Monday, May 6, 2013

Big Bend National Park–Day 2

April 29th – We made our 2nd trip into Big Bend, getting an earlier start so that we would have a better chance of seeing wildlife.  This time we headed directly to the Chisos Basin Road, where the bears and mountain lions hang out!

Chisos Mountain Caves

Chisos Mountains










We drove all the way to the end of the road, to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, and walked along the Window Overlook trail.  It was a short, easy walk, and the view through the window was fantastic!

Window View of Big Bend

Hiking the window trail


Tom and the boys wanted to take the short hike down to the campground, but didn’t want to hike back up, so I went back for the car and drove down to the campground to meet up with them.

It’s a small, rustic campground, and there is no way we’d fit our rig in there, but the views from the basin are wonderful!





Chisos Basin Campground

Back in the car, we drove down to the Old Mine Trail.  It’s listed as a moderate hike up the mountain, but we figured we’d just go as far as we felt comfortable going, and then turn back around.

Old Mine Hike

The parking lot had bear-proof garbage cans, and these warning signs were posted at the beginning of the trail, but with our history of never seeing bears, we figured we didn’t need to worry too much!

Nicolas on the trail

There were plenty of people hiking this popular trail, and we had people ahead of us, behind us, and we passed several who were already on their way down.  We enjoyed the scenery and took frequent breaks!

Mountain view

Hiking the Old Mine Trail

Bryce was our “tour guide” and read about each of the markers we passed along the way.

Dead tree on the trail

We met up with a young couple with a baby hiking up the trail, and stopped for a break and visited with them for quite a while – they were intrigued by the concept of travelling  and homeschooling on the road.

Mom and Nick

Taking a break

We reached the 1 mile scenic view, and decided we had gone far enough, and it was time to start back down and find a picnic area for lunch.


We turned around and started back down the trail.  Soon, we met up with a woman we had seen earlier on her way down – now she was headed back up.  We must have looked surprised to see her again, and she told us, “There’s a bear on the trail down there, so I turned around and started back up!”

Fragrant flowers

We invited us to walk down with us, and assured us that as a group we’d probably make more than enough noise to scare any bear away!  We started back down, and before long a family from the Netherlands caught up to us and as a group od ten, we continued down the trail, watching carefully for any bears along the trail.

As we neared the spot where she had seen the bear, we slowed down, and made sure to watch both sides of the trail!

Bear Scat

We saw this as evidence of a bear on the trail, but did not see any bears in the area where she remembered seeing it.  With Nicolas and Bryce in the lead, we continued down the trail, pretty confident that we were now “out of the woods”!  A little further along, Bryce thought he heard rustling on the trail, and sure enough, Nick spotted a bear about 50 feet off the trail!

Black Bear on the trail!

We stopped and took a few pictures, and this little guy didn’t pay us much attention.  The woman who had seen the bear earlier was pretty sure that the one she saw was quite a bit bigger, so we concluded that she had probably seen this one’s mother.  With that in mind, we quickly made our way down the rest of the trail!

As we rested in the parking lot, several more people came down the trail, and not one of them had seen the bear!

We said good-bye to our hiking partners, and made our way back to the Panther Junction Visitor Center, where we ate our picnic lunch.  From there, we drove east on the park road, exploring the half of the park that we hadn’t seen yet.


This half of the park was definitely more desert-like as we made our way towards the Rio Grande Village in the distance.


As we drove from the mountains to the desert, the temperature climbed into the 90s, and we were glad we had done our hiking already!




We passed through this tunnel,

On the road to Rio Grande Village

and drove past the Boquillas Border Crossing, which just recently re-opened. 

Boquillas Border Crossing

We were not interested in crossing into this part of Mexico,

Boquillas, Mexico

so it didn’t bother us that the border crossing is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays!

We continued our drive and drove through the Rio Grande Village RV Park.  They have both full hookup sites,

Full Hookup Sites

and non-hookup sites.

Rio Grand Village Campground

The non-hookup sites were definitely nicer in that they were larger, grassier and shadier than the FHU sites which were basically just parking spots in a gravel parking lot.

We reached the eastern border of the park, Boquillas Canyon, and walked out to the canyon overlook, but did not hike down to the river.

Boquillas Canyon

Rio Grande

On the Mexico side of the riverWe could see the river in the distance, and even some people on horseback along the river.

We also spotted some Mexican crafts for sale along the trail, which the National Park Service is quite clear in telling visitors that they should not buy.

Items for sale - we didn't buy any!

The people who bring these over are crossing the border illegally, and anyone who buys them can get in trouble also.




We left them alone, and went back to the car.  On the way back to the park headquarters, we made one more stop.  We had read about the hot springs, and the ranger in the Visitor Center said that we could get to it in our car, even though it’s down a dirt road.

The road to the hot springs

The road started out ok, but the last quarter mile or so was pretty sketchy!

Narrow & winding - they aren't kidding!

We made it to the end of the road with no mishaps, and went in search of the hot springs.

Used to be a store

Quite some time ago, this was a “resort” destination, and several of the buildings are still there.  We picked up another (virtual) geocache at this location!

Canyon Wall

The hot springs trail took us between the canyon wall and the river, with quite a bit of shrubbery hiding the river from view as we walked.

It was difficult to know for sure if we were going in the right direction!

Searching for the Hot Springs

Limestone Canyon

Eventually we found the spring, though,

Hot spring at the edge of the river

but it was smaller and a little dirtier than we expected.  The hot water from the spring flowed up in this corner, and then overflowed into the Rio Grande. 

Soaking our feet in the hot springSeveral people got all the way into the water, but we just soaked our feet.  With an air temperature in the upper 90s and intense sun, we really didn’t need to soak in 105 degree water!

Several people told us (afterwards) that this was a dangerous area of the park, but we never felt threatened . . . even seeing a tent pitched on the riverbank on the Mexico side!

This area was definitely not as busy as the west side of the park, but there were other visitors there with us.

We enjoyed our couple of days in Big Bend, and we’re glad we made the  detour down there to see it.  It’s definitely a big and amazing place, and the little town of Marathon was cute and full of friendly people!



  1. Thanks for such a wonderful tour!! So cool that you saw a bear:o)

  2. How great you got to see a bear.

    It's interesting how the border gate is raised in the middle. The illegals won't even have to stoop down to enter the country.

    Thanks for the tour. It looks like an interesting place to visit.

    1. Tom wanted to walk around the gate to get a better look at the actual border crossing . . . I said "No way! We don't need to end up in jail!"


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