Sunday, November 8, 2009

Exploring Eastern Big Bend and Terlingua

Thursday we did some exploring on this side of Big Bend.  First we went to the visitor center here at Rio Grande Village, then rode out to Boquillas Canyon where the river again cuts through a mountain in a spectacular gorge, then on towards the center of the park at Chisos Basin.  On the way we stopped at Dugout Wells where a small community sprang up around a well in the early part of last century.  The only school in the area was located there.  It is now a pleasant oasis in the middle of miles and miles of desert.  We continued on to Panther Junction where the park headquarters is located, along with the largest visitor center.  We then headed up the steep and winding road into the Chisos Mountains to Chisos Basin.

The Chisos Basin in considered the heart of Big Bend NP.  The Chisos Mountains rise from the desert floor in the center of the park to a height of 7,832 feet.  The developed area is in a bowl located within the center of the mountain.  It feels similar to being inside a volcano.  There is only one opening, called the window, with a view of the desert below.


There are very tame deer wandering around and one of them approached to within 10 feet of us as we ate a picnic lunch.  After lunch we took the Basin Loop Trail through the pines.  It was only about 2 miles but it gave us a good feel for the area.  It is just barely in the pines at about 5,400 feet, so there is a combination of trees and cactus but it was much cooler than down by the river.  We had a pleasant afternoon and plan to return to do another hike in the area, as well as have dinner at the lodge some evening.

Friday we returned to Boquillas Canyon and took the short trail into the canyon.  It ends where the rock walls come down to the river.  Just before arriving at the end there is a cave high on the wall with a steep sand dune leading up to it.  The angle of the sand is extremely steep.  It took us 10 minutes or so to climb up it, but only 20 seconds to come down.

Along the trail we discovered Mexican trinkets lying on the rocks, with prices marked and jars for money.  Mexicans living across the river come over in canoes when no one is watching, and leave the items, hoping to make a little money.   As we were hiking in we were suddenly serenaded by a Mexican on the other side of the river.  We then came across jars with signs the read "Donation for Mexican Singing."  Dianna did buy a nice walking stick from one of the displays since the prices were about 1/4 of the cost for the same ones in the gift shop.  Whatever it takes.

Yesterday we decided to attend the Terlingua Chili Festival.  We had seen reference to the festival posted on the walls of some BBQ restaurants we have been in, and some of the people here in campground mentioned they were here to attend.  Terlingua is a tiny desert town just outside the park boundaries about 50 miles from the campground.  At one time it was a mining town that produced most of the mercury mined in the US.  It is now pretty much a ghost town that has become a haven for some artists and others who like to live away from it all.  It reminded us of Jerome, AZ without the mountains.

We didn't know exactly what to expect but even so, it was not at all like we thought it might be.  While there was some judging and cooking going on, only the participants and judges were paying any attention.  In fact, unless you were a participant or judge you could not even get into that area.  Mostly what it was was a couple thousand people getting together in the desert for four days to drink beer and party.  It reminded us of a biker gathering.  It was certainly not our cup of tea and we only stayed an hour or so.  We did get some free chili and some Buffalo Wings, but they were not worth the $20 admission fee.


On the way back we filled up the scooter with gas.  Since the speed limit in the park is only 45 MPH we got the best mileage ever -- 70.5 MPG.  Wahoo!

We still have a few things we want to see and do here.  Today may be just a football day, but who knows.  Soon we will start heading for Denton.


  1. Can you fix the picture size? Kinda small. I was wondering about that chili thing. I had seen one of the people in your Datastorm maps say something about it. Too bad it wasn't better.

  2. OK. I was trying to save upload time by reducing them, but if you can't see them it is not worth doing.

  3. I can see the pictures fine. More resolution would show more, but these are much better than nothing.

    The steep sand dune reminds me of some I used to play on. You could do 20 foot jumps down and hit the soft sand and not feel a thing. Great fun!

  4. I was looking at a NPS website about Big Bend in general and Chisos Mountains in particular. An overnight trip through the mountain trails involve carrying all your water and should only be attemped in the winter months. How the devil hot does it get there?


  5. I see there are several geocaches in Big Bend.

  6. The pictures are fine now. Daryl, they were only a little bit larger than the ones inline. Maybe my 24" monitor made them look smaller but it was hard to tell much.

  7. Dale -- It gets well over 100 during the summer, even in the Chisos Mountains. That's why almost no one comes here during the summer.

    Donna -- Yes, I checked them out as well. Dianna and I have done some geocaching in other areas. It is illegal to leave any "caches" in a national park, you can't leave "things" on protected federal land, so all the "caches" are just places to go see. Not really the same experience IMO.

  8. Don -- They were 320 x 240. Thought I would try to save upload time. I changed them to 1024 x 768 which is what I use as my standard. When they come off the camera they are 3264 x 2448 and between 3 and 4 meg. Reducing them gets them down to 200K to 300K which is much more manageable and I can't see much difference in quality unless really zooming in. It saves a huge amount of disk space.