin)

(Lower Madera Canyon)

(River Rafters)

Unfortunately, Warnock was closed so we couldn’t stop there. We went back into the park to hit Sotol Vista to check out the sunset again. Mother Nature put on quite the show.

We shared the overlook with a professional photographer and his wife. It was interesting for me to talk to him while we were shooting side by side. We finished the day at High Sierra in Terlingua Ghostown.

December 26 – We decided that this was going to be off pavement today. We hit Paint Gap Road,

Grapevine Hills

and then headed north to Old Ore, taking it south towards Rio Grande Village.

I wanted to hike out to Ernst Tinaja, but it was about 5:00 when we passed it and I knew it would be getting dark soon. We stopped at the Rio Grande Village store for a pit stop before finally heading back out of the park.

December 27 – On the way to Glenn Springs Road we found these guys hanging out on the shoulder of the main park road.

We drove down Glenn Springs Road,

detouring onto Black Gap Road just far enough to check out Glenn Springs.

This was one area where we actually saw water in the park (other than a little in Terlingua Creek and the Rio Grande of course). We continued down Glenn Springs to where it met River Road.

We took the River Road west

stopping at Solis for lunch and to admire the river

then on to Mariscal Mine

before heading back east toward Rio Grande Village. We then headed west, touching base with Big Bend Chat’s own moderator, Richard. I wanted to do a little of Lost Mine or the Basin Loop, but by this time it was getting cloudy and colder because of the wind, and I didn’t know what Mark would do for that time, so I forgot that. Because it didn’t look like we were going to get a decent sunset due to it being cloudy, we decided to head back to the motel for a shower before meeting Richard at the Lodge for dinner. Of course, as we are driving back into the park, the sunset was fantastic!!!

The very last of the sunset was disappearing as we pulled into the parking lot – if we had gotten there 10-15 minutes earlier, I could have gotten some good shots from the Windows Overlook. And yes, Richard and I live 15 minutes apart, but we had to travel almost 700 miles to have dinner with him J

December 28 – We had to say goodbye to the Big Bend. After our last breakfast at Kathy’s, where she told us we were now locals after breakfast 4 out of 5 days there. We headed north up FM 118 to Alpine and then on up to I-10 where we headed east.

All told we hit all the paved road in the park, drove down at least partway Dagger Flats, Old Maverick, Croton Springs, Paint Gap, Grapevine Hills, Old Ore, Glenn Springs, Black Gap and River Roads. I also hiked on Burro Mesa Pouroff, Boquillos Canyon, Indian Head, the ranch at Paint Gap, Windows Overlook, and explored around Santa Elena Canyon and Glenn Spring.