Saturday, June 1, 2013

Big Bend

View over the South Rim, Big Bend National Park, TX

Earlier this week, I got back from a five-day vacation to West Texas.  For the vacay, eight of us loaded up two humongous trucks with camping gear, food, and plenty of booze to make our way to Big Bend National Park, in the southwest corner of the state.  Nothing like a 9-hour drive without leaving Texas to give you a little appreciation for the enormity and beauty of the place.

Big Bend is that circled area.  Map courtesy of geojeff.

We spent three days in Big Bend, tackling a few hikes, including one semi-harrowing 16-miler and one off the trail, and in general spent our time doing the same camping things I did with my family growing up.  S'more were involved.  So was breakfast bacon.  So were the stars.

Oh yeah -- wine was involved, too!  This is the campsite on Day 1.

Emory Peak

Peering over the edge of Emory.  That would have been a long fall.

Day 2 (our first full day) we set out to hike Emory Peak.  The top of the peak, at 7,825 feet, is the tallest point in the park, and getting to it from the campgrounds, at 5,400 feet altitude, was no easy feat.  The hike is a pretty steep climb of switchbacks, followed by a 40-foot scramble to make it to the very top.

We had planned to have lunch at the top, and certainly deserved it after 3 1/2 hours of hiking, but the weirdest thing happened: The last 40 feet of the climb were swarming with gnats and ladybugs.  I thought I liked ladybugs, but getting them down my shirt, up my nose, and even in my eye (that one died :/) made me think otherwise.  We later asked a park ranger about this mild phenomenon, and he didn't have a clue.  Similarly, my dad was at the top of Emory Peak a few months ago and there were no traces of the insects then, either.  Strange.  Needless to say, we ended up bringing our lunches back down with us and eating and the base.

While I was not-so-secretly hoping we would all continue the hike beyond Emory Peak and around the South Rim -- an additional eight-or-so miles -- by 2 p.m., when we descended to the base, the sun was beating and supplies were lagging, so half of our crew headed back to camp.  Another couple continued on to do a shorter loop (which would still not get them back to camp until 6 p.m.), and Michael and I decided to stick it out and finish the South Rim.

It was worth it.

South Rim, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Whereas Emory Peak's reward comes at the very top, with spectacular views for as long as you can stand the bugs, the South Rim takes you along the edge of this ridge for a good 45 minutes of uninterrupted views.

16 miles? 11 hours?  Some seriously quality time with the sig other?  Check, check, check!

Our crew at Santa Elena Canyon.  That's Mexico right behind!

Day 2, or The Day of Sore Muscles, involved a trip to Santa Elena Canyon, my favorite spot in the whole park.  The canyon is made up of a very slow-moving and shallow Rio Grande river, flanked on both sides by incredibly steep cliffs.  The coolest part of the very short trail is that it ends into a few giant boulders.  When I was a kid, it was my favorite rock climb.

Hanging out at the campsite.  What a sky!
Michael and my romantic silhouette at the end of the Window Trail

Can you spot Michael?

Day 3 ended with a hike along the Window Trail.  We decided we wanted to do it right as the sun was setting (short notice!), so we practically ran the 1.8 miles to catch what ended up being dusk.  So beautiful!

On our last full day (My birthday -- I'm 26!) we hiked in the morning and then headed north to Marfa, Texas, famous for being a tiny, middle-of-nowhere-in-a-dry-desert town that tourists flock to for its art & music scene, as well as for the famous Marfa lights.

Heading to dinner at Cochineal, one of just a few restaurants in Marfa, and a real testament to the town's artisan culture.  Totally recommend if you're ever there. 

Hey Marfa.  Hey kiddo.

So we did drive out of the city and sit in the middle of a deserted road, looking for the Marfa lights.  They didn't appear.  These headlights did!

This is actually a candid -- they were all getting ready for the next photo.  Looks like Michael (at the right) was already prepared! 
The final group pic the morning we left Marfa
Do I have to say it was one of my very favorite vacations?

1 comment:

  1. Hey- Just stumbled upon this post as I am planning a trip to Big Bend next weekend. I also want to do the Emory Peak trail. Any advice for supplies to bring? Thanks!