Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend. The name refers to the bend of the Rio Grande, but it has come to connote mountains, desert, beauty, ruggedness. I came here during my junior or senior year in college for spring break, but I made one mistake: my traveling companion wasn't really a hiker. We drove 500 miles in 10 hours and didn't hike but half a dozen miles. This time around, I didn't intend to make the same mistake.
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I hiked over 100 miles of Big Bend National Park, about 50 of those with Raisin, canoed Santa Elena Canyon, visited the Rio Grande hot springs (via car), and visited Mariscal Canyon. I drank from mud puddles, hiked through 30-40 mph winds, startled a rattlesnake, spied two bears, and climbed a vertical mile in a single 30-mile day. I washed my face with water from the Rio Grande and night-hiked up a canyon trail while shining my light into the trees looking for lions. In almost every way, I tried to do the opposite of my first trip to Big Bend, and I do believe I succeeded.
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South Rim Vista, BBNP, Day 301
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There's a lot more to say, but I'd prefer to hang on to some of it for an article. I want to add a few scattered notes, though: 1) The No-Pet-on-the-Trail Rule. Not my favorite rule, but it makes sense. Between Terlingua Ghost Town and Terlingua, I stayed up half the night thinking Raisin was being hunted by local fauna. At one point, I heard a semi-circle of coyote yelps around us, and they were close. So not allowing pets into the hot zone of Big Bend protects both the pet owner from loss and the indigenous predator population from depending on imported meat. It put me in a big bind, of course, but with a little luck, it worked out. (Thanks, Patricia and Jim of Castolon!) 2) The Desert and Water. I packed out 11 liters of water yet found myself needing more along the way. The big storm I mentioned outside of Castolon filled various spots in the desert with fresh rain water. I stumbled upon three decent water holes (clayish earth which acted as a natural cachement) in the first 20 miles. I skipped the first two but thankfully thought better of it at the third and filled up. I treated my water with Grapefruit Seed Extract (better known as GSE) which is an unofficial water purifier. It makes the water really bitter, but after seven years of using it, it's not so bad to me anymore. The desert really took it out of me, slowing some of my walking to a snail's pace, but I was able to bounce back with the water. I was most proud of finding a little water hole at the start of Mariscal Canyon Trail (I was looking). I needed it, and there it was. 3) Solitude. I didn't see anyone for 72 hours. It was during this time that I saw some of my most amazing views, drank mud water to get by, and saw two bears. It was an altogether splendid stretch.
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Chisos Basin Vista, BBNP, Day 301
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Even casual views of Big Bend are like this one: vast, beautiful, perfect. This shot was taken from a paved road and was shared by all that day. However you feel about the road network (I'm currently reading Edward Abbey who has some choice things to saw about the roads of the national parks.), the natural beauty of the place will get your attention and keep it. It is a wonderland.
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Panther Junction R&R, BBNP, Day 302
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Like all trips, you need time to recuperate. Ours is no different. Even though Raisin spent most of the time eating, sleeping, and enjoying A/C, even she needed to recharge after her first few miles back. We rested and then at 5 o'clock got back up and headed north toward Persimmon Gap and the park exit.
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And we're still going.
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Until next time...
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1 comment:

Ness_223 said...

I Totally just met you =) (Girl From Del Rio Small Bakery)
Hope you and your puppy have a safe great Trip Around Texas =)