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Big Bend National Park, TX

Let me cut right to the chase: you must visit Big Bend National Park. It is hard to do, and in this country where nearly everything is easy to get to, that should be reason enough to go. But Big Bend is so much more.

This mammoth park, located in a remote corner of Texas, is an incredible amalgamation of history, native culture, geology, desert life, and scenic beauty. Stretching nearly 60 miles from east to west, it is so large and diverse that you need two weeks to begin to see most of the highlights. Three distinct ecosystems are represented here. And really, the only way to see it is to get out of your car and start hiking.

For this reason, visiting the park with a recreational vehicle is a great choice. Ten years ago, Eleanor and I tent camped in the park for four nights. We had an unforgettable time in our quiet little campsite, two miles off the paved road and totally private. But I remember that after two days we were forced to drive to Terlingua (30 miles away) to recharge our video camera batteries, and it was three dusty days before we got a bath one night in a hot spring. In the comfort of the Airstream, we find we can enjoy the park just as much and still have light, heat, and a hot shower at the end of the day.

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Sunset on the limestone cliffs near Rio Grande Village

I can’t tell you everything about Big Bend because it would fill a book. Suffice to say that anyone who enjoys a hike will never be bored here. That leaves out a lot of people, I know. Janie was in the little store by “Rio Grande Village” (not a village at all, but simply two adjacent campgrounds), when a woman walked in and asked, “Where can I go to see something beautiful?” The store clerk was helpful and offered a few suggestions. But Janie thought, “Just open your eyes!” Indeed, there’s almost nowhere you can turn in Big Bend where there isn’t something beautiful or at least interesting.

I am glad we brought Emma up from an early age to enjoy hiking. We took her on hikes Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On Sunday we did three hikes, each about one to two miles. She was fun to have around, and interested in everything. Two months in the desert has given her a real appreciation for the amount of life to be found here.

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Catching up after a day of hiking

It was a very full weekend. We saw two hot springs and hundreds of fossils, pictographs and petroglyphs, natural watering holes in stone (abajos), and limestone cliffs lit pink in the sunset. We met Mexicans from the nearby town of Boquillas del Carmen and listened to their stories. We shot pictures of swallows flying into their cliffside nests, roadrunners, and javelina. We saw a desert fox running behind our path, and listened to coyotes barking just 50 feet from our trailer. And that was just the weekend!

So do I have to say it again? You must go to Big Bend when you can.

Having done all the short hikes on the eastern side of the park, we relocated today to the nearest town, Study Butte (pronounced “Stoody Beeyoot”). Here we have full hookups, wireless Internet in the rec room, and we are closer to the majority of the best hikes. So I can keep you updated for the next few days as we continue to explore the park.

Unfortunately, I can’t offer much in the way of pictures today. Bert has my camera. I left it in his truck today after our last hike, and I hope he has noticed and retrieved it by now. He and Janie elected to stay one more day in Rio Grande Village so they could check out a few more of the longer hikes. They will meet us here on Tuesday or Wednesday, and then I’ll be able to download over 100 new photos for our online album. Until then, I only have about a dozen shots to pick from for the blog.

I will also be posting an essay Wednesday on Gather, after I get my camera back. There is a sad story involving Big Bend and the Mexican people who live just across the border in Boquillas del Carmen. Both Bert and I were so taken with the tale that we took extra time to photograph and interview some of the Mexicans and I’ve written up their story. On Wednesday or later, you can read it by clicking the link to the left that says “Gather”.

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