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Days 40 and 41: The journey to Big Bend

July 11, 2010 2 comments

Note:  Sorry for the delay in posting, haven’t been connected in quite some time (though it was good to get away from modern technology for a bit).  Below is the first part of my Big Bend story.  Also, below that, I talk about my last full day in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Stay tuned for part#2 of the Big Bend adventure…  -j

Location: Cottonwoods Campground, Big Bend National Park, TX

Miles Driven: ~700

Total Miles: 9,100

As I write this post, I’m sitting in my room at the La Quinta Inn in Midland, TX.  My trip to Big Bend with Kelly was an unforgettable one, and I need to split it up into two posts.  This is part #1.

After spending the late morning and afternoon on Thursday prepping for the trip (after all, I’m not used to having a passenger and needed to get that seat clear), Kelly and I hit the road around 5PM.  As I mentioned in the last post, the drive from Fort Worth to Big Bend National Park is somewhere around 10-11 hours, so we determined we’d drive as far as possible, and probably sleep in the car for the night (even if we did make it to a campground, it would be too dark to set up anything).

Some might wonder how I could convince someone to go on a 10+ hour drive to one of the most remote places in Texas, if not the country.  Well, going back several months I raved about the park that I visited back in 2005, knowing that Kelly was moving to Fort Worth.  I told her it’s worth the drive, as Kelly is a fan of the outdoors and hiking.  And then, as my plan for this roadtrip started taking a shape, I figured I could actually show her, since I’d be driving through her area.  She was able to get off the time from work, and things went swimmingly from there.

If you want to read about the interesting story that led me to Big Bend in the first place, check out my blog from five years ago (scroll to the bottom post on the page).  The only reason I know the park is I got pulled over for speeding.  Go figure.

So we were on I-20W for the entire first night of driving, and found a rest area to sleep at some point after the Midland/Odessa area.  Some pics from the drive:

Good to have someone else to take the wheels for a while. Thanks Kelly

We were surprised by the number of wind farms in West Texas

Sun sets on the first day of driving

So that wraps up Thursday.  I was quite happy to share the drive with a friend, and having conversation and laughs to share along the way beats listening to my music anytime.  Kelly puts up with my antics and dishes it out as good as anybody.  I have to say I was initially a little nervous about the trip, as so far I haven’t spent a lot of time in close-proximity with another person.  This was a conversation we had the night before:

Me: “You know, Kelly, it’ll be a lot of driving, just us two in the car, then just us two hanging out at the park.”

Kelly: “Uh-huh.”

Me: “What I’m saying is, in those cases, people will tend to butt heads after all that time together.”

Kelly: “Umm, Joe?  It’s three days.”

Apparently I made a three-day driving/camping excursion sound like two weeks together in a wooden hut.  Nothing against Kelly, but I was just worried about my ability to interact with another person for that length of time.  Glad to say my worries were without merit.

Part#1 Continues…

Around 6:30AM on Friday, we picked up where we left off and continued the drive towards Big Bend.  It was a chilly, rainy morning.  I was a little anxious for two reasons – the park’s beautiful views might be limited because of the rain, and that I wouldn’t be able to get any good star pictures from one of the darkest skies you’ll find in the U.S. (since Big Bend is so remote, there is practically zero light pollution).  But we got some breaks along the way to the park, and the skies would clear at moments as the scenery changed from flat plains to mountainous.  Thanks to Kelly for taking a lot of the pics.

By late morning we made it past the main park gates.  It’s a little frustrating when I want to whip out my National Parks pass (Christmas gift courtesy Kelly) and nobody is there to take it.  Third park where this has happened!  Oh well, I’m sure the parks further west will have manned gates.

I vaugely remembered some features of the park from my trip five years ago, but this time it was a whole new perspective since there was a lot of fog and clouds.  I failed to realize earlier that this park’s beauty is not going to be muddled by something as insignificant as the weather.

Exploring the foggy park

Big Bend is incredible, and I’d be lying if I said the mist in my eyes was caused by the air.  Pictures don’t do it justice, but hopefully I can convey some of the beauty here.

Kelly checking out the "Mule Ears" rock formation

Recognize the photo above?  I purposely took this shot because it was the scene of one of my favorite shots from the 2005 roadtrip.  Click on “About Joe” (tab on the top of the page) to see that picture.  Here you have the same setting, with just a different atmosphere.

Once in a while, we'd see a little blue in the sky

Kelly and I made our way to the Santa Elena Canyon near the southwestern portion of the park.  We had a fun, albeit muddy, hike along part of the canyon wall.

Santa Elena Canyon

View from inside the canyon

View of the park from the canyon

Great hike to start the stay at Big Bend.  We left the canyon area and made our way to the Cottonwoods Campground (same camp site I stayed at during my last visit).  As I predicted, it was mostly unoccupied.  The summer is the off-season for the park, and combined with the park’s remoteness, there are not a lot of campers in July.

We set up the tent and relaxed for a while, caught up on some much needed zsss (even with the high humidity), then headed towards the Panther Junction area of the park.  There we could grab some ice and some supplies for some kind of dinner.  About halfway into the drive over there, we got hit by some strong winds and rain.  By the time we reached Panther Junction, it was cold.  We bought some cooking supplies and hustled our way back to the campsite, hoping the rain didn’t reach that area yet.  We lucked out, and only a little bit of rain hit the area briefly.  Time to eat!

Hotdogs and peppers, a delicious combo

The rain held off until we were ready to hit the hay.  I did enjoy falling asleep to the sound of the rain, but knew I would pay for it with a wet tent in the morning.  Oh well.  Great first day at Big Bend.

joe

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Day 39

July 11, 2010 1 comment

Location: Fort Worth, TX

Although I’m not working now, my friends still have to, so when Kelly headed off to work on Wednesday morning I made my way to a nearby Starbucks to take advantage of the free wi-fi (just offered as of July 1, used to be pretty expensive for Internet access).  Used that for a couple hours, then it was time to make my way to Dallas to meet up with a friend for lunch.

Darren is a buddy of mine going way back to Kindergarten.  We were in school together from K-12, and have periodically talked and gotten together over the years.  I last saw him late Fall near D.C. when he was on a business trip, but his home is in Dallas so a perfect chance to meet.  Darren, an experienced outdoorsman, was a big help with my last roadtrip as I geared up for my first camping opportunities.  Great to see you, buddy.

Darren and me eating at a "Jason's Deli" restaurant in Dallas

After lunch, I went to find a camera store as I had lost some accessories on some hikes I’ve done.  Found a shop nearby and replaced everything I needed.  From there, it was back to Fort Worth to relax for a bit and catch some exercise.  I don’t have any photos/video of it, but I was in a park nearby the Lockheed Martin plant, and I saw an F-16 making loops through the sky above.  Pretty cool.  The pilot seemed close enough to wave to, at times.

Then I was off to the restaurant Steel, in Dallas, to grab dinner with my ex-girlfriend, Thais. 

Dallas

Thais and I get along well.  The major reason the relationship ended back in 2009 was that she had to move for her job.  So no strife, no messiness, and it was great to pick up and laugh again with a person I always had fun with.  She also treated me to an amazing meal.

Our sushi platter

So this was my last night in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  On Thursday afternoon, Kelly and I pack up and head southwest on a 10-hour drive towards Big Bend National Park.  Big Bend is one of the least-visited national parks, but only because it is so remote.  Once you see pictures, you’ll understand why the drive is worth it.

joe

Categories: Uncategorized