Big Bend Rules

Posted March 19, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen

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Big Bend Rules

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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.