Big Bend Country, Part 2

Just to remind you where we left off after the Emory Peak Trail! In Part 1, that is…

For our last hike in the National Park, we decided to do the Lost Mine Trail. Many people say that this is the one to do if you only have time for one hike in Big Bend. I might agree that it’s the best short (just over 4 miles) hike we did, and the view from the top is almost as spectacular as you get from Emory Peak. But make sure you get there early, there are only 11 parking spaces at the trailhead!

Again, a lot of snow and ice at the beginning of the trail. After the first mile or so the snow faded away and the trail was mostly dirt with occasional icy stretches. This continued until the last little rise up to the top, where there was some pretty deep snow, as some people found out. I loved the morning sun on Casa Grande.

Sadly, my family suffered a loss on this hike:

If you look really closely at the bottom of this cliff, you may be able to see my wife’s cell phone. I’ve circled it for your convenience. It didn’t look good, but there was really not a convenient way to actually get down and retrieve it. So make sure you zip (or velcro) your pockets! Around cliffs, anyway…

That was our last hike in Big Bend National Park. We had left our hotel in Terlingua and were moving over to a place in Lajitas. But we did stop by the Inn & RV park so I could get one picture of the landmark we used to find it:

We left Terlingua heading west, and drove all the way to…Lajitas! Okay, it’s not far, less than 15 miles. We were staying at the Lajitas Golf Resort for a couple of nights in order to be a little closer to Big Bend Ranch State Park. I didn’t bring my golf clubs, so we just had to go hiking! I had never been to the state park before and I was looking forward to checking it out. Here are a few shots from that journey:

You really don’t expect to see a submarine conning tower in the middle of the desert. Or a two-masted sailing ship, even with the sails furled!

The next morning we went over to the Barton Warnock Visitors Center for the state park, got our day pass, and drove up to our first stop – Closed Canyon. As you pull up to the parking area, you see one of those delightful long cliffs they keep around there. That little gap you can see in picture is the canyon. If the skies look a little odd, there was a little operator error involved, so I’ve played a little bit…

It was an easy walk, mostly (again!) down a dry streambed. A short walk to the gap in the cliff, then into the canyon! The walls are about 150 feet high, and in some places the canyon narrows down to 15 or 20 feet. Some of the walls looked pretty climbable, but we decided against on this trip. And before we got to the Rio Grande, we passed…I mean ran across a sign that said “End of Trail – Do not proceed past this point.” So we didn’t get to the river.

I had also never heard of the Far West Texas Wildlife Trial. It turns out, there are wildlife trails all over Texas! They are subdivided into “loops,” which are groups of loosely connected sites in a particular region. It turns out that I live close to the Prairies and Pineywoods West Wildlife Trail, and I regularly stroll in one of the sites! Who knew?

From there we went up the road to The Hoodoos. We like hoodoos, having spent a lot of time with them in Bryce Canyon. These weren’t quite the same, but it was a nice little spot. It appeared at least one of the local felines agreed, there were a lot of tracks down by the river! On the other side of the river was another of those cliffs. Of course, Leigh got busy climbing on top of one of the hoodoos.

In spite of a route marked on Alltrails, it’s not exactly a trail across the rock. We wandered and climbed and scrambled around for a while. The Rio Grande splits in two just northwest of the site, surrounds an island, then rejoins itself to run along the base of the cliff.

Our last stop of the day was Rancherias Canyon. Instead of going to the Rio Grande, this trail goes north into the park. Most of the trail seemed to be along (surprise!) a dry streambed. The rainy season is May-September, I may have to come back and check out these trails! It was mostly flat, though we crossed a low ridge or two.

The canyon wound through some low rocky terrain, with higher peaks farther in the distance. Lots of ocotillo and cacti around along with the grasses and brush we sometimes had to wade through. It was getting late, so we didn’t plan to do the full 11-mile out & back. Then we ran into Bob from Montana and had a nice chat standing around in the canyon. We got back to the trailhead as the sun was setting. This was from a somewhat higher point on the way back to the hotel:

Alas, that was our last hike for this trip. Here are a few shots from the journey home. We had some lovely clouds and sunshine when we started out, but as we got farther north the clouds got serious. It was grey and rainy by the time we got to Fort Stockton to pay a visit to my old buddy Pecos Pete (that’s the big roadrunner, for those who don’t know). Last time I saw Pete he was wearing a mask! Then as we got farther east, the rain turned into snow. The roads were wet but clear and we got home with no trouble at all. Except a little fatigue…

Now that I’ve reached the end of the trip, I’m sure many of you are asking, “Hey, where’s the night sky?” Okay, maybe a few of you. Or maybe just my wife, who knows? Anyway, we did go out several times to do night sky photography. Results are somewhat limited by experimentation I was doing and a rented camera I was trying out – along with a little operator error! But here are some shots I thought were worth sharing:

Orion shows up nicely in the January sky, doesn’t he?

All-in-all, it was a fabulous trip. I can’t wait to go back, there’s so much more to do. We didn’t even get over to Rio Grande Village and the hot springs! And the South Rim still awaits. And thousands of acres of the State Park to be explored as well!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to growing my skill with an educational outing out to a little place in California you may have heard of – Death Valley!

If you haven’t seen the episode of the PBS series Nature about Big Bend, you should check it out. I don’t think they were there in January… 🙂

– ESS

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