December 28, 2012 – Part 2
Big Bend State Park
Just down the road a spell from where we call home in Texas there is a truck/tourist stop named Willie’s Place in Carl’s Corner, that boasts hundreds of photos and pieces of memorabilia of Willie Nelson collected over his singing career-at least it did until it was recently sold! I find it interesting how tourists find the most unusual places to visit, for example, the Cadilac Ranch near Amarillo, Tx. Tourists from all around visit, hoping to get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the country music legend during one of his frequent visits. I have never been much of a fan of country music, in fact I find it a little on the whinny side. Sorry to all those die hard country fans. It seems to me that someone is always cheating on someone else; or someone is forever crying about their sorrows with a beer in their hand. I am definitely not a Willie Nelson music fan. But if you’re like me, his lyrics have managed to find their way into your head and stick. As we pull off the dirt road and back onto Hwy 170 I find myself humming a few lines…
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been.
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
Other than the main highway, most of the streets are gravel or really, I should say, dirt tracks with embedded rocks. I am not sure why we chose to suddenly try the off road experience but with a quick turn of the wheel we are venturing off on what appears to be a side town street winding away from town. Navigating the turns, rocks and gullies, we get a glimpse of life in this small town. Along the way we encounter a variety of homes ranging from small and humble to fairly extravagant, many with Big Bend Texas style Christmas decorations. We loved the Santa hats hanging on the leafless brambles, it reminds us of Charlie Brown’s Christmas.
Along the track there was even a tiny camping area for small tents located within one of the gullies. The lodging that took the cake though was the bus laden with tubs parked amongst the tumbleweeds. Eerily resembling the accommodations of Emile Hirsch from “Into The Wild,” we half expect someone to step out of the bus to forage for roots and berries. From the small opening on the window was someone peering out or were our eyes playing tricks on us?
Sometimes you have to just stop and smell the…well in this case maybe you just have to stop. Passing Wind, which I wonder is namesake in any way to the annual chili cook-off, was an immediate attention grabber and definitely adds color to an area already brimming with colorful characters and establishments. If not for it’s name, then maybe for the ship, or the submerged submarine tower, or perhaps the miniature Statue of Liberty. Maybe it is the mermaid, the volcano which erupts nightly, or the many flags representing the USA, Texas, or the Military. Whatever the reason, it definitely grabs your attention.
Big Bend State Park is the largest state park in Texas, encompassing over 300,000 acres. The visitor center for the park is located along the river drive and is our next stop. The visitor center is close to closing when we finally arrive ( it closes at 4:30pm.) To our disappointment we discover that traveling within the park is not going to be possible today or maybe even during the remainder of this trip (just too far to travel in the time we have available). Most of the roads within the park are unpaved and so travel is very slow. It takes a 2-3 hour drive from the main road into the heart of the park. Getting to the road leading into the park from our current campsite is almost a 2 hour drive itself. This would be a four hour drive just to reach the visitor center in the park. To really explore the park you need to be prepared to camp here for at least a few days, with tent camping the best option, not only because of poor road condition, but also because of camping restrictions and park permit requirements. For now, we are content to roam the grounds of the Barton Warnock Visitor Center and it’s desert garden capturing some images of the unique flora native to this region.
Camping in this region is very popular. Along the highway there are several primitive camping spots nestled amongst the brush along the Rio Grande. They are definitely primitive camping only. Most have a picnic table, which really is the only indication that a site exists. This particular location is called Grassy Banks, and despite it’s name you will find no grassy banks! It was deserted apart from a lone empty truck/trailer that appeared to have transported canoes to the location. Sites here are very open with lots of trash tightly clinging to the brush. The river at this particular point is much wider than in the Santa Elena Canyon part of the river and is definitely much deeper, but just as murky looking. I would have to be desperate to cool off to wade in this part of the river. It’s definitely not a “must see” but it did add to our overall experience.
We only drive a few more miles before we decide that we should double back and head east. The sun is beginning to set low on the horizon even though it is only about 5pm. While stopped to take a few pictures, a truck stops along side for directions (the blind leading the blind me thinks – although we do have a print out of the surrounding region) and we learn of another canyon close by which the driver claims is spectacular – called Closed Canyon. It sounds interesting to hike but we decide to save it for another day’s trip and start our journey back to Chisos Basin.