Big Bend, Texas
This blog is dedicated to my friend Bob Shelton, who in 2015, made his final hike to that big mountain in the sky. He was an awesome photographer, and my hiking buddy and he helped me through a terrible time in my life. I will never forget him and the emotional support he gave me during those years.
Big Bend was my first official, sleeping on the ground in a tent backpacking trip and I loved every minute of it! We took the trip during the week of Thanksgiving and the plan was to hike and backpack through Big Bend National Forest, then end up at Big Bend State Park for Thanksgiving dinner at the ranch there, but the universe had different plans.
Big Bend is another one of those areas of Texas that is incredible and unbelievable, and that is why, you must get in your car and drive to Big Bend. Take a road trip and discover your state, for it is magnificent! Of course, the Big Bend area is right on the Rio Grande, right next door to Mexico and I must say again how I love my Mexican neighbors.
Our journey began in a campsite underneath the shadows of the Boquilla Mountains with plenty of javelina hogs roaming around waiting for you to toss them their next meal. These creatures are ugly and not afraid of humans in the least. From here we drove to the Chisos Mountains where I would undertake my first backpacking and camping excursion to the top of the mountain.
My friend Bob decided he could not make it on this trail, so I set off alone from the Chisos Basin Trail and headed up Pinnacle trail towards Emory Peak. The hike is about 3.5 miles of twisting turning switchbacks and an elevation change of about 1700 feet to the Emory Peak Trail head, and then another mile up to the summit with an elevation change of 2,450 feet. Emory Peak is the highest peak in this area at 7,625 ft. This was by far the hardest, most extreme trail I have ever attempted with such a high elevation change and plenty of switchbacks, but I made it to the Summit Peak Trail head about 4pm. I knew there was not enough time to ascend to the peak and make it back to my campsite on the Northeast rim before dark thirty, so I hiked about 1/8 of a mile up the trail and enjoyed the scenery of the Chihuahuan Desert below. From here, I took the Boot Canyon trail then a small trek up the Juniper Trail and finally the Northeast Rim Trail where my little campsite # NE1 lay waiting.
The night was soon upon me and the temperature feel below the predicted temp in the low 50's to somewhere near the mid 30's. When I arrived at my camp, I had just enough time set up and to warm some soup on my propane burner and make a cup of tea before nightfall came. I was soon bundled up in my tent ready for a chilly night. The very cool thing about this night was that I could hear the wind whistling up the canyon from the north, then over the trees above my head and down the other side of the mountain. The trees were barely moving as the wind blew over them and the sound of the bristling wind soon lulled me to sleep. After hiking almost 6.5 miles, I was exhausted and went right to sleep. My plan was to wake before daylight to make it to the rim and watch the sunrise, but this almost did not happen because I was sleeping so soundly. I woke, just as a glimmer of sun peeked into my tent and I immediately jumped up, grabbed my camera, and ran down the trail as fast as I could to the rim of the canyon. Thank goodness, I made it just in time to catch the glorious sun peeking above the horizon! After drinking in that amazing sunrise, and taking some awesome shots, I hiked back to camp, cooked oatmeal and coffee and watched a family of deer walking past my tent. My plan was to meet Bob again at the Chisos Trail Head at 2pm, so I decided to pack up and start heading down the trail.
After a few hours of trekking I was reunited with my buddy Bob at the Chisos basin. From there we started our drive down Hwy 170 to the town of Presidio following the Rio Grande River. We hiked the Closed Canyon Trail and the Madera Canyon and camped overnight along the way at Camp Arenosa near the Rio Grande in Big Bend State Park. We drove all the way to Presidio where we had lunch at El Patio Restaurant. Thanksgiving Day was nearing, so we headed to Terlingua to celebrate the day with a meal at the famous La Kiva Restaurant and Bar. A live band was playing and we ate turkey and dressing and it ended up being a fun way to spend a Thanksgiving!
This adventure to South Texas was a first for me in several ways. It was my first time to see the mountainous side of Texas, it was my first time to backpack and spend the night on the trail alone, and it was my first time to wade into the Rio Grande and swim across to the border of Mexico. What a great trip this was, and I encourage all of you Texans to visit this part of your great state! You won’t be disappointed.
May you begin your Earth Quest today!