Big Bend National Park

9/25/2016, Big Bend NP, Texas

Sunday – Into the park

After a stormy night in Marathon, Tx, I headed down Hwy 385 for the last 75 miles into Big Bend NP.  It was a cool, foggy and drizzling day with turkey vultures hunched over on practically every other fencepost.

I was stopped just outside the park by a border patrol checkpoint – the second one so far this trip.  Like the last one, a dog circled my car and the trailer and then I was sent on my way.

The rain has brought out the sweet smell of the desert – the aroma comes from the creosote bush when it’s wet.  I could imagine the desert relaxing and opening up to receive the rain; since this is the rainy season, the desert is remarkably green.  I’m deep into the Chihuahuan desert now and I couldn’t be happier – seriously, I found myself humming to myself and grinning like a fool – I love this desert. 

the view from my campground

My plan had been to stay in the RV campground at the Rio Grande Village within the park so that I would have an electrical hookup and AC against the heat.  The other 2 campgrounds in the park offer only dry camping.  But, since the rain has dropped the temps significantly,  I decided to try the Chisos Basin campground instead – it’s at 5500’ in the Chisos mountains - so will be cooler than the two riverside campgrounds in any case.

This reminds me of Lord of the Rings!

Monday – 9/26

I’m living in a cloud – the Chisos Basin is completely socked in – windy with a constant mist.  I know I have rain pants – somewhere!  This is the first time in 3 weeks that I’ve been truly cool, so I’m not complaining about the weather.  The campground has been emptying since I got here yesterday afternoon.  Weekend campers going home and tenters escaping the rain.

I decide that this is a good time to clean the trailer.  I vacumn, dust and change the linens.  This afternoon I’ll do a driving tour to the biggest campground in the park – Rio Grande Village.  Maybe it’s not so rainy at the lower elevation.  In any case, I need propane, gas and ice.

Fay Wray doesn’t even get out from under the comforter until about noon.  A good day for her to sleep in too.  Yesterday, even though it was a short drive, was hard for her.  She ate too much in the morning and got car sick.

Down in the Rio Grande flood plain, the desert is more arid.

I expected the Rio Grande Village to be a bit more developed - but all I found for services was a small gas station/convenience store.  Everything was 2-3 times as expensive as outside the park.  But the wi-fi is free and not too bad.

All in all, a good day to hunker down in the trailer with a cup of tea and a good book.

Highway 90 West - a trip into the past of the Old West

9/24/2016; San Antonio to Marathon, Tx

A lot of straight road barely interupted with remarkably similar small towns.

My next planned stop is Big Bend National Park.  My last visit, in 1999, was cut short when my friend got heat exhaustion on a hike.  I've wanted to go back ever since.  But to get there, I have about 350 miles of Southwest Texas to drive - Texas is a really, really big state!

Highway 90 consists of miles and miles of road running alongside rail road tracks.  The railroad, crossing a large part of the southwest was completed in the late 1880's.  A bunch of small towns and, I presume, the highway, sprang up next to the tracks.  

The small towns seemed a lot alike.  South of the tracks and Hwy 90 I found the usual fast-food joints, gas stations and markets.  North of the tracks would be the historic downtown - buildings so old that I half expected to hear the sound of spurs as I strolled down the dusty sidewalks.

Between towns, I was kept company by circling turkey vultures and ravens.  I imagine they find a lot of fast food along the road too.

Amistad National Recreation Area.

Del Rio is right on the border with Mexico.  So, it makes sense that the Amistad Dam was a joint project between the US and Mexico.  The resulting reservoirs back up into 3 rivers: The Rio Grande arm extends up the river 78 miles, The Pecos River arm extends up the river 14 miles, The Devils River arm extends up the river 25 miles.

Total shoreline is 851 miles (compared with entire Texas coastline of 367 miles).

In the summer, when temperatures reach 100 degrees F, the reservoirs can lose 131 million gallons of water each day - amazing!

I stayed in an RV Park right across the road from the lake.  I enjoyed the swimming pool and on-site laundromat.

Langtry, Tx  -  Home of Judge Roy Bean

Traveling through Langtry, one can easily imagine life in the late 1800's.  The Chihuahuan desert seems timeless, even as I know that the landscape has been transformed (and not in a good way) by over-grazing and hunting. Still, the hills, the cactus, and the endless blue sky must be much the same as it was a hundred years ago.

Marathon, Tx

Marathon, Tx is where I will leave Hwy 90 and drop down into Big Bend National Park.  Marathon is quite small but very picturesque.  Lots of stucco and cactus.

Marathon RV Park and Motel, where I'm staying.

Marathon RV Park and motel

Outdoor cafe at the RV Park

Central courtyard

Marathon - the Gage Hotel has been here since 1887.

Outside patio at the hotel

The Gage Garden is open to the public and good for at least an hour.  In addition to the central garden, there are a couple paths out into the desert featuring native plants.

There were lots of small nooks with private seating as well as larger gazebos and areas that could serve to host weddings or other large groups.

Well, it would hardly be Texas if there wasn't a cow!

This is apparently the season for butterfly migrations in Texas - for 2 weeks, I've been surrounded by several different varieties of butterflies - thousands and thousands.  Sometimes while driving, it seemed like it was snowing from the number of butterflies in the air.  Today, these gardens were full of small yellow butterflies and larger black butterflies.