Snake count 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍 (three rattlesnakes, but luckily we saw the big ones from the car and the little one was fast asleep in the sun)
Yep, that’s right, a Javelina stole my flip flops. That’s best-case scenario. Otherwise it was a coyote, or worse, a creepy desert person. Dan and I stayed just outside Big Bend at an isolated desert campground so we could get an early start on the national park the next day, and I woke up to swiped shoes. Rangers told us javelinas were the most likely culprits.
Big Bend is immense (although it’s apparently only the 15th-largest national park). Over the three days we spent there, we drove 300 miles getting from campground to various hiking trails and back. We picked the Cottonwood campground, furthest west and no RV hookups so we figured it wouldn’t be overly crowded.
Our campground also provided us an amazing view of the Sierra Maderas del Carmen, located in Mexico and almost a mile high. It could’ve doubled for The Wall from Game of Thrones.
Big Bend is also HOT. I know, right, deserts are hot. Daytime highs measured at the ranger station nearest us topped 90 all three days. It’s a dry heat, so much cooler in the shade, which would matter if we had found much shade. Dan loved it.
Big Bend has three main climate regions: desert, mountain and river. We mainly stuck to desert and mountain, but wandered down to the stretch of Rio Grande by our campsite.
We focused in two main hikes on the two full days we stayed in the park, the Chimneys Trail and the Lost Mine Trail, with several other small ones throughout the day. Wednesday we hiked the Chimneys Trail was almost perfectly flat, about five miles out-and-back (round trip) across the desert.
It took us to a series of rock formations, one of which had several ancient pictographs.
Big Bend already has its Window trail but I liked my little find better:
Thursday we undertook the steep, winding drive up to the High Chisos complex for the Lost Mine trail. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, and I see why. We hiked from an elevation around 5500 feet up to 6582 feet above sea level (my altimeter didn’t work at the trailhead because of tree cover), over the course of about two and a half miles. The terrain changed as elevation climbed, from somewhat shaded desert-forest to rocky sections with a few sparse trees. The view was pretty spectacular, and we were still over 1000 feet short of Emory Peak, the highest point in the Chisos.
We explored many of the smaller trails and features of the park; Dan and I each picked a short trail for afternoon hikes where the temperatures topped 100. Dan’s pick was Tuff Canyon:
While I opted for the Lower Burro Pour-off:
Quality crash course in life in the desert. More bird, lizard and nature pictures to come in a subsequent post.