M-A's Musings and Travels

A place where I can ponder and remember wonderful trips, camping excursions and hiking adventures.

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Location:Whitefish, Montana

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Day 8 - Big Bend National Park

Blooming yuccaWe had already begun to enjoy the varied vegetation of the Chihuahuan Desert in Arizona and New Mexico, but it was even more impressive in the western part of Texas. The entire west Texas desert was full of blooming creosote bushes and mesquite. We learned that the creosote bush emits a delightful aroma after rain, but unfortunately (or actually, fortunately,) we were not to have this experience. And the further south we drove, the more blooming yuccas we saw.

Blooming ocotillo
We also encountered some spindly looking cacti with bright red blooms at the tips of their "branches" - very similar to an octopus. Later, we learned these are ocotillos (we guessed that must be Spanish for octopus). The cholla cactus was also in full bloom, showing off yellow "roses" at the end of its fuzzy limbs.

Blooming prickle pear cactus
The prickle pear cactus was also in bloom. Another very frequent, but not blooming cactus, was the lechuguilla cactus, which is the indicator plant of the Chihuahuan Desert. We are told that, like a very similar and equally frequent cactus in this type of desert, the sotol, it can store its nutrients for decades before bursting into bloom, only to then die.

We loaded up on groceries in the little town of Marfa, got gas in Presidio and were surprised at the many Mexican license plates we saw who were also getting gas in the US - gas must be even more expensive in Mexico! We paid about $2.30/gallon for diesel here.

Rio Grande RiverFrom Presidio, we drove east along the Rio Grande. Here we could imagine where Ernest Borgnine and Sammy Davis, Jr. fought the Indians who kidnapped Borgnine's daughter in the movie, The Tracker. But it was getting late (for us) to be driving. We were tired and couldn't wait make a stop for the day. However, we discovered that you needed a park permit to camp along the Rio Grande since the road led through Big Bend Ranch State Park. We didn't want to drive all the way back to get one, so we decided to press on to Big Bend NP. We passed the little town of Terlingua with interesting looking gift shops, and normally, we would have stopped for a tempting look at the curiosities.

Chisos MountainsAt the park entrance, we were happy to see that the Basin campground still had vacancies. As we drove through the park, we could see the Chisos Mountains looming ahead, looking very inviting. And we were very fortunate, indeed, to find a "campsite with a view" because shortly after we arrived, the camp was full.


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