16 Mar 2013--Went into Big Bend National Park for the final time yesterday afternoon (Friday). Went down to the far southeast corner of the park, to the Rio Grande Village area to take several hiking trails we had heard about, and to catch the sunset at the Nature Trail there. The same park Ranger who told us about sunrise at the Lost Mine Trail also told us this was the best spot in the park for sunsets.
We ultimately took 3 different hikes, but since we were staying till sundown we didn't start out on the 1st trail till 3 pm...if you know anything about Texas, you know that from 3-5 pm is usually the hottest part of the day...so that was a big mistake. We didn't arrive knowing that this trail, the Hot Springs Trail, was 5.6 miles round trip, and we certainly didn't know that it was going to be our hottest day here yet! I don't know what the highest reading was, but when we returned and went into a store the employee had a thermometer and told us it was 91 degrees in the shade!!! This was now 6 PM!!! haha (But as they say, "It's a dry heat!" Baloney!)
We were told that it was a pretty easy trail, that after an initial small hill it was fairly level, with some small ups and downs. After the "Initial small hill" that was a true statement, but the small hill turned out to be both longer and higher than we were led to believe. haha Maybe it was the heat, but I could feel my butt muscles fighting back by the time I was 1/2 way up.
The scene as we crest the hill.
Rough, desert terrain.
Up and down we go, more often than not following the ever-present Rio Grande!
Some interesting flowers along the way. We have seen lots of these very small, maybe 6-8 inches high cactus, but today is the 1st day we saw any in bloom. The 1st shows a flower ready to bloom, and then, obviously, the next 2 pics in full flower. My sister Karen's favorite color was yellow, so whenever I see a pretty yellow flower I think of her.
This is also the 1st time we have seen any bloom on what otherwise appears to be a dead thorn bush. At the very tip of each thin branch is a flower like this. You can't even get a shot with a bunch of them together because they are so small. Not even sure what kind of bush is it...hoping Hallie can tell us.
And here is another one for Hallie...no idea at all what kind of tree this is, but it smells wonderful!!! At first we didn't know where the smell was coming from, almost like a baby lotion or tanning lotion...very strong, but really nice. Any idea Hallie?
And finally, what almost looked like the branches of a Christmas tree. And a fossil in the ground, both smack in the middle of the desert!
So after 2.8 very hot miles, we finally reached the Hot Springs, which are a constant 105 degrees year round. The water bubbles up from the ground and is captured in this squared-off area you see here. As hot as it was out, I was surprised to see anyone in them at all. The Hot Springs flow over the wall to the Rio Grande, where most of the people were smartly cooling off.
Now I want you to look closely here. Notice the guy standing in the middle of the river with a hat on in pic #1. Next, look beyond him to the Mexican side of the embankment, at about one o'clock from his head and into the bushes there. We cropped it in pic #2 so you can see what's there...it is a small pup tent! Occupied we assume by whoever left this note in pic #3 along with items for sale to try to make a buck. These are fairly common over here, and we saw more later in the evening, but this person is trying to sell scorpions, cactus, and roadrunners. They just leave the stuff with the note and a money can and wait hopefully for someone to buy one and leave the money in the can for them. I wasn't sure if it was left by an enterprising American trying to take advantage of our sympathies, or truly by a poor Mexican, so i didn't buy anything here.
The Hot Springs
And back another 2.8 miles we go...growing ever hotter! haha I love the way the topography changes here...from desert, to plush greenery, to what looks like lave flows!
And back to the starting point, heading to the next hiking spot.
If you read pic #2, you will notice the 1st line in paragraph #2 says something about a "low hill"...does the hill in pic #3 look "low" to you? We took this climb after finding out it was 91 degrees!
And our 1st sign of wildlife, beyond a handful of birds. Blow up the pic and you can see this little guy looked right at me as I am snapping his picture.
So over the hill we go and down into the canyon area. Cathy sees this guy across the river, and he actually sees her see him...he waves! Considering that you can see in pic #2 and #3 that he has an axe leaning up against the yellow blanket, Cathy waved back! haha
So what was he doing there? If you look again at pic #3 above you will notice that from about his knees down his pants are wet. And then you see this canoe a ways down from where he was and you start to put 2 & 2 together. And then, on our side of the river, you see this note with some rocks for sale beside it (notice the spelling of "acceptable"). There was another note saying there were walking sticks for sale, which we think accounts for his axe, but they must have all been bought earlier cause there were none around. By the way Marie, I bought the top, middle rock for Emily...so now she can say she helped send a poor kid from Mexico to school!!! How cool is that!!!
A few shots of the canyon area and back up to our final site we go. The sun is starting to set and we are not yet in place.
Running to get to the top of the Rio Grande Nature Trail...another "small" hill! We are pretty pooped at this point! In the 2nd picture you are looking into Mexico at the Sierra Del Carmen Mountains. The sun setting off those mountains is why we are here.
And this is the little town of Boquillas, where the little kid lives that Emily is helping to go to school. The canyon we just left is directly behind the town, where the shadows are.
The mountains turn red as the sun sets.
And as you turn around to go home, toward the setting sun in the west, you catch the final glimpses. Does it get any better than this?!!!
So that's all folks! We leave tomorrow to go see a couple friends in Aransas Pass, TX for a week and then head back to San Antonio. Will have been gone 5 weeks, and a great 5 weeks it was! From the Sonora and Carlsbad Caverns all the way here to Big Bend, and everything in between, I think we can safely say that we had not only a great time, but an even better time than we could have hoped for. Most of the trip was one pleasant surprise after another, so I am delighted we came. Hope you all have enjoyed it, too...not seeing a lot of comments, so I don't know if some of you got bored with all the mountain shots, but I hope not. We loved it, and hope you did, too!