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.