Monday, August 27, 2007

(10) Big Bend National Park, Texax pt 2


Traveling along 90 going through tiny towns like Langtry, Dryden and Sanderson, I stop an one of the many picnic table rest stops. I’d already passed about 10 cyclists and came upon the tail end of the group. Two energetic guys who told me they were traveling across county from San Diego to Florida! Now what’s even more impressive is the one on the left is 72 years old. He said it was his first time doing this, but felt he should do it before he gets old. The younger one, a 61 year youngun, was the leader of this dozen hearty soles. They travel about 60 miles a day. I’ve got to tell you I got energy just from talking to them for those few minutes.

I’m still inspired by them days later and have the feeling I’ll keep that memory with me for a long long time. The energy, the life, the spirit to take that first step into a whole new life. Wow. Biking across country. Imagine.

Continuing my travels I pass ranches that go on for miles with names like Persimmon Gap, Dove Mountain, Longfellow and Bug Bucks. Finally heading south on old 385 I head towards one of the largest parks in the U.S. Big Bend National Park. It’s over 26 miles from the entrance of the park just to get to the visitors center. And then another 20 miles to the campsite. Big park. The only park with an entire mountain range within it’s borders, the Chisos Mountains.

I’m staying at the Rio Grande Village campground, tucked in a Cotton wood grove with short cropped grass between the spacious campsites. An oasis within the huge expanse of desert. After getting set up, I take a walk along the trails that lead to the Rio Grande and vistas of Mexico across the boarder. What a surprise to find at the end of a short canopy of cottonwoods a ramp going across a lagoon filled with tall reed grasses.

I meet two guys who have been coming to the park for over 20 years. They tell me how upset they are with the new policy of not letting people cross the Rio Grande to visit the Mexican Villages along the borders of the park. These guys had been doing it for over 20 years and they said it was always a highlight of their trip here.

These are very small villages that exist almost exclusively on the meager tourist trade by selling a few trinkets and providing true Mexican meals to the tourist. Supposedly the government plans on building a fence over the mountains here. What a shame. For years the Mexicans in this region have only wished to stay in their little adobe homes and make a small living off of the tourists. Signs throughout the park now tell us that we can be fined and put in prison if we even buy their walking sticks or try to cross over to their small towns for lunch. It’s hurt the lively hood of the Mexican and they now are getting into serious trouble, crime increasing and families split apart.

A fence, destroying cultures, people, pristine landscapes, untouched for thousands of years. The park used to host a festival and invite the Mexicans across the Rio Grande to come and celebrate their friendship. Gone. It’s gone.

The next day after touring a number of places, I went down to the Rio Grande in the late afternoon. The trail thankfully was short, as the temperature was getting into the high 90’s. Coming up behind me were two police men. Uniforms, guns in the ready, shiny badges. They were on patrol on the hurry to catch a thief. Just like the other day, their were some souvenirs along the path for purchase/donation by the Mexicans. The police officers scooped up the contraband and searched for the illegal Mexicans. I met two older couples along the path. They saw nothing wrong with the police stopping such illegal selling. After all one said, “you know we have to do this after 9/11. They’re all thieves anyway.”

This is a hikers paradise. Hiking in the desert regions early in the mornings. Riding up to the Chisos Mountains and Chisos Basin for more hiking in the cooler higher elevations. My Great Outdoors buddies would really enjoy this region. A campground at the higher elevations would be great for the hotter months. Bear and Mountain lion are in the region so caution must be taken.

I took a short hike and then enjoyed lunch at the Chisos Mountains Lodge. Nice treat to have someone else cook for me. Motor cycle riders all over the place. The mountain range rises from the desert floor and looks so ancient. Bare rock climbing to heights of over 7,300 feet. With trees occurring only around the 5,000 foot range.

There are so many side trips and small hikes that I’ve done, I’d bore you by describing all of them. From hiking the Ernst Tinaja Canyon, Boquillas Canyon, and the Santa Elena Canyon. I’ve got to tell you that seeing the Santa Elena Canyon, which is one of the narrowest canyons along the Rio Grande was awe inspiring. I don’t know how tall the cliff walls were, but they looked like a mile in height to me! And driving up the mountain to the high sided caldera valley that is formed by the surrounding Chisos Mountains was like discovering a secret hidden valley high up within the mountains. A few openings between the mountain peaks giving views of the desert valley far below. The lodge and campsites being the only thing that made one realize it had been discovered years ago.

Now before I’ve completely bored you to death. Hopefully I haven’t. A quick report on the solar panels. I’m getting a strong charge up to 13.5 and 14. Amps. I’ve been able to use the toaster, microwave, stereo and Tv/Dvr with little drainage on the batteries. Of course without a/c at this site, I’ve had the fans on constantly.

A final note before I head out of the Big Bend National park, I paid the now $80.00 fee to enter the National parks. Which the cost increase they tell me now gets me into all the National forests, BLM lands, etc. It’s a bit of a crock if you ask me, since most of the National forest and BlM lands rarely charged access fees. But it does help the park system so I’m grateful for that.
Oh, I almost forgot. One of the main reasons for coming to this park was to enjoy the hot springs which are right next to the Rio Grande. But, since it’s been so hot, I haven’t bothered to enjoy the springs. Maybe another time.

Till my next stop, I’ve sure enjoyed sharing my travels with you, and hope to hear how your doing as well, as this is usually my main means of communications. Speaking of that, I have been completely cut off from cell phone service, radio and TV. Although I could have connected the satellite dish up, I’ve preferred to watch previously recorded stuff on my DVR.
OK, that’s it, not another word..

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