Big Bend State Park is in Deep South Texas on the Mexican boarder. The easiest access from DFW, Austin and Houston is to fly Southwest airlines, Continental or American Airlines into Midland/Odessa airport. Rent a car and head out.
One of the best times to visit Big Bend is the weekend before or after Easter. Easter weekend the park is too full and gaining camping permits is very difficult. Going the weekend before or after Easter allows you to see the wonderful Cacti blooms and experience the park during one of it's most pleasant weather windows.
April 2002 saw Gclub members and friends head to Big Bend in a Big way. We basically operated as 3 "individual" groups of Gclub members and friends. The first group was lead by Jacek and included 4 people. The Second group was lead by your host Michael and finally in our smallest group was lead by Roger.
Our main goal was to enjoy the park, share good company and have a good time. The main activity is Intermediate back packing in the remote and dry Chisos mountains of Big Bend. The three groups flew into Midland/Odessa at various times and rented their own cars. On the drive down I had been promoting having lunch at the Gage hotel, in 1999 I had a wonderful lunch at the Gage. The Gage is a restored hotel, that was built for a ranch baron in order to house his offices, ranch guests and business visitors to the area. It has been wonderfully restored, unfortunately, they have not been able to keep their restaurant open on a consistent basis. If you get there and the Gage is open, definitely have lunch on the patio. With our lunch option not very good we purchased lunch at the Greasy spoon next door, owned by the Gage, however not the same type of food! and had our lunch on the Gage's wonderful shade covered patio.
After lunch the main groups continued on our way to Big Bend. Jacek and company had already secured our back packing permits, so all we had to do was pick up the note and head out. You arrive at Big Bend from the north. This northern drive takes you across semi-desert, arid lands, that look very little like they did when first settled due to over grazing. Once you arrive at the park, you see a explosion of plant varieties due to the approximate 50 years the park has been restoring habitat within the park boundaries.
After we checked in, secured our passes there was nothing else to do but load up and begin the rather difficult hike up to the pass and back down to Boot Camp A , our designated camping area. Jacek and company arrived at BC early in the day and continued on a loop trek to the South East rim. We arrived later in the day, most of us were able to get to camp and set up our tents prior to dark. Upon arriving at Base Camp we discovered that one of the groups had not calculated their water rations correctly. We were now a group of 11 in a remote , dry desert mountain range without enough water to meet the recommended intake per person. Fortunately, the other groups had carried in additional rations of water. We all mustered up at the camp and started divvying up the water supply. Calculating water in a desert: Morning to Midnight is considered one day, if you plan to leave trail head at noon and return the next day at two pm, then you are in the desert TWO days. You do not count 24 hours as one day. Each time the sun rises is one day. You need two liters of personal water intake per person per day. Plus spare for emergencies and if you wish to clean any thing be it dish, face or otherwise.
Once the water situation was taken care of we realized we were still missing someone. Poor Mark, somehow he made a wrong turn onto a prior camping loop and it took him awhile to figure out he was heading in circles. Once he made it back onto the main trail, to his credit , he continued up to the pass and stored his backpack in the bear locker before jogging ahead to find the party. We were worried about him and after resting a few minutes Brent and Michael decided to jog back to the summit turn off and see if maybe he had taken a wrong turn there and headed up to the top of the mountains.
It was getting late, very late, Brent and Michael decided it was futile to look any further, we figured by this time Mark would have stopped and settled in on the trail and pick up where he left off the next morning. So we headed back to BC and finally had dinner. Just after dinner we see a light bobbing in the distance, so Michael headed down the trail and found Mark, in good shape, and spirits. Mark was relieved to have finally caught up with the group.
It had been a long first day with air travel, car travel, and finally a long hike in to camp. However, everyone was up and ready to enjoy a good day of day hiking along the SE rim and up to the top of the highest peak in the area. The views were great, from SE rim you look across the valley to Mexico. At the base of the valley runs a green ribbon, this is the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, not quite as Grande as in the past. The river fights to survive the dry desert and ward off over development and water diversion by ranchers and farmers all along it's length both in Mexico and the USA. The morning and afternoon were perfect.
Later in the day , the plan was to return down the valley toward the trail head and make a little detour to the top of the peak. Then finish the day with a camp site change to the "Gravel Pitt" area. When we arrived at the Gravel Pit, we were entertained with a fierce storm and a uniquely desert feature, full storm with thunder, lightning and rain, yet not a drop hits the ground! It all evaporates as it descends from the sky. However, the storm did challenge our patience , pride and abilities. As we were setting up camp, we had no less than 40 mile an hour winds that were filled with dust and sand. We had dust and sand in our tents, teeth and eyes. We also found it quite hard to anchor a tent in sand with 40 mile an hour wind wanting to carry them away like kites. Fortunately, just after dark all the wind stopped and we had a great nights sleep.
With the tent's set up, it was time to head to Mexico. Not that we were prepared, some of us traveled without passports, some without any form of ID, yet off we went. Fortunately, Baquillas is a small village, that clings to life by selling a few sauvianears to tourists and making a few passable meals and doesn't get much attention by boarder agents or crossing guards. Though don't think you could use it as a smuggling base, the boat men and the border agents have an agreement, anyone no just going over for a drink and food will get special border agent attention. This boarder is a delicate balance between co-operation and being closed. If you go, be aware the border could be closed for any reason at any time. We had the easiest border crossing ever, just pay your two dollars board the tiny boat and hang on. Once we had crossed over, it was time to start negotiating for a ride into town, the walk would have been easy, however, it was more efficient to just pay the $20 and pile into the back of a truck. Our driver, as honest as they come, flatly stated there was only one restaurant in town, of course it was run by his sister. Don't believe them, walk around, there are more and some are quite nice.
Food was ok, however it got a lot better after Donnie bought a bottle of masquel to add to our already copious supply of beer. Basically the order went like this, two beers each for appetizers, followed by a few Tacos, with dessert being a nice beer and masquel shot to top off the meal. GREAT FOOD!
After we had all par-taken in the bowntiful food and booze, it was back across the boarder to the cars then off the the HOT THERMAL SPRINGS!. The springs are located on the eastern side of the park, between the north entrance and the RV village. They were built at the turn of the century as a "Healing Center". We went late in the day, after the families have left and before the hard core drunks arrived. During the day, the springs do not look like much, however, after a long day hiking trails, with a full tummy and good company, they transform into paradise. Hot water bubbling out of the ground ready to sooth all your muscles and aches away. Once every one had had their bones healed , it was time for some fun, we all started jumping into the Rio Grand and swimming the small rapid. The water was cool and refreshing. And it didn't smell like El Paso sewage at all.
The next morning found some of us doing a short day hike up a canyon before heading north
back to the airport. Roger and Mark, were off to the Balmorea Spring for a little scuba
diving. The trip was great. Look forward to it again.
RATING: INTERMEDIATE - HARD
EQUIPMENT: Camping Gear: BACKPACK Camping, Sun block, hiking shoes, , water bottles, Sun, Rain, Warm Weather, Cool Weather. Recommended: Tent camping, Sleeping bag, Camper mat, Snacks, Beverages, Sun Block.
Camping Fee's , Restaurant meals, Air plane tickets, Car rental share,
Trip Schedule/Muster Points: (Recommended Final:TBA)
Beaver Bend Beginning Backpacking Trip May 12-14
Beaver Bend OK May12-14 2000 Beginning Backpacking trip atPhoto Point