Sunday, February 20, 2011

Big Bend in this becoming a tradition?

Last year's trip to the Big Bend area was great! Can this year's trip top that? I wouldn't know that until I got to Study Butte and hooked up with the MTF folks who would be there for some off-road riding. My decision to go by car was driven by several things: All the times I've been to Big Bend have been on a motorcycle. I've never been there in a car. I'd like to hike some trails but leaving the bike alone and unguarded at a trail head seems risky. Also, there will be two other women there, both wives of off-road riders, and it might be handy to have the car for our own day trips into Big Bend and the area.

I left home at 6:00 AM on Wednesday morning and easily got ahead of the rush hour traffic in Houston. By noontime, I was in Del Rio on US 90, time to stop for gas and Jack in the Box for lunch - my favorite: chicken fajita pita sandwich!

The drive out there was unremarkable, except for all those poor dead skunks in the road! In Alpine, I took 118 south toward Study Butte. Now this is a section of highway - about the only one out here - that I've never been on. How is that even possible? There are so few roads out here. But it's a fact. It's a great road! Lots of twisties just south of Alpine, and a few other sections of interesting sweepers until I got to Study Butte. Too bad I was in a car!

I've stayed at Big Bend Resort before, but in the low buildings across the street from the main property. The rooms over there were a bit spartan so I wasn't sure what to expect at the main property. As it turned out, I was booked into room 49, a wonderful new and spacious unit in a small building at the back edge of the RV park. The unit had a microwave, small fridge, table and chairs and a great little porch in front. I brought two folding lawn chairs and immediately set them up on the porch for some sunset viewing later.

I found John and Becky from Illinois just as I was checking in. Becky would otherwise be spending her days hanging out alone at the motel, so I plan to spend my days hiking and sightseeing with her. We quickly made plans to have dinner at the Starlight Theater in Terlingua ghost town. We ran into Paul and Voni Glaves who had the same great idea we did! they had a small group of friends and visitors with them. It was good to have a chance to say howdy to them.

A simple dinner and some interesting entertainment by a vocal duo and then we headed back to Study Butte and the motel.


Thursday morning and Becky, Agnes (the wife of another off-road rider), and I walked/jogged the mile to breakfast at Kathy's Kosmic Kowgirl Kafe,, a funky and weird assortment of old buses, trailers, and sheds all painted bright pink. A small group was already there, assembled around a nice firepit, which took the morning chill off nicely.

After breakfast, and after I showered and dressed, we got in my car and headed for Big Bend National Park.

We stopped at the Panther Junction Visitor center, got the lay of the land, browsed the gift shop and then headed up to Chisos Basin. I learned the day before that there's a trailhead at the top of the roadway. We found it, parked, and then hiked about a mile up the trail to a fantastic overlook. Everything is so parched and dry! This part of the country is in a severe drought and it really shows. Much of the brush and grass is brown and dry and the Opuntia are shriveled from lack of water.

We made it to the lodge in Chisos Basin right at noon...perfect timing! We had no sooner sat down at a table when one of the off-road riding groups showed up and joined us. It was fun to listen to their excitement as they chattered and poked fun at each other. Afterward, we hung around until the riders were ready to head out for the rest of their day's adventure.

We walked the short paved trail to a scenic overlook called "The Window" which looks out over the Chihuahuan desert into Mexico.

After the riders headed out, we drove out of the basin and headed for the beautiful Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive that would take us to Santa Elena Canyon. Last year this road was closed due to damage from severe flooding of the Rio Grande River. According to the parks visitor center, it is now open again to traffic so I was looking forward to getting down to the river bed. I hadn't been in a few years.

It was a great day and we got back to the motel about the same time as most of the riders. John, Becky and I decided to have dinner at La Kiva Friday night. We got ourselves out of synch with the guys. They did La Kiva Thursday night and were headed for Starlight Theater this night.

Tomorrow Becky and I will drive in her truck to Sauceda in the heart of Big Bend Ranch State Park to join the riders for a private lunch, prepared by the park staff just for us.

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