Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Big Bend National Park, Part 2

Part 1

We woke up to a cool morning on the ridge our third day out and hawk-eye Steve spotted this Gray Hairstreak resting in an oak tree near our tent.  By the time we left, this little butterfly still remained in place waiting for the day to warm and its body temperature to rise.

Our breakfasts consisted of the standard oatmeal, freeze dried strawberries and nuts.  Steve's had this little Coleman canister stove for ages and it works like a dream.  Flying with fuel canisters is not allowed so we purchased it once we arrived in El Paso.  To avoid any potential hassles with the stove itself, we mailed it to a post office near the airport and picked it up on our way out of town. Easy peasy!

Our camping gear continues to get lighter and hence, better.  The less weight we have to carry the farther we can hike!  A couple years back, we purchased this little L.L. Bean Microlight 2 person tent after Backpacker Magazine gave it an Editors' Choice award in 2012 for weighing less than 4 lbs and costing less than $200.  This tent works great for us and sports the coolest clip-on pole system.  We can set up our tent in less than a minute!

Steve spotted this fabulous yellow primrose on the edge of a wash that acted as the trail.  For two Midwesterners, any and all blooms at this time of year make our hearts sing and this giant yellow bloom inspired quite a bit of gushing.

The trail junctures are well marked and we loved the cut metal signs.

Steve, of course, spotted all these grass lined holes along the trail and once we started looking for them, we realized they were quite common.  Our guess is this is some sort of trap created by a spider looking for a tasty meal.

Agave is always one of our favorite desert sightings...the color is unique, long-nosed bats are the main pollinators, the leaves form these great little cups that hold water for a period of time benefiting local wildlife and it gives us people tequila!

This picture shows the impressions left from when the agave was wrapped up before unfurling. Wow!

Most prickly pear we saw had long and short spines, but a second species popped up now and again sporting only very short spines.

After visiting Homer Wilson Ranch and picking up our water cache, we walked the Blue Creek wash with heavy packs.  Wash walking is difficult (especially when carrying a lot of water!), but this trail hides a gem of a secret...

Red Rocks! The color is stunning against that azure sky.  Love. It.

Our last camp spot, just inside the Zone Camping boundary was ultra charming with trees and canyon wrens singing.  This favorite bird of ours sings such a powerful song so reminiscent of desert canyons.  If you've never heard one or just want to hear another because you can never hear too many, check out their call here.

This is a great picture showing the canyon amongst the mountains.  That ribbon of green sheltered us the night before. The climb up and out was a great start to the morning for us.

At the top, we took a break, ate a snack and enjoyed the spectacular views and the power that comes with backpacking.  Everything you need is carried on your own back and there is nothing that can stop you from going anywhere you want as long as you have enough food and water.That is such an incredibly addictive feeling and one I think neither of us will ever have enough of.  We know, should we have very little, we can survive.

We both find such happiness in being out in nature, with each other and using our bodies to power us where we want to go!

We hiked the Colima Trail back over to Boot Springs and passed a park ranger with horses that will pack out the humanure from the composting toilets in the high use areas.  Cool.

We ate the last of our food before summiting Emory Peak.  The views once again captivated us...

the Mexican jays were captivated by our food!

The climb up to Emory Peak started out quite level with easy hiking.  There's a bear box at the trail head so you can stash your pack and not haul it up with you.  The trail is only 1.5 miles one way, but near the end of the trail it gets very rocky and very steep and soon we found we needed to ditch our trekking poles so we could scramble up and maintain 3 points of contact at all times.

We made it up...

along with 4 or 5 painted lady butterflies!  Amazing insects!  Emory Peak tops out at 7,825' and is the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains.  These butterflies are most likely flying north out of Mexico and are starting their annual recolonization of the United States. We felt lucky to be among them....

and the 365 degree views.

We have a great local outdoor gear shop here in Ohio, Outdoor Source, and we just had to show our support of them!  Thanks guys!

Texas Madrone is an incredible tree.  The coppery bark is stunning and is one we always have to stop and look at.

Heading down to the Chisos Basin via the Pinnacles Tree took us amongst copses of trees...

and past cute assemblages of cacti and succulents.

The big, beautiful, blue sky guided us down....

to the Chisos Basin campground where we enjoyed a great western view...

of the setting sun.  We ate so much food that night and felt so grateful for that trunk filled with grocery store goodies.

Before leaving the park, we day hiked close to the mighty Rio Grande.  Look for a Mexican national on horseback in the picture below.  It's illegal to sell to tourists in this area, but as you hike around you find intricate wire creations set up on rocks with a collection bottle should a person want to buy one for the ridiculously cheap price of $6.  We so hope border relations continue to improve for all the locals that can benefit from the tourist trade, etc.  The river is stunning, isn't it?

I love it.  There is just something about this holds my heart in a way I can't explain.

Beaver created a wetland home to many types of plants and animals.  Next to humans, I don't know that there is an animal that can change land so dramatically as beaver.  We saw many fish, pied-billed grebes, a great-blue heron and many turtles...all without looking too hard.  Imagine the diversity that must be present in such an uncommon habitat - a desert wetland!

Thanks Big Bend....for all the nature, for the solitude, for the inspiring people we met, for the sunshine and the blue sky, for the open space created in our minds and for the protected land.  You never disappoint and you are already calling us back.  We look forward to next time more than we can say.


  1. When I went in spring 2000, you could still cross the border and go to the town just across the way in Mexico. It was definitely not as stringent as it is now.

    1. They've reopened one crossing, but it is a bit problematic at present it seems. Hopefully it will keep just getting better and better!

  2. Your trip, your trips. . .just amazing. One day I will figure out this backpacking thing and have some adventures of my own!

  3. If that spider was here in CA, I'd say it was a turret spider (Antrodiaetus riversi). Maybe it's a related folding-door spider?

    Interesting about your camping stove. When we camped in New Zealand, I figured I could easily get the fuel canisters there. Nope. I had to buy a whole new stove to fit their fuel canisters. So, we now have 2 backpack stoves.

  4. ps - It looks like you had a great time!


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