Saturday, November 17, 2007

Onward to Big Bend National Park

Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007

But first, Terlingua, Texas

Terlingua is fairly near the west entrance to Big Bend National Park. With a goal of arranging a Rio Grande rafting trip, we stopped at the Big Bend RV Park in this small Texas town. Then we set out to check out the three companies offering river adventures. Sadly, the river was too low for a raft trip. All they could offer was a canoe ride – two to a canoe and one of us with the guide. And it would be an all day trip. Well, this didn’t sound very relaxing to us – and we’d have to work instead of sitting back to enjoy the river and take photos.

With quite a bit of daylight left, we decided to take one tow car into the park to explore the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that would take us to the Rio Grande near the Santa Elena Canyon – dubbed one of Big Bend’s most scenic spots. Back at the RV park we were treated to a beautiful sunset and a night warm enough to sleep with windows open.

On Sunday morning, we drove our motorhomes into Big Bend National Park, stopping at one of the Visitor’s Center for information and more brochures. Then we went to the Village Campground for full-hookup RV parking.

During the week we took quite a few hikes: Hot Springs (the long, difficult one), Sam Nail Ranch, Rio Grande nature Trail, Boquillas Canyon, Window View, The Window, and Dave’s Cattail Falls. We drove several park roads: paved, well-maintained gravel and one intended for high-clearance/four-wheel vehicles. Note, Carol R’s car has neither. At one point, as we went down and up a fairly deep wash, I got out to take photos. Sadly, the photos don’t look like it was a very tough time.

Hot Springs on the Rio Grande

The historic hot springs were developed by a ‘big thinker.’ Oscar Langford came to the area in 1909 for his health and bought the section containing the hot springs. He built a resort and touted the healing properties of the spring. Health seekers came from distant places, terrible local roads notwithstanding. Langford left in 1914, then returned in 1927. At some point in time, he left again and the property became part of the National Park.

There are two ways to get to the hot springs from the RV camp – drive several miles and then walk in less than a half a mile. Or, leave from the RV area on foot. This trail is close to three miles long, and is anything but flat. Carol R and I chose to walk, Elizabeth decided to drive (she recently injured her knee and has been taking it easy). As we trudged up and down, up and down, along the river and back up again – always on the lookout for rattlesnakes – we were thankful that we would not have to hike back. We were rewarded with some great vistas, Carol R went to the edge of a very steep and very deep river canyon (I don’t do canyon edges) and took some great photos.

When the trails get tough, I call to mind what Writer Doris Dillin had to say:

“May you remember that though the roads we take can sometimes be difficult,

those are often the ones that lead to the most beautiful views.”

Finally we reached the hot spring – that is separated from the river by only a short rock wall and are fairly well silted in from previous high waters of the Rio Grande. Shoes came off, hiking slacks were rolled up and our feet enjoyed the 105-degree water. I sat on the rock wall and put one foot in the cold river and one in the hot spring.

I had two favorite hikes, the Boquillas Canyon and Dave’s Cattail Falls

Boquillas Canyon

Soon after we started up the canyon trail and had rounded the bend to look up the canyon, we heard singing in the distance! Mexican songs, male voice. And a wondrous echo from the canyon. What? Next we saw someone in a red shirt on the Mexico side of the river. The singing continued. When we were fairly close, a man was waving to us and calling out: “Hello, I’m Victor the singing Mexican!” Then he continued singing until we were opposite him. He assured us he was friendly, and that he had operated the ferry between the village of Boquillas and Big Bend. His English was quite good. Victor told us about his

poor village that is now cut off from Texas. Since 9-11, the ferry had to stop operating and tourists could not go into their village to shop and eat. The village is more than 100 miles from any services or stores. We certainly enjoyed his singing.

Dave’s Cattail Falls

The trail sign says just Cattail Falls, but another camper – Dave – told us about it. The trail is no longer in any park brochures because it ends where the spring water (that originated above the pour-off) is pumped into the park for use. Dave asked if we wanted to hike the trail with him and Carol R and I eagerly accepted. It was a great hike and beautiful scenery. Photos just don’t do it justice.

The entire Big Bend National Park was beautiful with surprises around every bend. As we drove into the park on the first day, I didn’t think I would like it – too much of the ‘same old’ desert setting. I’ve definitely changed my mind! With the exception of one windy evening and night, the weather was perfect. It is worth a return trip or two.

NOTE to my hiking friends – if you haven’t been here, you are missing out. The tent camping areas are nestled among trees.

Tomorrow morning we leave Big Bend, and I leave my readers with this:

Cherish the significant happenings of your life. Memories are a lot like fine wine – the older they get the more precious they become. Take time to make them, and remember them, lest you find, as you grow old

that your glass is half empty rather than half full.