16 November 2007

Big Bend

Home from a week in the backcountry of Big Bend National Park. For those of you who have never been there, it's something that I think everyone should do at least once. I've been there several times now, and each time is something special.

Sunrise and Sunset are always a great time to view the Park.

Here's a couple of pictures taken from our first campsite at McKinney Springs of sunrise on our first morning at the Park.

In addition to hitting some of the backcountry roads, we did three hikes as well. First hike was a 10 mile round trip out to the Chimneys, which have been used by American Indians as a sacred site in the past. After a few miles of hills and small canyons, you'll hit a long, gradual climb up to the Chimneys, which you can see from a couple miles away.

On the hike to and from the Chimneys, it's easy to see how desolate and empty the desert is; part of the charm of Big Bend, if you ask me. This view is looking southwest to another prominent feature of the Big Bend, the Mule's Ears. You can see the Mule's Ears slightly off center in this next image.

As I mentioned earlier, the sunsets and sunrises alone are worth the price of admission and the sunset on our third night was just fantastic from our campsite at Grapevine Hills.

In addition to the desert hikes, we hit the popular Window trail. It's downhill on the way out and all uphill on the way back. This hike has been kicking my ass since about 1980 or so, and it sure beat me up again this year. But the view is quite worth it! This year was a treat - for the first time that I can ever remember, there was actually water in the Window's canyon.

We also took in the Dugout Wells, where all that remains of a thriving community is a lonely windmill. And a great view across the park of Boquillas canyon.

Camp that night was in a far backcountry campsite at Paint Gap. The campsite itself was in a small valley which overlooked the north part of the park. While the view as not as grand as some of the other campsites, it was still quite stunning.

Our last hike was into Dog Canyon, which was so named by early Spanish explorers. Compared to our two earlier hikes, this one was quite easy - a flat 2.4 mile walk from the car to the canyon and back. But the views of the canyon were, like the rest of the park, fantastic.

This year's trip could have been pretty rough - we suffered through one flat tire on the Old Ore road on our first foray into the backcountry. The next day as we continued our journey on the Old Ore road, we got another flat tire, forcing us to put the first flat tire - which was holding onto about 20 lbs of pressure thanks to a can of fix-a-flat - and nurse the 4x4 out of the backcountry for another 10 miles or so. We had to re-arrange parts of our trip to stay on safer, and easier backcountry roads, but all things said and done, it was a fantastic trip, and I can't wait to go back again.

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