Posted March 19, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As we drove down the 385 toward Boquillas Canyon, the weather transitioned from cold, wet and windy into pleasant semi-tropical conditions.
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.
I blame the bluebonnet porn …
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 …
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 …
We were so miserably sick that even Pico took up sympathy-sneezing.
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.
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.
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.
Nature is the physician but Time gets the glory.
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 …
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.
With only about a week left, we missed some of the highlights.
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.
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 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 …
… then your truck had better be wired with seat warmers because Big Bend rules.
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.
60 thoughts on “Big Bend Rules”
FANTASTIC Review!!! Thanks for the breath of beauty!!
Thank you, Christian!
Thanks, Steve! Safe Travels!
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.
Great story, Jan! Who goes to Big Bend due to a random comment – especially with three kids in the camper? Only you and Reid.
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.
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!
Loved, loved, loved this post. So happy you fell in love with our state.
Yes, we have Judy! We love West and South Texas! Heading to South Padre Island next week to see birds and kayak!
Carmen and Jim
Wonderful post and your timing for being in the right place at the right time is amazing.
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!
That was a great post. Mix of bad and good timing (i.e., flu and epic bloom). Thanks for sharing guys!
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!
Jealous! Was there last year, have the same pictures, but not the super bloom!
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,
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.
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!
The prettiest picture ever of an Airstream!
Why, thank you Judy! I love flowers almost as much as Molly Bloom!
Lovely photos! Big Bend is now on our bucket list!
Kelly’s Dad and my brother in law used to go all the time. Thanks for the Bluebonnet pictures. They can make me homesick!
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 …
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!!
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!
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!
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!
Excellent Post ……. our rough Texas Jewel
Thank you, Tim! We’re enjoying your state!
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!
Thank you, Sabrina. It’s all true what they say about Texas – especially the part about the stars! They do shine SO bright!!!
It is a very beautiful and unique place. Saw bluebonnets there a little over a week ago.
Yes, it is Janet. I’m thinking that next Spring might be a good time for a wildflower tour in Texas wine country.
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.
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.
Love, love, love your story! ❤️
Thank you, Brenda. Big Bend heals. We can’t wait to go back!
You two hit it out of the park this time! The photography is so beautiful.
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.
The desert always wins! lol. Great story.
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!
Beautiful pictures, as always. Glad you’re feeling better! Happy trails.
Thank you, but it would be a challenge to take a bad photo at Big Bend.
So good to have you here with us.
Love the bend
My heart lives there
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.
Thank you for this!
Our pleasure, Lee.
Thank you for being with us and Safe Travels!
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!
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!
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….
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.
Thank you for being with us, Pat. Safe Travels to you and say “Hey” to Big Bend for us.
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!
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
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.
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
Kathleen, thank you for sharing your Big Bend crush. We are honored to have you with us. Next time we go we’d like to make reservations for a rafting trip if we can find a Pico-sitter (Daddy?) and there are so many hikes we didn’t have time for like: http://www.texashiking.com/Locations/ShowLocation.aspx?LocationID=16852
Be well and Safe Travels!
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
Very nice photos! So many good shots of Big Bend Country. We’re about to visit this wonderful place and I hope we get some good photos as well. I take it you did not run into any black bears or mountain lions?
Thank you, David. I hope your visit to this amazing place will be filled with good stories and wonderful photos. Oh my! No, we didn’t see any lions or bears – however, on an evening dog walk a javelina herd came through the campground – a few of them larger than I expected. By the time I returned with my camera they were gone. When hiking in the west, encountering a mountain lion can be frightening. I was impressed with how that kid, Kyle handled it in that viral video. We always hike together and we carry bear spray on the trails. Also, I turn around frequently to inspect the trail behind and keep an eye on ridges and boulders above our heads. Big Bend is a gloriously wild and wonderful place. Enjoy!