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Our Favorite Places - In Love With Deserts - Part 3

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The previous two adventures occurred in our first year of full-timing in the motor home. By 2005 we had been in our new motor home for several years and were in our fifth winter in south Texas. We were getting a little stir crazy sitting in one place for four months, so in early March we decided to take a couple of weeks and head out west to Big Bend National Park. We would arrive during the peak season at Big Bend, spring break for colleges. Big Bend lies at a road to the end of the world! It is about 50 miles from town of Marathon to the park, with nothing along the way.

The Rio Grande Village RV campground (the only one with hookups) doesn't take reservations so you have to get there early and wait for someone to leave. We stopped at a rest stop north of the park and stayed overnight getting up at dawn to enter the park and line up for a campsite. We were lucky, being third in line we got a site and settled in for a stay of eight days. After checking in at the Park Visitor's Center, we set out to enjoy something we couldn't at our previous desert visits. We now had a Chevrolet Trailblazer 4WD for our toad so we took the Glenn Springs 4WD road back to the campground. Slow, rugged, beautiful scenery, this was our first real 4WD experience. Once back at the campground we broke out the bicycles and rode back to a viewpoint where we could watch the sunset colors on the spectacular Sierra del Carmen Mountains.

We were lucky this time, the desert was in bloom. We hiked from the campground to the hot springs. Along the way we saw spectacular flowers of all kinds. I love to take pictures and this keeps us from wearing ourselves out on hikes. When I get out of breath I stop to take a picture or two! Along the trail we found a tiny cactus with a huge bloom. Any other time we'd have walked past and paid no attention to this tiny jewel of a cactus but today it was begging for attention. There were fields of cactus in flower, ocatilla and yucca also blooming spectacularly. We lounged in the hot spring then jumped over the wall into the Rio Grande for a cool dip. Back into the hot tub to warm up before heading back to the campground.

The ultimate 4WD road, the River Road, runs from one side of the park to the other paralleling the Rio Grande River. Along the way we explored the Mariscal mercury mine, enjoyed the gypsum cliffs and the view of Mule Ears Peak. Stops for wildflowers and the mine plus the scenery and I had to empty my compact flash card for the camera several times. The drive took the entire day. The road would descend into one arroyo after another. We watched the sunset on the way home and arrived back at the motor home in the dark.

On a hot day we headed for the Chisos Mountains and hiked the Window View Trail to an opening in the rock that looks out on the desert from 1,600 feet above through a gap in the Chisos mountains. We ate lunch at the overlook and then returned to the car to continue exploring. In the Boquillas Canyon we enjoyed the call of the canyon wren. People used to cross into Mexico here, wading across the river. Now it is illegal to do so. It is also illegal to purchase the goods offered by Mexican artisans who offer hand carved canes and other merchandise for purchase. They wade across the river and leave the goods on the river bank with a can for payments. In a previous short visit we had stopped at St. Elana Canyon and hiked the trial into the canyon. This hike is spectacular and not to be missed. You can almost reach out across the Rio Grande and touch Mexico.

Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited national parks, so most times of the year there will be few people in the campgrounds or on the trails. It is well worth the trip to reach this out-of-the-way gem of the U.S. National Park system.

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