January 24 – January 28.
Journey to Tucson, Second Leg.
On our drive from New Orleans to Tucson we chatted with our friend Deanna to see if she was ready to “receive” us. We were welcome, of course, but she was juggling some priorities, and it would be better if we waited a few days more. Sounded like a good time to visit Big Bend National Park.
We drove on to Fort Stockton, TX, and spent the night in a Walmart parking lot, then drove southwest. The landscape started changing around Marathon. The grassland and juniper gave way to creosote bushes and prickly pear cacti. We were in the Chihuahuan Desert.
On the way we discussed whether to pay the entrance fee or get a more expensive annual park pass. The U.S. government had just shut down for almost two days. Another budget showdown was on the horizon. Who knows if the parks will be open all winter? Optimists, we decided to go for the annual pass.
We drove into the north entrance and on to center of the park to make camping arrangements. At the Panther Junction visitor center you can opt to use a campground, or spend $12 to spend up to two weeks in primitive campsites. We did the latter, and reserved sites at two locations. (The park is big. We should have reserved more sites.)
The Southern border of Big Bend is a big bend in the Rio Grande River. As big as the park is, there is almost three times as much protected land on the Mexican side. The river is an integral part of a unique protected ecosystem. A U.S. border crossing has been built at Rio Grande Village, across from the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen, to allow researchers from both sides of the border to cross more easily.
The first night we stayed at a site in Paint Gap, near the center of the park. We stayed the next three nights at the Candelilla site near the east edge of the park. The primitive sites are widely spaced, giving you the feeling you have the park to yourself.
This is a place of contrasts. In the east the terrain slopes gently down to the river, where the grassy banks show the high water line. In the center is the volcanic Chisos Mountain range. And in the west the river has cut through rock, leaving tall vertical walls on either side. I appreciated the contrasts, but mostly enjoyed being back in the desert again.
* All pics are click to enlarge.