Friday, June 2, 2017

March 31, 2017 - Big Bend National Park, TX

I woke up at 3:45 am, but was too tired to go out for astrophotography.  I woke up again at 5 am, was too lazy to get out of the bed.

Erwin and I packed our lunches and snacks. We got a case of bottled water in the Jeep. We thought it might be a hotter day today than it was yesterday. 

It is 20 miles from Rio Grande Village to Panther Junction.  We got gas fill-up at Alon in Panther Junction, a stone’s throw from the visitor’s center.  It was $2.74 per gallon.  It also sells diesel.

At Castolon/Santa Elena Junction we turned left to get on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. It was named after Ross Maxwell, a geologist who spent many years in the Big Bend area studying rocks and how they were formed from volcanoes.
There are few scenic overlooks that will WOW your eyes!  There are several exhibits on the side of the road that you can pull over to read the interpretive signs.  
We checked out Sam Nail Ranch, a five minute walk from the parking lot. There is a ruin of an adobe ranch house, two windmills (one has no blades), and lots of non-native trees (figs and pecans). The Nail family planted them to transform the desert. However the desert won and the family left the area and abandoned their ranch, but the trees they planted and the well they dug thrived!
Next stop was Sotol Vista on a high plateau giving you a great panoramic view of the mountains and the desert.  
At one roadside exhibit there was a sign explaining about the Goat Mountains.  Millions of years ago there was a volcano that dominated the ancient Big Bend. As a result, there are different formations and domes.  
We went to a viewpoint  to get a look at Mule Ears.  The trail leading to get close to Mule Ears is a 1.5 mile long, takes about 3 hours.  It is moderate, but Erwin was not up to walking this far. His heel started to bother a bit from too much walking yesterday.
Mule Ears
Castolon has a visitor’s center, camp store.  Cottonwood tent Campground is not far away.  The camp store was closed for lunch, did not open til 1:35 pm.  We went inside the visitor’s center and I asked the ranger to help identify the flowers that I took pictures of.  We checked out one historic building with exhibits.  When we were ready to leave it started to feel much hotter than it was an hour ago.
Erwin took over the driving to allow me to eat lunch while en route to Santa Elena Canyon Overlook.  Dorgan-Sublett remnants of a stone farmhouse that was owned by James and Meissa Belle Sublett back in early 1900's. James was instrumental in introducing mechanized farming into the Big Bend.  In 1918 James Sublett bought 2,560 acres and called it Grand Canyon Farms.  He was instrumental in getting the land cleared and irrigated so they could grow cotton.  It was vastly successful but then the market went down and he had to stop farming because he was losing money!
We went to Santa Elena Canyon River Access where the rafts and canoes take-out is at.  The ramp to Rio Grande River was very steep.  We did not stay there very long.  It is the river, when powerful enough, can carve Santa Elena Canyons. When we got back to the Jeep the temperature was at 99˚.
We finally made it to Santa Elena Canyon Trail.  Our niece,Christy, spoke highly of this place, suggested us to check it out.  Erwin’s heel started to ache more and he did not want to take the trail.The trail crosses Terlingua Creek, has a paved ramp up to the hillside, then continues on a dirt path into the canyon.  It is 1.5 mile long and usually takes about 45 minutes to complete.  Two reasons stopped us from finishing the trail was: Erwin’s heel and the heat.  We did walk down to where the creek is to get a look of the Canyons and the river.  There were canoes going by.  We walked back to the Jeep feeling disappointed, but we did not want to take a chance. We can always come back here another time.
Okay, all pullovers stops are done, so now it is time to go back “home”. We decided to get on Old Maverick Road, a 13 mile gravel road to get to the western entrance of the park.  The road was rough at some spots, but was manageable, thanks to the Jeep.  It was on this road that the temperature spiked to 117 degrees, our Jeep started to over heat so we turned the AC off and opened the windows. 
Old Maverick Road
There is an exhibit along the gravel road: Luna’s Jacal. Gilberto Luna, who died at the age of 108, built this small house called a jacal.  He had a large family and they all lived in it.  The jackal was built with rock, earth, and plant fiber.  When we went inside the jackal it was surprisingly cool! A drastic change when you step inside from outside.

We went to the camp store at Rio Grande Village to see if they have iced tea or lemonade in a bottle. Nope, they don’t!  I was really thirsty for cold beverage that will quench my thirst.  

We realized that a 3 day stay here is not enough to really experience everything, but that is okay because it gives us a reason to come back another time.

The Lil’ Home was warm inside and Erwin started the generator, so we can use the air conditioning for a while.  Generators are allowed between 8 am-8 pm.  There is a certain section of the campground we are at that does not allow the use of generator at all.
Lockbox for foods to keep bears and javelinas away
I went out to do time-lapse shooting of Boquillas Mountains an hour before the sunset. On way back “home” a coyote walked across the road and I did not have time to stop, grab my camera.  However, I managed to snap a few when I was at the camp store.


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