Monday, December 14, 2015

More of Big Bend National Park

“You’re going out again?!?” Back at the trailhead, guys we’d met on the Outer Mountain Loop are checking into a hotel room. They look at us like we are crazy as we sort trail food for three more days in the Chisos of Big Bend National Park. Their eyes are bright with talk of showers and a hot meal in the restaurant. I remember what it’s like to crave creature comforts, but now I only long for the backcountry.

Six day’s grime has hardened into a protective layer on my skin, and sweat has congealed in my eyebrows to form a dam against the sunscreen which no longer drips into my eyes.  Why would I shower when I’ve achieved backcountry hikerfunk perfection?

Plus… It’s the peak night for the Geminid meteor shower! 

Our permit is for two nights at a campsite that will hopefully offer more shelter from the forecasted winds yet still have a clear open view of the night sky.  Basecamping and doing out and back dayhikes would be a vacation after the “demands” of a loop hike with the bigger water carries.  Our aim would be to explore the entire Rim and view from above the desert terrain we’d traversed.
Bundled up to watch the meteor shower
At our campsite, the crescent moon is already setting early as we pull on down booties, jackets, and quilts around us on the groundcloth we’d spread out under the clear sky.  What time would we see the shooting stars?  Of course we’d forgotten to ask.  We’d give it an hour.  We're cold and tired and ….  And then we start counting ‘em.  Bright bursts flare across the sky, some with very bright visible tails!  1, 2, 3…. 10!  Was that enough?  Certainly a record number for both of us!

Climbing the Pinnacles Trail for the THIRD TIME up to the Rim the next morning is the easiest 2000 feet yet.  Dayhikers I pass ask, “Are you training for something?”  “Nope, I just like to climb.”  As I slow to chat, I forgot my underwear is drying on the top of my pack (after washing it in the sink at the visitor center—in a moment of sheer indulgance).  I hadn’t expected to see anyone, so I attempt to chat and pass them without turning my back.
You can't see the laundry on the back of my pack if I never turn around.
Hours are spent exploring the rim, stopping at every overlook.  
Map and compassing on the south rim. Photo by Pathfinder.
As we contemplate our maps and the enormity of the desert, another hiker points out Elephant Tusk Mountain for us.  We try to identify all the other peaks and trace our route of the previous day.  How could we have traversed all that desert?
It all looks so rugged and desolate from this view.
Taking the Southwest Rim Trail to the Colima Trail and then on back to camp again.
On our last day, we drive down to the Rio Grande Village Visitor Center.  Throughout our trip, we’d been trying to get more info on the geology of the park.  The volunteer at the visitor center finally tells us the best story of the park's geologic history.  He also shares his secret hikes that aren't on maps with us ("i.e. turn right at the big tree... then go up the canyon for 30 minutes..").  What made this gentleman so exceptional was that he stood around the maps with us without even batting an eye for our week's worth of grim.  Unfortuntately we didn’t get his name, but special thanks to that wonderful volunteer!

The finale of the trip--- a visit to the hot springs!  All the best things, right here.
Reading the interepreive brochure about the Hot Springs historic district. Photo by Pathfinder
Life doesn't get any better.  Photo by Pathfinder
As much as there are downsides to my vagabond life (with no permanent home or job), this trip to Big Bend made me really appreciate having time to explore and relax.  The pace of this trip was fitting for the unique beauty of Big Bend.  I'm hopeful that we will be back...


  1. Great trip report and photos! If you are still interested in BBNP geology, the classic source is Ross Maxwell's The Big Bend of the Rio Grande, published by the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. Widely available. Maxwell was the Park's first superintendent and a trained geologist. The work also includes a bunch of lore about the early settlers and their doings. There's also quite a bit of info about the geology on the BBNP chat group site which you mentioned.


    1. Thanks so much for the recommendations, Bill! I'll have to check that out, as well as the Big Bend Chat site. Really appreciate it.