Home > Uncategorized > Days 40 and 41: The journey to Big Bend

Days 40 and 41: The journey to Big Bend

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.


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. July 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    “um, are we going to have enough to talk about on the 2 hr drive to the 3eb concert?”
    mmm hot dogs and red peppers, good combo.
    I do recognize that picture from 2005! I have a hard copy of it. Amazing you were able to find the same bend. Is it a landmark?

    • July 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      Hahaha funny you bring up that quote, I told Kelly the story about our trip to the 3eb concert.

      And that same bend you refer to – that’s on the way to the campsite we stayed at (same site as 2005). So as soon as I saw that rock, I knew the photo-op was coming up.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: