With a full week reserved in Big Bend National Park which is located in south west Texas on the Rio Grande River bordering Mexico, we were ready for an adventure! Our drive today was a doable 5 hours. This was not the way June wanted to spend her birthday, but was happy with our St Patrick’s Day decorations in honour of her special day. With our grocery shopping done for the whole week ( no grocery stores within at least 160km )and our gas tanks full we were ready! After a few hours of driving through the mundane landscape of west Texas we got more into the hills and mountain region which made the driving more fun. The long drive down to the Rio Grande Village of Big Bend was stunning. We arrived at the RV Park to find it was basically a parking lot that had services put in. This, however was not a big deal because we only had to take a few steps for some gorgeous views of the Sierra del Carman mountain range to the east and the Chisos mountain range to the west.
The first thing we did after getting set up was to go for a walk and get a feel for the area. This short stroll took us across a boardwalk into a beautiful marsh and down to the Rio Grande River where we could simply walk across into Mexico. With the water level being low we walked out onto the riverbed and were standing on what is Mexican territory parts of the year. How does that work, you ask? The border is a little fluid and is considered to be the deepest part of the river on any given day. Then on the way home we had the pleasure of watching a Vermillion Flycatcher hunting insects in the fading sunlight. As the birthday day came to an end we shared a bottle of bubbly to toast June’s 52nd birthday.
We spent a lot of time hiking in the park. The first hike was of course, GORGEOUS! It took us along the Rio Grande, up and over numerous ridges and back down into the river valley down to 2 little hot springs. It was, unfortunately way too hot to go in! Hiking among the desert plants which are different from the big Saguaros that we loved in Arizona but, equally as striking especially, since they were starting to bloom. We drove up into the Chisos Mountains to Chisos Basin where we hiked out to “The Window”. After finishing the Window hike we hiked up to the lookout of the Lost Mine Trail. Both of these gave us mountain terrain views looking out over the desert. The Marufo Vega hike found us walking through what we thought looked like we were on the Moon. We found a perch with a beautiful view where we enjoyed our lunch. Our last hike was down into Boquillas Canyon, beautiful, but super hot!
We did another amazing cycle. From the Rio Grande Village up to Panther Junction, the paved road wound it’s way up through the desert with the majestic cliffs of the Sierra del Carmen range rising up behind us. This was a 33.5 km ride with a 795 km elevation up to our turn around point to race back down the road. It is an amazing way to see the beauty of this special place. WOW!
Meeting with park rangers when they present their programs is always a fun way of learning about the parks we visit. We had “coffee with the Park Superintendent”, where we learned how the park operates regarding wildlife and fauna, to fires and border patrol. There was also a walk in the river valley with a ranger learning about how the area was formed. This has evolved over the years due to sedimentary ocean layers to volcanic layers as well as continental plate movement. Then you throw in the power of rain water forming rivers and streams and how it erodes the layers away. We sat in on a lecture about how to save the parks, not financially, but environmentally with the simple message of reduce, reuse and to leave nature as you find it. Leave only footprints (but only on trails) and take only pictures!
Legally crossing into Mexico and back into the US is done via the Boquillas Crossing. This is where the international ferry is a rowboat, or if you want, you can just walk across the Rio Grande River. We chose the rowboat because several of the park rangers had told us this is how they make a living, After landing on the Mexican side of the river there is transportation waiting for you to take you up to the village. This was the best part of the day. After a very frisky mule ride up to the village, we spent a little over an hour walking around the village, eating some burritos for lunch and then having a couple of margaritas before heading back to the mules and the ride back to the river. After crossing back to the US side of the river via “the ferry” we cleared US Customs by a video link and a phone call to a custom agent someplace else in the US.
The week went by very quickly and we only saw a small percentage of the park. With the beauty of the mountains and cacti in bloom it leaves a lasting impression on us and a place we will definitely return to some day.