January 4, 2013Destinations: Daniels Ranch Hot Springs Trail Rio Grande Village
Today we will travel eastward towards the side of Big Bend National Park that hosts the Rio Grande Village. We have tentative plans to visit Daniels Ranch, hike the Hot Springs Trail, and then scoot on over to the Rio Grande Village camp area. This campground area even provides for electrical hook-ups for RV’s, if you don’t mind parking in a paved parking area. As has been with most days, it starts off rather nippy in the morning. With my three layers of clothing, my beautiful long scarf, and the barren but majestic backdrop, I appear as if we are visiting some place far removed from the hot desert this actually is most of the time.
Our time here so far has been exploring the western side of the park. Today we head east. Our first stop is Daniels Ranch. Access is obtained from the main road along a winding, one lane dirt road, so narrow, that as we turn the outside curves one side of our truck hugs the rocky hillside as the other struggles to keep the tires planted on the roads rocky edge. It is a little unsettling looking out over the big hood of our truck into the abyss beyond. Okay the drop might only be 10-15 ft but from where I am sitting it could be 100 ft or more. Luckily the narrowest part only allows for one way traffic. What I would have given to be driving a Smart Car about now.
Daniels Ranch resembles a scene envisioned whilst listening to Eagles, “Hotel California.” It is positioned right next to the Rio Grande and is only a short walk away from the famous “Hot Springs Bathhouse,” or what is left of the foundation of the bathhouse. The building remains now only a shell of its past life, but the palm trees surrounding the establishment still tell a story of what it might have been like to visit and stay here. This site was home to a small resort/store/motor inn. Just around the corner, the remains of the few rooms available at the height of its time are still fairly intact. Hot Springs trail leads eastward from the building, passing the bathhouse remains, and continues 6 miles traversing along the river, ending at Rio Grande Village.
As noted by my shedding of attire from the morning it has warmed up considerably. It goes without saying that layering is a must, just as is water and protective sunblock. Even in the winter months.
The hike is fairly easy and the path easy to follow. We make good time even with so many sights and so many photos ops. Discovering the huge oceanic fossil not far from the path was my highlight. The diameter was over 12 inches. I have only seen one other this size before, not in a collect somewhere I mean, and then it only one half of the original fossil. I so desperately wanted to dig it up and try to sneak it under my jacket, but given the heat, the miles back to our vehicle, the doubt that I would be even able to carry a rock of this size, and not to mention that taking artifacts from a national park is a huge no-no, I reluctantly placed a pile of rocks around it in hopes that it would be appreciated by others.
On our way back we noticed high up perched on an encroachment, a lone border patrol agent on the look-out with his binoculars. Averting our attention in the direction of his gaze we were unsure if his watchful eye was fixated on the tent positioned directly across the river, possibly inhabited by border crossovers that we have been warned not to engage in purchases items from, or the naked German couple situated in the hot springs directly below us.
Traveling further east by truck we reach roads end at the Rio Grande Village, an area that feels as if you have completely left the desert. We took several shots in this Cottonwood setting. Warm weather here has suspended time and the leaves, normally dried and laying carelessly on the ground in other parts of the state, are still displaying beautiful golden hues. The splendor of color of the grove in the last days of December is an unexpected experience.
Rio Grande Village hosts a headquarters/general store, a parking lot area where large RV’s can park and plug-in, and a tree grooved area for those that don’t mind dry camping. The spots are considerably larger than where we are staying and I would say much easier to access, especially if you have a large vehicle or trailer. It is not as open as the Cottonwood campground, and definitely seems much more popular this time of year. A nature trail can be accessed from the campsite area. There is not much in the way of parking if you plan to hike, so be prepared to leave your vehicle squeezed to the side of the road among the brush. At the beginning of the trail we find several locations with items such of these colorful trinkets left beside the trail. Notes written on scrap cardboard accompany the twisted metal artifacts requesting a donation of a few dollars. I am assuming they are the creation of the inhabitants of the tent we saw earlier across stream.
Continuing on, the trail crosses a small watering hole, and with the sun setting in the west, brilliant displays of golden light cast its rays over the cottontails that protected the edge of the water. Nestled within the protection of the stalks, an owl is found, apparently not in the best of health and is rescued by the park rangers. Finding refuge in a national park within your under the weather has its perks.
But time is constantly ticking and our time for today is coming to an end. This wonderful tapestry of geology and flora still has a few surprises for us as we drive back to the basin. Nature combines and displays colors in a way that we can only hope to capture on canvas or in print, and all in a blink of an eye. It always has just the right exposure, color, contrast, vibrancy to stop you in your tracks. We have learned over the years to take the moments when they present themselves. This day, this moment, this experience will not repeat itself, and that is exactly what makes each one special.