I have no idea why I waited until I was almost 50 to finally visit the Big Bend region. I’ve taken trips out of state to see mountains, including Colorado, Arkansas, Washington, New Mexico and Kentucky. Why I didn’t choose my own back yard first is a mystery. While you don’t snow ski there, which I’ve never been good at any way, the Big Bend offered so much more for this Native Texan.
Having worked in the travel industry for a good portion of my life, I thought I knew what to expect. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw around every turn. Between my husband and me, we took more than 1,000 pictures and since I can’t include them all here, I hope a picture is worth a thousand words so you at least have an idea of how amazing this gem is to Texas.
When you first drive in, the speed limit literally helps you to slow down to a different pace from what you’re used to, well, at least it did for me since I work in a city. I had to turn on the cruise control at the beginning of the journey, as I was used to weaving in and out of traffic and accelerating to get from one place to another. It was time to take it easy. Even entering the park offered dramatic effect.
One of the first roads we chose to take was a narrow and questionable dirt road leading us to our very first incredible find in the park, a store from the early 1900’s along with a glimpse of the Rio Grande and handmade walking sticks and wire figures that magically appeared on a rock, not far from the water. Just beautiful!
The mountains were different around every corner – jagged, smooth, round, flat and in various colors. Cactus were just blooming and pops of color could be easily seen among the brown hues around them.
We drove to the Rio Grande overlook and the Boquillas Canyon area. Across the river, we saw a group of vaqueros resting their horses by the water. They were enjoying a rest under some shade trees, which were not present on the Texas side of the river. It would have been nice to visit with them but we had so much more to see.
Our next drive was into the Chisos Mountains portion of the park and what a drive it was. The average speed limit was around 15 miles per hour due to the incredibly winding road. Bear and mountain lions apparently like to make their homes in this area and you could immediately see why. Pine trees quickly replaced the scrub oaks, at least that’s what we thought they were. While we never saw a mountain lion or a bear, we certainly made our best effort to look for them. I really don’t know what we would have done if we’d seen them, especially if we’d been out of the vehicle. My fire drill training kept coming into my head. Stop, drop and roll. Somehow, the advice to make a lot of noise and make yourself bigger than the animal was hard for me to comprehend. Probably best I didn’t ‘bump’ into one while there.
Then there was the window. A trail lead to a clear view of nature’s painting of this majestic beauty in the Chisos Mountains. We stopped by the restaurant of the Chisos Mountain Lodge and enjoyed peach cobbler and pecan cobbler, topped with Texas-made Blue Bell homemade vanilla (that’s a whole other blog).
Finally, we drove to the iconic Santa Elena Canyon, seen in so many ad campaigns marketing Big Bend. First, you view it from an overlook and then you get to drive to the entry. A trail leads up to a view over the Rio Grande. I must say this Texan got a little choked up at this point. It is more breathtaking than any of the photographs I’ve seen. Sadly, these pictures don’t come close to doing it justice.
Our trip out of the park ended on a 16-mile short cut out of the park, taking us close to Study Butte and Terlingua. I’m not sure I would recommend it to most people. We were in an SUV and it was pretty rough. If you just want some leisure time together, it’s the way to go. You could only drive 15-20 miles per hour, not because of speed limit signs but because your really couldn’t go any faster on a dirt road. Still, it was a great way to end the trip through the park.
I look forward to returning and hope I don’t have to wait 50 years. No words can truly describe the region, nor can most pictures. I encourage you to book a trip if you haven’t been already. Even the rear view was spectacular!
For more information about Big Bend National Park, visit http://www.nps.gov/bibe/. And don’t forget to take it easy!