Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Hot Spring and Chisos Basin

I stayed very busy in Big Bend.  My first night was a good camp after the brothers next to me finished the reminiscing and retired I went soundly asleep.  It is amazing how  people work together in a campground by following the rules, and when quiet time arrives you can hear a pin drop...I like that.  It shows you no matter our differences when we work together and all under the SAME rules we do better, no double standards! 

I had even considered making a pot of coffee to take over to the brothers when they got up....HUH...I crawled out they were packed and just putting the finishing touch on checking their trailer cover and they pulled out before my pot even boiled...SHOWs how you can under estimate people too...last up does not mean last to rise!! 

I saw on the park map that beyond the turn off for Rio Grande camp was Boquillas Canyon, and I had seen a turn off for a Hot Spring, and A few other after a light breakfast of English muffin, oatmeal, and banana with a huge cup of coffee, I pulled out.

Back up toward the main road is a nice picnic area, so stopped to check it out no one was around..and there was a boat ramp sign so I checked that out..

   The boat ramp was not in good repair as the river level was too low for the ramp to be of any use...but there was a good view of the river here...

Back in the parking area, a Javelina was wandering across the picnic area...

Now heading to Boquillas Canyon...the morning was cool and sunny.

        the Overlook....on the opposite bank the town of Boquillas, MX.

Very quite no one on this side....across the river I see this horse...what you don't see is a little red canoe, a horse trailer, and a couple of Mexican men hanging around...I have to wonder what they are doing..

I found out from another visitor, if you walk down to the bank of the river, they will canoe over, get you, and for a price take you for a horseback ride! Savy business men!  And up on the hill here on my side is this (you look closely you see the boat landing and canoe across the river) little bit of trinket marketing!  You have hiking staffs hand carved, you have trinkets like the roadrunner made of copper wire and beads, and an old coffee creamer container to leave your money.  Which item do you think I purchased?

Safely tucked it under my seat as I was also told the Border Patrol will confiscate it if they see it...

Just down from this overlook is a Port of Entry.  Wednesday - Sunday you can get over to Mexico..but you have to have your passport WITH you to get back...and you know who forgot to toss theirs in the van?? Yeah along with many other things....oh well so it was.  But the deal is they ferry you over, and I found out you can either walk to town where they do accept American money but make sure you have some exact change as they may not be able to make change for you...or they will give you a burro ride into town!! You can have lunch, shop, or just take a look around.  

If you decide to stay overnight you can apply for a Visa on their side of the Border..So that's the scoop as I know it on that.  I turned my van back towards Panther Junction and took the road to the Hot Spring.  The road is very tricky the van barely fit...and I saw a motorhome parked at the turn around.  

it is a one way road the return is what you see over to the left....I ran into a woman walking in just as I pulled up and got out she noticed I was from the East she was fromVirginia.  Here is a bit of the History of the Hot Spring. Some of the old buildings are still there..

It's a short hike to the Springs on the Hot Spring Trail...the lady from VA and I hiked together, she explained it was her motorhome I had passed  at the turn around her husband and dogs waited for her she was determined to see the hot springs, so she had walked in.  

The hike was quite nice...with these awesome rocky layers to check out...

Some cliff swallows have been living here....

Since I didn't know what to exactly expect I had my bathing suit in my backpack...I changed in the thick river reed patch.  

The old foundation of the bathhouse is still there...formed around the natural spring that bubbles up out of the ground right by the Rio Grande!!

It was quite warm someone said 105 degrees...Nice to splash in and my companion didn't have a suit but she still sat down and sunk her legs in the warm water.  I walked down and splashed some of the cooler Rio Grand water on me too...

this is where the water bubbles up ...

it is not very big so we hung out till others showed up and then we headed back but I think we got at least 20 minutes to explore and splash in the hot spring.  It was really nice!   

I gave the nice lady a ride back to her motorhome, and I met her husband and the cute dogs...they gave me a couple tips on 2 spots to check out in PA when I mentioned I like to waterfalls...maybe some of you have heard of  Pickett's Glen and Jim Thorpe. I will add these places to my bucket list. 

My next stop was to drive up to Chisos Basin and see what the campground is like.  The 6 mile drive to the Basin area is spectacular.  Most vacationers come up here to stay at the lodge and hike the awesome mountain hiking trails.  This is where  you would go to hike to see the have to combine 4 of the trails and end up on  Boot Canyon Trail   

The Chisos Mountains look quite rugged and the elevation goes to beyond 7,000 ft.  

The campground to me was a big disappointment...very crowded, very poorly designed and full.  Oh well...I had hoped to camp up there but I had been told it was full and I actually planned to stay at Cottonwood campground on the South End of the Park.  But then I changed my mind...I decided to go back to Rio Grande for another night...So I went back the way I had come

I hiked a couple of the easy nature trails and admired the desert plants... back to Rio Grande a bit earlier to get a good spot for the night and watch the birds! Rio Grande had some good birds!  

golden fronted woodpecker

and another new one for me, the ladder backed woodpecker.  

I got settled into a site in the main Cottonwood Grove,since it was hot and there was more of a breeze in the more open area.  I was able to set up in the shade and watch roadrunners and javelina's move around the campground...

I decided I would hike the Nature trail that begins in the campground when the sun got a little lower in the sky....right now it was time for Siesta!!

sunset hike next
Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Big Bend NP

After my brush with the law I was free to speed across the desert at 75 mph...I never reached that speed on this highway...and soon it was time to head South on 385.  If you look at the map you see that roads are sparse in this area! From Langtry to Marathon there is not one single state highway heading south.  Hwy 385 takes you into Big Bend National Park, at Persimmon Gap over 1,200 sq miles of desert, mountains, canyons, river, and more!  

If you want to see and do everything in the park plan to stay a month!! If you have 3 days planned as I did, prioritize. The nice man at the gate told me Chisos Basin Campground was full, he said Rio Grande is basically empty and has shade, and Cottonwood has shade.  Rio Grande Visitors Center was closed end of April, the store is open, and Panther Junction Visitors Center 26 miles down the road is open. The reason for the closures? Heat! They don't keep everything open in summer, in fact Rio Grande is NOW closed for repairs till Sept 1st.

So from the entrance to my campground was 48 more miles of driving.
The scenery is amazing.  The custom of taking a siesta is a good idea be active in the mornings, and then rest through the heat of the day say 3 to 6 then you can get active again once the sun begins to finally set.   The desert dry air cools rapidly. You will sunburn then you will freeze at night. 

 Rio Grande Campground is 22 miles from Panther Junction Visitors Center.  

You can watch a nice 20 minute movie in an air conditioned theater room narrated by Peter Coyote, and learn all about the history and evolution of the park as well as a lot of info on what to do and what to see.  And there is a post office here! I mailed off the cards I purchased in the Visitors Center.  

It had been a rather long and trying day with the cop stop and the gas threat so I was ready to just go to camp, and conceal but consume a nice cold Corona.  I'm kinda getting ahead of myself because before I stopped at Panther Junction, on the way I passed the newest thing in the park, this open air  Bone and Fossil Exhibit.  Very nicely done.  The entire thing is solar facilities but it is super nice.  

It is completely self guided and the nice breeze in there was amazing.  The exhibits were awesome...

Are  you the read it all or the scanner like me? I scan and glean what I find most interesting and focus on that... I def look at all the pictures, displays, and artifacts.   I briskly move through...I had this entire place to car made a u-turn and left...their loss as it was so fascinating!!  

a nice chunk of petrified wood outside..

When I entered the exhibit some birds who had escaped the heat up in the rafters  flew over to this ledge...
yellow headed black birds.  I found this odd since I always put them on fertile plains, but considering the seed pods of Yucca, I could see why they are in this area too, and of course the fertile ribbon of green that follows the Rio Grande while it separates Us and Them.  I caught 3 of the black birds in this photo...they scattered up that hillside.

More amazing scenery as I resumed, now 40 mile trip to the campground.  

I took a short walk to see this, a Desert Grave.  I am a firm believer in using the original..who's big idea  was it to place a modern headstone in front of the original at the grave of Nina Hannold(?) who died due to complications of pregnancy in 1911.  She was a homesteader here in the early 1900's with her husband and she asked to be buried here..

The small stone was for the unborn child...I did not photograph the new stone I felt it really was a sin to be placed DIRECTLY in front of the original one...and I know Nina would have objected!  (It should be removed)

She had another visitor...

The original epitaph


I found so many beautiful pull off spots along the drive to the campground, I figured I was in no rush as not one single car has passed me so I figured I would have plenty of open spaces to pick from.   

Early or late afternoon light is just right to bring out some of the awesome color in these desert landscapes...harsh mid day light was hard to deal with for sure.

Once I passed through this tunnel I was about to the campground..I passed some signs pointing the way to sites I would explore tomorrow like the Dug Out Wells, and The Hot Spring, 

As I said the Rio Grande Visitors Center was closed the store was open they have some high priced groceries, and ice...and gas at $2.90 per gallon.  I got myself into site #7.  Each site has bear proof food storage locker, a table, and that's it.  There are flush toilets, and water in the campground, but fires are not allowed nor charcoal cooking....Plenty of Big trees but shade was still hard to find as it moved as the day grew longer....

I started out in the shade then it moved....

The cool thing was immediately I see Vermilion Flycatchers all over the place!

males, females, and immatures hunting all around the campground in the big cottonwood trees. 

They are amazing acrobats...tho the young seemed intent on asking dad for hand outs instead of giving it a try on their own. Lifer #39 on this trip! I sat down with my binoculars and camera and watched these guys for a while as well as Summer Tanager. 

And some yellow rumps of various "taxa" I wish they would split these up..just not fair NO tick for all the different ones...
The Audubon's Yellow Rump (+1 other taxa)?

Then I walked over to fill out my envelope and put my $7 in the till for one nights senior camp fee.  At the iron ranger I met 2 young brothers so excited to be moving from San Diego to Maine, they said they wanted a fresh start they were tired of the crowds and the high cost of living....and they had a nice truck camper pulling a trailer filled with their prized worldly possessions.  One is married and his wife was from NH originally so they bought a 7 acre spread in Maine, for less than they are paying for an apartment in San Diego!! So My hats is off to them for taking the plunge and switching coasts! They drank beer way into the night laughing and I'm sure recalling boyhood stories...made me miss my sisters!! 

It was about then I saw the SWEET Bulldog with her family the couple originally from Michigan! I couldn't believe nor could they...we were about 5 sites away from each other...such a small world. 

I settled down at my picnic table and ate a sandwich as the sun tipped to dusk....that was when 3 men made a direct bee line towards me, they walked with great intent and at first I thought ut-oh who did I piss off?? So I just sat and waited till they approached me, one spoke... "saw you birding the campground earlier so this may be of interest to you also." 
WHEW I let out a sigh or relief.."yeah....?"
Right here behind your van in this tree see this hole...I could barely cause it was almost dark...
"Yeah" I saw where he pointed...
"We've checked every tree in the campground looking for the Elf Owl's nesting hole, we have determined this is it....if you have no objections and maybe you would like to join us, we want to see if we can get an appearance." 

"Sure, I mean it's fine with me, I stood in mosquito infested woods for almost 2 hrs not long ago and saw nada, so yeah, sure." 

Now I don't agree with their methods and did not realize they were going to use a phone with call recorded to entice the owl out...they played it for about 3 repeats...I had my camera aimed at the tree had put the setting on "dark starry night" setting, I couldn't even see the tree in the viewfinder...and then someone said there it I snapped..and this is what I got.

Elf Owl  #40

Just barely got the dang hole in the frame...I tell you it was dark...they had flashlights with them but I was happy none of them tried to shine it on the tree...just used them to get
 back to their campsites!  One of them told me he had hiked the day before to see the Colima Warbler, "was it there?"
"Yes it was there, but If I had it to do over again I would make it an overnight trip it was a 10 mile hike with 2,500 ft elevation gain, and a tough hike too." 

Okay, well I had heard it was a tough hike, 10 miles in the mountains in the 90+ heat so no.  I did not put the Colima on my wish list because I knew ahead of time I was not going to make the trek....

Here is the low down,
  • I'm 64 yrs old!!  (in a couple months) 
  • I had no backpacking gear with me
  • I had not been doing any recent hiking
  • I have plantar's fascities in my right foot
  • I don't want to do a long hike alone
But I'm not dead yet, just need to plan better....

SO just what did I do in Big Bend?? 

Eleanor Roosevelt: You must do the thing you think you can not.