Big Bend Rules

Posted March 19, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen

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Big Bend may be the best national park you’ve probably never heard of, but even if you have heard of Big Bend, you will probably never see it.

Big Bend bluebonnets
Bluebonnets!

That’s because Big Bend is not an easy reach by any mode of travel and the park welcomes only about 350,000 visitors a year.

Big Bend

But maybe that’s good for Big Bend – less is more and all that. Low attendance reduces need for infrastructure and provides a more authentic experience.

Big Bend
A super-bloom introduction to Big Bend!

We learned about Big Bend last year in the LIB comments from Bill, Carol and Cyndie – and we’d like to thank them because this park is now on our top ten favorite places.

Big Bend

Because of those comments, we resolved to visit Big Bend on this Texas border hug adventure – but we almost missed out when we got sick.

Big Bend

We woke up in Marathon, Texas with a bad cold. High winds and freezing temperatures thrashed our immune systems so severely that we almost cancelled the National Park experience of a lifetime.

With low fevers, sore throats and sniffles (thank The Chisos we weren’t thinking rationally) we set out on the 100 mile drive into the Big Bend wilderness.

Big Bend

As we drove down the 385 toward Boquillas Canyon, the weather transitioned from cold, wet and windy into pleasant semi-tropical conditions.

Big Bend

Our research had prepared us for that. The surprise was that before we could pull off the two-lane highway to cool the tires and admire the scenery, we were already making plans for our next visit.

Big Bend

I blame the bluebonnet porn …

Big Bend bluebonnets

This historic event was completely unexpected.

Evidently, Big Bend decided it was time for an unprecedented early season super-bloom which some curators of bluebonnets say is the best display in 30 years.

Big Bend

After pulling off at Rio Grande Village to buy essentials at the campground store, we returned to the truck to share a fresh box of tissues and talk strategy.

Were we naive? What old couple suffering with a nasty cold goes camping in a harsh and remote wilderness?

Big Bend

Wiser ones would have driven back to Marathon while they had the health – even though it’s freezing up there, they’d at least have the comfort of full hook-ups.

We stepped out into the noonday sun to inspect our surroundings. A warm breeze from the Rio Grande bearing the heady fragrance of blooming acacia gave an encouraging nudge.

Big Bend

Okay, Big Bend. We’ll stay.

Our wonderful campground host – who probably felt sorry for us – showed us to our “sick room” for the next week – a first-come first-serve site in the no-generator section situated an ideal distance from a potable water source.

Big Bend  Rio Grande Village Campground

Later, we’d learn that this sweet spot is probably the best off-grid camp site in the entire park – or at least that’s the story …

Big Bend

Our scrubby mesquite and creosote grove fluffed out in Spring foliage as we rested beneath the branches sipping ginger and turmeric tea. Periodically, the neighbors would drop in to perform a wellness check.

Seemed all the locals had an interest in our health …

Big Bend

We were so miserably sick that even Pico took up sympathy-sneezing.

Big Bend

Yet, we remained happy campers even though we hadn’t convalesced in a remote place without a cell signal or WiFi since Lake of The Woods near Klamath Falls in Oregon – over 2 years ago. In our weakened condition, we could only imagine what was out there beyond our serene tanglewood sanctuary.

Big Bend  Rio Grande Village Campground

But every evening at sunset we caught glimpses of what we were missing.

Then, after sunset, the stars came out. I’m not sure what for, but it was quite a turnout. The longer we observed the congregation the more their numbers multiplied which had an unsettling effect. So, then, we’d go in inside and call it night.

Big Bend
Photo of Big Bend sky courtesy of terragalleria.com

Nightimes usually involved homemade soup and a couple rounds of Five Crowns and to bed with our Kindles – windows open to draw the sundown smell of the river and the soulful pining of frogs and song dogs.

Slowly, we healed.

Big Bend

Nature is the physician but Time gets the glory.

Big Bend

Each day we napped less and walked farther,

… and our strength returned well enough for hot spring therapy. We drove the two steep off-road miles where we parked and hiked an easy ¼ mile trail to the Rio Grande …

Big Bend

That good, long soak turned the corner for us. As long as we had plenty of tissues in our pockets we were good to go.

Big Bend

With only about a week left, we missed some of the highlights.

Big Bend
From our campsite it was easy walk to the overlook to see the mountains light up like live coal at sunset – amazing!

But we managed a day-long scenic drive and several short hikes – enough to feel vindicated for a solid week of infirmity.

We had a great afternoon with the neighbors across the river at Boquillas del Carmen.

It felt silly to take the boat, since it scraped bottom on the low and narrow crossing – but we were delighted to finally be on fun side of the border.

Big Bend

We enjoyed a bit of shopping…

… and stopped in at Jose Falcons Restaurant for margaritas as we surveyed our campsite on the other side of the river and wondered where in the Sam Hill a border wall could possibly go…?!

Big Bend

Big Bend will decide that issue, because if Big Bend wants flowers, Big Bend gets flowers.

If Big Bend wants all the stars then Big Bend gets all the stars. If Big Bend wants to entertain a northern polar vortex and drop 60 degrees overnight …

Big Bend
The ice storm cometh…

… then your truck had better be wired with seat warmers because Big Bend rules.

Big Bend
Just hours before the freeze, we saw this 5-day expedition set out on the Rio Grande in 80+ degrees – poor kids.

Two weeks since our departure, I find myself wondering what’s happening in our little manzanita grove. Who hatched? How is Roadrunner and The Doves? Is Sierra Del Carmen grandstanding tonight? I can only be certain that things are going precisely the way Big Bend likes it.

58 thoughts on “Big Bend Rules

  1. We were so happy to see your post on Big Bend. After Woodys emergency kidney stone surgery we had to cancel Big Bend! We can recommend an excellent Veterinarian in Del Rio! Wonderful photos. We enjoyed traveling vicariously with you!
    Peggy and Derald

  2. Wonderful description and photographs! I’ve been in and out of Big Bend since the mid 70’s. I even moved just north of there for about eight years in the ’90’s, I was so enthralled with it all. On one five day rafting trip, I got a respiratory thing over night, fever and chills. On the rafting trip, you can’t just run back somewhere. I crawled into a tent and slept it off, luckily. I am pleased that you were taken with this place. I have always been. Kathleen

  3. WOW. What a wonderful podcast. Your words brought the images to life. I have seen and read about big bend, but the podcast was a great addition. You are a great story teller.

    Thanks so much, I will visit when I an in Texas

    1. Thanks for being with us. Big Bend is like time travel. When you go check in at the Rangers station for geology, botany and wildlife tours – they are fabulous.

      Safe Travels!

      LIB

  4. Love Big Bend, heading back in Late April/Early May to Hike and Dual Sport Motorcycle Ride…last visit was March 2016…long trip for me, as I live just a few miles from where your Airstream was built, that being Jackson Center, Ohio, and I live a few miles west of there in Celina….glad I found your page….

    1. Wow, Pat! We’re so glad you found us. We will be in Ohio at The Mothership (Airstream factory) for the Alumapalooza Festival in June and then a family reunion at Hocking Hill State Park.

      http://alumapalooza.com

      Thank you for being with us, Pat. Safe Travels to you and say “Hey” to Big Bend for us.

      LIB

      1. You will enjoy Hocking Hills…after my Air Force Days back in the mid 70s I attended Hocking Tech in Nelsonville and lived in Athens @ Ohio University…we hiked HH on a number of occasions and I camped there with my future and current wife at the time…great place! Enjoy!

  5. Big Bend is a wonderful park and yes we went, BUT it is a long way down there unless you just happen to be in south Texas!

    1. Yes. It is not a side trip! That’s why we stayed the 14-day limit. The camp hosts have a policy of not turning anyone away. If you have the time and desire to get down there they will do their best to find a place for you. We also loved that camp fires are not allowed. They provided a standing grill that uses coal only – so No Wood Fires. Yay!!! Our only disappointment was the shower facility. A timed $2 cold spray-type shower that is oudated and not very clean is way too expensive. Best to take bird baths in your tent or trailer. But the store was clean and well stocked. Surprising that the toilets were flushing and not vault. With Jim’s NPS senior discount card, it only cost us $7 per night.

      Thank for being with us, Betty!

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

    1. Janice, Big Bend is one of those places that gets into your bones. Even if we are never able to return, we will always feel the pull to return.

      Thank you for being here, Janice.

      Safe Travels!

      LIB

    1. Thank you, but it would be a challenge to take a bad photo at Big Bend.

      So good to have you here with us.

      Safe Travels!

      LIB

    1. Yes, Cathy! We went on a geology tour and learned that any border wall building there would be a huge maintenance oversight job because the area is so unstable with rock slides, land slides, fissures … there’s just no way that’s going to happen. Big Bend wins.

      Thanks for being here and safe travels!

      LIB

    1. Thank you, Frank – wow, that’s quite a compliment! Big Bend is a point-and-shoot kind of place – every direction and angle is epic.

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  6. It looks like you were there the same time we were. We had the most beautiful “hoarfrost” on the plants on Lost Mines Trail on March 4th. It was also my first trip to Big Bend even though I have lived in Texas for 46 years! It will not be my last.

    1. What a shame to miss you, Christy! I had to look up hoarfrost – yes, that describes it. You live in a beautiful state! We loved Armistad National Recreation Park almost as much as Big Bend. Great camping there and what a lovely town. We’re in Donna now – we pulled in with the intention to wash the Big Bend crust off the rig, but it’s rained everyday since we’ve been here – but the sun finally came out today! Woo-hoo!!!

      Thank you for being with us.

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

    1. Yes, it is Janet. I’m thinking that next Spring might be a good time for a wildflower tour in Texas wine country.

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

  7. What a beautiful share! The Big Bend region is one of our favorites…So glad you enjoyed and graced our state with so much appreciation. Glad you are feeling better!

    1. Thank you, Sabrina. It’s all true what they say about Texas – especially the part about the stars! They do shine SO bright!!!

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

  8. Your timing on this post could not be more perfect as we were just discussing going to Big Bend next year. You’ve certainly convinced me it’s the right decision. What a gorgeous place. Happy to hear you are on the mend and feeling better. Your wildflower photos are wonderful!

    1. Thank you! We recommend Springtime but I saw some incredible Autumn photos. For us summer and winter would be out of the question.

      Enjoy and Safe Travels!

      LIB

  9. I can’t think of a more pleasant place to be sick and heal. The cool shade and hot sun. The spectacular views and beautiful flowers. And the sunsets… some of the best I’ve ever seen:-) The hot spring was just something. So glad you two enjoyed your time and stuck it out!!

    1. Yes, we were so happy that the weather was perfect for healing – mid 80’s, light breeze, so tranquil. We miss the sunsets, too …

      Safe Travels, Christina!

      LIB

  10. Kelly’s Dad and my brother in law used to go all the time. Thanks for the Bluebonnet pictures. They can make me homesick!

    1. Thanks Nancy. How lovely to be in your old stomping grounds. So many bluebonnets I was dreaming about them every night. I took way too many photos of them …

      xoxo,

      Carmen

  11. Hello Carmen. I enjoyed meeting you at Prada Marfa on your way to Big Bend. Isn’t it amazing! And the BLUEBONNETS….you said it all! I am already planning my next trip to the Big Bend area. I hope to run into you again.

    1. Denise! How lovely to meet you! Thank you for the photos of the boots. I will use one of those during the Texas wrap-up blog. Is this web site for the boots: https://cityboots.com ?

      We hope to run into you, too. We’re in Donna and finally having a sunny enough day to clean the Big Bend off the trailer 😉 we’ve never seen Beauty so crusty!

      Let’s stay in touch!

      Safe Travels,

      – Carmen

    1. Hey Cheryl! I know how lucky was that?! For at least 20 years I’ve been wanting to see bluebonnets … and, Wow!!! But I was just as taken by the other flowers spilling off the mountains like waterfalls. Just spectacular.

      Thanks for being with us and Safe Travels,

      LIB

    1. Herb! So great to hear from you. Are you in Lisbon? Prague …? How’s the music career going? We need to catch up. Thank you for being with us and Safe Travels!

      xoxo,

      LIB

    1. Thanks, Ganey! We’re just trying to stay warm and dry this winter. Big Bend really delivered the best possible weather conditions – except for that frost. Came out of nowhere. Bizarre but fascinating. One feels vulnerable down there but it all worked out.

      Thank you for being with us!

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

    1. Yes, we have Judy! We love West and South Texas! Heading to South Padre Island next week to see birds and kayak!

      xoxo,

      Carmen and Jim

  12. We loved Big Bend! It got up to 107 last March and we had to move over to the full hook up sites next to the camp store. We were staying in Rio Grande Village Campground and our generator could not run the AC with heat that high. We have a cat so needed the AC. We had no idea they even had full hook ups because they don’t advertise them on the NPS site. I think Forever Resorts runs the camp store.

    1. Yes, we saw the full-hook camp and I can guarantee you that if it had claimed to 107 – or even 100, we would have gone over there if they had an opening. We usually avoid the generator sections because people use those loud construction type generators – but hardly anyone was running them. Except for the 24-hour freeze, the weather couldn’t have been more pleasant.

      Thanks for being with us, Patricia. Hope to meet up someday!

      Safe Travels,

      LIB

  13. Big Bend was a favorite of ours and yes the bluebonnets were in bloom. It was a “random” comment about it that caused us to turn south instead of continuing west towards home. What a beautiful piece of earth. Blessings friends.

    1. Great story, Jan! Who goes to Big Bend due to a random comment – especially with three kids in the camper? Only you and Reid.

      xoxo,

      Carmen

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