After spending several full days hiking and exploring the park we took a "day off" and stayed back at the campground catching up on housekeeping chores etc. On Friday we explored the nature trail adjacent to the campground and then drove up to the Hot Springs. (I forgot the camera). There used to be a resort at the Hot Springs back in the 1930's before it became part of the national park. The nature trail encompasses a beautiful pond and then follows the Rio Grande and loops back.
Previously we had checked on river floating permits and were told we could pull a permit any time and did not have to have specify put-in/take outs, which I found odd but had specifically inquired about. We decided to go ahead and get a permit so we could paddle near the put-in at the campground and perhaps return to Santa Elena Canyon on another day. We went back to the visitor center at the camp ground and were told very different information: The permit was date specific and put in and take out specific; plus (and this was the most surprising to me as a kayaker) you had to have a spare Coast Guard approved life preserver along with a spare paddle ( the paddle part is a no brainer). Now, I don't know too many kayakers who carry a spare life preserver unless they have a tandem kayak. The ranger was pretty hard nosed about having all of the equipment available for inspection before issuing the permit and wasn't very helpful about providing information where we might purchase a spare life jacket. We talked to another kayaker couple who encountered the same issue but they had lucked out were able to purchase a secondary approved float device from a fellow camper. I was hopeful we could locate an extra PFD so we could pull a permit.
Saturday, March 12, we drove to the Park Headquarters at Panther Junction which is also the main visitor center and the main place were permits are issued. I wanted to check on the ranger's story and confirm the permit process. There was a huge line for permits and apparently a lot of paper work involved in getting the permit . We promptly left and decided to drive over to Terlingua at the far south west edge of the park and explore that area. Also, there were some outfitters in the area and perhaps we could score the coveted extra life preserver.
There was a nice short hike on the way: Balancing Rock.
Can you see the mini balancing rock in the distance?
The back side of balancing rock.
The view from balancing rock towards the desert.
From Balancing rock we headed over to Terlingua, stopping at several outfitters and the Desert Sports store. For all you avid mountain bikers, Terlingua is apparently the jumping off place for epic mountain biking, especially in Big Bend Ranch State Park which is tandem to Big Bend National Park. Unfortunately, the only floatation devices to be found were for rent and not purchase. Given the round trip from our campsite was nearly 100 miles it didn't make sense to rent one.
We continued on to the Terlingua Ghost town, which proved to be interesting. At one time the little town thrived, but now it looks like a deserted Mexican Village, although it is not in Mexico.
This was one of the dwellings still in tack. The walls are made of stones which are dry stacked. This particular structure had housed someone recently as there were candles and an abandoned sleeping bag.
The Trading Post offered everything from native crafts to Christmas decorations, but no floatation devices. We did stop at the local Cantina to rub shoulders with the locals and try and figure out why anyone would want to live in Terlingua. We really didn't find out anything. We did learn that Spring Break was a big deal and the end of the season.
Sunday, March 13 was another ho hum day. It was the beginning of daylight savings time and still dark at 7:30, which made it difficult to get up and get going, so I played with the new Camp Chef oven (more on that another time) trying to figure out how to keep the temperature even, and Joel puttered around. Later we biked to a hill over looking the Boquilla Village and watched the colors change over the Sierra del Carmens during the sunset.
Monday, March 14: The Windows Trail. Putting aside the morning darkness we geared up and headed for the Chisos Basin again, in pursuit of the Windows Trail and or the Basin Loop trail. The guide book said the trail from the campground had an elevation loss of 400 feet over 2 miles. Not too bad, but I reminded Joel that meant payback on the return. The trail leads to a pour off and beautiful views of the desert.
Casa Grande in the Chisos mountains on the way to the Chisos basin
Early morning in the Chisos mountains.
The Window, our destination for today
Joel scurried to the edge and then couldn't move fast enough to get back to safe ground. The rocks were very slippery.
It's mid March and suppose to be the beginning of spring and until now I have not seen any signs of it. There has been very little rain and there were extreme cold temperatures during the usually mild winter causing freezing conditions. The blossoms were a surprise and welcome site.
Having been unsuccessful in obtaining a spare PDF we decided it would be best to scratch our kayaking plans . There will be lots of other opportunities to float other rivers, which most likely will be cleaner and faster. "Hitch itch" was starting to set in so Tuesday we pulled up the jacks and hooked up the car and headed towards San Antonio. We have to be in Bandera, Texas for the SI dance rally by the end of March.