Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive at Big Bend

I got up this morning with no idea what Jerry had planned as I had told him that today was his planning day. He decided to do the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive with perhaps a hike along the way. We finally stopped at the Big Bend Monument to get a few pictures and then headed on. As we drove along I saw my first roadrunner. Boy is he fast and smaller than I expected.

Our plan was to talk with the ranger at the entrance to get some information but the station was closed. Jerry realized that we were low on gas so he suggested going on to Panther’s Junction to get gas at the nearby store plus we could mail the postcards. As we neared Panther’s Junction Jerry asked where the entry point to Boquillas was and I told him Rio Grande Village so he suggested that we go on and do the Mexican entry today. OK – change of plans.

When we got to the gas station a tanker was filling up the tanks so we couldn’t get gas for about 15 minutes so we went to the Visitor’s Center and talked with a ranger – fortunately. The entry to Boquillas is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays so another change of plans. He suggested several hikes along the Ross Maxwell Drive. After leaving there we went back to the gas station where we paid $2.80 a gallon. We only got $20 worth but that will get us where we’re going and to cheaper gas!

As we drove along Jerry had seen a particular rock formation that he wanted to photograph so we came up on it we pulled off of the road and climbed up to get a good view and he took a couple of pictures. A little further up the highway we realized we could get a closer picture so we stopped again for a photo op.

The Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive is lovely with views of the Chicos Mountains all around. Everywhere you look, right, left and straight ahead are mountains. The mountains just seem to flow on one side with jagged points on the other side. Obviously they defy description.

The first place we stopped was the old ranch site of Sam Nail. We wandered around the ruins of the home. There were two windmills and one was still working, pumping away.

img_4443Our next stop was an overlook at Sotol Vista where we gazed toward Mexico, the Rio Grande and Santa Elena Canyon. From this vantage point Santa Elena appears rather small but at the mouth of the gorge the limestone walls tower 1500 feet above the river.

Also at this overlook was an explanation of how fire plays a role in the part of the ecosystem being neither bad nor good, just a part of nature just like rain, wind and flood. I remember hearing this when we were in the North Carolina mountains as the fire clears out the underbrush.

img_4466We decided to hike the Lower Burro Mesa Pour-Off instead of the Upper so we drove on there. When we arrived in the parking lot there was no one around, just us and the beautiful surroundings. There was a brick bench there so we decided to have our picnic lunch there before undertaking the short mile hike. After devouring our chicken salad sandwiches we took off. By this time a gentleman with obvious photography skills had joined us. The trail was easy and well-marked and we got there in it a short while. Looking up at the Upper Burro Pour-Off is beyond description. Our limited photography skills cannot describe the height or depth of such but we tried as we took picture after picture.

He made it!
He made it!
On the way back Jerry decided to climb a very high slanted hill to reach a structure – why? I guess to say he did it but he found that descending was much more difficult than ascending. By the time he reached the bottom he was exhausted and wondering why he had elected to do it. In fact, he said to please stop him if he ever decided to do something like that again. I have several pictures of his backside!

We continued on down Ross Maxwell Drive marveling at the constant beauty unfolding before us. The colors are ever changing – pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, greens, salmons, browns, grays, and even blacks are just a few.

We stopped at Tuff Canyon, a very deep dry wash. We elected not to do the short hike though as we had others that we wanted to do.

Our next stop was the Castolon Visitor’s Center, a small center not opened during the summer. There were a number of people there though, some of them camping at the nearby campgrounds.

img_4449With anticipation we headed toward Santa Elena Canyon. Wow – majestic, towering – there are no words. When we arrived at the parking lot we were up for the task of hiking as far as we could go. We stopped to look at the Terlingua River and it was dry however as we neared the section where we would have to cross over the water was flowing and where there was no water, it was quite muddy. We saw some people who were barefooted and said they’d rather clean their muddy feet than their muddy shoes. After wandering through several paths we decided that we didn’t want to clean either so we would not be tackling the canyon wall. It was very disappointing but we did get to see the canyon in all its grandeur.

Our next stop was the Dorian-Sublett Trail but Jerry said he was just too tired to try it plus his foot was bothering him so I got out and wandered around. I got pictures of the remnants of the stone farmhouse owned by James and Melissa Bele Sublett, settlers who first came to the area in 1913. Sublett is recognized for introducing mechanized farming into the Big Bend.

On the way out of Ross Maxwell Drive we made a couple of stops to take some pictures. The skyline is incredible and we kept trying to get good pictures without the highway being in them. Not as easy as you’d think!

img_4484We also stopped at what at first appeared to be just white rock but was actually layers of volcanic events. Stacked within the Cherri Castellan are several lava flows and volcanic ash deposits with layers of gravel and clay from periods of erosion between eruptions.

We had earlier talked about hiking Mule Ears Peak but it was an almost 4 mile hike so we knew it was too late to do it. As we rode back though we did stop at the Mule Ears Peaks View Overlook and I was surprised to find out the peaks that I had been calling the Twin Peaks were actually Mule Ears, very recognizable from a distance.

We came on back to the campground and immediately started dinner as we were hoping to see the sunset tonight. At 6:19 we were eating dinner so we missed it! . Oh well, it’s a bit cloudy anyway. Perhaps tomorrow night

Around 7:00 we rode back to Big Bend as the ranger had earlier told us that star gazing would be good on Old Maverick Road. Jerry drove just a little way down that road and quickly decided that it was too rough for our car so we came back out to the main Big Bend highway and rode until we found an exhibit station. We stopped there and then realized that it just wasn’t dark enough so after a few minutes we came on back to the campground. If we try it another night we’ll go a little later.


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