– Terlingua, Texas to Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park –
The weather decided not to cooperate again today. It is perpetually warm here, and yet somehow Mark and I came on a weekend where it decided to snow, rain, and be foggy in the desert. I guess we are just lucky that way.
Since there’s nowhere to run here in Terlingua, we passed the time early this morning in our hotel room, playing on the internet and eating our breakfast. We didn’t shower until almost 9, since it was raining outside anyway, and we didn’t leave until 10am. With the somewhat nasty weather, we decided we didn’t need to rush out of the hotel.
After checking the weather forecast on my phone, we chose to drive back over to the Big Bend Ranch State Park, where things looked a little clearer. Besides, the state park has two trails where dogs are allowed to hike- the hoodoo trail we took on Thursday, and the Closed Canyon Trail, which we visited this morning.
It’s almost an hour over to the trail, but we didn’t have anything better to do with our time, so it didn’t cause us any inconvenience. When we arrived at the trail, it was still raining, despite the fact that the weather forecast had clearly told us that it would not be raining over there anymore.
Granted, it was light rain, but it was still rain. I suppose we shouldn’t have trusted the weather with so many mountains around. We sat in the car for perhaps fifteen minutes, playing card games with the deck we keep in the glove compartment. When the rain let up, we put on our hiking boots and our raincoats and hopped out of the car. Ripley even wore her Ruffwear rain jacket.
We hiked down into the canyon, which was very narrow and quite wet. The bottom is made mostly of solid rock, so you can imagine why they had all of those flash flood warnings posted at the beginning of the trail. Lucky for us, the rain was light, so it just made the rocks a little slick.
We made it perhaps three-quarters of the way back along the trail before we came to a deep hole in the rock that was filled with water that was about 2 feet deep. The path slid almost straight down perhaps 3 feet to the surface of the water, where a series of small rocks were stacked along one wall to help you get across.
Mark and Ripley made it across, but I chickened out and waved them on ahead. If the rocks had been dry, I would have made it across just fine, but with all of the water around, and my fear of heights, I couldn’t make myself get anywhere near that big hole. Mark and Ripley only made it a little farther ahead, since they came to another water hole that was even larger than the first. Mark could’ve made it alone, but not with Ripley and not with both of the camera bags, which he’d taken with him when he crossed the first time.
A few minutes after they left, they came back and Mark tossed Ripley from the middle of the hole back across to my side, and she ran back up to me, dragging her leash. She’s a good puppy, even if she was a little squirmy before the toss.
It didn’t take us long to hike back out of the canyon, and then we walked around in the rocky wash outside for a few minutes while the sky continued to spit rain at us. Ripley had a blast dreaming that there were lizards hiding in the bushes along the sides of the wash.
We finished up at about 12:45 and climbed back into the car. The weather wasn’t noticeably better, but we decided we would drive back towards Terlingua and then on to Big Bend National Park to see a few of the things we didn’t see yesterday, even if they were still mostly hidden by the fog.
We stopped for lunch at a grocery store and deli in Lajitas, which is a large resort and spa about 15 miles from our hotel. It turns out that the area, which is actually the size of a small town (all of it part of the resort) is technically located in Terlingua, at least according to their address. I had assumed that it was the town of Lajitas, but that’s literally just the name of the large resort there.
Our lunch was two delicious and very precisely prepared veggie wraps from the deli, along with two bottles of unsweet tea and a bag of chex mix. They were very good and filling sandwiches. I would definitely eat there again.
After a brief stop at our hotel room to pick up our park map, we drove back over the the national park, on the other side of Terlingua. At the entry gate, we checked with the ranger, who said the weather today was a little better than yesterday, but not significantly so. Sunday is supposed to be clear and beautiful, but of course on Sunday we are supposed to drive home.
At least it wasn’t icy on the mountain, from what we could tell. We drove up the paved roads to the turnoff for the Chisos Basin, where we once again rain into our arch enemy, the wall of fog. It was still raining a little. It might be more precise to say that the fog was leaving behind a heavy mist everywhere.
It is only about 6 or 8 miles to the top, so it didn’t take us long to make it up there. We couldn’t see a thing, of course. We checked out the little store and the visitor center, neither of which were very exciting. When we came back out, we noticed the fog was clearing a bit, so we decided to play cards for a few minutes while we waited to see if it might get better. It didn’t.
While we were driving out, we realized that we had missed the Chisos Mountain Lodge, which was up the hill from our previous parking area. We drove up there to check out the little restaurant and gift shop attached to the hotel’s registration area. Mark wanted some hot chocolate, so he asked if they made it in the restaurant. They mixed him up some and gave it to us for free. It wasn’t the best hot chocolate ever, but everything tastes a little better when it is free.
Once we were sipping on our drinks, we stepped out onto the patio and saw that the fog had cleared a bit more. More determined now, we drove back down the hill to our former parking spot and got our deck of cards back out.
After a few more games, we walked out to look at the Window Overlook, which looks down on the valley from the mountaintop. While it had only recently been clearing, by the time was made it to the bottom of the trail, the fog had come back in, and the basin below was already once again shrouded in fog. We took a few photos anyway before walking dejectedly back to the car. We will have to try again someday for our view of the Chisos Basin.
By now it was about 4:15, so were only had a little less than two hours of daylight left. Mark wanted to see a nearby exhibit that we’d missed the day before, and I thought we could take a road we hadn’t taken up to see the park’s fossil beds.
We went down the mountain and past Panther Junction first, which took us mostly out of the fog. The rain had stopped as well. Since Mark’s exhibit was closer, we drove over to Dugout Wells to look at a seepage area for a local underground spring. The area has several large, old cottonwood trees that are fed by the spring that loom over the desert around, looking out of place.
It didn’t turn out to be that interesting. Mark was pretty disappointed that we couldn’t even find where the spring seeped out of the ground. All we saw was dying cottonwoods and tall, scrubby bushes that concealed everything in the area. We did see a windmill that appeared to be doing something, but we didn’t see any evidence that that something was pumping water.
Ripley spotted a rabbit chewing on a little plant in the area as we were trying to leave, and she absolutely lost her mind. She just knew that if we’d let her go, she’d run right into that scrub and bring that rabbit back out to us. It was her rabbit, for sure. Honestly, sometimes she’s so ridiculous. She wouldn’t have even seen that rabbit again once it ran, let alone managed to catch up to it.
She panted in my ear and stared excitedly out of the car window for 10 minutes after we left, wishing we’d let her chase that rabbit. It was perhaps another 20 minutes or so up to the fossil beds, and it was getting late by this point. We decided not to take Ripley along as we bundled up and walked out along the trail to the exhibit. Technically dogs aren’t allowed on the trails in Big Bend National Park, but this one didn’t say one way or another whether it really counted as a trail, so we weren’t sure whether she was allowed or not.
The exhibits are on little hillocks overlooking what used to be a marshy riverbed a very long time ago. Fossils can be found along the former river. It was neat to look down at the terrain, but we couldn’t tell too much from the ground alone, and the wind was pretty sharp up that high.
Once we’d taken a few photos, we hustled back to the car and headed for the hotel again. We didn’t run into too much fog on our way back across the park, which means the weather forecast is probably right this time and tomorrow will be a beautiful day. I’m a little disappointed we are going to miss it.
We made it back to our room at about 6:30, where we made ourselves some cheese sandwiches and finished up our hummus and yogurt dips from last night. Ripley had kibbles, as she typically does. Mark swears we owe her an apple, so I guess she’ll be having a few apple slices for dessert here in a while.
Tomorrow we head home. It’s a 9.5-10 hour drive, but things will be warmer, so it should be a pleasant trip. We’re going to get up pretty early, so we will probably get home at a reasonable hour, too.
– Trip Total : 1,033 miles –