Tuesday November 10, 2009
View of Mountains at Rio Grande Village Campground
Our Campsite at Rio Grande Village
Ben near Rio Grande Village
We got up and broke camp quickly. We ate breakfast – Jane as usual eating her cereal and Ben had the last of the carry out biscuits from the Indian Lodge. No gravy this morning! Our plan for the day was to retrace our path back to Panther Junction and head to the furthest west point in the park – Castolon and the Santa Elena Canyon. We would then head back towards the middle of the park and climb to the Chisos Basin to spend our last night in Big Bend.
The drive back to Panther Junction was about 20 miles and just as mind boggling as it had been yesterday – the high jagged mountains and the wide vistas of desert between the mountain ranges. We stopped at Panther Junction and headed on west with Jane as the driver. While Jane can drive in mountains she does not like to so we thought this would be less mountainous than the afternoon drive up to Chisos Basin
It was much as yesterday until we turned south and began to climb. When we reached the top of one range of mountains the view to the west was breathtaking. There were numerous mountain ranges to the west and to the south the mountains in Mexico that are the south side of the Rio Grande. There was a slight haze this morning so the view was not as clear as it might have been. One of the rangers told us the haze is from pollution of factories along the river in Mexico. Jane drove on to Castolon. Here was a ranger station, small store in the original store from when the area was a small community. We talked with the rangers and got our passport stamp before heading on to the Santa Elena Overlook and Trailhead. We stopped and took some photos at the overlook.
Jane at Santa Elana Canyon Overlook
This canyon is 8 miles long, at places only 30 feet wide, and 1500 feet deep. Quite a lot of carving for a river to do! Rafting trips begin where we camped Sunday night in the Big Bend Ranch State Park or in Lajitas all of which are on the west side of the canyon. We then drove down to a very nice picnic area and hiked across the sand flats to where the Rio Grande comes out of the canyon. From that vantage point the 1500 feet is very high! We took some more photos and ate a picnic lunch before heading back to the east.
Ben at Santa Elana Canyon
Along the trip back we stopped at several overlooks and enjoyed a clearer view of the mountains as the haze had burned off. We turned off the main road to head up to the Chisos Basin. Very soon after turning south we began to climb. The terrain was quite different. We decided it reminded us of Mordor from Lord of the Rings – The mountains very rugged and foreboding. Since the sun was behind them they were dark and looked like castles. We climbed and wound our way up and came into a basin right in the center of a ring of the strange mountains…it was so very different from the rest of Big Bend Park. There are trees turning yellow and a few red among some evergreens. There are still yucca and cactus; but they are not the predominant plants.
Strange Jagged Mountains on Road to Chisos Basin
This is by far the most beautiful area of the park – well the canyon earlier today was striking but this area is just beautiful. Reminds us of Zion National Park, where you are down at the bottom of the huge rocky mountains. The camp hosts arrived a week ago and will stay until February. I asked her about snow and she said it seldom got below freezing and if it did snow –it was quickly gone. They love it here – I can see why but it is certainly remote to stay for 3 months.
Campsite at Chisos Basin
At Chisos Basin there is a lodge with numerous rooms and a restaurant as well as a ranger station, store, and this 60 site campground. This will be night three in a row with no electricity but we are able to keep the refrigerator running with the extra batteries and charge camera and computer as we drive. So I guess we are not totally without electricity. We will have lights in the Sprinter and enough power to make coffee tomorrow….the important things!
We have read, hiked around the campground area, and cooked supper. All in all this was a very restful day. The most interesting thing about this campsite other than the fantastic views – is the birds - juncos and canyon towhee must feel this is THEIR campsite. They come right up to us while we are sitting at the table or in a chair. The camp host was here and told us one ate cereal out of a woman’s bowl last week! They are indeed not afraid of us.