Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Big Bend, Texas - New with CAPTIONS!

Austin, Texas is a crazy town, and rolling into the downtown on a Saturday night immediately following a Longhorns W is an exhausting venture for anyone, especially the road-weary! So after some awesome Mexican food and bizarre people-watching, we hightailed to the Johnson (as in Lyndon Baines) Ranch to crash in the car. This is that famous big Texas sky courtesy of the Ex-Prez's digs the next morning.
Some little Germantown with a good bakery.
We veered off of the westbound tack of I-10 to head almost as far South as Grand Isle, to the seldom lauded detour destination of Big Bend National Park.
Big Bend is situated on the Southwestern extremities of the state, where the Rio Grande makes a ridiculous carve northward (hence the name.) It is a gigantic park, rife with mountains, cliffs, caverns, desert plains, and a contested history of human occupation that spans the entire history of civilization on this continent. This is our first campsite, with the largest dormant volcano in the background.
The shadows begin to creep from our tent's vista. Looks fake even when you're there in person.
Texan afterglow our first night in Big Bend.
This rock formation is called Sphinx-Chipmunk in Repose. I'm lying. But it really did look like that in person.
Prickly Pears are our favorite cacti. Especially if they are little pink babies!
Our second campsite, a 'remote' location miles off the road and isolated in arid beauty.
The chihuahuan desert is plush with flora, striking in its beauty even in the onset of winter.
Heading off to hike the desert splendor.
The mountains seem to peel apart the story of the planet's eons. We were told by one of the Rangers that Big Bend has one of the (if not the) only uninterrupted continuous fossil records from Pangaea, to the Dinosaurs, to Native Americans.

Cool camera accident while we trailblaze the desert brush
The distant mountains before dawn's break.
The world shifts from cool to warm. I could have put 100 more pics of this sunrise.

Art imitates life. Also, check how much dew accumulates even in the desert.

They said that Big Bend was the least-visited National Park.
Basically, Big Bend is the center of a volcanic hotspot where a lot of upheaval and mountainous terrain just shoot up out of nowhere in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. So, you get vast desert for endless stretches and then verdant Rockies-esque altitude, flora and fauna colliding within a relatively small area. It was like every five miles brought a new biome into view.

In the distance, there are some chimneys. We tried hiking to them prior, but got caught by sunset and had to run along the path before we were engulfed in the dark. Damn chimneys, why do they have to be covered in cool pictographs and be so far away! More reasons to return someday...
This was a windy scenic route, where we were leapfrogging a bunch of sightseeing, leather-clad bikers. The cliffs are courtesy of the Rio Grande.
In the desert, even death is beautiful.

Those cliffs are Mexico, and lunch was green apples and sharp cheddar.
It's probably amazing in the springtime too...
Despite the harsh climate midday, when we entered the park at dusk we saw two roadrunners, rabbits, and a coyote within the first five miles.

One of the biggest washouts, and easily one of the most breathtaking views of the entire journey.