Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Big Bend National Park

Rio Grande Village Campground 12-9 to 12-16-2020

We did manage to sneak off from Dad’s for a few days and visit Big Bend National Park. That's the good news. The bad news is we both were under the weather the whole time. I hate it when you go someplace special and you’re not well enough to really enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t sit around and mope about it. We still got out and did stuff, but we didn’t do any long hikes. Just being in Big Bend NP was awesome enough.

We had spent Thanksgiving with Dad getting his paperwork under control and making sure he was ok, health wise. Our plan was to spend 10 days in the park, then mosey back to Dad’s for Christmas. Then in late January end up in Red Bay, AL for some Miss Mosey upgrades and touch ups. That would put us in Orange Park in mid February where we would take care of some needed projects at the home base.

We headed south out of San Angelo on US67 then connected with Interstate 10 ending up at Walmart in Ft. Stockton, TX to replenish our supplies. At our ultimate destination there is only a small camp store (with minimal supplies) near Rio Grande Village where we will be dry camping for 10 days. This is our last chance to stock up for that time period.

As an added bonus, there is a huge gravel lot behind the Ft. Stockton Walmart. We decided to make camp here for the night.

Opera Snapshot_2020-04-13_104758_www.google.com

The next morning we drove down US385 which runs from Ft. Stockton to the Persimmon Gap entrance of Big Bend NP. Along the way we stop to stretch our legs at a rest area we have used before for overnight stays.



While out walking around, EJ found some artwork left behind by some hardy souled bicyclist no doubt.


When we arrive at the entrance to Big Bend, the guard station is deserted. Alright, we’ll just stop at the Persimmon Gap visitor center. Oops, can’t to that either. It’s closed. A sign on the door says we need to check in at Panther Junction visitor center.

After showing our reservations to the Ranger at Panther Junction, we continue our journey to Rio Grande Village Campground. But along the way we spy a coyote lurking in the bushes giving us the “stink eye”.(More on the coyote later)


Once we pass through the tunnel, we are greeted with this view. Oh my! A whole 10 days of scenes like this coming up!


We get settled into our spot and Gabby has already made herself at home.


We had a very large campsite and it was level. Plus it was raised, so when they flood the fields to irrigate, it will stay nice and dry. The red arrow marks our spot.

Rio Grande Village Map

A new addition since last time we were here are bear boxes. Folks in soft sided campers and tents make good use of these. The camp hosts were pretty strict about enforcing the rules, which we appreciated. Even I got chastised for letting our old arthritic cat (Maggie) walk around without a leash. I was much more diligent about evading detection after that.


One day driving around, it looked like the clouds were eating the mountains.


We made drive up to Chisos Basin, which has the only restaurant and lodge in the park. After we ate lunch, EJ wanted to pay some bills (personal responsibilities never go away) so we got out the laptop and connected to one of the few cell signals in the park. And it was windy and it was cold, but she persevered and accomplished her goal.


Here you can see the Chisos Basin restaurant up the hill from the visitor center parking lot.


One day we took a walk along the Rio Grande River headed east from the campground. Along the way ( on the US side ) we were approached by an old cowboy-ish looking Mexican. He wanted us to pay him to sing. We opted to decline since we had already heard him singing as we walked up the trail.

EJ was a little skeptical about my choice of a trail as we walked along the continually shrinking path.


Another day we drove over to Castolon to see the visitor center and store. It is a 56 mile trip one way from where we are camped. I tell you, this park is huge!. Boy were we surprised when we showed up. When we quizzed the ranger on duty, she told of a fire that had gotten out of control and had burned down the old historic buildings. It appears that across the Rio Grande River, piles of trash were being burned when they shouldn’t have been. It was too windy. The ashes jumped the river and caught the under brush on fire on the US side . Unfortunately it reached Castolon and burnt the store, the ranger station and the old bathrooms.



Since we had driven as far as Castolon, we went ahead and drove on to Santa Elena Canyon. This time though, the river was high. This meant to get to the Santa Elena trail we would have to wade through mud and water if we wanted to hike it. We decided maybe next time.


On the way back to Miss Mosey that evening, we spotted the coyote again. We had seen him almost every time we drove along this part of the road. This time though, as we slowed down to take pictures he (or she) ran out to snap at our tires. Guess he (or she) felt pretty strongly about guarding this section of the road.


One day that we were feeling particularly wimpy, (we had been battling colds all week) we took a short hike on the nature loop close to where we were camped. We didn’t realize we would have to cross a swamp as part of the hike.


Fortunately they had thought to built a bridge over it.

Along the way we also encounter an entrepreneur’s offering along the trail. Hiking sticks, beer can coozies, and wire trinkets are for sale. Along with a message that the proceeds go to the education of the children across the border. Whether or not they do go to the children, it tugs at the old heart strings.


At the highest point of the nature loop, you can see Boquillas in the distance. (look for tiny blue buildings) That is the only Mexican town near Big Bend NP. There is even an official border crossing that serves the town and a passport is required if you travel over and want to get back in the USA. The only way to cross the border is to wade the Rio Grande River or hire a boat to take you across. Once you cross into Mexico it is still about a mile walk into town. Alternatively, you can pay for a mule ride or pickup truck ride into town.

The town has no external electric distribution system serving it. In 2015 the Mexican government funded the installation of solar power for the town and the electric lines to supply it to households and businesses in the town. The town has enough battery power to last two days without sunshine. But thanks to solar power, restaurants have refrigerators now and you can get cold cervezas.


Every day we would stop by the Rio Grande Village Store to use the internet to check on Dad. We discovered a new feature on our phones that allow us to make phone calls over wifi. How cool is that!! Especially since in this part of the park there is no cell service. Each time we went to the store there would be a cluster of 5 to 10 people hanging around outside where the wifi signal was strongest. Invariably someone would ask us if we were getting a cell signal since they saw us talking on the cell phone.

Then on December 17th when we tried to make daily contact with Dad he wouldn’t answer the phone. We even tried calling Dads friend, Joe Farley, and he wouldn’t answer either. By now we were starting to get worried. Finally just after the noon hour, Joe called us to let us know Dad was back in the hospital.

EJ and I made a quick decision to leave 3 days early and head straight back to San Angelo. The cats settled in as we hit the road.


By 6:45pm we were back at Rio Concho Manor in San Angelo, Texas hooked up to the power pole and on our way to see Dad at the hospital.

But, more on that next.