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An Alternative Lifestyle--Living and Traveling
Full-time in a Recreational Vehicle

Beautifully Desolate
From the April 1990 issue of Movin' On.

We had never really seen desert before arriving at Big Bend on March 31. Dry, magnificent, and barren are just a few of the words that could describe this remote, 801,000-acre park. First of all, it seems like a million miles from nowhere. The park, located in the southwest part of Texas, is right on the Rio Grande River and 103 miles from the nearest full service town. The little village of Marathon to the north of the park was over 80 miles from our campground and it didn't have a grocery store. We were well prepared for our 10-day visit with lots of groceries. There was a little store at each of the three campgrounds in the park, but just basics were sold at rather high prices. 

Big Bend offers much to do. Each evening, at the Rio Grande Village Campground Amphitheater, a ranger presented a terrific slide show and talk on the park. They were on a variety of interesting subjects such as, the history of man in Big Bend, geology of the park, how the plants and animals of the desert adapt to the lack of water and predators, bats, and birds. The programs were well attended, probably because there was nothing else to do there. We were too far away for television reception and couldn't get an English speaking radio station. 

Big Bend is a park of contrasts---the desert, the mountains, and the lush areas next to the Rio Grande River. There was a lot to see. Driving and hiking was the only way to see anything. Either way meant a lot of driving. We drove the 50 plus miles to go to the canyon at the southwest end of the park. Once we arrived at the canyon, the only way to see it was to hike in over the canyon wall and down into the gorge. Although the hike and drive were long, it was well worth it. That was typical of all the hikes. We tried to get to the Grapevine trail head, but gave up after driving 6.2 miles down the unimproved road. The park is full of these roads, and many who visit the park have "high clearance" vehicles, such as trucks and Blazers. We did make it down the road to the hot springs and enjoyed soaking in the hot bubbly waters right on the banks of the river. It always seemed strange to look across the narrow river and see Mexico minus any evidence of it being another country. 

We did go to the border town of Boquillas by way of a row boat. We sat in the boat while the young Mexican boy walked in the water pulling us across. That little village had no electricity, and the adobe houses were without windows and doors. I never saw such poverty, but everyone seemed happy, including the children. 

Hiking in Big Bend was a new adventure for us. The desert hiking wasn't difficult, except for the heat, and the sights of cactus in bloom  made the walks fascinating. Up in the mountains of the park our hikes took on a new dimension. We hiked several long, strenuous trails. One, to "The Window" was only five miles, but the trip back was all up hill. After resting a day or two, we thought we could handle the six and one-half mile “Lost Mine” trail. The hike was so beautiful that I will remember it for a long time. We started from our campground (elevation 1,200 feet) and drove the 23 miles to the trail head at Basin Junction. That drive alone was spectacular, because in those short miles you drive from the barren desert to pine covered mountains. Then we hiked up an other 1,000 feet along beautiful douglas fir covered slopes enjoying the cool clear air. We were basically alone on the trail and felt at peace with nature. The rangers had warned us to be on the look out for some young aggressive panthers, but we only saw and heard the most beautiful birds; and when we reached the top and looked down, the view was breathtaking. Before we started back down, we rested and ate our packed lunch. Wonderful!!! I can't wait to see the pictures and relive the day. 

Back down the hill at the campground we couldn't believe the temperature difference. Usually there is at least a 20 degree difference between the mountains and the desert. By the way, the average summer temperature is 120 degrees. Few visit the park in the summer, but the rangers and their families have to stay. The dependent children of the rangers, attend a park service country school up to the eighth grade. After that, the ranger has to get transferred. And don't forget the 103-mile trip for groceries or the doctor, dentist, etc. Our visit to the park was another terrific learning experience. 

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