If you want to listen to a sweet west Texas jam while reading this blog post click HERE. I'm getting all multimedia on you now!
I have to admit that I really never had any desire to travel through west Texas or to Big Bend National Park. I don't have anything against Texas really, I just had never considered it a destination that I HAD to see. I think a lot of people probably feel much the same way. I have to tell you, I am a changed man. Big Bend National Park is special, and it is worth the long journey to see it.
The trip came about when friends from Austin put together a sort of family camping and reunion trip around west Texas. To be completely honest, Sonja and I waffled about going. It is a long drive, we are broke, we have so much to do...We were telling ourselves any excuse we could come up with to back out of the trip. Thankfully, at the last second, we talked it out and we decided that we were going to go for it. Life is too short to live scared, and it felt like we were living a little scared. Here is where I would hit you with some motivational quote like "Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it", but the truth is we just really wanted to see our friends. So we tossed a bunch of gear in our 13 year old Honda Pilot and started driving. We spent our first night in Las Vegas, New Mexico, which doesn't look like much, but when you dig into the history of the city it is a really interesting place. For one, did you know that outside of Las Vegas there are free hot springs? For two, there is this place, a magical place, called Charlie's Bakery and Cafe that is so awesome we ate there on the way south and on the way back north....Sonja loved the Cream Puffs enough to take pictures of the pastry case both times we ate there. Look at those things.
Leaving Las Vegas (yeah we sang that song...it is not what Ms. Crow had in mind....but whatever) we drove south for a while, a long while. Along the way, we stopped in Fort Stockton for some Mexican food and supplies before we drove the last 100 miles or so down to Big Bend.
Right here I want to give a shout out to Marathon, Texas. We met a really nice older fellow there and it seemed like a cool little town that I could spend some time in. But on to Big Bend!
We camped at the Chisos Basin Campground, and by camped I mean crashed in the Pilot. Big Bend is a humbling place. It is impressive. The isolation of it all. You are way out there. The landscape is overwhelming, in an amazing and beautiful but a little bit dangerous way. Maybe the best thing about Big Bend is that "half the park is after dark". Big Bend is probably one of the darkest places in the United States, and star and sunset parties are a real thing. The campground is just above The Window for sunset and after the sun goes down you can spend hours stargazing in a lawn chair with a cold Negra Modelo in your lap. For real. It is crazy. In the few short days we spent in the park we hiked some trails, took some photos, watched birds, stargazed, swam in the Rio Grande, and mostly just enjoyed the fact that not a lot of people were around. I'm going to stop writing now and let the images of Big Bend tell the story for a second.
Some recommendations if you ever make the trek to Big Bend.
- Visit in the early spring or late fall. The desert is a hot place to be in the summer.
- If you want to stay in the park (and you do) make a reservation at a campground or lodge. The campground was a little crowded, but there are not a lot of places to stay out there.
- DO NOT miss the hot springs! At night! For real. Throw your own star party while relaxing in hot springs. Are there scorpions, snakes, sparkle eyed spiders and javelinas around? Yes, but remember that time I said life is too short to live scared? It is worth it.
- Bring a swimsuit. The river hikes are the way to go. Especially around sunset. Do not miss the canyons, and maybe swim to Mexico...We maybe did or did not....depending on who is asking.
- Take the Boquillas International Ferry across the Rio Grande and grab a margarita and some tacos in Boquillas, Mexico.
I had one of the best days of my life in Big Bend and I 100% suggest you go there and see it for yourself. One thing I will say though - A wall down the middle of the river here would be a travesty for both us in the United States and our neighbors in Mexico. I believe that. Both sides of the political spectrum agree with me. That is all I am going to say about that.
El Cosmico is a ton of fun. We hung out, got our bohemian hipster on, took outdoor showers, did some light painting, and told stories by the fire inside one of the teepees. It was a great time with some great people and a night I will never forget.
On our way out of Marfa, we stopped at Prada Marfa (which isn't really in Marfa)...It was a funky and cool piece of art.
From Marfa we drove to the small town of Fort Davis where we stayed at the Hotel Limpia. The town is a quaint place, the highest town in Texas, with an old civil war era fort but we were here to check out the McDonald Observatory. Remember when I told you that star parties are a thing? Well the McDonald Observatory throws the best one. The star party was amazing with a talk about the night sky and several large telescopes to look through. If you ever find yourself in west Texas don't miss it.
It was time for us to split up from our friends and start heading home. It was a little sad for us, because we love these folks, and we don't get to see them enough, but there will be more adventures to come. We had one more stop that we wanted to make on our way back north. From Fort Davis we drove to White Sands National Monument where we checked out the white sand dunes while trying not to think about the nuclear bombs that were set off across the highway. It is a really cool place. There were lots of families out spending time together in the dunes, sledding on the sand, eating al fresco under umbrellas, and enjoying the unique area.
We hiked around, stamped our passport, took some pictures, and enjoyed the afternoon before beginning the drive back to Colorado. West Texas and eastern New Mexico offer a lot of options for adventure if you just know where to look. I can't believe that I hadn't been down there before, but I promise that I will be there again. There is still so much to see and do down there. It is a special place. It is worth it. It is crazy. It is beautiful. Don't live scared. Get out and do it. Thanks for reading and I hope that you get out and into your own adventures soon.