A Day of Splendor in Big Bend

Sunset from Sotol Vista
Sunset from Sotol Vista
We got an early start today, well, early for us because we wanted to do the Lost Mine Hike and the parking lot fills up quickly and if it’s full there’s nowhere to park, thus no hike. I think we got the last parking place around 10:00. I seem to be forgetting how long it takes to go anywhere in the park but at 45 miles an hour it’s a slow process over a good distance.

When we got to the parking lot Jerry got out of the car and then quickly jumped back in and said put on whatever is in the car because it is really cold. I had opened the door and already knew it was a lot colder than the 45 degrees the car was showing. I had a t-shirt in the back and Jerry had a long sleeved t-shirt so right there in the parking lot we layered out clothing. Fortunately no one was around!

img_3410We started the hike at 10:10 and it was all uphill which was good in that we’d be descending on our way back but the way up is challenging. According to the park newspaper the hike is 4.8 round trip. Of course my FitBit had it longer and I’m not sure where the hike ended according to the park. Whatever, it was a long uphill battle. We ascended 1100 feet by the time we reached the end and we had several rest stops. We stopped often because we were just out of breath and then also just to look at the beautiful scenery. When we’re hiking we are so focused on where we are stepping (and with good reason) that sometimes we fail to see the glory all around us. It is spectacular to say the least. Towards the end I started yawning and I knew I wasn’t sleepy so I wondered if perhaps the change in attitude was getting to me a bit. After all we are from the flat lands of Eastern North Carolina!

Just before we hit the difficult rocky climb we chatted with another RVing couple from Iowa. She had made the climb before but he had not. We had a nice little visit and a nice rest which we needed because then the going got rough.

It was so windy!
It was so windy!
It’s difficult to describe the surface we were walking on. Sometimes it was rocky and sometimes it was dirt and sometimes it was nothing but rock. Of course the wind had been blowing the entire time but it was beginning to pick up. Thank goodness for the walking stick that Jerry made. Without it I know I would have fallen at least once. There were also places where I’m not sure I could have made it without the stick.

We finally reached the top so we stood around in the blowing wind and took some pictures. Wait a minute – what are those people doing over there? Nope, we were not at the end of the trail. There was more and it was an even more difficult climb with wind gusting probably 40-50 miles an hour. We got our to the plateau but could hardly enjoy it because of the wind. When the wind is blowing hard enough to blow my 200 pound husband around you can believe it was blowing me. Several times we just had to sit down to avoid being blown to – I don’t want to think where but it’s a long way down! It had taken us about 2 and a half hours to make the ascent.

We started down and the wind was till blowing fiercely but we were going downhill so it was much easier. As we walked down we chatted with several people along the way some going up and some passing us on the way down. One couple had been to Boquillas yesterday and one couple was going tomorrow so we stood around and talked about that for a few minutes. We also heard some birds chattering but could never see them and our knowledge of birds is minimal at best. Jerry saw a blue bird, not a Blue Bird but a bird that was blue. I never saw any but it was pleasant listening to them sing.

We finally made it to the car around 2:30 and what a welcomed sight that was. We decided to ride on up to the Bostolon Visitor’s Center to have our picnic lunch in order to free up a parking place. We sat at the picnic table and enjoyed our chicken salad sandwiches and yes, I’m Southern – I had my sweet tea!

We discussed then what to do next. We had been told that access to Santa Elena Canyon was possible now and we both wanted to see that but we knew we were tired. We also knew that we would probably never be in Big Bend again so what to do? We decided we’d ride down the Ross Maxwell Drive again – it is a beautiful drive – and then determine when we got there whether we felt we could accomplish another hike even one that’s only a mile and a half round trip.

This is what we walked through to get to the river!
This is what we walked through to get to the river!
We did it! We made it to Santa Elena and drug out of the car, took a second breath and off we went through the bushes and the brambles to try to find the rock path across the river and the muddy path to the other side. We finally found it although I’m pretty sure it was not the choice path as we literally slid down sand dunes and scrambled though briers and bushes but we got to the other side and then began the ascent and then descent to the bottom of the Santa Elena Canyon. On the way we met several people that we had seen on the Lost Mine Trail but they were a lot younger and more energetic and where quite impressed with us! The view at the bottom of the canyon is absolutely stunning especially at the time we were there which was around 5:30. Our photography skills and cameras cannot do it justice and my limited vocabulary cannot adequately describe it. Adjectives like majestic, awesome, and grand simply fail.

As we were walking out we met a young couple from Oklahoma and chatted with them as we walked. He had been to Big Bend several times and even been to Santa Elena. We talked as we walked out and surprise – there was an easier way. We walked through a wooded trail along the river bank but it was a marked trail and not difficult to follow. A dirt trodden path going across the river where many feet have trod led us to the other side. We were tired when we got back to the car but so glad we did it.

See the square hole
See the square hole
Jerry had asked me earlier to remind him after we left Santa Elena to stop and take a picture on the way out so I did and we actually stopped so he could take a picture of a mountain that appeared to have a square rectangle in it. Again, amazing!

To cap off the trip we realized that we were going to be in a perfect place to see the sun set if we could make it to Sotol Vista in time. We hurried down the highway and were just in time to see a glorious sunset. God in all of His glory! Spectacular is to mild a word. We left the park at 6:50 – a very full day and tiring day but oh my, what a way to end a visit to Big Bend.

A quick stop at the local grocery store and on to the motor home. We had talked about going back into Big Bend tonight for some star gazing but it was just not to be on this trip. Of all the trips that we have taken this is the first trip that Jerry has said he like to do again. It was grand!


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