Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Big Bend - First Two Days

Monday (Mar 6) to Tuesday (Mar 7):

On Monday morning we made the 85 mile drive from Alpine to Terlingua, Texas and checked in at the Study Butte RV Park. This RV Park is the closest park to the west entrance to Big Bend National Park. We met the owners and pulled into our site. The sites in this park are side by side and some of the closest to one another we have ever seen. After getting set up we had a quick lunch before meeting Pam and Carl at the High Sierra Bar and Grill in Terlingua. They are staying at the Los Gringos RV Park which is located about 5 miles from our RV park. All of decided that we would start at the Big Bend National Park Visitor Center located at Panther Junction the next morning to start our journey of the park.

Sunset the 1st night we were in Terlingua
The next morning we met Carl and Pam at our campground and headed down Texas 118 for the entrance station about 5 miles southeast of Terlingua. We used our Senior Pass to obtain our 7 day pass to the park and then drove 22 miles to the Panther Junction Visitor Center. 

We obtain information about the park, saw a 22 minute film narrated by actor Peter Coyote giving us a history of the park and an overview of the various regions of the park. The park is about 800,000 acres with desert, mountains and the Rio Grande all contained within the park. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the documents to create the park a few days after D-Day in June 1944.  We also inquired about kayaking down the Rio Grande with one of the rangers and decided to see how the Rio Grand was flowing before proceeding. Currently only 5% of the Rio Grande watershed is flowing down through the park: the remainder is behind dams or used for agriculture or human consumption.

After leaving the Visitor Center we went the Hot Springs Trail. Years ago there was a lodge that people could stay at while enjoying the hot springs that flow into the Rio Grande. There are some ruins of the lodge and one hot springs is still around. We drove down an unpaved road for about 8 miles to find the start of the trail. We walked about 1.5 miles down the trail before turning around and coming back to the parking area. All of us had brought a picnic lunch and we enjoyed the meal under some palm trees at the ruins to the lodge.

The ruins of the Hot Springs Lodge

Indian petroglyphs located on rocks along Hot Spring Trail

Only remaining Hot Springs
After finishing our lunch we continued to drive east across the park to the Rio Grande Village to see how the river was flowing at that point. We stopped at several overlooks along the way that gave us great vistas of the park.

View across the Rio Grande into Mexico
The drive across the park is about 53 miles. We drove through the RV campground with no hookups and stopped at the Rio Grande Village Trail. We walked along this trail for about a mile before turning around and retracing our steps. We could not see any place where you could get a kayak out of the river along this trail.

Trail never got very close to the river
We then drove over to the full hookups campground located a short distance away. We were able to walk down to the river at this point and visited with a couple who had used inner tubes to float down the Rio Grande from the Hot Springs Trail to this location. They told us there was enough flow in that part of the river to be able to float without having to get out and walk through the shallows.

From there we traveled northeast to visit the Boquillas Canyon. The canyon has walls that rise over 800 feet from the river to their tops. The canyon walls along this part of the Rio Grande are on both the US and Mexican sides of the river. They are spectacular and and not seen until you are right up on them.

After finishing our walk along the trail into the Boquillas Canyon, we drove back to our campground to find that the voltage on our shore power connection had dropped to below 105 volts and our Progressive Energy Management System had closed off the connection to prevent damage to our motor home. The owner of the campground worked on the problem and seemed to have gotten it fixed when we left the park for dinner (he had switched some electrical connections within the park). 

All of us met at the La Kiva Restaurant in Terlingua and enjoyed some cold beverages along with pizza. The owner of the restaurant was killed in 2014 and the person that was charged with murder was found not guilty in 2015. Here is a link to the story.

Entry door to La Kiva Restaurant

That evening Pam and Carl received a phone call from their family in Carlsbad and decided that they needed to be there to help with the situation. They will be leaving tomorrow morning and making the drive across West Texas to Carlsbad. We wish them well and hope that everything works out OK.