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Big Bend Never Disappoints Us

After our fifth visit, Big Bend National Park is still our favorite Texas Destination. We've had so many great experiences there over the years and this year was no exception.

We spent eight lovely days in the park last week and timed it perfectly - the clouds, colder temperatures, and March Break crowd were rolling in the day we left.

But, I'll start with the bad news: After looking forward to kayaking through Santa Elena Canyon ever since we started this trip - the Rio Grande River level was far too low. We had planned what they call a "boomerang" trip - paddling a few hours upriver and then back in one day. We had even picked up the required permit but when we saw the river level we were shocked. Then we happened upon a group who had tried it with inflatable boats much like ours. They told us they ended up walking in mud and dragging their kayak more than 50% of the time. That didn't sound like much fun. One more time, the Texas drought I wrote about last week, has affected our trip. Randy was VERY disappointed to say the least.

Randy was pouting

A dry riverbed and Randy (pouting)

hiking Santa Elena Canyon

We did hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail.

Santa Elena

Santa Elena - still stunning - despite less water

We repeated some of our other favorite hikes in the park.

Grapevine Hills Trail

Grapevine Hills Trail leads to this balanced rock.

View from Grapevine Hills Trail

The view from the trail - same as park brochure

On the Upper Burro Mesa Trail, I felt the effects of being five years older than the last time we hiked here. We had forgotten about this big dropoff near the end of the trail. I got down just fine, but coming back up was a different story. Randy let me struggle long enough to snap this picture before he gave me a hand up :-))

Upper Burro Mesa Trail

This is NOT an act. I couldn't go up or down!

The Window Trail

On the Window Trail - great views all the way down.

The Window Trail

The "window" at the end of the Window Trail

The Basin's Window Trail

Polished by water - very smooth rocks at The Window pour-off.

Big Bend Hot Springs

After a hike, we head for the park's hot springs.

Big Bend Hot Springs

Ahhhhhhh.....I deserve this!


This javelina was wandering through Cottonwood Campground - not unusual.

Big Bend Camping

We camped in our three favorite campsites - all with great views.

Big Bend Camping

And found the perfect balance of hiking and just "sitting".

Big Bend Camping

Time to relax usually means a book for me, the guitar for Randy.

Last week, in Del Rio, Randy treated himself to a new guitar tuner - a "Snark" ($20.00). It lights up so he can read it at night - perfect for campfires! He says he loves it and highly recommends it.

Guitar tuner Snark

Randy's "Snark"

Randy says I can be a devil one day, a saint the next - he captured it so I guess it's true.

Mule Ears

Yucca halo

When we finally left the park, we headed north, stopping at the Big Bend Museum in Alpine - an amazing museum (free admission too). We also decided to stop and look for the strange phenomenon known as "The Marfa Lights". Along with 3 other RVs, we parked overnight along Hwy 90 at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area. Through the evening, another dozen or so people arrived. Apparently the lights "appear" in the same desert location almost every clear night. We watched until the crowd dispersed around 10pm. On this particular clear night - we were all dissapointed. No lights.

Marfa Lights Viewing Area

Marfa Lights Viewing Platform

Marfa Lights Viewing Area

The Marfa Lights - an unsolved mystery

We weren't left totally without an experience, however, because we met a couple of full-time RVers who happened to know me from my boondocking guides. While other more typical "viewers" huddled under Navaho blankets, we watched from the warmth and comfort of Kay and Andy's fifth-wheel. It turned into a fun evening - and probably much more entertaining than a few strange moving lights in the distance. Yes, it would have been cool to see those too. Who knows, perhaps the people wrapped in the blankets saw something we didn't. Next time, we'll try that approach - maybe something to smoke would help too :-))

And finally, Hwy 90 between Marfa and Van Horn, is possibly one of the most remote and desolate stretches of desert road in Texas. So you can imagine the surprise when, in the middle of nowhere, miles from any town, we saw this:

Prada Shoe Store in the Texas Desert

A Prada Shoe Store - no, it's not a mirage.

We did a double-take, turned around, had to go back and see if it was for real. It turns out it is - but it's a piece of art. I imagine it accomplished exactly what was intended by the artist: We stopped, took a photo, and I'm posting it online.

Days On The Road at time of writing: 57

Camping Costs To Date: $93.00

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