December 30, 2013
Santana Mesa Overlook
El Camino del Rio, “The River Road” on FM 170, exemplifies the meaning of a scenic route, following the twists and turns along with the many ups and downs of the Rio Grande river. The majority of this drive is within the boundaries of Big Bend Ranch State Park which can be seen to the right of the road heading west. On the other side of the Rio Grande is Mexico. The scenic drive travels between Lajitas and Presidio with the cliff-hugging road twisting and turning along side the Rio Grande. But no worries here though, as we have traveled this road twice now and take the bends as well as any local. Well as long as that means we slow 10 miles per hour below the suggested speed limit. Our first stop is the Santana Mesa, accessed after climbing a 15 percent grade, where we are rewarded with a spectacular view from the Santana Mesa Overlook.
Though not apparent at first glance, climbing around and up on top of the rocky volcanic pile of rocks is relatively easy. The fight to stand upright against the wind is another matter. Several times I thought for sure that it was going to blow me off the overlook.
It is actually very chilly sitting here, as probably detected by the two coats, gloves, and hat. But definitely well worth it for the mere views alone.
Descending the Santana Mesa, we enter the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert whose stark topography is a vast contrast to the deep green ribbon of the Rio Grande. Closed Canyon is our next stop with a 1.4-mile round trip hike where at times you can touch both sides with outstretched arms, literally! This is not a difficult hike but does require some climbing up and down to gain access to sections as it travels towards the Rio Grande and the floor is very sandy at times.
We finally had to call it quits when faced with a large pool of water surrounded by sheer rock sides. Or at least I called it quits. As we arrived at the pool, it so happened that two younger individuals were tackling the need to cross the water with some very tricky free soloing. Not to be out done by these whipper snappers, Andrew decided he too would attempt it. At one point I thought for sure he heading for a bathing, but at the very last second his foot made contact with the rock and he found his self safe on dry rock only to find a much larger pool of water and much steep rock facings obstructing him once again. Resigned to defeat he fought his way back across again to higher ground.
As we leave the canyon we cross paths with a couple from Carrollton, TX (which is just a hop and skip away from home). Amazing how you can travel so far away and yet meet up with others that are practically your neighbors. Along for the hike were their two wolves. No, you didn’t read wrong. I said wolves. I wonder what goes through a person’s head when they decide today is the day to adopt a wolf. Although I believe they were actually wolf dogs hybrids as it is illegal to own pure bred wolves in Texas I later found out. Beautiful animals but not really practical for city life I wouldn’t think.
Our last stop of the day is a romp over a collection of hoodoo’s. With the close of the day quickly arriving and the shadows slowly making their way across the landscape it made for some nice photos to end the day.
Tomorrow we plan to head north for a couple of days so we head back to get an early night and hopefully and early morning drive out.