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Posts Tagged ‘Milky Way’

Days 42 and 43: Beautiful Big Bend, and the journey goes on

July 12, 2010 6 comments

Location: Midland, TX

Miles Driven: ~450

Total Miles:9,859

Here is part#2 of the story of Kelly and me adventuring in Big Bend.  See below for part#1

There were a lot of animals and insects making noises throughout the night, but we were still able to get a little sleep.  The tent was fairly wet from the rain, but it looked like clear skies on the horizon, so the hope was the tent could pretty much dry on its own during the day.

Kelly and I drove over to the Mule Ears overlook to hike the Mule Ears Spring Trail.  It was a good hike, but we were a bit disappointed in that we didn’t get very close to the Mule Ears rock formation.  Still fun, though, and we enjoyed a couple of hours out in the sun.

Mule Ears in the distance

Big beetle on the trail

Big bug digging a hole

Turns out we were in the desert there hiking for a couple hours, so we decided to go for a drive after the hike.  We hit up a cafe we knew that was nearby, and then visited the “ghost town” of Terlingua, TX.  I don’t know if you can call it a ghost town if people live there, though.  Driving back into the park, we realized how different everything looked now that the sun was out.  We could see colors and shapes of the rocks much better.

Since we drove by the entrance sign again, I made sure we got a picture.

Glad I had the chance to show Kelly this beautiful place

Some more pics from driving around the park, courtesy Kelly:

We made it back to the campsite and relaxed for a bit.  The skies were fairly clear, so I was optimistic we’d have some good views of the sunset, in addition maybe we’d get to see some stars at nighttime.  Around 8PM we got back in the car and made our way to one of the mountain vista closer to the entrance of the park.  Once again, the park looked different, as now the setting sun and shadows were hitting the place.

Santa Elena Canyon in the distance

Mazda holding strong in the desert

We made it to the Solto Vista point of the park where we had some great views of southern Texas and Mexico, beyond.  It was so quiet, we whispered, as if our voices would unsettle nature.

What a peaceful time watching the sun go down.

Venus was shining in the Western sky, and it wasn’t long after the sun went down that more stars started to appear.  It was close to dark by the time we got back in the car, and already there were more stars out then I can ever remember seeing before it was totally dark.  The drive back to the campsite was pretty amazing, just peeking out the window and seeing constellations as clear as day.

And then the view from our campsite was pretty tough to beat.  High above one of the cliffs it was thousands of stars, and the clear band of the Milky Way, shining strong.  Kelly remarked she never saw so many stars, and probably I haven’t seen this many ever, myself (the last time at Big Bend, I had a bright moon to contend with).

Once again, I had a lucky break with timing – the skies at Big Bend cleared, and the moon was near New Moon phase, so the conditions were ideal for some of the best night-viewing in the country.

In the middle of the night I got up to check out the stars once again, and pulled out my camera and tripod to take some shots.  Unfortunately a piece of my tripod broke off as I was setting it up, but thank goodness I could still manage to make it stand.  I’ve said for months now that I wanted to capture the Milky Way in some photographs, and this was my chance.  The setting didn’t disappoint.

The dust bands of the Milky Way shining above the canyon walls

So many stars

Just amazing views from the campsite.  I’m so glad the skies cleared up.

That was the our last night at Big Bend.  We departed the next morning, and made our way towards Midland, TX, where Kelly had a flight back to Fort Worth.  We drove by Odessa and saw Permian High School (of “Friday Night Lights” fame), grabbed some lunch, and then I dropped off Kelly at the airport.  Thanks for coming, Kelly (and thanks for all the birthday treats)!  So glad I was able to show someone Big Bend, and it was a blast.

On Monday, I’ll try to take care of some business – clean out my car, get an oil change, etc.  I’ll venture west towards El Paso and see how far I make it.  Certainly was nice, though, to grab a hot shower and have a bed to sleep in.

Until next time.

joe