Big Bend National Park, page 3

Page 1: Chisos Mountains
Page 2: Rio Grande canoe trip
Page 3: Santa Elena Canyon

Thursday, March 21, 2013

We all slept in late and felt no need to rush. To celebrate the completion of our first family river trip, Kathy cooked us a pancake breakfast. Late in the morning we decided to drive to Santa Elena Canyon, in the west end of the park, to go for a short hike.

Big Bend is a large park, so our drive to the trailhead was 66 miles long. Fortunately, the drive was scenic, and we enjoyed it nearly as much as our hike. At Santa Elena Canyon Maggie and Daniel kept racing ahead of us on the trail, unconcerned by the steep drop-offs around them. Kathy and I felt a little better when the trail came back down to the river. The river was so shallow in the canyon that even Maggie wouldn't drown in it. The river's flow was so minimal that the water had a perfect mirror reflection, and the canyon was perfectly quiet except for the sound of our own voices echoing off the 1500 foot walls.

Since the weather was hot today, we ate our late lunch in the cool canyon before hiking back to the trailhead for dessert. We drove back to camp while the sun was low in the sky, making colors much more vivid along the 22-mile Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The road is surrounded by hills and badlands with tints of red, tan, white and green, but I had hardly noticed the colors when I drove through at midday. I guess that to truly appreciate the desert, you need to see it in the right light.

Ocotillo along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Hiking into Santa Elena Canyon.

Michael's claps echo off the canyon walls.

Kathy helps Maggie with a splinter.

Lunch in Santa Elena.

Desert life.

Approaching the badlands along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Goat Mountain.

Mule Ears Peaks.

Thursday, March 22, 2013

There's much more to Big Bend that we haven't seen, and yet today was the right day for us to drive home. Canoeing another section of the river would have taken several days - some sections take as long as eight days - and we didn't have time for that. There are many good trails for hiking and backpacking in the Chisos Mountains, but most of them are too long for our children.

This morning we packed up our car and then hiked a short nature trail near our campground. Along the trail were small displays of handmade jewelry and other crafts. These were put there by Mexican villagers who cross the Rio Grande illegally. Each display includes a price list and a small jar to put money in. The crafts are interesting, but it's illegal to buy them, so we just took pictures. We were told that the campground store has Mexican craftwork that you can buy legally.

As we drove out of Texas we stopped at a Dairy Queen to celebrate our vacation with ice cream. Then we continued our long drive, which became hours longer due to a snowstorm in Colorado. It's a shock to go from 80+°F to 20°F in just hours. Warm weather was what we wanted when we came south to Texas, and we surely had it during our vacation: temperatures in the 80's or 90's every day, and river water warm enough to play in all day. It was a nice taste of summer in March.

Making breakfast at camp.

Hiking the nature trail near Rio Grande Village Campground.

Overlook of the Rio Grande.

Handmade Mexican crafts for sale (illegally) along the nature trail.

Daniel and Maggie become Junior Rangers at the Big Bend Visitor Center, and say the Junior Ranger pledge.

Shoveling snow off our driveway the morning after returning to Colorado.


Page 1: Chisos Mountains
Page 2: Rio Grande canoe trip
Page 3: Santa Elena Canyon