Big Bend National Park

As a family we had planned a trip to Big Bend National Park for a couple of years. It was a favorite place of mine growing up and my wife and I had been there camping as a couple once before.

Big Bend is a 800,000 acre national park on the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. When I was in junior high I started going there with a school group for a couple of days each year to go camping. I also went with a church group a few times to inner tube down the river. We would drive down on a Friday night and float down the river all day Saturday before returning home late that evening. Quite a few fond memories were made in my 10 (or so) trips.

For this trip we planned 2 nights at the park. The drive from my home town of Odessa is about 4 hours to get to Big Bend. We left on Monday morning and arrived at the park with enough time to set up camp and head to the hot springs that evening.

We set up our tents in the Chisos Basin campground. It is one of the 2 developed camping areas, which means it has running water, and electricity is available if you are willing to stand in the bathroom and use your device. There are several primitive camping areas in the park too. However, the developed areas still did not have showers.

Hot Springs of Big BendOur trip to the hot springs was our chance to bathe for the week. The water was 105 degrees in the spring. It was warm, but about the same as a hot bath. It felt good for a short time. I jumped out of the spring area and into the river. The river was swift and deep at that location. Too swift to let the kids get in. But they had a great time in the spring itself.

We were prepared for the 95 degree days, but not well prepared for the 55 degree nights. We were quite cold that first night (it did not improve the second night either). The morning was a welcome sight since we knew it had to get warmer once the sun appeared.

Tuesday morning we cooked breakfast on our one burner stove. We were not allowed to build any kind of open fire at the camp site. This became a problem at the end of the trip when we ran out of fuel in the stove because we had planned to use wood or charcoal for most of our cooking.

Window HikeWe had a wonderful hike to the Window. This is a medium distance hike that takes about 3 hours to complete down a valley to a cliff overlooking the Chihuahuan desert. The hike was always a favorite for me. When my wife and I visited before we were not allowed down the Window trail because a mountain lion was teaching her cub how to hunt. People were their intended target. The Rangers were able to close the trail before anyone got hurt.

Tuesday morning’s hike to the Window was fun going down. The trip back up became a chore. Hiking with a 5 year old loses its fun when you start getting much past 2 hours on the trail. The trail looked different to me too. I don’t know if they have changed the route since I last hiked it 21 years ago or if maybe it just looks different in May than in December. I am sure the extra growth on the bushes changes the way the landscape looks.

We were all ready for a nap that afternoon. For dinner that night we got permission from a Ranger to cook over charcoal in a specified spot. It was not at the camping area, but also not too far away. We cooked some great steaks and grilled corn on the cob. To top it off we baked a cake in the Dutch oven. That is our specialty. It came out great and we were able to share it with some friends we made in the campground.

That night my son and I went to a program put on by one of the Rangers. She talked about what a wilderness is: what defines one, why we need them and what is being done to create (or protect) more. In the program we were visited by a blue-throated hummingbird. I would guess it was about 5 inches long. It is one of the largest hummingbird species.

We were also subjected to the nice cold night once again.

Lost Mine trailWednesday we did a Ranger led hike in which the Ranger talked to us about the coming ice age. He explained to us what the previous ice age did to the trees and plants in the Big Bend area and how the coming one will affect the park. In 6000 years (according to his estimation) we can return to see the changes. Of course, there is the problem of global warming that is putting a monkey wrench in the ice age that we are headed too. He is convinced that it is temporary and that if the plants and trees survive it, they will repopulate the area once again. Whatever.

It was a good 1 mile hike that took us up 600′ in elevation.

Wednesday we packed up and returned to civilization so I could preach at a church that night.

While I would like to spend more time at the park and explore new areas, I know that when I return I will visit the same places over and over. There are just so many good memories hiking to and from the Window to make a trip to Big Bend without making it part of the experience.

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