Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Big Bend - Last Few Days

Friday (3/10) to Monday (3/13):

On Friday we decided to take it easy since we had been doing several hikes each day in the park. We paid a visit to Terlingua and walked around the town. It is billed as "Terlingua Ghost Town" but these days a number of the buildings have been turned into small shops or galleries. This area was the sight of a number of quicksilver (mercury) mines from the 1880's until World War II when the last of the mines closed down. In the 1980's the town became host to an annual Chili Cook Off and more people began to live permanently in the area. It is also the closest town to the Big Bend National Park and so a lot of visitors to park use this area to stay at. We saw a number of gravesites with coins on them. From what we found out this could be to honor a fallen soldier or to ask that a wish be granted by a departed loved one.

Most of the graves are unmarked in the cemetery.

Overlooks the old mines.
We visited the Terlingua General Store and sat on the porch of the Starlight Theater. The theater is now a bar and a number of people gather each evening on the porch to watch the sunset.

Chili Cook Off held in November each year.

The porch is where local watch the sunset and enjoy a cold one.
We returned to motor home and enjoyed the air conditioners running during the late afternoon. On Saturday we made the drive on Texas 170 from Terlingua to Presidio. The road is known as the River Road and follows along the Rio Grande most of the way. There are a number of scenic overlooks and pull-outs located a various spots along the road. This is called one of the prettiest drives in Texas and is very popular with motorcyclists.

View into Mexico.

Notice the green along the river.

Not much water flow in this section of the Rio Grande.
We stopped at Fort Leaton State Historic Site to eat our picnic lunch at the covered picnic tables located near the fort. There was a charge to enter the fort so we walked around the outside of the fort and read the plaques. From there we returned along Texas 170 back to Terlingua. We did stop in Lajitas which has become a resort town. There is a golf course and resort that we walked through.

Lajitas Resort 
On Sunday we decided to hike the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains. We had to wait in line about 35 minutes to get into the park this morning. The other days we have had no wait or only a couple of minutes.

The Lost Mine Trail is about a 5 mile hike: 2.5 miles up to the top and then 2.5 miles down. You begin at an elevation of 5,500 feet and climb approximately 1,300 feet to reach the top of the trail @ 6,800 feet. As we entered the Chisos Mountains we saw the clouds below the peaks of Emory Peak and Casa Grande.

This being a Sunday morning we did not know if we could find a parking space in the trailhead parking lot. Luck would follow us as a lady was pulling out of a space as we arrived and so we were able to get into the lot. We got out our walking sticks and my backpack loaded with water and nuts. The trail up the mountain is almost entirely up hill with steps and switchbacks. There are several places along the trail to stop and rest and we took advantage of them. No only are you going uphill but we are also at altitude.

One of the level spots along the trail.

View back towards Casa Grande.
We drank water along the way and when we reached the top we had more water along with eating the nuts we had brought with us. The trail is classified as intermediate and it definitely has a few challenging parts. The views from the top were great even with the smoke in the area. The temperature had dropped about 10 degrees from the parking lot to the top so we were glad we had worn several layers of clothing. We were lucky that Sunday was the coolest day during our stay in Big Bend.

Made it to the top.

There were a number of fellow climbers at the top today.
We began our descent down the trail continuing to take breaks when we needed them. The trip up and back down took us about 3.75 hours with us spending about 30 minutes at the top. It was much quicker coming down than going up. We made it back to the campground and started the process of packing up for our departure tomorrow morning.

As we leave Big Bend we appreciate the beauty of the area but also the harshness of trying to survive in this part of Texas. Carl described the desert as "all beach and no water" and he is correct. Other than the trees in the mountains and the greenery along the Rio Grande everything is brown or beige. We enjoyed our visit and realize that we will be spending the next several weeks seeing brown in New Mexico and Arizona.

One last picture of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park.

Monday morning we finishing packing up the motorhome, hitched up the Jeep and headed to Van Horn, Texas where we will spend one night before going on to Las Cruces, New Mexico.