Sunday, March 28
We singled up all lines and made preparations for getting underway. Final verdict on Rockport - it was OK, but we will not be back.
We drove north three hours to Hondo, it’s just west of San Antonio. We used one of the marvelous Texas FM roads that parallels I35. It was 4-lane most of the way with very little traffic. Since we drive 57, the interstates are wasted on us.
We over-nighted at Quiet Texan RV, a Passport America place. It’s new. It’s quiet. It’s only $12.50. We meant to drive to Bandera, but I forgot about it until it was almost dark. I wanted to see how it has changed in the last 40 years. Another time. We watched 60 Minutes for the first time since we left home. CBS stations are hard to find.
Monday we drove three hours west to Del Rio on US90. This route crosses the south end of the Hill Country and enters the west Texas bramble. It all looks better to us than featureless south Florida or south Texas. The wild flowers paint the roadways. Our elevation is over 1,000 feet - a change from sea level.
We are at the Amistad NRA. Before this trip I had never heard of the place. I saw a water feature on the map and decided to give it try. It looks much like some of the New Mexico lakes, brilliant blue water. It is managed by the National Park Service. No hookups, but there is water and a dump nearby. We have a view of the lake, a ramada and the price is $2. We planed to stay only two days, but we may stay through the weekend as Easter looms. Besides, it is going to 100 in the valley at Big Bend over the weekend.
View from our campsite at Amistad
We were looking at other CG’s around the lake. One had no signage about it being the road to the CG, but it did have a sign about it being a birding trail with a picture of a road runner. We took the turn and there was the road runner - running across the road. I wonder what these birds ran across before there were roads?
Shoot houses are everywhere. Dead deer make tasty meals for vultures along the roads.
The best CG at Amistad is the four-site CG at Rough Canyon. Of course it’s full.
We have been watching people come into CG and set up their tents, then leave. At $4 per night, you can afford to leave it to assure yourself a spot during the Easter weekend. Every day, some people come out and fix their tents that have been blown over because it is so breezy, then they go home. The most interesting group is the pop-up that came in yesterday. A little later a U-haul came in and parked next to them. It’s their camping equipment. It belongs to an older couple and they own a porta-potty business. Today their potty was brought out and set up at their site! Never seen that before. Now that’s what I call having all the conveniences.
The town across the border from Del Rio is Acuna, (a coon na). It was home to the 500,000 watt radio station that could be heard most places in US at night time. It was where Wolfman Jack got started.
We would like to put the yaks in here, but everyday the wind has been up. So far this trip the yaks have had little use.
Watching TV takes on a new meaning. We have seven channels, they are all Spanish language.
Today, Saturday, we stocked up the larder at HEB and Wal*Mart. There are no grocery stores at Big Bend. Dorothy is sitting in the floor trying to figure out how to store all the goods we bought.
We found an RV park here, Holiday, that looks good for wintering to us.
Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to leave here and drive west an hour to Langtry and boondock. That will put us only 4.5 hours from Big Bend.
Langtry was a bust, so we continued west stopping frequently to sight-see until we got to Sanderson. We gassed up and made camp in the court house parking lot. I slept well. Dorothy did not. She is not much on stealth camping. Parked by the Sheriff's office I figured was pretty safe.
The next morning we drove through thick fog for over an hour at 40mph.
We have been gaining elevation since we left Rockport, which is at sea level. At Marathon, when you turn south for Big Bend, you are at 4,000 feet. Park Headquarters at Panther Junction is around the same. However, you drop 2,200 feet as you continue south to the Rio Grande.
We got to Big Bend for the hottest two days of the month. Monday, we vegetated under the ramada waiting for Bill and Ruby to arrive. Tuesday, we spent the day hiking in the much cooler Chisos Basin. It was 77 when we left there in the late afternoon. It was 107 when we got to the CG on the river. A lesson in elevation and temperature. We would be in the basin CG, but Bill and Ruby’s rig is too big. And so it goes.
It cooled off after sunset Tuesday. By 11PM it was cool and we got into our sleeping bags. Such a change!
Wednesday was gravel road day. We drove the River Road to Rooney’s Place, which is a stone structure sans roof where Rooney hung out back when. It’s close to the river, maybe Rooney liked to fish? It’s hard to imagine that people choose to live here and run cattle.
We then hooked a right and headed north on Glen Springs Road toward the Chisos Mountains. Along the way, we saw Joshua Trees and what looked to us like the Badlands and Death Valley, all combined in a 30-mile trip.
It's not a Pig!
The Ocotillos are blooming, but not like we saw them in 2007. Much less water this year and I thought they would be spectacular. The cactus are starting to bloom, but it will be a week or more until they fully pop out.
Thursday, Bill and Ruby wanted to hike the Window trail from the Basin all the way out of the mountains, about five miles. We wanted to hike a shorter trail to Cat Tail Falls. As it happened their exit was our entrance, so we picked them up and took them back up to the Basin to get their car.
The Window in the Chisos
Our hike was excellent. The mountains look much better close up. We did not make it all the way to the falls. There was a steep ledge to negotiate that had loose dirt all around it. We judged it too risky for Dorothy to try. The risk of a rescue just did not seem worth it. We were told by a couple that made it, there were orchids at the falls.
Friday was give Dorothy’s feet a rest and wash clothes day. The parking area for the concrete campers who must have hookups is adjacent to the washerteria. A Peterbilt tow truck was hooking up to a Dutch Star. I asked the operator how much. He is out of Ft. Stockton, that’s 140 miles away. The total bill will be about $2,200. I love our Lazy Daze.
Saturday morning we hiked to Boquillas Canyon. You don’t really enter the canyon, as the flats along the Rio Grande are on the Mexican side at this section of the river. This makes no difference to the folks of the village of Boquillas. They have always earned a living from the folks on this side of the river. For decades before 9/11, Americanos would cross the river to Boquillas for dinner and return to the US without any official hinderance. Now the Mexicans have to be more circumspect, bringing their wares over in boats or on horseback and setting up a watch on their side of the border for when someone puts some money in can for a purchase. Of course if the park rangers or the Border Patrol find their wares, they confiscate them. So it’s a cat and mouse deal, but it looks like the Mexicans are winning.
We call them Mexicans, simply because the Spanish totally subjugated the Indians living there. Precious little of the native culture survives. Their language is gone. Even place names are now Spanish. Then we took by force or treaty land from Mexico and drew a line on the map. I mention this only to draw a distinction between how Americans think of “our” Indians and those we call Mexican. They are all natives of America. And we are all hypocrites.
Just before sunset, we met a ranger at on overlook of the Sierra del Carmen’s. It was supposed to be a talk about photography, but most of the talk was on preservation of our parks. Still I learned a few things and got a decent picture of the mountains. We looked through the view finder of the ranger’s Hassalblad. What a difference from what we are accustomed to. It would be so cool to have one.
Sierra del Carmen
Sunday, we moved to paradise, the campground in the Chisos Basin. [The Chisos are a small group of mountains in the park, which are the highest in Texas, 7,832. The basin is a bowel ringed by the mountains] Why do we consider this paradise? It’s higher, 5,400, and cooler than down by the river at 1,960 feet. We spent six days down there, two days were feaking hot, two were ideal and two were uncomfortably warm.
The sunlight constantly changes in the basin. First one peak is illuminated, then the clouds change and another peak is in the spotlight.
After 6, we had a little rain and hail.
At the late hour of 8:45, we attended a most informative ranger talk on cactus. No, we will not recall many of the names of the 60 species of cactus here in the park, but still it was an enjoyable talk.
Monday, we mostly read and rested. We did a short walk to the Windows overlook. A better view of the window than you get on the trail to the Window. That evening fellow Lazy Daze folks, Jim and Ginny, took us to Terlingua for dinner at the famous Starlight Dinner Theatre. This is a place for those who want be characters to get in costume and be seen. The locals bring their six-packs and drink on the porch. From the porch, you have a great view of the Chisos mountains and the Mule Ears.
Jim and Ginny have been volunteering at Big Bend for ten years, so they know the area well. After dinner, they took us west of Terlingua to show us Frijas, a planned upscale community, before the bubble.
Tuesday morning, it’s was initially overcast and windy. The forecast is for more of the same. We decided to drive to Santa Elena Canyon and do a boomarang trip on the Rio Grande - paddle up and float back down. We did it in 2006 and since river flow seems less now we thought we would get farther this time. We got our permit and were rather excited about paddling the yaks we have had on the Jeep for the last few months. When we got to the river we found things had changed. After the 2008 flood, they put the river access a mile or so downstream from the canyon. The rain from last two nights had the river flowing much faster through the narrows than we could handle. We drove to the canyon entrance and found over it was now over a 100 yards from the parking area to the river. Farther than we wanted to carry the boats. Foiled. We drove 80 miles on $3.39 a gallon gasoline for nothing.
Wednesday morning we still have 50% cloud cover but we decide to hike the Lost Mine Trail. I told Dorothy I thought it was about a three mile RT hike. I was wrong. It is closer to five miles and gains 1,100 feet. That’s over a mile beyond our hard limits.
View from the Lost Mine Trail
It was one of the best hikes, scenery wise we have taken, anywhere. It really tested Dorothy, but she has her pain pills. The average time for this trail is three hours, we took five. But the views are fantastic. It would have been even better with fewer clouds and more sunlight.
Tonight it rained in the desert. Torrents. 2.1 inches We looked out at the tenters and felt thankful for the comfort of KoKo.
Thursday, we left Big Bend Park and drove west a mere 40 miles to the Study Butte/Terlingua area. We settled on a $27 a night RV park. Full hookups, cable and after they repaired the storm damage to the cell phone tower we have phone service and internet.
Friday, we drove the River Road to Presidio. It follows the Rio Grande for the most part. There are places where you don’t need Nolan Ryan’s arm to throw a rock from one country to another. It is said this is the most scenic drive in Texas. While I prefer some roads in the Hill Country, this one is worth the gasoline and effort. There is little traffic on the road and only an occasional ranch gate to distract from the scenery.
Along the River Road
The end of the drive is in the sad little town of Presidio. Nothing to see there. But we did luck on a good Mexican seafood restaurant, Las Palapas de Aldama. Dorothy had Mariscada, a seafood medley and I had Tacos Pescado, marlin actually. The Pico was outstanding.
I had heard this road was not for RV’s. KoKo would have no problems with the road.
We stopped at two Texas interpretive parks along the way. Warrnock had the best educational exhibit of geology we have seen. Fort Leaton was dedicated to the history of the battles around Ojinaga. You know, Villa.
Saturday, we are taking it easy again. We visited Many Rocks shop and wanted to buy some rocks and cacti, but a local came in and occupied the owner’s attention. He keep talking about all the land the owed/sold and how much money he made. He could have used some of it to fix his teeth. His stories got more fantastic the longer we stayed. He owned hedge funds, teak forests, thousands of acres of land he bought at $100 an acre and was selling for $300 to $1,000 an acre. We left. Stacey Kate missed out on some cute cacti and we saved some money by not buying his whole collection of Jasper.
After a nap, we drove a few miles north and turned on North County Road which winds through the valley above Terlingua. At a narrow place in the road we stopped and waited for a 4x4 dualie truck hauling a 4x4 quad When he came by he asked if we knew where we were going. I figured I did and said so. He smirked and drove on. I noted his truck had mud on the tires and sides. What the heck, we are in a Jeep. A mile or so on, I saw he got the mud in draw that had not dried out from the rain two days back. He had really messed up the road powering through. I scouted it and found I could take one side and get across and so we did with all wheels pulling. The only time the Jeep has been in 4-wheel this trip.
After another mile or so, the road was gated and marked Private, No Entry and a few more things. There was a fork to the right so we took it. Delorme had never heard of it, but Glenda said we were now on Hen Egg Road headed for Hen Egg Mountain. We drove for several miles through some of the most colorful rock formations we have seen in Texas. More like Utah in places. I had the camera with us, but the camera battery was left in KoKo charging. And so it goes.
Glenda showed that Hen Egg Road would lead us to Texas 170 and that would take us to the Starlight for margaritas by 5. So we drove on enjoying the scenery. Until, we came to the Terlingua River which at this point was wider and had more water in it than the Rio Grande. The mud leading down to the river was slicker than owl shit so we had no option but to reverse thrust and retrace our route.
We had a few more $2 margaritas and tacos, then went to Chile Peppers for an OK meal of chicken enchiladas.