Friday, June 1, 2018

It isn't heavy for you because I am carrying it!

[Mid April]

We add another Big Bend to the adventure with 3 days in Big Bend Ranch State Park (TX).  The most coveted back country campsite is Guale [Wall-eh] #2 where one can see for miles in all directions.  Though we miss getting it by mere minutes, we camp nearby in Guale #1 and drive to watch the sun set.  

BBRSP is huge and quiet.  It is another dark sky place that attracts star gazers.  

From Guale #1 we drive west through the park.  The road through Fresno Canyon heading south is alternating narrow brushy two-track with sandy river bottom.  
D-stretch enhanced hand prints at Manos Arriba

We stop to see Manos Arriba on our way to the Vista del Bofecillos campsite.  The hand prints are inside a small cave.  It isn't difficult to see why this cool spot attracted visitors.  It is hot outside and pleasantly cool inside.  The prints are estimated to be >thousand years old...with some as recent as 300.

There are more pictographs to be found on the Cinco Tenajas trail.

The trail origin takes us to an overlook of the tenajas (jars) from the high canyon walls above the wash.  The trail then descends to the canyon and follows the wash to a place where people rested and took shelter - leaving their art for us to admire. we opt to do the hike to the petroglyphs before tenajas so that cooling will follow the heat of the desert hike.

One of the Cinco Tenajas

"Use caution as the smooth rocks around the tenajas are very slippery when wet and the pools can be difficult or impossible to get out of alone." - Texas Park hiking guide.  

It is with caution that I tuck the camera into a pocket and tether it to a belt loop. Alex provides a hand up for the less agile hiker - and stands as a road block when I am heading down the slippery rocks. Much appreciated! 

First view of this part of the Rio Grande River

One more night in BBRSP before heading for Big Bend National Park. The ranger mentions that we will likely find the Rio Grande riverside campground warmer than either of the other the higher elevation camps.  Another night with doors and windows open.  In the morning we find fresh tracks in the sand.  Bobcats perhaps?  Mom and little ones - guessing from tracks.

It is a short distance to Big Bend Natl Park.  We stop in Terlingua to inquire about the guided trip through St Elena Canyon as well as livery options.  Big bucks.  Nice that we have the Pakboat handy - and that the volume of water has slowed since spring.

We save many miles by heading for the ranger station at Castolon.  It looks like we will have to get used to disappointment as the Castolon ranger station cannot issue back-country camping permits.  Boat permit, yes.  

However, Ranger Daphne tells us that it is too hot to be in the back-country anyway.  "Stay at the Cottonwood campground. Enjoy the shade." We did. We discover another use for the collapsible dishpan (which has not yet been used to wash dishes in or outside of Quiggy). It makes a terrific cooling foot soak.  I shower in a sun dress using Q's outdoor shower and then sit in a camp chair with feet in cold water.  No A/C needed here.

Blurry Vermilion Flycatcher
It is a desert oasis not far from the river.  Lots of big trees, and with doors and windows open all night we listen to great horned owl music. It is a known birders’ hang-out, many campers walking around with binoculars hanging around their necks. Alas, I missed getting a photo of the beautiful vermilion flycatcher. However, the roadrunner posed often and well.

Incredible views around every bend

In the morning we are the first on the water in Santa Elena Canyon so speedy is the putting together of the Pakboat.  It is a short walk from the parking lot to the water.

Shallow water hike
We still speak of the people who met us at the river's edge. I wish, wish, wish I’d had the presence of mind to get their contact info. He came up and took my end of the boat and kept saying the most hilarious things in his heavy Indian-British-English accent. He is a chemical engineer/researcher who may have been in high demand over his career as they have lived all over the world, but now in Austin.

People coming down the path asked about the trip. He answered “it was great. We had fish and chips and margaritas.” I know this is one of those, you-had-to-be-there moments, but he was just so very funny. His spouse was just lovely, too. I said something about the boat not being that heavy. “Of course, you’ll say that. I’m carrying it!”