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Monday, April 27, 2020

Big Bend National Park - FL To NM Road Trip - Stop 4

One retirement goal we have for ourselves is to see all 47 parks that are in the 48 contiguous states in the US.  Big Bend National Park was the first national park we were able to check off our list.

It took us 7 1/2 hours to get from San Antonio, Texas to Big Bend National Park with stops.  More than half, maybe even 2/3 of the ride was through the dessert.  We had never been in the desert so it was really interesting to us, for a little while anyway.   Then it got so boring that I fell asleep for a couple of hours.  By the time I woke up, Soko was starting to panic because we were running low on gas and there were no gas stations to be found.  There were no exit signs, billboards, nothing.  Only dry, dusty dirt and cactus.  But just as we were thinking we were going to have to push the car, with the trailer attached to it, to the nearest gas station, we saw a town up ahead!  We were saved!  ...Not!  It was a ghost town!!  A ghost town?  We thought ghost towns were towns you saw in old cowboy movies, not in real life.  Where were we?  Is this real or a mirage?  We were so confused that I didn't even think about taking a picture until we were a few minutes away.  I was not going to ask Soko to turn around to go back for some pics, though, because he was back to panicking again!

We finally did make it to a town not too long after passing the ghost town.  It consisted of one gas station "Uncles", a hardware store and a couple of small shops.  After we paid a premium price for gas, we made our way down the road that would bring us to the park.  It looked like the desert road we were just on so after awhile I fell asleep again.

It took another 1 1/2 hours, after we stopped for gas, but we finally made it to the Rio Grande Village RV Park which is located in Big Bend National Park.  This is one of four campgrounds in the park but the only one that has full hook ups.  The other three have no hook ups at all.

Please read our full report on Rio Grande Village RV Park in our brand new Guide To State And National Park Campgrounds coming very soon!

Before we got to the campground, we stopped by one of the park's Visitor Centers to get the information we needed to plan an itinerary for our time in Big Bend.  You can find a brochure and newsletter at all national park visitor centers that will give you info on the trails, wildlife, etc. in the
park.  You can also buy additional literature which we did here.  

So after checking in, setting up and having a bite to eat, we got out all our info and mapped out a plan.

We planned an entire day of hiking for our first full day in Big Bend.  The first trail we would come to, on the route we mapped out, was the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail.  

The was an easy 1/2 mile trail that we leisurely strolled along while looking for "remnants of human settlement in the area" that we read we would find.  Soko spotted these cans that were left behind for future visitors to discover.  

Our next exciting find was this javelina who was only a couple of feet away from us when we saw him.   After our initial panic of how to get past him without his noticing us, we realized he was too busy eating some delicious cactus to even know, or care, that we were there.   We slowly backed away and then felt comfortable enough to take a couple of pictures before we quietly walked away.

The next trail on our list was the Grapevine Hills 2.2 mile round trip trail.  We were very excited to hike this trail after we saw a picture of the sight we could see here.  The "Balanced Rock" looked unbelievable and we wanted to see it for ourselves.  The difficulty level of this trail was easy and we really did think that until...

we got just past this sign.

From this point on, I am giving this trail a rating of moderate and in some spots, strenuous!  I was very grateful that my sister bought me a hiking stick for Christmas or I would have never made it up the very steep and very rocky boulder.

But at the top, we were treated to this amazing sight!

And the most amazing views.

The next trail was the Lost Mine which was rated moderate and was almost 8 miles long but the park ranger, who went over the trails with us, said that the first mile would give us a great view of the southeast and would be as far as we would have to venture in if we didn't want to do the whole trail.  Ironically, we got lost trying to find the Lost Mine and wound up out of the park and heading towards Terlingua Ghostown.  We had heard about the town but hadn't planned to leave the park to go there but since we made the wrong turn, and were almost there anyway, we decided to take a quick peek.

It wasn't completely abandoned like the first ghost town we saw on the way to Big Bend.  The 2010 census counted 58 residents!

We found this old cemetery down the block from the town.  It was pretty cool.  We had never seen graves like these before.  Lots of the people who are resting in this cemetery were victims of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.  Little did we know at the time that this would have more meaning to us in only a few short weeks.

We got back into the park with time to hike one more trail before it got too dark.  We decided to skip the Lost Mine and check out the trail the park ranger told us was one of his favorites.  The Lower Burro Mesa Pour-off turned out to be one of our favorites also!  It was an easy, relaxing and beautiful trail.

This is where the pour-off would have been.  I have to say we were not disappointed that it was too dry for a water show.  It was gorgeous and dramatic, anyway, but we can only imagine how amazing it must be when there is a pour-off happening here.  

It was time to get back to the campsite.  It was getting dark.  By the time we got to the park road that would bring us to the campground, it was so dark that we never saw the deer before he was inches from the front of our car.  Soko swerved, I screamed and the deer got away, thank goodness.  It was a reminder that we were sharing the park with the wildlife that live here and we needed to drive slowly and be very aware of our surroundings.

Our plan for our last full day in the park was to take advantage of the camp store building having a washer and dryer.  Even though the second washer was broken, we didn't have a problem getting a turn at doing our laundry.  I really didn't mind keeping my eye on our laundry as this was the only place in the park that we could get internet.  There were two benches inside and a few outside of the laundromat/camp store/shower building.  There were always campers sitting on them while they borrowed the free internet to use their phones and computers, especially in the evening.

After doing laundry and straightening up the car and trailer, we hiked the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail that we were able to walk to.  It was just past the camp store.

It was an easy trail with a side trail, the River Spur Trail, that went down to the Rio Grande, the river that separates the US and Mexico.

Next we headed to the overlook where we heard we could see a beautiful sunset.  Our plan was to come back in the evening to see it.  On our way to up, we saw handmade knick knacks and hiking sticks for sale.  I bought one of the cute roadrunner.

After reaching the top of the hill, we could see why it would be amazing place to watch the sunset.  There is a great view of the Rio Grande up here.

We did go back in the evening and sat with a group of other campers who also wanted to view the gorgeous sunset.

It was a good thing that there were other people with us because as we sat watching the sunset, which was beautiful...

I noticed that people had their backs to the sunset and were taking pictures of the mountains behind us.  The colors that illuminated off the mountain as the sunset bounced off it were stunning.  These pictures do not do it justice.

We got down the hillside before it got dark but not quick enough to get all the way back to the campground.  Luckily the ground was level and our phones have flashlights because we forgot one.  We enjoyed the starlit sky as we walked back.

Before we left the park in the morning, we got to see this little critter, the roadrunner, one last time.  I can't tell you how excited I was to see Wile E. Coyote's nemesis in real life!

We had an amazing time at the first national park on our retirement bucket list.  After we minus the 3 parks we visited pre-retirement, we only had 43 more to go.  

Next stop, Carlsbad, New Mexico!

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  1. What a great visit you had. That sunset was amazing! Not often you get a roadrunner to stand still long enough for a picture. I guess you'll have to wait awhile until you can visit another park. #SeniSal

    1. The sunset was beautiful and fun to be watching with a group of other campers. And yes! I wish I took a video of when he took off. They look so cute when they are running! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Those sunset photos are beautiful! Looks like a lot of nice hikes too.

    1. The one hike was pretty challenging but that is part of the fun too I guess. Thanks for visiting with us!

    2. I guess.. I often complain while trying to complete a difficult hike and think "I Hate hiking why did I agree to do this?" Then we get home and I think it was such great exercise and often say I can't wait to do it again. LOL

    3. Hahaha! That is the truth. I do the same thing. I whine and complain and make my husband help me get past the hard parts of the climb but when we're done with a challenging hike,I really feel like we accomplished something amazing and it feels really good!

  3. Hopping to your blog from Wonderful Wednesday linkup. We love in Texas but I haven’t been to Big Bend yet. Your hiking looked so rugged and adventurous! That cemetery with the graves of people who passed away from the Spanish Flu was definitely creepy, all things considered with the current pandemic.

    1. You are so lucky to live in Texas. We had a great time in every city we visited. I hope you get to go to Big Bend one day. It really is beautiful. And, yes, it is a pretty weird coincidence that the flu epidemic was mentioned on the cemetery info. Others succumbed to dangerous working conditions (mercury mining) and gunfights!! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. I've been wanting to go there! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I hope you get a chance to go. I think you will love it!

  5. Great Road Trip! Thank you for sharing with Encouraging Hearts and Home! Have a great week ahead!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and for hosting your nice party every week!