Thursday, April 30, 2015

Our Last Two Days in Texas – Big Bend State Park, Marfa and Fort Davis

After a final breakfast at Posada Milagro in the Terlingua Ghost Town, we drove west along the Rio Grande to Presidio, then headed north through Marfa to Fort Davis, where we had a chance to visit with friends who had retired there from D.C.  Back in Austin at the beginning of our vacation, our host had recommended that we drive west from Terlingua instead of head directly to Fort Davis by way of Alpine, saying that the road west was particularly scenic, and a park ranger back in Big Bend National Park, when we first arrived a few days before, on hearing that we had an especial interest in wildflowers, recommended that we drive west of Terlingua because the wildflowers were already out on display even though it was still early in the spring.

These were good recommendations.   The scenery was dramatic, with good views both of the Rio Grande running between the two countries and high cliffs on both sides of the road

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Final Day in Big Bend National Park – a few small hikes and a dip in the hot springs

We began our final day at Big Bend with another breakfast at Posada Milagro and a stroll through the Terlingua Ghost Town’s small cemetery

then drove over to the eastern side of the park for a few relatively short walks.  First was a very careful drive over a dirt road where we would doubtless have been better off with a high clearance vehicle, into the Grapevine Hills

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hiking Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park: Window and Lost Mine Trails

We were determined to get an earlier start so that we could hike a couple of more challenging trails, so we looked for a breakfast place that opened as early as possible.  While waiting for our table at the Starlight Theater the night before, we cast our eyes in the Posada Milagro, which had a simple café that opened for breakfast at 7:30, and it offered wi-fi (not available at our motel).  Although we were enjoying being so thoroughly offline, we felt guilty about making no checks of our email just in case there were any real emergencies.  We arrived at 7:45, hoping to have a quick breakfast before heading to the park to get out on the trails before they got crowded – what we had not counted on was that the café had only limited staff.  The tables were all located outside, some under a roof but some on a patio in front of the café in the open air.  The café was part of a small B&B operation whose rooms were made out of ghost-town ruins; it might well have been a nice place to stay. 

To order, there was a fairly short line up to the counter, but with seven or eight people ahead of us on line, it took a half hour to place our order, plus waiting time to have it cooked.  Breakfast was nice enough, but it was 9 AM before we were able to leave for the park. 

As we drove into park toward the trailheads for the two trails we had in mind for the morning, we noticed that the parking area for the Lost Mine Trail, which looked by far the most interesting, was completely full, so we continued up the road to the visitors center near the Chisos Mountain Lodge.  Hoping that parking would open up later for the Lost Mine Trail, we decided to do the Window Trail first.  This trail, which begins near the lodge, consists of a walk down the valley to a window in the rock where the two sides of the valley come together; we were able to cut out an extra mile of one-way walking by driving down to the campground where we were able to pick up the trail.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Touring Big Bend (Santa Elena Canyon and Chimney Trails) and Staying in Terlingua

I would much rather have stayed inside the park to limit the amount of driving we would have to do in each morning, and because it might have been nice to have participated in some evening ranger programs without having to drive steep mountain roads to get back to our accommodations at night.   Staying inside the park can also be important because many of the popular trailheads have very small parking areas, so it behooves the avid hiker to be at such trail heads before 9 AM, especially when the park is relatively crowded, as it was when we were visiting.  But by the time I was ready to make our reservations for a stay in or near Big Bend National Park, accommodations at the only lodge inside the park were no longer available, and most of the recommended lodgings in nearby Terlingua were taken as well.  

The only choices left were a very expensive resort and the very cheap Chisos Mining Company Motel.   We took the latter.  Everything I read about the place made it sound quite basic, and we got what I anticipated and what we paid for.    The motel consists of two one-story buildings, one near the road at the front of the property and one near the rear, with scattered other buildings in between, which appeared to be residential cabins.  Our room, one of the economy units in the rear (all that was available) was small, with no refrigerator, no coffee machine.  The room had a slightly musty odor, but it was clean.  There were a couple of lawn chairs near the front door and it was certainly a pretty view apart from the immediate foreground

and there were a couple of grills available for guest use.  No shampoo was supplied with the room, and the soaps were so tiny as to be useless – happily I had anticipated that and brought some of our own.  There was another problem on which I had not focused – almost all of the dining options in the area, and the only good ones, were up in the Terlingua ghost town several miles in the opposite direction from the park.  So the bottom line — stay at this place only if all of the other options are already taken.