Big Bend – Jan 2017

Karen, Dottie and I have been commissioned by our new “leadership” and his crack team to figure out the best place for the new wall on the Mexican border to go, and of course any décor items that might compliment it. We have looked around, and I think I have some great ideas! It’s all going to be fabulous. Very nice.

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Seriously, we are back to one of our favorite national parks (there are many) – Big Bend National Park, in southwest Texas. Supposedly this is one of the least visited parks in the system – we would like to keep it that way, so please stop reading. Besides, there is no cell phone or Internet service here. You won’t like it here.

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The park is huge and borders Mexico via the Rio Grande River – maybe at most a one hundred-foot wide river. When I say the park is huge, it is bigger than the size of Rhode Island. I know, not the biggest state. Still. Work with me.

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We stayed in the Rio Grande Village campground (great campground!), which is without any facilities at the individual campsites, with the exception of a “bear box” to hold your food. We stayed in campsite 51, but I prefer to think of it as Area 51. Alien from anutha mutha.  Go Pats.

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Roadrunner

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The moon and stars here are unbelievable

There is water available and generators are allowed in some sections of the campground. In order to keep the campground lush they reroute water to provide irrigation. They know ahead of time when this will happen so no worries, but don’t set up your tent in a low lying grassy area. Tent you say? No, not us. Been there, done that.

By the way, beggars are not just confined to the big city.

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Coyote

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Having said that, last night we ran out of propane and battery power, so in effect we were in a hard sided tent. We restocked propane and new batteries today. Phew, you say. I know you hate to see us in any way inconvenienced.

You wouldn’t guess it, but some years back this campground was completely under water from the river flooding from heavy rains in Mexico. Even though it is the Rio Grande (Big River in Spanish) that passes by, most of the water in the Rio Grande at this point actually comes from another river in Mexico. Most of the Rio Grande waters are actually consumed before reaching this remote part of Texas. Great place for Cottonwoods, though!

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Cottonwoods

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Unlike our usual mode of travel, we did not bring our kayaks on this trip, but clearly there are opportunities to paddle on the Rio Grande. You can either hook up with a fellow camper to provide some Sherpa assistance, or outside of the park there are river boating services. Just keep in mind it is 50 miles just to get out of the park.

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Now a moment from our sponsors: Just a big shout out to the Airstream community!! We arrived at this campground and there were already about 6-8 Airstreams. Now if you know anything about Airstreams, their owners are like lemmings. We are kind of conspicuous, get together briefly and then disperse. Think psycho introverts. On this trip we met new friends and connected with old friends. I could recite chapter and verse, even from this short visit, but in general and without exception this is the BEST bunch of sharing people!

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Speaking of getting outside the park, Karen found a cute little restaurant in Terlingua, so we made a bit of a road trip and ended up in Terlingua around suppertime. We visited La Kiva (I believe it means The Cave – or maybe it just means La Kiva). It really feels like a cave.  Or at least the dining area is below ground level. We’re talking primarily burgers, steaks, and pizza menu items. And the clientele are cowboys, hippies and artists. And us. Pretty good and a fun place to go.

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The campground is bear and javalena stomping grounds. Apparently the javalenas were not behaving all that well and one of the misbehavers, Big George, had to be put down and the others have relocated nearby. Note to self – stop misbehaving! In a previous trip years ago, the javalenas prowled the campground. These are butt-ugly beasts, but like all animals they serve a purpose. Eye candy is not that purpose. Just be wary and use good judgment with your food supplies. File footage of the javalenas from our 2005 trip.

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Javalenas

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We made a number of short hikes while here. One was the Lost Mine Trail, and it was beautiful. This is located in the Chisos Mountains, so you start the hike at about 5,800 feet elevation and depending on how far you go can gain about 800 feet in elevation. It is also bear and mountain lion territory. The sign says not to show fear if you see a mountain lion. Right. Does the pooling wetness in my underwear construe fear?

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Another hike was the Boquillas Canyon Trail. This trail winds along the river.

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Boquillas Canyon

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While the river was beautiful, one Mexican entrepreneur would sing a song from the other side of the river for a tip. He sings like me.  I tipped him not to sing. Worth it.

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We also hiked the Grapevine Hills Trail, which was really pretty. At the top of the trail (well, the top of the trail for me) was a local feature they call Balanced Rock – also pretty cool.

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Balanced Rock

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One of our highlights was a short trip into Mexico. On Wednesday we took a leisurely approach to the day, and went over to Mexico for lunch. Specifically, we took the ferry (a rowboat) across the Rio Grande and then rode a horse one mile into the town of Boquillas for lunch and to tour around town.

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The Horse Whisperer

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This border crossing was closed after 9/11 but since then has re-opened. This was a blast. We had a tour guide who spoke all of about 20 words of English, so our discussion about the history and more salient points about the town were a bit abbreviated. Yes I know I shouldn’t expect people in another country to speak my language. Unless, of course, you are looking for an obscene tip. Ci senor. Gracias.

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Town of Boquillas (Mexico)

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We talked to the owner of the Boquillas Restaurant (he spoke English – very good lunch BTW), who told us he goes to the next town – 160 miles one way by rough road, to re-supply his restaurant. Boquillas is remote. The town is all of 25 families with a small kindergarten, school, and “hospital”, and we are told that the town did not get electricity until 2014. For those medical procedures beyond the capabilities of the hospital (really a clinic) there is an ambulance in town. So, your choice is to get fixed up at the clinic, or ride 160 miles over rough roads to the next small town. I don’t know – I could go either way. Better yet – just shoot me.

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By the time we paid for the boat ride across, horses, food, trinkets and tips, we left the town a better place. I think I could hear the town closing up after we departed – they had made their quota for the day. I overheard one fellow saying they were all going to Disneyworld (kidding). I hope they do (not kidding).

On to our next adventure.

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