Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Big Bend Ranch State Park to Big Bend NPark

Monday November 9, 2009

It was a perfect silent night. The stars were even brighter than at McDonald Observatory. There was not one sound and it was totally black all night. We could just barely make out the mountains on either side of us. The morning sun was welcome but it did not ever get cold. The temperature at 8 AM was 60+. We broke down camp, ate breakfast and were on our way. The generator made the coffee !!!

We continued on to Lajitas. The trip along the Rio Grande was very interesting. The River Road as it is called generally follows the river as it makes its way east. The terrain is very hilly with many curves. We got some excellent views of the river below us. They had some serious flooding along this road last year but we did not run into any problems. 95% of the water of the Rio Grande is diverted for water for towns and irrigation of crops. We did see some of the crops yesterday afternoon near Presidio but this land is mostly park land and has none flat enough for crops. We passed one area Contrabando that had been used as a movie set for several westerns. They had built several adobe buildings, a church, etc.

We finally came to Lajitas – a small community that was being restored and built as a resort area. They had a very nice campground but we decided to continue on since we were only a hour on the road and knew we could come back here if we needed to tonight. We found the State Park headquarters which had a very nice museum and desert garden. We viewed the exhibits and paid for our night of camping and continued on.

We continued on and came to Terlingula, a ghost town resurrected. Each year it has a huge chili cook-off and it was this past weekend. It is now an artist colony with several galleries, a restaurant or two, and some other shops. We stopped at one of them that had been the “company store” for the Chisos Mining Company. There were 10-15 folks sitting about on the porch. They all seemed to be in good spirits…one guy fell flat on the ground when he tried to walk. I think the group had had a bit too much partying over the weekend. We got a couple things in one of the shops and continued on to Study Butte and the National Park.

There were some campgrounds at Study Butte also but we wanted to find out what was available in Big Bend National Park and then plan our next few days. We continued on 20 miles to the Panther Junction Visitor Center through very open desert with more mountains to either side of us. Most of the vegetation was cactus – even more types than we had previously seen. We studied the park maps and found there were sites available at all three of the campgrounds. In national parks few if any sites have electricity. Information indicated 25 sites at Rio Grande Village did have electricity so we thought we would try it for tonight and then go the Chisos Basin Campground tomorrow night – it is higher in the mountains. Then we would leave the park on the third day staying in the area of Marathon.

We drove to Rio Grande Village to find we would have to choose between electricity and bathrooms. The area with the electricity was really for self contained RV’s and while we have a portable toilet and can be self contained, we prefer to use the campground facilities. The electric sites were also just a large open parking lot….so we opted for no electricity and are in a lovely grassy site with trees and table across the street from a bathroom.

We decided to explore this area a drove on a non-paved road to the hot springs. The road was passable but very rough. The middle section was divided one way roads – there was not much room to spare but our Sprinter took to bad road like the truck that she really is! At the end of the road was a bath house with a palm tree and a hike of about ½ mile. The rangers were building a new bridge and continuing on would have meant going down the steep dry river bed and climbing back up the other side – we opted out. For Ben the fun had been driving on the bad road anyway! We saw many new varieties of cactus along this road.

Our next adventure was to Boquillas Canyon Overlook. The 6 mile spur road took us to an area where we could look down and across the Rio Grande to see Mexico and the village of Boquillas. Some of the Mexicans had put their wares (hiking sticks, painted rocks, animals made from wire) on some rocks with a sign nearby to help the children. It is illegal to purchase items from Mexicans in this National Park – I am not sure about in the rest of the state. The views of the river and the stark canyon walls were outstanding. We took several photos.

Next we visited the Park Visitor Center to get Passport stamps for this area before returning to our campsite. Ben is reading. Jane is typing this blog entry. We have lots of photos to download but that will have to wait for a night with electricity.
Supper will be opening a few cans tonight! This campground seems to be about 1/3 full. It is a 100 site campground. The volunteer camp host just came by and told us they will be full to capacity for Thanksgiving weekend. We expect to see javalinas here. We did see two crossing the road today somewhere along the way. One of the rangers told us they are known as suicide javalinas since they seem to love crossing the roads in front of cars.

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