Far From Anywhere: Big Bend National Park
Hello from Big Bend.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, a hot spot on our Earth’s surface blew up and numerous volcano’s exploded. Then, the plate sank and the ice caps melted and the entire southwest became a shallow sea. Then, the ice caps came back and the plate rose and the area became a desert. Today, this is Big Bend National Park. What a place! For birders, astronomers, geologists, paleontologists, and hikers, this is like no other. However, if you like shopping at the mall, eating sushi, and getting pedicures, perhaps you need to go elsewhere.
A few observations:
This is far from anywhere. Make sure you really mean to come here. The nearest hamlet is Marathon – 70 miles through the empty desert from the park. And fill up on gas before entering the park. This place is bigger than Rhode Island and has exactly two operating gas stations, both of which are subject to run out at any time. Not a good place to run empty.
Unlike most parks, there are no accommodations outside the gate. This place might as well be on an island in the middle of the ocean.
This is not a place to visit in the summer. The rangers discourage visitation there and the few accommodations in the park become fewer as some shut down.. It is supposedly really, really, really hot.
Same with food. Your choice for food is the NPS cafeteria. That’s it. The food is pretty good with menu specials every night. It seems that the specials are even a surprise to the cooks, which makes for some interesting dishes. The price is fair. The alternative are scorpions and tarantula’s – neither all that nutritious.
If you chose to camp in the park, the campsites are in great shape. However, be aware, after dark, the park comes alive with a variety of creatures that slither and creep along the ground. Most of these creatures are not to be stepped upon with a bare foot.
It’s dry here. Really dry. This is nose bleed / foot cracking dry. Drink water.
No TV. Wi-Fi is at one hot spot outside the visitors center. You can find it easily as a dozen or so people are always huddled there with their laptops and phones.
The elevation is about a mile and the mountains are higher.
Among the birds that are common in Big Bend is the Road Runner. His diet is reported as “snakes, spiders, and scorpions.” Truly, a very endearing bird (Unless of course you are a snake, spider, or scorpion.).
The desert is really a desert – they weren’t kidding about that. Cactus, quail, butterflies, and a whole lot of sand.
You’ll need a parka at night but tee shirts for the day. Pack accordingly.
This park is 3 in 1: mountains, desert, and river. All three have distinctively different eco-systems. This is really cool. We took hikes in each.
Ride down to the Rio Grande and check out the Santa Elena Canyon which is the fault thru which the Rio Grande flows. The canyon walls are supposed to be 1500 feet high, makes me wonder how Donnie (aka Trump) is going to build a wall here.
The US Border Patrol has a significant presence. You’ll have to go through a check point on your way out. This is not a good time to try out your Spanish. These guys are heavily armed, look grim, and seem to be in a foul mood.
Among the plethora of hiking trials, the Lost Mine Trail is my favorite. It is about six miles round trip and the views are worth every step. And no, there is no lost mine. That’s fake news.
The night sky is a magnitude six dark. In layman’s language, that’s REALLY dark. Zippo light pollution.
The birding is magical. Some 450 different species pass through the park, including some that can’t be found elsewhere in the USA.
The accommodations are old but well cared for. Much of the construction took place in the 1930’s by the CCC.
And yes, there are tarantulas, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. So what. Stay on the trails and you’ll be fine.
Put this place on your bucket list.
Want to see more photos? Just ask!