Day 11 & 12: 01/06 & 01/07/2016 – Big Bend National Park, Chisos Basin

Destination: Big Bend National Park

Route: I-10W, US-385S

Mileage: 350


Flat and straight road to the horizon

Day 11 is truly a westward ho day! On the way to Big Bend National Park we end up over 250 miles west of our starting location. We have beautiful weather for traveling and lots of long, straight, Texas road. The road is good, except for a few unmarked ‘dips’ on US-385S that are reminiscent of a roller coaster.

On the way, we stop at the Wal-Mart in Fort Stockton for a resupply. Normally, this is not our first choice in shopping, but there are certain brands we know that we can get at a national chain. The Fort Stockton store has to be on of the saddest stores we have seen. A woman tried to sell us a puppy on the way into the store. Selections are limited and the beer is primarily two types, Bud and Bud Lite. We are thrilled to find Shiner Bock tucked away at the end of the refrigerated case. RV restocked, we turn south.

A bend in US-285S gives us a preview of the mountains we are heading towards.

We are camping in the Chisos Basin campground at Big Bend National Park. The basin is in the Chisos Mountains, the only mountain range in the United States entirely within the confines of a national park. The mountains are significantly cooler and receive, on average, over twice the annual rainfall than surrounding Chihuahuan Desert. The flora and fauna found in the mountains were stranded when the great ice age ended and reflect a cooler, moister climate. An example of an animal unique to the Chisos is the Carmen Mountain white-tailed deer, which are not well adapted to deserts. The mountain lion (local name: panther) is also present in the mountains. The Chisos are the only nesting area for the Colima warbler, which winters in Mexico. The Arizona pine, Douglas fir, Arizona cypress, quaking aspen, and big-tooth maple are trees that are ice-age remnants.

Abby squeezed into spot 43.

Abby acquits herself well on the climb from the desert into the Chisos Mountains. As we descend into the basin to camp, we get to experience the switchbacks and the hills we will have to climb in a couple of days. It has been a long trip, and experience has caused us to have some paranoia regarding taxing Abby’s transmission. We arrive to find a full campground and are glad we have reservations. It is winter break for colleges and this is a popular destination for the young whippersnappers. We are a tight fit in site 43, but manage to snug our rig in.

With Alex tucked away into bed, we enjoy the night sky. Big Bend was named an international dark-sky park by the International Dark-Sky Association in 2012. The park is also recognized as having the darkest measured skies in the lower 48 states. What does this mean? Simply put, we have never seen so many stars. It was difficult to pick out Orion because it was easy to lose the constellation among the thousands of stars. We see the Milky Way, not as a band, but of light and dark blotches. It is truly breath-taking. We do not get any pictures that do the sky justice.

Our rig attracts the attention of a park ranger on our first night, but after hearing we are staying only two nights, he decides to move on. We feel relief that we don’t have to pack up and move at that very instant (10 pm).

Abby in our new site.

The next morning Dave chats with the campground host and finds out that site 35, the old host site is not occupied that night. To avoid attracting the attention of a less tolerant ranger, we pull the slide in and quickly hop campsites. This site much more spacious (we are able to use the our awning), but is first come, first serve site.

View of the 'Window' from the Chisos Basin loop trail.
View of the ‘Window’ from the Chisos Basin loop trail.

Chisos Basin continues to impress and we are very sorry to have only a full day here. There are great hiking trails and the park brochure provides excellent details regarding the difficulty of each trail. Due to time constraints, we only able to hike the Chisos Basin loop, with a slight detour on the Laguna Meadows trail. We will be more careful to read trail signs and consult with our trail map in the future.

Family photo with the 'Window' as our background.
Family photo with the ‘Window’ as our background.
Alex in his Osprey carrier.

This is also our first hike with Alex in the Osprey Poco Plus carrier and he loved it. The carrier positions Alex so he is able to see over his human pack mule’s head and he is more engaged with us and our surroundings. The pack mules found the pack to be comfortable, easy to adjust, and is easy to load and secure Alex.

BigBendAlexRockAlex had fun in the campground climbing on rocks and following a road runner as it made its way through the campground. The roadrunner wasn’t sure what to think of his human shadow. Alex also made friends with a group of young men. Friends from a Houston high school, they had all gone to different colleges and were spending the weekend camping together. They let Alex join them in there game of Frisbee and Alex proved adept at taking a the football hand-off and running with the ball.

We plan on coming back. Our future trip will be scheduled with a date range of late January to early March in mind. This time frame will bring warmer weather and the spring wildflowers. We are also planning to come back in Abby sans the cargo trailer. Shortened to 24 feet,we will have our pick of spots.

The sun sets on our second day at Big Bend
The sun sets on our second day at Big Bend


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