Big Bend National Park: “What God did with the Leftovers”

 

My word, this is beautiful country! Indian legend says this is where the Great Spirit dumped all the leftover pieces after creating the world.. It’s got a little bit of a whole lot of goodness. So much dry, parched landscape, so much geology and such a stark landscape…but truly breathtaking.

Stopped at the new fossil exhibit along the main road through the park, and saw a number of amazing dinosaur skeletons (90 in total discovered here), some of which are found nowhere else in North America. The beasts of Big Bend must have had a lovely time with the lush tropical climate and ample food supply that existed here 75 – 100 million years ago.

Yesterday’s 5.8 mile walk to the Hot Springs along the Rio Grande River was a splendid hike on the ridges about the river, at 1800 feet above sea level, with a gradual descent to the water. Today we hiked 6 miles at 5,500 feet, to the Window Pour-off west of Chisos Basin. Hiking air temps range from 55 degrees to 85 degrees – tough to dress appropriately for the lows and the highs, but the most important factor is hydration. We can make this length mountain hike without a problem, so long as we sip water pretty much continuously. They tell hikers here to take a gallon of water with them, and they’re not kidding.

The canyons are magnificent, made up of limestone and shale from early geologic past and igneous rocks from the later periods. Their sheer walls are mostly a soft orange or grey streaked with brown and black from millions of years of springs spilling water out of them. On today’s path, we saw roadrunners, mule deer, Mexican jays, and four wild goats up on the steep walls! Seems no one has ever seen these goats, in the recent memory of the rangers – but we know our small ruminants, and these were neither the barbary sheep nor the Aurochs that can infrequently be spotted here. No pictures of the goats, as I would have needed a telephoto and didn’t bring that lens along. Also, no pix of the vermillion flycatcher we saw – they’re just too fast for us. But we did see a group of Episcopal School children out for a field trip from Dallas, ready to storm into the hot springs just as we were leaving!

Tomorrow we venture to Boquillas, Mexico, a little border town across the Rio Grande that subsists on visitor dollars from Big Bend, and we’ll take in a hike to Boquillas Canyon (overlooking the Rio Grande) as well as a drive across the landscape. Time for a good night’s sleep to prepare for that!

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