Anytime you start a long trip a million questions go through your mind. Do I have everything, am I prepared, what if something goes wrong, do I even really want to do this. I think doubt like that is common and just part of the excitement of trying to start something new. As it was with this trip as I left Comanche and started the long drive towards Big Bend National Park.
Overall the drive was pretty uneventful. I do feel as though I have too much stuff but I will see how it plays out over the next few weeks of what I use and what I don’t. I mailed letters in Brady, my final housekeeping. Got gas in Iraan and marathon. The drive into the park was raining but pretty epic. The woman at the gate made no mention that all the campgrounds were full for the next 2 weeks. Turns out America’s least visited national park was booked full for the next 2 weeks. Probably something they should mention before you drive another 40 miles into the park.
Made it to the headquarters to buy my yearly interagency national park pass and pick up a map. The guy working the counter had an epic ginger beard but seemed like he had a long day of people asking him where they were gonna sleep since everything was full. He directed me to the back country office which had a take a number system, I usually take that as bad sign. Pre filled out some of the forms on the computer and waited about 40 minutes before it was my turn.
Getting into the backcountry has turned into quite the bureaucratic mess. I understand the reasoning, there are a lot of people, not much space, a fragile ecosystem and people have a tendency to get lost or hurt and like to sue. But damn does it spoil the experience. A different ranger walked in as soon as it was my number. He was not amused by my asking about doing the outer mountain loop in a single day, or 2 days at most. There was water to cash, and he said it was just to much work. He booked me a close in campsite for the night, still 2 miles in and took pictures of my shoes and backpack, in case they needed to rescue me. He gave me directions to where to park and to buy a better map.
When I got to the parking area, a couple sitting next to me was frantically getting their backpacking gear ready. It was now a good 30 minutes after sunset. I got to getting my window shades up, which I’m quite proud of by the way. And then got started packing my gear, I asked them about a water spigot, they knew of none so I wandered down to the campground and found one. As I got back to my truck they were trudging up the mountain, into the darkness and in the rain. They stopped and watched me at the truck, I tried not to make it obvious what I was doing but they already knew. I threw my pack in the passenger seat. Closed and locked the doors and slid back into my warm dry bed, and listened to the rain hitting the windows.
Who scolds you about being safe in the backcountry but doesn’t think twice about sending you into an unfamiliar area in the dark and the rain?
I woke up in the morning morning in the dark, 5 AM seemed like a good time not just to give me time to get my stuff ready, but I was just tired of laying in the back of the cruiser. So 5AM I pop up, change, pee, brush my teeth, and go about packing my bag. By 6 when I was expecting at least a little glow in the sky I saw nothing but darkness. Hell I think its darker now than when I got up. Rain was still spitting from the sky. Even my GPS was putting sunset pretty close to now. After 15 minutes of being puzzled I realized it was daylight savings time, I sat in the front seat of the car until 8am 3 hours in the dark. At least I got to practice my breathing exercises.
For some reason I was freezing walking up the half mile to the general store to buy the map the ranger insisted I needed. There was a sweet older British woman behind the counter, but the store was just depressing, turns out all of them are in Big Bend, they don’t even make an effort to be cheesy, they are just sad junk on sad shelves. With map in hand and wind blowing and rain spitting I took off towards the trailhead.
Somewhere along the way I decided not to do the outer mountain loop like I had planned, there I go breaking the backcountry rules again. I’m sure some of that had to do with not wanting to walk 30 miles today. So I picked the south rim loop about 15 miles from my truck. Other than the wind it was awesome, full meadows of Mexican feather grass. Expansive views, rolling clouds, and Boot canyon on the way back down, it really showcases all the Chisos has to offer.
On the way down I met an interesting character on his way to Austin. A self proclaimed dancer, he told me of his trip to music festivals on the east coast and he was going to practice in Austin. For some reason he was wearing goggles and told me a story of an act he used to do that involved him doing interpretive freestyle dance on a formica tile with metal football cleats on. At some point in the last decade he did this in front of the state capital at 3am, for the janitors to see.
I drove south afterwards for some reason I thought about skipping Santa Elana Canyon. There was not much to the hike bit the canyon was spectacular despite all the screaming kids echoing on its walls. On the way there I had a splitting caffeine headache and stopped in the store for a drink, I also asked about sugar so she sold me 8 packets from the coffee center for a dollar.
I stopped back at the overlook mostly to use my phone and to chat with jessie was was at work on a Sunday for some reason. It turned into me cooking macaroni and chili for dinner and reading maps for a while. After about 2 hours 2 guys showed up with cameras and tripods. It was shaping up to be an epic sunset.
With the sun set, I drove to the bottom of the hill threw my window screens on and hopped in the back. Tomorrow I hope to head west into the state park and up to Marfa.
The rain started again early in the morning around 3. I don’t think a single car passed me that night not long after it got dark. When I woke up I could see the headlamps down below of the backpackers I saw getting ready when I pulled up, thank goodness for the warm dry Cruiser again.
The drive out in the morning was just as moody as the drive in, fog so dense in some places I couldn’t drive over 20mph. I drove straight of the park at first light, stopped for a few pics as the fog was dense and starting to surround me. The final few miles to the entrance gate was zero visibility. I pulled up to the gate and handed in my back country permit as instructed and headed into Study Butte. Its a pretty rough little town, obviously existing on traffic to and from Big Bend, I filled up for 2.82 a gallon and headed out towards Big Bend Ranch State Park along the famous river road.
This road, at least the first half rivals any road I have ever been on, especially in Texas. The ups and downs and close walls, opening into vistas of the canyons and the river, Bluebonnets blooming on the shoulder, it was pretty amazing. I stopped at the info station for the ranch, the trails and road looked more rugged than what I was up for today. Cool area just not my landscape.
I continued driving into Presidio which is right across the border from Mexico, decent little town though, stopped in the grocery for some fruit and coffee and continued on towards Marfa. Marfa was busy and everything seemed closed, as it always seems to be when I am there, there were lots of beautiful hipster looking young people wondering about when I pulled into a parking space to finish talking to my parents about their plans. The parking spot just happened to be right in front of a barber shop. I needed a haircut and at 12 bucks it was half the cost of what I could find in Austin. The guy was nice bit old and slow. He only used the clippers and kind of just waved them around my head barely hitting any hair. We talked about how much marfa had changed, he seemed to be excited about it, especially the new dance halls, although he thought the dance floors were too small. I said my thanks paid up and quickly put my hat back on. Marfa was stressing me out, so I continued north to Fort Davis for lunch. Stopped by the old inn and general store soda fountain and got a burger and fries, which were decent. I think Chet stopped here when he did an episode about Fort Davis. It was my waitresses first day and she couldn’t of been older than 16 but she did a good job, I like Fort Davis.
I continued north into the Davis Mountains along the scenic drive which really is pretty scenic, in hopes of hitting Guadalupe in the afternoon.
I got hailed on outside of of Van Horn but overall the drive was pleasant. The weather was worse when I got close to the mountains. I got a site # 14 paid 10 bucks. I set up my tent to save the site but I’m planning on sleeping in the truck again. Storm blew thru, heavy winds and lightning but it passed fast. I drank the mimosas Jessie had given me before I left and attempted to send txts by holding my phone against the roof.
Not a bad day, not much exercise. But I’ll save that for tomorrow.