?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Big Bend

"Let me explain....no, let me sum up."

We departed on New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve because my friend A is good at checking weather forecasts and determined that it would not be a good idea to drive through snowy and icy precipitation.

She was utterly correct on that front. On New Year's Day, we saw an astonishing number of overturned or otherwise crashed semi's. For instance:

One of around 10 crashed semi's along I-10

Plus a pickup truck that managed to get one wheel up and over the top of a guard rail. A small number of trucks were out trying to sand the bridges. The leftover weather slowed us down a touch, but we made it to the camper resort at Lajitas at the reasonable hour of 9:30. Minutes after we finished putting up the tent, it hailed pea-sized hail for a bit. Although my tent is not especially fancy, it handled the weather perfectly fine. Three cheers for the cheap Australian backpacking tent!

The next morning was clear but cold, and the view at the campground was swell.
Chilling at the Lajitas Resort

Given the forecast for on-and-off rain through the day, we decided to drive through Big Bend State Park to check out a couple of short hikes where dogs were allowed. The state park did not disappoint - the drive was scenic and the short hikes were interesting and entertaining. First, Closed Canyon, where we had some adventures getting Luda back up some of the rocky drops (he's nine, but still has some spunk left!). Also, we didn't hike all the way down to the river because a returning hiker informed us that it really wasn't worth getting wet and splashing across puddles.
Closed Canyon Hike

Then a hike among a small collection of hoodoos near a bend in the river:
Hoodoos

Lunch was chilly, and so altogether we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon inside of the clubhouse at the campground. Strangely, the power in the clubhouse was out when we returned. All of the people in their RV campers kept trying to offer us all sorts of food and creature comforts, I guess because maybe they didn't understand that we came prepared for car- and tent-camping based on the weather forecast. Or maybe because they were bored snowbirds who go camping to socialize. I encountered this sort of socializing-"camping" in an Australian camper park, too. We were perfectly happy with our own meals cooked on the two-burner Coleman stove.

It was so relaxing to spend the afternoon curled up with a book. Eventually, we got the full scoop on why the power was out:
Conditions got dire

For us, the larger problem wasn't electricity so much as gasoline. The small grocery in Lajitas still had some gasoline for sale at a "premium" price (~$3.60), which we used to fill up the tank, but towns to the north (Alpine and Marathon) were rumored to be completely out. That meant strategizing our remaining time based around driving distances and fuel efficiency. We did manage to get out to some mountain biking trails that A was jonesing to visit because they were along our route:
Ready to roll
(A did the first lap, S and A did a second lap, then I did a lap with S).

And then all that we could manage in the national park was an incredibly scenic drive:
Big Bend National Park
That was just as well. Now that I finally have my paws on a copy of the national park map, I see that the park would be best appreciated by way of a multi-day backpacking adventure. Two guys at the bike trail said the best hike through the park follows the "outer ring" around the Chisos Mountains and takes about five days as it goes from desert landscape up into high-elevation sky-island forest. Apparently there's a resupply spot about halfway through the backpacking trip, so it isn't an especially arduous expedition in terms of pack weight. So, perhaps I'll go back some day.

Most of the weather troubles seemed to be persisting along I-10, so we decided to try a different return route, along Highway 90, instead. I kept thinking about my friend DM's bike touring trip from Phoenix to DC as we traversed this stretch, as this was her route across western Texas. It is WAY nicer than the drive along I-10 in that two-lane scenic highway sort of fashion, and I can see that the small towns along Highway 90 offer decent amenities for a bike tourist. We didn't find gas until Langtry - Sanderson was shut down without electricity and there were long lines of cars waiting at the pumps. We overnighted at Governor's Landing in Amistad National Recreation Area, which was reasonably good, despite the sounds of highway traffic, and it was nice to awaken to a lovely view of the reservoir:
Amistad

From there, we returned back to the landscape of eastern Texas. Oaks, small hills, provincial mindsets.

Our expedition was ridiculously short. But the foolishness was worth it, for me. The last real hiking / camping / expeditioning trip I did was the Olympic Peninsula bike touring trip two summers ago. Randonneuring through eastern Texas doesn't really count.

Comments

( 4 remarks — Remark )
twoeleven
Jan. 5th, 2015 11:10 pm (UTC)
"Let me explain....no, let me sum up."
I mean, if we only had a wheelbarrow, that would be something.

On New Year's Day, we saw an astonishing number of overturned or otherwise crashed semi's.
Our usual measure for bad weather is SUVs in the ditch per mile. Anything above one indicates conditions that might, hypothetically, warrant something with four-wheel-drive, at least if the driver knew what to do with it.

That was just as well. Now that I finally have my paws on a copy of the national park map, I see that the park would be best appreciated by way of a multi-day backpacking adventure. Two guys at the bike trail said the best hike through the park follows the "outer ring" around the Chisos Mountains and takes about five days as it goes from desert landscape up into high-elevation sky-island forest. Apparently there's a resupply spot about halfway through the backpacking trip, so it isn't an especially arduous expedition in terms of pack weight. So, perhaps I'll go back some day.
That does sound like a good hike!

Edited at 2015-01-05 11:11 pm (UTC)
rebeccmeister
Jan. 5th, 2015 11:39 pm (UTC)
Yay for catching the reference! :-)

Semi drivers tend to be fairly well-behaved, seeing as they have livelihood interests at stake. I could see the SUV standard being helpful for places that experience a bit more inclement weather. Texans generally don't know how to slow down when it's rainy or icy, and the vehicle metric of interest is typically a pickup truck instead of an SUV, heh.

And yes - if you plan on Big Bend, put hiking on the agenda! There are several good-looking campgrounds as well, with the usual range of amenities one could expect from a national park.
randomdreams
Jan. 6th, 2015 03:37 am (UTC)
Oh, man, that looks really amazing. I'm glad the trucks-off-the-road weather didn't stop you cycling.
rebeccmeister
Jan. 6th, 2015 02:32 pm (UTC)
Yeah, if you didn't already live in a part of the country with plenty of its own fun offerings, I'd suggest it. My friend A is a big-time mountain biker and says the desert festival that happens at Lajitas every year is a great time for mountain biking around the area.

Fortunately, most of the trucks-off-the-road happened the day before we drove through that section. At one spot, we watched people unload the contents of one semi trailer into another semi trailer. Still a bit scary to observe the aftermath. Suddenly all the "Ice forms on bridges first" signs became relevant.
( 4 remarks — Remark )

Latest Month

July 2018
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Naoto Kishi