Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fort Davis TX to Big Bend Ranch State Park

Sunday November 8, 2009

We had a rather leisurely, busy and late start to the day. Jane managed to wake up a little after 7:00 to snap a photo of the almost sunrise out the hotel door. We made it to breakfast and then began the tasks of repacking the Sprinter. When you camp with limited space everything has its’ place or you have chaos. Well we had taken out the things we needed for two days of hotel living and now they had to go back in their places AND we still had all the laundry drying in the back of the Sprinter. About half was completely dry and got put away as well as everything from the hotel stay. We checked out and left the hotel about 10:00.

We started south to Alpine a town of almost 5,000 on route 118. We hoped we hoped to find a grocery store and if we were very lucky somewhere to buy the fuses we needed for the phone and GPS chargers. The drive was only 26 miles and was through high mountains, cattle ranches, and beautiful grasslands. Alpine was a large town by the standards of Fort Davis and Van Horn – our last two small towns. The GPS said the nearest Wal-Mart was 90+ miles in El Paso. We found a nice grocery where Jane got everything on her list…until she reached the check-out and was told she could not purchase the wine until noon – it was 11:30. So we would make a trip back to the grocery after touring town and eating a picnic lunch. We also found of all things a Radio Shack – yeah – they would have the fuses…but they did not open until 1:00! We drove around town, got some gas, and drove back to the grocery – Jane went in to get the wine and had to wait in a line of 4 people at each check-out waiting to purchase wine or beer! The stroke of noon the cashier checked each of us out. To the right of the grocery was the Baptist Church just getting out and to the left the Presbyterian Church. Across the street was the Radio Shack and a Christmas Shop with a Nativity Scene in front of their establishment! All in all it was an interesting scene.

Liquor & Grocery Store and Baptist Church

We parked in the lot of the Radio Shack, ate a picnic lunch, read the local paper and waited until 1 PM so Ben could go in and buy the fuses.

We left Alpine headed to Marfa and then on to Presidio which sits on the border with Mexico. We had just read in the paper that Governor Perry has written a complaint letter to Homeland Secretary Nepalitano regarding the new practice of the Border Patrol sending a bus load of 90 illegals from the Tucson area to Presidio each day and returning them to Mexico. So we were unsure what to expect in Presidio.

First – Marfa – another small town with its’ claim to fame being the Hotel Paisano which was headquarters for the movie Giant. It was a small but very attractive hotel which Jane photographed. The restaurant is “ Jett’s Grill”.

"Giant" Hotel in Marfa

Just past Marfa was a huge Border Patrol station that was stopping every vehicle coming north. We have our passports with us – not planning to go across the border but we had been told having them helped you quickly get through these stops by the Border Patrol.

We then began driving directly south to Presidio with our plan to stop at the Big Bend Ranch State Park or continue on to Terlingua or Lajitas which ever worked out best. The terrain was more desert like, little grass and more cactus. There were more mountains and they seemed higher. At one point we saw in the distance 5 tiers of mountains. There were ranches but few cattle. We were following the River Road TX 170 and it did not take us into the center of Presidio where the international bridge was located. We were less than impressed with what we saw of the town. We stopped at TX Historic Location – Fort Leaton. This was a large adobe structure that had been used since the 1850’s. We watched a film that was shot by Hollywood film makers of Pancho Villa and his raids. We found we were already in the Big Bend Ranch State Park and received information about camp sites along the River Road. After much deliberation we decided to spend one night here and then the next night in a RV Park in Laijitas. The site we selected is on the banks of the Rio Grande, has a bathroom but no electricity.

We drove the 15 miles along the River Road to the Arenosa Campsite – very desolate country. There are mountains on both sides of us, a roller coaster road, and the Rio Grande to our immediate south – not as wide as the Holston River near Riverfront Restaurant in Kingsport.

Terrain in Southwest TX

First View of Rio Grande near Presideo

This did surprise at least Jane as she expected a larger river. We arrived and took lots of photos of the cactus and in particular the ocotillo cactus that is bright yellow with its green leaves turned for fall. We are the only people at this site.

Ocotillo Cactus in Fall Glory

Ben sees some folks camped on the other side of the Rio Grande but they are far enough away we really can’t hear or see them at all. The Mexican side of the river is not a park but is something similar with preserved land. This is about as remote as you can get.

Remote Campsite along Rio Grande

We had a good dinner of chicken, pasta and Italian sauce….pretty good for the wilderness. When we arrived the temperature was 86 but it is now pitch black and the temperature is a comfortable 70. We can expect it to get down to the 50’s tonight according to the rangers.

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