Monday, April 3, 2017

Big Bend National Park - Part 2

March 28 - April 3, 2017:

We are on the road at 9 AM, traveling across Big Bend National Park to the Rio Grande Village area on the east side.  Rio Grande Village has a reservable full hookup campground operated by a concessionaire in a boring paved parking lot (full) and a dry campground in a grassy tree shaded area operated by the park service.  There were many good open campsites and with our senior pass it's only $7 a night.

This Roadrunner seems to live in the campground, is constantly running
around with no fear of people

It was a very hot day around 100 degrees and in the evening the wind came up and the dust blew for hours as a cold front (thankfully) came through.  We had taken a walk on a nature trail from the campground when it started and returned to the RV just as it really became crazy.  It wasn’t so much fun closing the RV windows to keep the dust out when it was over 100 degrees inside.  They do allow generators here from 8 AM to 8 PM, but we decided to be hard core and didn’t run it.  I was then thinking those full hookup sites would have been nice ? 

Campground nature trail goes across this marsh area that
they call a beaver pond

The Mexicans leave art works for sale along trails

View going up to the Boquillas overlook from the nature trail
looking back towards the Rio Grande River

View from the overlook, the Boquillas are stunning in the 
evening sunset glow

There is a small general store here that sells ice cream, ice, cold drinks and lots of other necessities that were much appreciated.  By the morning the 100 degrees had dropped to low 50’s, what a relief and the temperature stayed under 90 in the RV all day.  They have working WiFi and many people (like me) tend to hang out on the porch, on their phones or computers, eating ice cream.   

The sun here is brutal, even when the air is cool, so we took off about 9 AM for a short hike on the Boquillas Canyon Trail.  The Rio Grande River has cut this canyon through the rocks over the eons.  It is a beautiful hike along the river with green grass and colorful flowers, towering canyon walls and a singing Mexican, Jesus,  on the opposite side of the river.

Boquillas Canyon Trail

Sharp bend in the Rio Grande River on the trail

Twinkles heading out

We go into the canyon

A tip jar for the singing Mexican on the trail

View near the end of the trail

We next drove on Old Ore Road, signed as a 4 wheel drive, high clearance road.  Actually I never went into 4 wheel drive, no need to and most standard cars would have been fine.  That being said, if a summer storm comes up you better be able to put it into 4 wheel drive and head for high ground fast.  After 4 1/2 miles we reach our destination the Ernst Tinja Trail, it is a 1 mile round trip easy hike into a canyon with colorful contorted layers of rock, cactus, grasses and desert plants.  The trail follows the dry creek bed into the canyon and into a slick rock area to a large natural water tank or Tinja. 

Someone who didn't make it

View on the Old Ore Road

Ernst Tinaja trailhead

Prickly Pear Cactus blooms are abundant

The Tinaja, walk carefully on that slickrock

View from the canyon

Many distinct layers of rock

Crazy geology in action

The Mexican town of Boquillas across the Rio Grande River is a must do experience.  it’s a step back in time ! You drive about 3 miles from the campground to the river crossing where you are taken in a small row boat across the river into Mexico.  You then have the option of riding a Donkey or a truck into town.  You need to do the Donkey, it’s not everyday you can ride a Donkey on a saddle that looks to be about 100 years old.  There is a guide that leads you and then shows you around town.  We had a nice older man, Esteban Onate, who spoke reasonable english, who was born in Boquillas , but now lives in another town.   He returns here each year for about three months for this guide service.  He leaves when it gets hot (April) and works an ice cream cart for the rest of the year.  The town is very poor, but they do have solar electricity and water from a hilltop storage cistern.  He took us to the Boquillas Restaurant for lunch, real Mexican of course and very good.  It seems that everyone in town is selling hand crafted tourist items, there isn’t much else to do, and we ended up buying a few items, mostly out of kindness. 

Boquillas welcome sign

Esteban and Twinkles are ready for the trek to town

Our first time on a Donkey

Our lunch spot

Main street Boquillas Del Carmen

Standing in front of the welcome sign

I wanted to go in, but it was closed

Boquillas Restaurant sign

Old crippled musician played for us during lunch

Crafts for sale at the restaurant

Twinkles relaxs after lunch

The remains of an old hot Springs Resort on the Rio Grande River is another popular attraction a few miles from the campground.  It was originally privately owned and advertised as "The fountain that Ponce De Leon failed to find". It operated from 1916 to 1942 and was then taken over by the State of Texas for another ten years.  The Resort closed in 1952 and has not been maintained much since, the buildings are slowly decaying away.  The original spring house is gone but its foundation and the hot spring remain.The site remains open as an historical site and for bathing and the water measures about 105 degrees.  I returned on Saturday morning when I had it all to myself for a while, until a group of seniors showed up to stick their feet in and take photos.  It was a little disappointed, I had been hopping for the young bikini clad college age girls. The river here is very beautiful and there is a loop trail that goes around the mountain with hillside covered in cactus and big river and mountain vistas.

The old Store and Post Office

Resort rooms with painted scenes on the walls

Indian petroglyphs on the rocks 

A crowd at the springs

We also went for a ride of about 15 miles on the West River Road which is not actually along the river much, but passing through beautiful desert country.  We kind of stumbled upon an old foundation in the distance and stopped to investigate.  There were a couple of old stone walls, some rusty cans, and pieces of glass laying around, not much else.  Exploring over the hillside, reveals a wonderful scenic Rio Grande River view.  There are different varieties of cactus here in the Chihuahua Desert that we don't see in the Sonoran Desert.  The “Brown Shined Prickly Pear”  and the “Blind Prickly Pear” cactus are most common and blooming this vibrantly time of year.
This area was once under water and it is easy to find aquatic fossils in the limestone rocks.

View on the River Road

Old stone house

It was built into the rock

Rio Grande River view from a hilltop nearby

Sea Shell fossil found on the ground

Very odd veiny looking sandstone formation

Another old house site

Large shell fossil in rock nearby

On Saturday night, we have a wild Texas storm, high winds, impressive lightning and a little rain.  The most impressive thing was its duration, it went on and on for hours reminding of that song by "Asleep at the Wheel" called  “miles and miles of Texas”.  Sunday is partly cloudy and considerably cooler, perfect for another hike.

Under threatening skies I went for a 3 mile hike from an old ranch site near the campground to the Hot Springs. Twinkles picked me up there to save the return trip.  It was a fantastic hike with exceptional views of the Rio Grande River as it cuts through a canyon.  Also great distant mountain views and desert plants along the way.

Prickly Pear Cactus on the hillside

Canyon view from the rim

At the end of the hike, take a hot soak

Next stop is an overnight stop at Ft Stockton and then on to San Angelo Texas,
Twinkles and Slick

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