Big Bend is known as the "last true frontier of the lower 48 states" (National Geographic). A landscape encompass Chihuahuan Desert, 7800 foot Chisos Mountains and Rio Grande. It is considered to be "three parks in one" (National Park Service). Ever since we moved to Texas, I was thinking about visiting Big Bend and we finally made the trip in the fall of 2006 with a Friend's family.
Despite thorough research of the park through nps.org, I was still amazed by what I saw when we entered big bend area: magnificent mountains in the horizon, expansive desert with surprisingly lush green landscape, blooming flowers, and diversity of desert life - lizards, birds, road runners.... We were lucky by chance because there were plenty of rainfalls in the winter, spring and summer at big bend.
The sound of Nature
We arrived at Rio Grande Village in an early afternoon. After setting up our tent at campsite for the first night we went to Boquillas Canyon hiking. Along the trail, cactus, and some other desert plants were all over places. On the trail, the children were very excited and loud. We climbed a small hill and came to the Rio Grande river bank. When I saw Rio Grande ahead us, I told everyone " I heard something". All stopped talking. It was suddenly so quiet, we heard the sound of running Rio Grande - the sound of nature!
The first night at Big Bend we camped at Rio Grande Village. There were only a handful of tents at the camp sites. It was our first ever camping. We were quite nervous first, after setting up fires for BBQ, got familiar with surrounding, we relaxed. A day's driving, hiking made us go to sleep early that night. I woke up in the middle of night for restroom. All I heard was the sound of insects, it was not too dark though - the sky was full of bright stars - I had not seen so many stars in the sky for a very very long time. Some stars were so bright, as if they were right at the top trees. I felt so close to the stars, and such a tiny tiny part of the inifinite universe.
The next couple of days we stayed at Chisos Mountain lodge. That was our stretagy - camping and staying in hotel a few days and then camping for a couple of days, so we could take showers. The second morning Justin and I went out to watch birds in the early morning via a trail loop by the lodge. With a a binocular and a camera, we took off. It was quite easy to find blue jays because there were so many, and because of their loud chirps. We saw a pair of cardinals, and followed their chirpping for quite a distance but did not get chance to take a good picture. On the trail, we heard many different bird sounds, but saw few birds - the forest was so large, the woods were so thick, it was not easy to see them. That was why I was amazed last fall that it was easy to find more types of birds at Spring Ridge than at Big Bend. It was a good morning hike nevertherless, we enjoyed the beautiful bird songs, colorful desert flowers, the late rising Sun and the crisp, fresh air.
The fourth day we camped at Chisos Mountain. This campsite was full - Chisos Mountain was an ideal place to camp - due to its elevation, it was cool at night at the camp site even in a October night. We had picnic with our friends and were playing cards in a dim camping flash light when we heard a commotion at a neighboring tent - javelinas came to search for food! One the way to the west side of Big Bend, I noticed there were something coming out from the bushes at the roadside. I slowed down and stopped our mini van, a few seconds later, two big javelinas with two small ones crossed the road one by one. When Lily took out camcorder, the wild pigs disappeared into the woods already. When she put down the camcorder, a couple more javelinas ran across the road in front of us. Sighing for the lost opportunities, one more javelina appeared; she hastily aimed her camera at the wild pig and caught it on the camera before it disappeared into the bushes again. It was exciting and hilarious.
One has to hike at Big Bend to truely enjoy its beauty. We hiked two 4 mile trails - those were two long hikes for Nicholas - he was not five yet then. Window trail was a flat easy trail - it was the first trail we took. Due to warnings of mountain lions and black bears from park rangers, we were quite cautious at the beginning, I led the way, all kids in the middle, my friend - the father of the other family, at the tail. There were plants and various vegetations along the trail, it was also good for this hot morning that there is a stream running almost parelle to the trail. As we almost reached the "window", the trail and stream crosses each other, we played in the water a bit. The "window" at the end of the trail is a chasm in a hugh rock, and it is also the top of a water fall. There is a lower window, with almost parralle rock formation. The view was breathtaking.
The expansive land provided us differnt vista on every turns we made. The desert to the east and west of Chisos mountains, the Rio Grande to the south, the expansive wilderness, the unqiue landscape, the unparellel solitude (no TV, no cellphone), and the natural dark night all make Big Bend the true wilderness in every sense. It was a wonderful trip for the whole family.
coming up :Experiencing Santa Elena Canyon River Rafting