Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Big Bend - Day 4

Thursday (Mar 9):

After making the move to the Los Gringos RV Park we had a good night sleep with no interruptions in our electrical service. This is a newer park with asphalt pads and full hook ups - but not much else. It is located in an old mine with an auto shop at the top of the park (he works on old cars as well as doing service).

Today we decided to visit the Santa Elena Canyon which is located in the southwestern part of the park. We drove into the park and made the turn down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. This is a 22 mile drive that was laid out by Ross Maxwell who was one of the early directors/managers of the Big Bend National Park. It takes you along the Chisos Mountains before heading downhill to the Rio Grande. 

We first stopped at the Homer Wilson Ranch Overlook and hiked the 1 mile down to the old abandoned ranch house. The Wilsons were one of a number of families who ranched this area before it became a national park. You would always be able to find their house since it sits at the base of a butte along along a creek (dry most of the time).

Ranch is located at base of butte.
From there we drove south to the Sotol Vista Overlook. The Sotol plant is found throughout the park and was used by the Indians for food.

There were fires in West Texas and smoke filtered into the park.
The next stop was the Mule Ears View Point. These top of these peaks are at 3,881 feet which is much lower than the Chisos Mountains.

Mule must be hiding on the other side.
Continuing on south we stopped at the Tuff Canyon. Most of the rock in this canyon was formed by volcanic ash which harden into rock over time. There is a creek running through the canyon which had a small amount of water in it from some recent rains.

We saw some people walking along the creek.
Prickly Pear Cactus in bloom.

We then drove into the community of Castolon. There is a small general store that dates back to early 1900's along with a ranger station and a Visitor Center. At one time there was a military fort located here and there are some ruins of the fort. We stopped and ate our picnic lunch at the tables located outside the old general store. After lunch we walked around the "town" for a short while and looked at some of the remaining buildings. Cotton was grown along the Rio Grande and some of the old irrigation pumps are located near the general store.

We next stopped at the ruins of some farm houses near the Rio Grande. Some of these were Mexican families while some were Anglo. There was 1 mile trail that took you by several of these houses along with some out buildings.

Dargon Family house.

Finally we reached the end of the paved road at the Santa Elena Canyon. This canyon has the tallest walls in the park with parts of the canyon walls rising 1,500 feet from the river to the top. It is a spectacular canyon that we were able to walk into for about 1/2 mile. There are a number of steps you have to go up to reach the canyon, but the climb is worth the effort.

Opening of Santa Elena Canyon

Walking along the trail into the canyon.

Sotol plant in bloom within the canyon after an overnight rain.

Connie walking up the steps leading into the canyon.

Returning to the Jeep from our hike into the canyon, we retraced our route along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to the Old Maverick Road out of the park. We returned to our campground glad that our electricity was working and our air conditioners were running. The temperatures in this area have been unusually warm this week with daytime highs in the upper 80's and lower 90's.