Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend is a study in rocks, geology, a rugged arid cragginess hugging the Rio Grande River. It’s desolate, deserted, barren, and yet beautiful in a majestic sort of way. We camped for three nights in the Chisos Basin.

Camping is very different in west Texas compared to what we’re accustomed to. Because of the severe drought and risk of wildfires, there's a burn ban in effect. No campfires or lanterns. Later, at Guadalupe Mountains National Park, we weren’t even allowed to use our camp stove at the site. Camping isn’t quite the same without toasted marshmallows and s’mores. I don’t know if it’s true for all national parks, or only the ones in the desert where there’s not much water, but there are no showers at the campgrounds! We got pretty good at sponge bathing.

The mornings and evenings were comfortably cool, but the afternoons were stinkin’ hot. We escaped the heat by sight-seeing in the car or hanging out at the Visitor’s Center. West Texas boasts some of the darkest night skies in North America, providing some pretty amazing star gazing.

Rio Grande River

Wild horses over on the other side, in Mexico.

Casa Grande

This opening into the basin is called the “Window.” Great spot to watch the sun set.

These Century plants are everywhere here. They grow for about a decade, bloom once, then die.

I kept meaning to ask a ranger what made some prickly pear cacti turn pink, but I never remembered. Does anyone know?

When we weren’t sweating profusely, the only thing to do was hike around this rugged landscape. Our best, longest, and certainly most challenging hike was climbing to the top of Emory Peak, elevation 7,832 feet. Here’s a shot of Emory Peak from our campsite. It’s the tallest peak in the center of the photo.

The ten mile trek took us about seven hours. We rested frequently.

The effort was worth it, not only for the sense of accomplishment, but for the spectacular views.

Here we are reaching the summit.

Guess what we found at the top? Ladybugs!

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